Sunday marked the start of the 34th annual Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and draws attention to banned and challenged books.
Many libraries and bookstores spend the week promoting books by frequently challenged authors. This year, the emphasis is on diversity, as the American Library Association notes that more than half of all banned books are by authors of color, or focus on diverse communities.
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles the most frequently challenged books list by collecting information from newspapers and reports submitted by individuals. A challenge is a request to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. In 2014, there were 311 challenges reported to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. In 2015, 275 challenges were reported. Unfortunately, surveys indicate that up to 85% of book challenges receive no media attention and remain unreported.
According to the ALA website, the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2015 were:
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
- Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
- I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
- The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
- Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
- Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
- Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
- Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).
Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; Author’s Guild; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Dramatists Legal Defense Fund; Freedom to Read Foundation; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; People for the American Way; PEN America; and Project Censored.