Banned Book Week is a celebration, a celebration of being able to read whatever the heck you want on any given day. It’s a celebration of being able to walk over to your local library and pick up a copy of, say, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, without having to think about why someone, somewhere doesn’t want you to read such a heartwarming, and heart wrenching, coming-of-age story because they think it’s “unsuited” for its targeted age group.
Banned Book Week is an annual event, usually taking place during the last week of September, that celebrates our First Amendment rights, the freedom to read and the value of free and open access to information, according to the American Library Association. Last year, according to the ALA, the top ten books challenged or completely banned, out of 307 challenges reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom, are as follows:
1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence
When asked how a book is banned, Darla Wegener, Manager of the Main Library of the Long Beach Public Library (LBPL), said in response, “Usually a concerned parent or community member finds a book that seems objectionable, so they ask the library to remove it. LBPL has a form that a patron can fill out when a concern arises. Library administration and staff review the concern and get back to the patron about the concern. In Long Beach these challenges never really result in a ban.”
This is due to The Friends of the Long Beach Public Library, a nonprofit organization founded in 1962 in an effort to preserve the freedom of the library and prevent censorship.
“Though other challenges have been upheld elsewhere in the country, mainly in schools, LBPL continues to protect this right," Wegener said. "The founding of the Friends of the LBPL happened due to a challenge.”
The library director at the time was Blanche Collins. You can read Brave Heart in a Book Battle, written in October of 1996 by Patt Morrison, for a more complete picture of the book ban battle at the time and calling attention to the victimized works of literary art.
“In Long Beach's main library, set out in glass boxes like museum pieces, the exhibits shock precisely because they are not museum pieces, but contemporary literary target practice for the fearful and the tetchy on the left and the right: Little Red Riding Hood, faulted for the bottle of wine in her basket," Morrison said. "The Little Mermaid, adjudged pornographic for her bare breasts, satanic for her transformation from sea creature to woman. The solid, solitary bulk of the American Heritage Dictionary, laden with ‘objectionable language.’”
While the LBPL certainly seems to have a handle on the issue, when asked what the public can do to fight book bans, Wegener said, “Encourage the freedom to read and resist censorship. Everyone should stand together protecting this fundamental right guaranteed in the First Amendment.”
In addition to the Kick Off event last Saturday at the Main Library, the LBPL’s twelve locations are celebrating the remaining days of Banned Book Week by showcasing books and information about why books are banned or challenged.
You can check out the LBPL’s Facebook for pictures of the displays and for more information. The Dana Neighborhood Library, located at 3680 Atlantic Ave. in Long Beach, will be screening The Golden Compass on Thursday at 6:00PM, a movie based on the continuously challenged series by Phillip Pullman.