Banned Books Week comes and goes every year. Libraries, bookstores, and schools tend to display banners, posters, bookmarks, t-shirts, and sometimes even actual displays full of books that are or were banned at one point. For a whole week, “banned” books are more proliferous than any other kind. What gives? What is it all about?
Banned Books Week is more than just an excuse for book lovers to wear the colors red and black; it is a celebration of the freedom to read and the freedom from censorship of any kind, the week dedicated to a particular focus on the written word.
Throughout history, people seeking to oppress others have burned books that do not fit into their world view. One of the most famous examples is Adolf Hitler, whose oppressive laws on what books were or were not allowed were a mere foreshadowing of the horrors to come. As Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), himself a controversial author, poet, journalist, and critic, said, “Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings” – and this idea has been shown time and time again as oppressors attacked and destroyed the libraries of Alexandria, numerous university libraries, the original collection of the United States Library of Congress, the early braille books in Paris, and hundreds of other examples.
The freedom to read has never meant only the freedom to access paper printed with ink. It stands for the freedom of communication, the freedom of ideas, and the freedom of personhood.
Seeing that the United States had its own problem with censorship, one Judith Krug – a prominent First Amendment and library activist – founded the first Banned Books Week in 1982 after a sudden surge in book challenges and bannings in schools, bookstores, and libraries. Readers, publishers, librarians, booksellers, and schools began to gather behind the movement, and today almost every American school-age child has seen the effects, though many are too young to understand exactly how significant the last week in September truly is.
According to the American Library Association, over 11,000 books have been challenged since the first Banned Books Week. In 2014 alone, over 300 challenges were made to the Office of Intellectual Freedom. Banned Books Week is about bringing these besmirched darlings into the light – books which include things like “foul” language and unorthodox or unpopular ideas – by calling attention to these works.
CSP joins the ranks of thousands of other establishments each year, and it’s something our librarians get very excited about. This year, there are display cases set up throughout the library, and the library’s social media presence for the week is dedicated to spreading the word. To see what books our library has – full of words and ideas challenged by someone, somewhere – stop in and simply check out a display, find us on on Facebook and Twitter, or ask a librarian about Banned Books Week and the books that it celebrates. Our librarians are very excited to share this week, the love of reading, and the freedom of information with anyone and everyone seeking the knowledge.
The top ten most frequently challenged books of 2014 are as follows:
1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
3. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
4. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
5. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
6. Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
7. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
9. A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard
10. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
The list and reasons for their challenges as well as additional information can be found at www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10.
Jackie Martini is a senior at Concordia and a student worker in the CSP Library. She will be writing "A Student Perspective" blogs posts throughout the 2015-16 school year. Stay tuned for more of her work!