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“The public stopped reading of its own accord.”

September 28, 2010

Happy Banned Books Week! While i do like the idea of celebrating by reading a banned book, i feel like that’s a bit beside the point – although there are many great books on the list, generally. I think it is worthwhile to really think about this for a second: when people try to get books banned or removed from libraries, they are not saying “i don’t want to ever read that book” or “i think it’s inappropriate for my child to read that book,” what they are saying is that no one should have access to that book. “I don’t like your ideas, so no one should ever see your ideas.”

Which is creepy, but what is far, far creepier is that these folks – folks with very much that same attitude – are well on their way to having significant power in our country. So, all you apathetic liberals – so, all of you except the libertarians – now is really not the time to be apathetic. I understand that sometimes it isn’t exciting to vote for somebody you tend to disagree with, or be disappointed in, but we need to fucking get excited about it, because the alternatives are really, really ugly right now.


Each year, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools. The ALA condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information.

A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported. Therefore, we do not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges.

Background Information from 2001 to 2009

Over the past nine years, American libraries were faced with 4,312 challenges.

  • 1,413 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;
  • 1,125 challenges due to “offensive language”;
  • 897challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;
  • 514 challenges due to “violence”
  • 344 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and

Further, 109 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 269 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”

1,502 of these challenges (approximately 34%) were in classrooms; 33% were in school libraries; 23% (or 1,032) took place in public libraries.  There were 100 challenges to college classes; and only 29 to academic libraries.  There are isolated cases of challenges to materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and student groups.  The majority of challenges were initiated by parents (almost exactly 48%), while patrons and administrators followed behind (10% each).

– from the ALA’s Banned Books info page

Banned Book Week makes me think of my mother, who is a reading teacher (and also awesome). She has some wonderful, awful stories of the crazy shit that parents complain about. She’s also really sly, and generally has very good, considerate responses. Mom got me a banned books bracelet for my birthday this year – the one with picture books, only it’s not only kid’s books, but a kid’s bracelet, so it’s…a little snug. She also got me this poster, which is pretty awesome. And kind of awkward.

Lady Brett

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
(#69 on the last decade's frequently banned books list.
Oh, it almost makes me happy.)
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