According to Bannedbooks.org:
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2014, and many more go unreported.
This article discusses censorship and its relation to diversity in YA literature, and the map below shows the prevalence of censorship across the country.
With these thoughts in mind, some of our library staff are celebrating their freedom to read and have picked those works most influential to them.
Jana Porter’s pick:
Beloved by Toni Morrison
A few years after this work was published it was required reading at Rice University where I was an undergraduate. I remember it being a captivating work of literature and a story I couldn’t stop reading. I love this banned book because I could visit the world of another – reading expands our horizons that way.
Stacey Shah: I love banned books because I love the freedom to read something that pushes boundaries.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
From the library catalog, this work is “set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits–smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.”
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
A realistic novel about migrants’ experiences during the Great Depression.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
An ambitious yet naive black man travels through American society in search of his place in the world.
I love banned books because they are stories that discuss issues that people might otherwise be afraid to address. I love the freedom to read about topics that are challenging. I think the best thing about reading is choice: you can read something meaty and interesting or to find something that is just fun or fluffy.
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky
This work is the first bildungsroman (also known as a coming of age novel) that I read where I related to the main character. I had previously read both A Separate Peace and Catcher in the Rye, but could not relate to either of the protagonists.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale chilled me to the core. I have read many of the classic dystopian novels, such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. However, the political climate of the modern world made it feel like the world Atwood spun could be a reality. It demonstrated the way that political and religious extremists can exert undue influence.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Morrison does a great job with conveying how the beauty standards of thin, blond hair and blue eyes affect all girls. I learned a great deal about race and racism from reading this book.
Maria Bagshaw: Banned books intrigue me because I often find that what people choose to ban are uncomfortable topics, but that those same topics are issues that we (or others) deal with in everyday life. By censoring, we do a disservice to the truths that are out there, and we sanitize the world. Banned books often reflect a truer picture of our society.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
I read this in college, and it resonated with me that women have continually struggled with issues of feeling free while at the same time fulfilling the roles that are expected of them. I feel fortunate to live in a time where I have more freedom to chart my own course without social stigma.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? by Judy Blume
This is a great example of a book reflecting reality. How many girls haven’t had the thoughts in this book during their adolescence? When I read this as a child, I remember realizing that my thoughts and feelings were a shared experience with many people and that I wasn’t alone.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
I just recently finished this graphic novel and chose to read it because of recent controversy at Duke University and its challenged status. I found it to be a well-written look at an important time in a young person’s life and the reaction to self-discovery.
Barb Evans’ pick:
Go Ask Alice
I read this book in high school. It was not available in the high school library because of it’s content, including drug use, but of course copies of the book were being passed around among friends. I liked the book because it described a phenomena that was happening among teens at the time, the romance of running away from home, and the realities. Later when I was in library school, there was an attempt to ban the book from the local public library which made the national news. My library school professors and many of us students spoke out against banning the book.