Posted on September 23, 2020 at 6:00 am
It is one of my most favorite displays to put together, not just because it is such an important subject, but also because so few people know what it means when a book is banned or challenged.
My most favorite customer interactions are when they see their favorite title or author with the words “Banned Book” across the cover and react with surprise and alarm. At that moment, I get to share that “No, the library isn’t banning these titles, but they have been banned or challenged somewhere in our country.” And then we get to talk about why that happens.
Banned Books Week is a yearly event that celebrates our freedom to read and the fight against censorship in book form, or in any other form. Freedom of information is a tenet of public libraries.
With that in mind (and because I won’t get a chance to see surprised customer faces this year), I want to offer you a bit of banned books trivia! Hopefully, some of these answers will surprise and alarm you, too!
1. What is Banned Books Week?
Banned Books Week began in the 1980s, at a time of increased book challenges and bans. The American Library Association, along with other organizations, works to bring an awareness of censorship during this week each year.
2. What is the difference between a banned book and a challenged book?
A book challenge is an attempt to remove access to materials in a particular setting. A book banning is the actual removal of those materials.
Bonus: One aspect that Banned Books Week celebrates is the fact that many of these materials remain available and are not ultimately banned.
3. What popular series was banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals?
Harry Potter, of course!
4. The top six most challenged books in 2019 all share what similar reason for being challenged. What is it?
5. What classic novel was challenged in 1981 for being “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal”?
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
6. What popular classic was challenged by parents in a California school district who stated that teachers “can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again”?
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
7. What popular classic (that has since been turned into a billion dollar movie franchise) was burned at a church in New Mexico for being satanic?
The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
8. The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, is one of the most challenged books across the United States. Why?
This book is mostly challenged for reasons of profanity and obscenity.
9. What was the number one most challenged book in both 2018 and 2019?
George, by Alex Gino
10. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, was restricted, challenged, and banned for what reason?
The book was restricted, challenged, and banned for addressing teen suicide.
11. What winner of the Borders Original Voice Award and the San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of The Year Award was challenged and banned because it was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam”?
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
12. Books for all age groups have been banned or challenged for all kinds of reasons. What are some of the top reasons given for wanting a book banned?
Challengers’ complaints are often about materials being too “sexually explicit,” having “offensive language,” and for being “unsuited to any age group.”
13. Who is doing the challenging? What groups are most likely to attempt to restrict access to materials?
Anyone can challenge material. In 2019, 377 attempts were made to ban materials. Forty-five percent of challenges came from library patrons, 18% came from parents, 13% came from administration, 12% came from religious groups, 8% from librarians or teachers, 3% from elected officials, and 1% from students themselves.
14. What is the one of the most visited pages on the American Library Association website?
The Banned Books web page, of course!
15. Which of the titles listed in this post does the Library District offer as part of our collection?
All of them! You can start (or continue) your banned books reading list today by placing a hold on the title in our catalog.
Bonus question: Has your favorite title or author been challenged or banned? Do you know why? The answer will of course depend on your favorites.
I hope you’ll join me in taking some time to read something controversial this month and exercise your freedom to information.
If there’s a book you’re looking for and cannot find in our collection, you can Suggest an Item and we will try to get a copy for you to read, either by borrowing it from another library for you or by purchasing it for our collection (note: not all requests can be met, due to various factors such as availability).