Books

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Since 1982, the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week has shone a bright light on the book titles some would have made into pulp. The week-long festival of consciousness-raising makes for a great opportunity to learn about the health and the threats to intellectual freedoms in the U.S. For a round-up of the Top Ten Challenged Books by Year over the past decade or so, take a look at this page from the ALA. To put it all in grand perspective, feast your eyes on their list of Banned and Challenged Classics, which basically includes everything anyone was ever asked to answer a mulitple-choice question on for the SATs, or scratch their way through an essay for a high school or college English class. This year, the week of celebration runs from September 30 through October 6.

According to the ALA’s Banned Books site, parents are those most likely to ask (or in some cases demand) that a book be removed from their local or school’s library, and a desire to “protect the children” from “inappropriate sexual content or “offensive” language is the most common rationale. So it’s no surprise that books are often challenged because of something, anything, related to reference to LGBT people.

Topping the list of most frequently challenged books for 2011 are the Young Adult titles in author Lauren Myracle’s Internet Girl series–ttyl; ttfn, and l8r, g8r. Some may remember Myracle’s name from a controversy in 2009: her book Luv Ya Bunches, one of whose four main characters had lesbian moms, was pulled by Scholastic from its book fairs. At the time, she told School Library Journal:

“Over 200,000 kids in America are raised by same-sex parents, just like Milla. It’s not an issue to clean up or hide away,” says Myracle. “In my opinion, it’s not an ‘issue’ at all. The issue, as I see it, is that kids benefit hugely from seeing themselves reflected positively in the books they read. It’s an extremely empowering and validating experience.”

After the outcry that followed their initial decision to ban the book, Scholastic conceded to keeping it at their middle school book fairs, but not its elementary school ones. Dana at Mombian provided a comprehensive wrap-with-links later that fall, here.

And Tango Makes Three, the sweet and true story of two male penguins who hatch and raise a baby chick at the Central Park Zoo in New York, topped the Most Frequently Challenged Books list for six solid years after its publication in 2005. This year is the first time since 2005 it’s not on the list. Justin Richardson said, in the School Library Journal when the book topped the list yet again last year:

“People only challenge a book when they fear it has the power to influence thought and create change.” “The fact that our little book has been seen as transformative by so many for so long makes us very proud.”

We’re proud too. Though of course still dabbing our eyes over the dads’ breakup.

There’s plenty more to say throughout this week about the value of books depicting our families. But probably the first thing to do is invite you to peruse some good book lists and check out some of these books from your local library. Find out which titles are at your kid’s school library, and strike up a conversation with the librarian about how you can help the school go about acquiring some of them, if they’re not there.

 

  • HRC’s Welcoming Schools Bibliography page, which includes over two dozen lists of books of all sorts of clearly delineated types: all kinds of family diversity; picture books, early readers, and chapter books lists (each separate) looking at gender & stereotypes, featuring gender expansive children, helping discuss bullying and gender, you name it.

I’d love to know: which books are your family’s favorites? Which do your kids go back to time and again; which do you read with relish, and wish there were sequel after sequel?

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