Attempts to ban books in U.S. continue

Contacts: Macey Morales
Manager,ALA Media Relations 
312-280-4393
mmorales@ala.org

 

For Immediate Release
September 21, 2009

Nation confronts censorship head-on during Banned Books Week, Sept. 26 – Oct. 3

CHICAGO –   What do books from the Harry Potter series, To Kill a Mockingbird and Little Red Riding Hood have in common?  All have faced removal from library bookshelves in the United States.  In many cases, it is only through public intervention that books are saved from confiscation or from being kept under lock and key. 

From coast to coast, libraries and bookstores will battle censorship and celebrate the freedom to read during Banned Books Week, Sept. 26 – Oct. 3, 2009.  Thousands will read from banned or challenged books, speak out and learn about censorship as the nation celebrates the right to choose reading materials without restriction. 

According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), more than one book a day faces a request for removal from public access in school and public libraries. Challenges are defined as formal, written complaints filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. 

“Censorship has no place in a free society,” said ALA President Camila Alire. “Part of living in a democracy means respecting each other’s differences and the right of all people to choose for themselves what they and their families read.”

This year will mark the 28th annual celebration of Banned Books Week, as thousands of libraries and bookstores nationwide host exhibits, readings and special events. In Chicago, on September 26, several best-selling authors will read from their banned or challenged books.  Participating authors include Cecily von Ziegesar, Gossip Girls series;
Sarah Brannen, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding; Stephen Chbosky,  The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Lauren Myracle, TTYL;  Chris Crutcher, Athletic Shorts; and Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, authors of And Tango Makes Three, the most challenged book of 2008.  

Each year, the OIF receives hundreds of reports on books and other materials that were "challenged" by people who requested that they be removed from library shelves. There were 513 known attempts to remove books in 2008, and more than 10,300 attempts have been recorded since OIF began compiling information on book challenges in 1990.

Unfortunately, it is believed that for every challenge or banning reported to OIF, there are many incidents that are never recorded.

Most book challenges reported to OIF have taken place in schools (68 percent) and public libraries (25 percent).  Parents lodged 56 percent of the book challenges, followed by library patrons at 13 percent and administrators at 9 percent.  

The "Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2008" reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

  • And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  •   His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
  • TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  • Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence  
  • Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group  
  • Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  • Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group  
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  • Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

Six titles from the 2007 top ten were dropped from the list, including: The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (challenged for sexually explicit content, offensive language and violence); Olive's Ocean, by Kevin Henkes (for sexually explicit content and offensive language); The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (for racism); The Color Purple, by Alice Walker (for homosexuality, sexually explicit content and offensive language); I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou (for sexually explicit content); and It's Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris (for sexually explicit content).

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

For more information on Banned Books Week, book challenges and censorship, please visit the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books Web site at www.ala.org/bbooks, or www.bannedbooksweek.org .