September 27 starts “Banned Books Week” this year, sponsored by the American Library Association.

“The ALA promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”

Choice and availability of information are close to my heart. When books are not available in alternate format, my choice to read them is severely restricted.

But I also understand the urge to ban, or at least strongly recommend others not read a book. When I don’t like the way a blind character is portrayed, as in All the Light We Cannot See or others don’t like Atticus Finch being portrayed as a racist in Go Set a Watchman it’d be easy to say “Ban it!” It takes more time and energy to articulate why we don’t like it and what we’d recommend instead. But that approach can lead to some fruitful discussions when others push back.

Just in case you’re wondering, here’s the 2014 list from the ALA’s website:

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    • Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence.
    • Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”.
  2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
    • Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint.
    • Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”.
  3. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    • Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group.
    • Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”.
  4. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    • Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
    • Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”.
  5. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
    • Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
    • Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”.
  6. Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
    • Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  7. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    • Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence.
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    • Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
    • Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”.
  9. A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
    • Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  10. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
    • Reasons: sexually explicit.

I’ve only read two of them; guess I’d better get busy!

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