Banned Books Week 2008

Banned Books Week starts today, and runs until October 4.

What is it all about?

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 420 challenges last year. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported.

If you have ever watched Donnie Darko, you have an idea of the implications of this.

Why should I care? I don’t even live in the US.
Banning books is a form of censorship. It limits free access to information and the freedom of speech. Thereby, it limits the expression of opinions that are not the banner’s, and also potentially the formation of opinions. If you’re only ever allowed to read books that express a certain view of the world, you might not be aware that there are others, so forming an opinion and expressing it become more difficult.

Banning books is dangerous because if done in one country, say, the US, and found to be a good thing, other countries might imitate it and before we know, there will be books people don’t even know exist because they’re banned everywhere.

The world is paranoid these days, and threats to intellectual freedom lurk around every corner. You don’t have to go far to see them. For instance, I live in England, a free and democratic country, and am a librarian in training. Earlier this year, a Nottingham University library worker and the student he was helping got arrested and threatened with deportation because they had downloaded an Al Qaeda training manual from a public US government website. As a result, a new guidance for libraries was published, encouraging them not to stock “material that might be useful for terrorists.” Some of the unwanted side effects here, and also, more info about Clause 28 since it’s mentioned in the article.

Do not take free access to information for granted, and be aware of the threats to it. If you are a reader, a writer, a library user, a library worker, a parent, or a student, you should care about books getting banned and access to information being restricted. No matter where you are.

The 10 Most Challenged Books of 2007

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7) “TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Off the list this year, are two books by author Toni Morrison. “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved,” both challenged for sexual content and offensive language.

The most frequently challenged authors of 2007

1) Robert Cormier
2) Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
3) Mark Twain
4) Toni Morrison
5) Philip Pullman
6) Kevin Henkes
7) Lois Lowry
8) Chris Crutcher
9) Lauren Myracle
10) Joann Sfar

Show that you care.
Pick up a banned book.
Snatch an icon, for example (attention, pimpage) from here and use it as a default icon for the week.
Spread the word.

Be aware.

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