This is a tad bit late, but even if we are on the tail end of Banned Books Week would should still celebrate frequently challenged books and everyone’s right to read!
Banned Books Week is an annual event that celebrates our right to read and the value of free and open access to information. The idea is to bring the entire community together in shared support of our very favorite thing: reading!
So, I decided to answer the following writing prompts offered by the American Library Association as part of Banned Book Week. I did change the graphics up to better suit the Shelfie style, but the questions are all theirs.
This question is probably the hardest one for me to answer. I have so many books that I truly treasure. It’s really hard to pick just one. So, in order to answer the question better I have decided to pick a banned/challenged book to help narrow it down.
I would totally go to jail to defend the Harry Potter series. Okay, I know. That’s not one book, It’s 7. Nope, not counting Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. That sequel was rumored but never made. If you want just one book, pick one. I’d chain myself to a library shelf for each and every one of them. They defined my childhood and really helped pave the way for YA Fantasy as we know it.
Reasons cited when challenging: Occult/Satanic Themes
This one is easy. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I know what you are thinking. That book was originally published in 1999, you totally could have read it as a kid. But somehow I was never exposed to it. The school library didn’t have it and none of my friends were reading it. I managed to skip it entirely until I was 25. Even then it still had a major impact on me. It is such a powerful book that I think all teenagers should read. I really wish that I had been exposed to it when I was that age. Unfortunately, I believe it was pulled from the High School library shelves well before I attended. It is one of the more popular banned/challenged books.
Reasons cited when challenging: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
This is another question where there are hundreds of different answers. However, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban would be cheating, since I am pretty sure I have most of it memorized already and I used it above. Instead I will go with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. If you have listened to the podcast then you know I have cannot stop raving about this book. It has a huge impact on my life when I was in high school. I distinctly remember borrowing it from a friend and hiding it under my pillow so my Grandmother wouldn’t find it. She had never actively censored what I read before, but people were talking about Speak. Kids were reading it because parents were calling for it to be pulled from the shelves. It was too graphic and inappropriate. It sent the wrong message. Or so they said. I fail to see how giving a voice to rape victims is the “wrong message”. I have revisited this book many times throughout my life and each time it has touched me. This book shouldn’t be banned. It should be required.
Reasons cited when challenging: alcohol, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
I know that everyone who answers this question will say the same thing. My mom is the reason I’m a reader, and it’s not just because she read me bed time stories or recorded my favorite books on tape so I could listen to them over and over again. For me, it’s more than that. I am severely Dyslexic with significant visual impairments. I was lucky to be diagnosed very young. If it hadn’t been for my mother pushing for the answers she wanted to hear, I don’t know if I would be able to read. That sounds awfully dramatic, I know. But, she was told it would be a struggle for rest of my life. Instead of giving up she pushed me. I was in vision therapy for years to correct the issues. I hated her for it then. Looking back I wish I had just said “thank you” because she gave me a gift. She gave me my love of books. If she hadn’t fought for my ability to read, I wouldn’t be writing this. So, it’s my mom. No question.
I keep going back to Harry Potter, but I can’t help it. I’m a super fan. If I could have lunch with any banned book character it would easily be Severus Snape. You’re probably thinking that would be a fairly awkward and silent affair. You are probably right, but it has so much potential for awesome! Snape is by far one of my very favorite characters ever written and I would love nothing more than to have tea and cucumber sandwiches with him. Maybe he can even wear Neville’s Grandmother’s hat! Don’t you think it’s perfect for tea?
What are your favorite banned books? Did your school remove books from the curriculum or library when you were younger? We’d love for you to share your stories in the comments! Help us celebrate the right to read, even if we are little bit late.