2016 Banned Books Week is Here!

2016 Banned Books Week is Here!

Merry Christmas, all you literary deviants.

2016 Banned Books Week kicks off today and runs through October 1—plenty of time to pick up something perfectly subversive and read …

  • In public;
  • In private;
  • To kids;
  • and to adults.

Need a few suggestions? Try some Judy Blume, John Green. J.K. Rowling. The Bible.

I’ve written before and before and before about how awesome and necessary Banned Books Week is. But it never fails to amaze me that each year we’re confronted with yet another list of the most frequently challenged books. This year, per the American Library Association, the 2015 list includes:

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. 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”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. 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”).
  5. 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”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

It’s nice to see Sherman Alexie and Dav Pilkey caught a break and didn’t make the Top 10 this year. Captain Underpants needed a vacation. I am a little concerned, though, there seems to be an uptick in the number of books getting attention due to their themes on sexuality. Especially something like “I Am Jazz.” It would make sense that as the transgender movement moves into the mainstream, there would be more books, and thus, more idiots trying to ban them. So it makes it all the more important to promote and celebrate this work—fiction or nonfiction—that informs and educates and as a result, takes a topic from the uncomfortable to the every day.

It may feel like a million years ago, but just 30 years back when I was in high school, if there was a gay or transgender student, it wasn’t talked about about. There were no LGBT clubs or alliances. But now? While my kids have grown up in a school environment much more acceptable of the LGBT community, there’s still so much more learning that needs to take place. Schools are only beginning to adapt to transgender rights, some more effectively than others. Books can be an effective tool in making the transition less stressful.

Off my soapbox and back to a book—celebrate the week, friends. Support reading, lift up the best there is in literature and storytelling and make it a mission to promote free speech. Go put your nose in a book!
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