All this week the American Library Association (ALA) is calling attention to censorship with Banned Books Week. Every year, they compile a list of books that communities have attempted to remove (ban) from their schools or public libraries. You’d be surprised how many communities succeed in banning books. As a parent, I understand the importance of reading books I deemed appropriate for my children, but I would never ask a library to remove a book due to its subject or themes.
I was shocked by the statistics about books that were banned or challenged in 2000-2009. Over this recent past decade, 5,099* challenges were reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom (via ALA):
- 1,577 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;
- 1,291 challenges due to “offensive language”;
- 989 challenges due to materials deemed “unsuited to age group”;
- 619 challenged due to “violence”‘ and
- 361 challenges due to “homosexuality.”
5 Diverse Banned Books You Should Read
While you might recognize classics such as To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov, I wanted to highlight some diverse books that have the honor of being challenged or banned. Support these authors by purchasing the books or borrowing them from your local library.
Title: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons challenged/banned: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
About the book: Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will probe the family ties that bind and rend him, and he will discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past-a mythic legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world…and will nurture the birth of his soul.
Title: Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons challenged/banned: homosexuality and sexually explicit
About the book: Invisible. Unheard. Alone. Chilling words but apt to describe the isolation and alienation of queer youth. In silence and fear they move from childhood memories of repression or violence to the unknown, unmentored, landscape of queer adulthood, their voices stilled or ignored. No longer. Revolutionary Voicescelebrates the hues and harmonies of the future of gay and lesbian society, presenting not a collection of stories but a collection of experiences, ideas, dreams, and fantasies expressed through prose, poetry, artwork, letters, diaries, and performance pieces.
Title: The Color of Earth (series) by Dong Hwa Kim
Reasons challenged/banned: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
About the book: Ehwa grows up helping her widowed mother run the local tavern, watching as their customers – both neighbors and strangers – look down on her mother for her single lifestyle. Their social status isolates Ehwa and her mother from the rest of the people in their quiet country village. But as she gets older and sees her mother fall in love again, Ehwa slowly begins to open up to the possibility of love in her life.
Title: Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
Reasons challenged/banned: offensive language, racism, violence
About the book: A coming-of-age tale for young adults set in the trenches of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, this is the story of Perry, a Harlem teenager who volunteers for the service when his dream of attending college falls through. Sent to the front lines, Perry and his platoon come face-to-face with the Vietcong and the real horror of warfare. But violence and death aren’t the only hardships. As Perry struggles to find virtue in himself and his comrades, he questions why black troops are given the most dangerous assignments, and why the U.S. is even there at all.
Title: Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A by Luis Rodriguez
Reasons challenged/banned: sexually explicit, offensive language
About the book: By age twelve, Luis Rodriguez was a veteran of East Los Angeles gang warfare. Lured by a seemingly invincible gang culture, he witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests and then watched with increasing fear as gang life claimed friends and family members. Before long, Rodriguez saw a way out of the barrio through education and the power of words and successfully broke free from years of violence and desperation.
Have you read any of these books? ALA also has a list of most frequently challenged books by authors of color (from 1990-99)