Banned Books Week

Today marks the beginning of the annual celebration of Banned Books Week. If you step foot in a library this week you will most likely see evidence of this. We librarians take this week fairly seriously. This is the week where we celebrate the ability to read what you want:

“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” (http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek)

You might be surprised that people are still trying to ban books in the United States during 2015, but it happens every year. Challenges pop up around the country and thankfully, due to the support of the authors and the American Library Association are resolved fairly quickly. Many challenges come from parents and community members who read passages of a book out of context and fail to see the whole book for what it is, what it offers to readers. I am so thankful that we have the American Library Association who spearheads this week — that they are there to help when librarians, booksellers, teachers, etc.face a book challenge.

So, in honor of this week and the freedom to read, here are a few of my favorite “banned” books:

  1. Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
  2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  4. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  5. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
  6. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
  7. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

I love these books for a variety of reasons. Some are childhood favorites while others were read for AP English and other classes. All were influential to me — they taught me about the world and how to navigate it. Without these books I would not be the person I am today, these novels that have been challenged and banned by people who felt they were too controversial for children, teens and even adults to read. They were not looked at for their literary quality and influence but instead for one scene or word that someone disagreed with. The power of the written word is truly amazing — it can change lives and create vicious debates. Books have power — so take a little time this week and revisit your favorite banned or challenged book.

For more information about Banned Books Week and to see lists of frequently challenged books check out the American Library Association’s page.

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