Thursday, February 19, 2009


Pam's terrific post on Huck Finn got me thinking. I'll bet there are many other challenged books that would surprise people. It's not just small towns from a decade ago doing the banning, either, as in the movie Footloose (Does anyone still know that movie?) - I get several challenges each year on materials for teens in the library. While I do respond in a nice way to patrons who complain, I have not yet removed an item, and am lucky to have support in that decision from my director. But - lots of school and public library folks lose their jobs over this kind of thing - even today!

The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom publishes a list each year of the most challenged books from the year before, and the reasons the books are challenged. Here's the most recent one - how many have you read?

The 10 most challenged books of 2007 (ranked in order) reflect a range of themes, and are:

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
2. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence
3. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language
4. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman Reasons: Religious Viewpoint
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain Reasons: Racism
6. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,
7. TTYL, by Lauren Myracle Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou Reasons: Sexually Explicit
9. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit
10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
There's Huck Finn at #5! This is the first year in a while that Harry Potter has not made the list, and I think Golden Compass took its place with the popularity of the movie. I'd be surprised if Twilight did not make the list for 2008. I've found that tell folks a book is challenged only makes people want to read it more!
-Amy Alessio
Editor, Missing: A Mysterious Gathering of Tales (Echelon Press, 2008)


Pam Ripling said...

Wow! I only knew of a couple of those. What age group is the ALA's list detailing?

People will complain about anything. Perhaps it would do for books to have a rating similar to that of the MPAA - P, PG, PG-13, R, etc.

Isn't what people are asking you to do a form of censorship?

We have a banned book right here at Echelon/Quake. If memory services, Grace Howell's TRUE FRIENDS was banned from a Memphis elementary school. Ironic since author Howell is a former teacher and school librarian.

The American Bookseller Foundation for Free Expression ( seems to be an organization that combats censuring and banning books. AND TANGO MAKES THREE is on their homepage.

I remember there being lots of flack just before the film version of THE GOLDEN COMPASS came out. And as you pointed out, dear Harry Potter has suffered at the hands of those who believe the stories encourage children to venture into the dark side. (Hey! What about Darth Vader?)


Mary Cunningham said...

Sure wish someone would challenge "Cynthia's Attic!" LOL. The magic in my books doesn't seem to cause much uproar. Darn!

I knew Golden Compass would be on the list, which is probably the only reason HP isn't. A Georgia woman tried to get HP removed from all schools in the state. Fortunately, she lost her suit.

I haven't read Golden Compass, but saw the movie and can't fathom why it created such a stir. I thought the message was quite valid.

©DGreer said...

So they are now called "challenged books" instead of "banned"? Or is there a difference?

Most fascinating. I know the Golden Compass was deemed unsuitable reading by church groups for its alleged anti-Christian sentiment.

Perhaps as authors, we should read the entire list of titles, what do you think?


Ivy said...

I've only read the Golden Compass from that list, but I might check out the others.

As an author, I harbor a secret hope that some huge group will take offense at the pagan gods in my (still unpublished) novel and hold protests and book burnings and go on TV and radio telling everyone why they must never read the book. You can't buy that kind of publicity.

carl brookins said...

My teens, when I had 'em, read whatever they wanted. We encouraged them to ask if questions arose. My parents were the same. My mom argued with librarians who tried to keep me in the kids section. When kids ask questions, it encourages communication with parents and elders!

Appears to me people who try to "protect" others from knowlege haven't the courage of their beliefs. e.g I knew a Catholic priest who would discuss the vilest porn with us in reasoned, careful logical ways and I know it gave the group better insights to human relations.

Jacquelyn Sylvan said...

What really amuses me about adults banning or challenging books is that they're really ensuring the child will go out of their way to read them. Forbidden fruit, much?

Amy said...

Great comments here.
The ALA list covers all challenges, but notice how many of the top 10 are young adult?

Challenged means someone protested it, like the parents who write me at the library. Banned means it was actually pulled from a place - that some folks are prevented from seeing it. Banning still happens, especially in schools, but challenges are really prevalent everywhere. Both are definitely a form of censorship.

Judy Blume and other YA authors contribute money to people who fight censorship.

Once my teen group asked me what was preventing them from going into the adult areas of the library and getting whatever materials folks thought should not be in the teen area (I told them about a pending challenge.) and I said happily nothing.

Regan Black said...

My parents raised me like Carl's did and I hope I'm doing the same with my kids. Questions = learning = broader minds and brighter horizons.


Tianna Xander said...

I allowed my children to read whatever they wanted, within reason of course and neither of them have ever been arrrested or have done drugs. What more can I ask?

I'm not sure it's the responsibility of the public libraries to ban books. No matter how you look at it, it's a form of censorship.

I could only hope that my book, Prophecy, with its witches, faeries and sorcerers can make that list. Like Ivy said, you can't buy that type of publicity. :-)