Banning & Burning Books in America
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 04:14:58 PM EST
Once again its that time of year when the Religious Right and their apologists will start whining that complaints about book censorship are a liberal plot. Fortunately,they will mostly be ignored.

And that's because every year, there are hundreds of documented efforts to restrict or outright ban books from school and public libraries. Many of those responsible for such efforts are groups and individuals affiliated with the Religious Right. The annual list of banned or challenged books have run a wide range, in recent years. Books that have accepting views of homosexuality are frequently targeted along with stories involving magic, such as Harry Potter books. These are banned alongside such perennial targets as To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye. This year, even The Hunger Games, the book that was the source for the popular film, made the top ten most challenged books list.

Fortunately, for more 30 years the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, among others, have sponsored Banned Books Week to highlight the importance of the Freedom to Read. This year, the annual celebration will be held September 30 - October 6, 2012

The top ten most challenged books this past year were:
1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle

2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa


3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

8. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones

9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

There are lots of ways to participate, since Banned Books Week's sponsoring organizations have lots of resources and are sponsoring hundreds of events around the country. And of course, its possible to participate via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. (You can tweet this diary, #bannedbooksweek, for example.)

The video below was created by the customers and staff of Bookman's bookstores in Arizona to help launch Banned Books Week. The video features people with cartoon light bulbs burning above their heads -- each reading a line from a banned or challenged book that highlights the importance of the freedom to read.

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A bit off of the Banned Books Week grid are other book and library battles worth noting. Libraries are, of course, sometimes a target of anti-tax Tea Partiers and local budget cutters, and so sometimes friends of the library have had to resort to creative tactics -- such as the time earlier this year when it was necessary to invite people to a book burning party to save the local library. We have also seen Christian Right provocateur Rev. Terry Jones both threaten, and ultimately to burn a Qu'ran, while in recent years, Rev. Flip Benham and Operation Rescue antiabortion activists also both tried and succeeded in burning a Qu'ran.

We can't say that it can't happen here, because it does happen here. Fortunately, the Jones and Benham book burning episodes are best seen not harbingers so much as fair warnings about the potential for worse and more. The rest is up to us.

But even as we consider the dark history of violence against books, ideas and free expression, let's join with the organizations of writers, librarians, publishers and book sellers in celebrating the freedom to read.




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Thank you for this!  It serves as a reminder of where this country (and western civilization) might go, unless we are vigilant!

by rdrjames on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 07:17:43 PM EST

The Color of Earth series by Kim Dong Hwa is a tender coming of age story of a rural girl, told in Korean-style (realistic) manga. The art is exquisite, not the usual thing one thinks of as "manga". I  recommend the series to adults as well as teens.

Yes, there's sex in it - not explicit, as far as I recall. The story is set in 1960-ish pre-modern South Korea, and both the mother and the heroine yearn for "the one and only", very old-fashioned and romantic.

by NancyP on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 02:40:22 PM EST



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