Have you read any of the following books in the past year?
a. The Fellowship of the Ring, by J. R. R. Tolkien
b. Any book in the Harry Potter series
c. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
d. The Holy Bible
If you have read at least one of the above books in the past year, congratulations: you’ve read a banned book. Banned books are titles that have been challenged or banned from public institutions, schools and other places, often at the behest of concerned parents or members of the public. While the aims of these individuals seem wholesome on the surface, their actions constitute censorship, denying you access to books and other reading or viewing materials you want or need to read or see.
The American Library Association began Banned Books Week in 1982, and since then over 11,000 books have been challenged or banned throughout the country. The Freedom to Read and View belongs to everyone as a principle of the First Amendment, and libraries, publishers and booksellers act as gatekeepers to protecting those rights. Libraries in particular serve entire communities with a plethora of books, databases, movies, albums and other media, without restricting the kinds of materials available.
Banned materials at IU East cover everything from classics to comics. Alice Walker’s masterpiece The Color Purple, about a sexually abused woman who discovers her identity and the truth about her children, has been challenged in 13 states since 1984 on the grounds of inappropriate content and charges of pornography. Older classics, such as James Joyce’s Ulysses and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, were burned by the US Postal Service. More recently, graphic novels such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (also available on DVD) and Habibi by Craig Thompson, have been the target of many individuals, for reasons ranging from religious issues to political viewpoints.
Other resources, such as articles in our databases, can help increase your knowledge about banned materials and censorship. Publishers Weekly, a trade journal for the publication industry and a reference for many librarians, frequently discusses censorship and its ramifications. College and Research Libraries News, published by the Association of College and Research Libraries, also discusses censorship in-depth. ERIC, an educational database developed by the US Department of Education, is a terrific resource to investigate censorship and banned books in education settings. Other excellent tools to research banned books include Library Journal, which focuses on issues such as technology, information access and literacy, and Opposing Viewpoints, which contrasts and compares differing points of view on specific topics.
Would you like to celebrate Banned Books Week? Email KT Lowe at firstname.lastname@example.org to read your favorite banned book aloud. We’ll be taping readings of banned books on Thursday, September 29, from 11:00 to 6:00. You can bring your own, or we have a collection available for you to choose from. If you have any other questions about banned books, censorship or the freedom to read and view, just ask us! email@example.com.
A selected list of banned books in the IU East Collection:
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Judy Blume, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
John Cleland, Fanny Hill (the last book to be banned by the US government, in 1963.)
Linda de Haan, King and King
Allen Ginsberg, Howl
Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
James Joyce, Ulysses
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Lois Lowry, The Giver
Carolyn Mackler, the Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
J. K. Rowling, volumes of the Harry Potter series
Margaret Sanger, Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger (includes “What Every Girl Should Know”)
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis
Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Craig Thompson, Habibi
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
(NOTE: List is optional and is not meant to be comprehensive, only representative)