This week is Banned Books Week where the freedom to read is celebrated in an annual awareness campaign. Escape in a Book would like to celebrate this with you by reading, reviewing and writing about banned and challenged books and encourage you to do the same. You can check out different events in th U.S. on the website linked above or participate in the Virtual Read-Out.
A little about the campaign from their website:
"Banned Books Week is the national book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2012 celebration of Banned Books Week will be held from September 30 through October 6. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982."
The banned and challenged books
When I took a look at the books that were reported banned or challenged (attempt to remove or restrict) from libraries and schools in the U.S. there were some similarities between them. First of all most of them are being challenged by concerned parents who wants to protect their children. ALA have listed the three most common reasons for challenging a book:
- the material was considered to be "sexually explicit"
- the material contained "offensive language"
- the materials was "unsuited to any age group"
It seems to me that sex and offensive language is automatically a problem in YA-books while other issues like girls falling for guys who want's to kill them (usually Paranormal Romance), promoting unhealthy relationships as the ultimate love story, or as Mari recently wrote about, that most of the characters in YA are so beautiful and not comparable to real life are not problematized. Even violence seems less problematic.
Why challenge and ban books?
As a school librarian myself I would never deny anyone reading what they want, but as a parent it might be a different matter. Personally I don't think I would deny my child any books but I guess in the role as a parent you act more irrational and protective than as a professional. I also think we underestimate children and young adults and what they are capable of understanding and deal with. Maybe books are one of the few places where we can control what other people consume. Because this is a paradox to me, what's the point of challenging books when what we can read and see on the internet and television are a lot worse? To read a book does in my opinion leave a lot more open for the reader to discover and interpret, and one can only do this from one's own point of view and experience.
In working with young adults 15-18 I rarely have a problem with the age limit but I have to admit that I also find it hard to actively recomend books with difficult issues as sexual abuse and suicide. I've heard the argument "why introduce children to these grown-up issues?" several times. But on the other hand aren't children the ones who suffer the most when these things happen in real life? These are issues that we don't talk too much about and that makes it even more important to make people aware, because maybe someone you know are or have experienced something like this.
What about in Norway?
In Norway a few years back there was a debate about some children/YA-books and whether or not they used violence and sex speculative to get attention. I read some of these books and totally disagreed. I don't think many people reacted either but several newspapers wrote about it, there was a debate at a large literature festival and I heard that some parents didn't want their kids to read these books at school. I have also noticed lately that many parents I talk to won't let their kids read for instanceThe Hunger Games. I agree that some of the youngest (12-13 year olds) might not be ready but I'm also talking about 16-year olds. A parent is the only one who can decide whether his or her child is ready or not but I still think the least they/we can do is to read the book ourselves or at least find out what it really is about and not just presume things. I haven't heard about a lot of cases in Norway where books are challenged or banned but on the other hand we don't have a place to report and read about these incidents either.
I am very curious to find out if you have ever been banned or challenged from reading books at your school, library, at home or elsewhere or if you have heard of this happening in your country?
Mari also wrote about this subject in 2010.