I recently read a startling article about the government authorities in Turkey ordering the destruction of more than 300,000 books because they contained the name of a Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, with whom the leaders of Turkey disagreed.
Turkey maintains that Gulen instigated a failed coup attempt in 2016. He now lives in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States of America. This widespread destruction of books even went so far as to include any book in which the word “Pennsylvania” appeared.
This is Banned Books Week in the United States.
The last week in September is a time set aside for us to give thought to the dangers of the banning and destruction of books. Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Library Association to bring attention to what is at risk if books are censored. The association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom publishes a list of the top 10 books that are challenged each year.
According to the http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10 website, “The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 347 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2018.” The site says that 483 books were challenged or banned in 2018.
Examples of banned or challenged books
Here are just a few books that have either been banned or were threatened with censorship since 2009, along with the reasons given on the ALA website:
Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple;
by Jay Asher
Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide;
written by Khaled Hosseini
This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam”;
Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word;
Shades of Grey,
by E. L. James
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”);
Reasons: religious viewpoint;
Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”;
Reasons: religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group;
by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit;
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence;
New World, by
Reasons: insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit;
Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group;
Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence; and
Color Purple, by Alice
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
Which book on the list surprised you the most?
I was most surprised to find My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult on the list. I’ve read eight of her novels. My Sister’s Keeper deals with organ donation. Jodi Picoult’s novels make the reader think. The protagonist usually faces a moral dilemma.
I’ve read most of the books on the above list. It’s frightening to see a list like this – to know that someone thought a particular book was so offensive to them that they thought NO ONE should have the opportunity to read it.
It’s human nature to do what one is told not to do. I understand that when a parent or other community member asks for a book to be removed from a middle school or high school library, the fuss usually brings so much attention to the book that the students will go to great lengths to read it.
If you live in a free society, you may read anything you want to read. That is a precious gift your government protects for you, so never take it for granted.
Since my last blog post
I took a week off from writing, blogging, and all forms of social media and went to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was unseasonably warm and dry, which doesn’t bode well for the coming “fire season.”
It was great to get away to a place where development is outlawed – to drive for miles and miles and see nothing but mountains and trees. To be in a place that was so quiet you could hear a babbling brook. I’ll blog more about my trip at a later date and share some photos.
Until my next blog post
Do a Google or other search engine search for “banned books.” Select one you’ve never read, and read it. Or reread one you’ve read and try to identify what someone else found offensive about it. Celebrate your right to read!
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Bookshop at Water’s End, by Patti Callahan Henry. It’s the book for discussion tonight at Rocky River Readers Book Club. If you’re local, feel free to join us at 7pm at Rocky River Presbyterian Church, 7940 Rocky River Road, Concord, NC.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. After a week of vacation, I need to get back to my writing this week.
Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.
Let’s continue the conversation
What’s your favorite banned book? Do you remember the first banned book you read? Were you aware that it had been banned on some level, and was that the reason you read it?