This week is Banned Book Week. The American Library Association (ALA) keeps a record of books that have been banned, burned, or otherwise discriminated against. Most of the time, it seems these books challenge the current culture, have strong religious undertones, or are explicit sexually, violently, or in language, especially racially.
Many books have made this list over the decades. According to the ALA, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger has been a frequent addition to the banned book list. Other commonly censored books include The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, both by John Steinbeck, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. In fact, just last year, To Kill a Mockingbird was number seven on the ALA’s Tops Ten Most Challenged books for 2017.
Authors enjoy creating worlds for their readers. Sometimes those worlds push personal or cultural philosophical boundaries, stretching readers to see life from a different perspective. Sometimes that challenge is intentional, other times it organically bubbles out of a story. These books become banned book targets when the direction of change is deemed dangerous, especially when the books are part of a school’s reading list.
I think reactions to whether a book should be banned or not is often unique, not only to each individual, but also to each book. These reactions are also often accompanied by very strong feelings. Some may agree that a certain book should be on the list, even advocate for it. Others might roll their eyes at the entire idea. Still others may feel angry about the repression of free speech. Yet, those same people could have an entirely opposite opinion during the discussion of a completely different book.
This week, we celebrate the books that have come under fire for a variety of reasons. Some, like To Kill a Mockingbird, have been pushing the envelope for decades. Others are new additions. All have been banned in one way or another. Have you read any of these books? Do you have a favorite?