Banned Books Week

By Jenna Hecker

Jenna Hecker is the Technology/Reference Librarian at the library. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin this week. Read past columns that are indexed and archived here.

The first public library to ban Huckleberry Finn was the Concord Free Public Library, who in 1885 accused Twain’s then year-old work of containing coarse, inelegant language. The book has continued to be a source of tension and controversy – sometimes it was challenged or banned for portraying interracial friendships and taking an anti-slavery stance, other times modern challengers objected to its use of the ‘n’-word and its generally racially-charged language. All of these controversies have made the book one of the most-banned books of all time.

Each year, in the last week of September, the American Library Association and libraries nationwide host events and displays celebrating literature that has been challenged or banned in libraries and schools. Banned Books Week highlights the most frequently challenged books of the previous year and tries to give people a history of book challenges.

The most challenged books in 2009 included My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult for sexism, homosexuality, sexually explicit content, and general suitability to age group; And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson for its discussion of homosexuality; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Steven Chbosky for sexual explicitness, discussion of homosexuality, religious viewpoints, drug-use etc.; and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – a book that is seemingly omnipresent on the list as generation after generation of parents tries to shield their children from Holden Caulfield’s coarse language, disdain for authority and general malaise. Banned Books Week isn’t meant to spark controversy; its goal is to highlight the importance of our freedom to read. Books that seem controversial now might become very important reflections on our society to future generations – classic books from Candide by Voltaire to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee have been censored or banned throughout history only to become beloved classics.

For a list of the most-challenged books of 2009 and a map of Banned Books Week events visit http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/. To see a display highlighting current and historically challenged books with descriptions of why people have objected to them visit the Morrill Memorial Library. No matter what week it is, always celebrate your freedom to read!

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