Danger: These books are banned!
I’m Daniella Snyder, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University, and your newest ‘Cat in Falvey Library’s Stacks. I’ll be posting about academics– from books, to research, to study habits and everything in between– and how the Falvey Library can play a large role in your success here on campus!
Happy Banned Books Week, fellow library lovers!
Banned Books Week (Sept. 23-29) is the annual celebration of the Freedom to Read, sponsored by a coalition of organizations dedicated to free expression, including the American Library Association, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the Association of University Presses.
First launched in 1982, it served as a response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to (attempts/requests to ban) books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. Banned Books Week brings together an entire community of librarians, booksellers, teachers, and readers, in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas.
According to the American Library Association, these were the most challenged books of 2017, as reported by librarians and teachers across the country. To see the full list, watch the video here.
5. George by Alex Gino
When George looks in the mirror, she sees a girl named Melissa starting back at her, while everyone else sees her as a boy. With her elementary school’s production of Charlotte’s Web just around the corner, George is nervous but thrilled to have the chance to be Charlotte… until her teacher bars her from even trying out. With her friend Kelly by her side, George attempts to get the rest of the world to see who she truly is.
Even though George won the Stonewall Award and a Lambda Literary Award, numerous schools banned the book on the grounds that the topics of gender identity was not appropriate for young readers.
Last year, a Connecticut sixth-grade student won a national award for the letter she wrote to Alex Gino, thanking them for inspiring her with George. Read the letter here.
4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner is the first novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. It tells the story of Amir, a wealthy young boy from Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the Soviet military intervention, the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.
Even though this novel is critically acclaimed, the novel was challenged (and banned) in numerous school districts for its inclusion of sexual violence. The Waukesha (WI) High School challenged the book, claiming it “desensitizes students to violence.” Higley (AZ) Unified School District removed the book from their English curriculum in 2018, and students at Williamsfield High School were in the middle of reading the book when it was removed from the school’s curriculum with no explanation. When the students began speaking out about censorship, the school administration shut down the high school newspaper. It was also challenged on the grounds of its inclusion of detailed and graphic violent rape, and people believed the book would lead to terroristic behavior.
3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Callie absolutely loves theater, and is afraid to try out for the middle school musical because she’s a bad singer. Instead, she chooses to be on the tech and stage crew team, and she is determined to make the musical look Broadway-level fantastic. However, after the roles are cast, drama ensues between her and her two male friends.
Drama was considered too inappropriate for a Texas school. In fact, the graphic novel about an adolescent theater troupe was the only book completely banned from any district in Texas; this time, it was the Franklin Independent School District.
Drama most likely was challenged at Franklin Middle School due to the storyline involving a crush between two male friends of main character Callie. The book also was banned from Chapel Hill Elementary in Mount Pleasant in 2014, and from Kirbyville Middle School last year.
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Alexie’s book tells the story of Junior, a 14-year-old growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation whose frustration with his poverty-stricken school district leads him to attend high school off the reservation, at an all-white school 22 miles away. The semi-autobiographical novel takes readers through a year in Junior’s life, down to day-to-day details.
The novel was consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledgement of issues like poverty, alcoholism, sexuality. Even though the novel won a National Book Award, it was removed from school curriculums because of profanity and sexually explicit scenes.
1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.
Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it explicitly discusses suicide.
Psychologists expressed concern that the book may glamorize suicide, self-harm, and violence.
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