Monday, April 18, 2011

Eagerly added to my reading list: Challenged library books

Have you read Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" or "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley?

Were you completely aghast and offended?

I ask that - in jest - only because those two books recently landed on this year's American Library Association list of the Top 10 Challenged Library books.

I read on the ALA site that when a book has been challenged, it means that someone (or lots of folks, in these cases) took exception to it being circulated at the library and filed the formal challenge, and that most challenges fail.

Being on the list doesn't mean any of the books have been banned. To read more about this process on the ALA site, click here.

Blogger GalleyCat recently listed links to free excerpts from each of the challenged books. Take a look and decide for yourself.

For me, learning that these and other books have been on the "challenged" lists makes me want to read them. Power of persuasion at its finest: Man, these books must be GOOD!

Earlier books to
land on the list include J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series (Reasons: occult/Satanism)and Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" vampire novels (Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group).

J.D. Salinger's classic "The Catcher on the Rye," which I read and deeply loved like every other book-loving kid, in 10th grade, is a repeat offender, making the list every other year or so (
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group).

According to a recent wire report, Collins, "The Hunger Games" author, knew not everyone would approve of the novel. She said the book was recommended for ages 12 and up but said kids sensitive to the material might want to wait longer.

"I've read in passing that people were concerned about the level of violence in the books," Collins said in a recent AP interview of her dystopian trilogy that's sold more than a million copies. "That's not unreasonable. They are violent. It's a war trilogy."

She added, "Emotional readiness and previous exposure to a similar type of subject matter — those seem like key elements to me in determining whether a young person can handle a book."

"Hunger Games" is No. 5 on the ALA top 10 list of books most criticized in their communities. It was cited for violence and sexual content. "Twilight" was No. 10 (for language, racism and sexual content).

The AP calls landing on this list "a virtual rite of passage for young adult sensations."

"And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, an illustrated tale of two male penguins who hatch a donated egg and raise the baby penguin has made the list four times in five years (Reasons: homosexuality). This year it tops the list.

At No. 2 is Alexie, author of a story of a bright but bullied teen estranged from his fellow Indians on the Spokane Reservation and from the rich white kids at the high school he attends.

"It almost makes me happy to hear books still have that kind of power," Alexie said. "And there's nothing in my book that even compares to what kids can find on the Internet."

The library association reported 348 challenges to books in 2010 and at least 53 outright bans, with other challenges and bans likely undocumented. The ALA defines a challenge as an effort "to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves."

Per the AP story, Barbara M. Jones, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, says some books on the list reflect current trends and changes in technology, including "Hunger Games," inspired in part by reality television; Aldous Huxley's classic "Brave New World," (No. 3), which anticipates antidepressants and artificial fertilization; and a work of nonfiction: "Nickel and Dimed" (No. 8), Barbara Ehrenreich's despairing account of trying to get by as a waitress, maid and Walmart worker.

"The closer books come to things that are really happening in a lot of lives, the more they become a reminder of what people don't like to think about," Jones said."

Also on the list:

"Crank," Ellen Hopkins (drugs, language, sexual content).

"Lush," Natasha Friend (language, sexual content).

"What My Mother Doesn't Know," Sonya Sones (sexism, sexual content).

"Revolutionary Voices," a collection of gay-themed stories edited by Amy Sonnie (homosexuality, sexual content).

Let me know what you think about the book-challenge process or if you've enjoyed any of these controversial works.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As annoyed as I get when I hear about those who challenge books, few things fry my circuits as much as those who do so when they clearly have not read the source material. There is NO sexual content in any of the Hunger Games books. There is kissing on occasion ... rare occasion. And that's it.
Those who oppose the violent nature of the books I can understand, even though I absolutely oppose "challenging" the books ... use your power as a parent if you don't want your kids to read these books.