by Ashlee Green,
LBPH Reader Advisor
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” – Noam Chomsky
This week is Banned Book Week and here at the library, we are celebrating our Library Bill of Rights and our first amendment rights—to access and read what we want!
Before Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press around 1450, books were handmade, one-of-a-kind, and easy for enemies or adversaries to destroy, oftentimes by setting aflame. In an attempt to control the information fed to his citizens, England’s King Henry VIII mandated that the Church of England approve all books before they were published.
Throughout history, religious institutions, royalty, governments, dictators, and school boards have wiped out entire collections of books on the basis of encouraging racism, sexism, or homophobia; including sexual content or profane language; presenting unpopular religious or occult themes; or rebutting specific religious or political beliefs.
To this day, we experience censorship of television, newspapers, and other media sources. Oftentimes, books are deemed “controversial” and challenged or banned due to a misunderstanding of the books content.
Despite our own biases, the job of library staff members is to help provide patrons the materials they are looking for. During Banned Books Week, we celebrate access to all books and encourage readers to analyze and craft their own opinions on book content.
According to the American Library Association, libraries “promote the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stress the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”
Here is a short list of some frequently challenged books available in our collection. Now get down with your bad self: Happy Reading!
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
Spokane Indian Reservation. Fourteen-year-old Junior–beset with physical problems caused by brain damage–transfers to an all-white town school. Called a traitor by his best friend and Tonto by his new classmates, Junior uses humor and wit to bridge the cultural divide. Some strong language. For junior and senior high readers. 2007.
The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
DB 49914 / LP 17278
1941. Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove–poor, ugly, and black–desperately wants blue eyes, which she thinks would solve all her problems. But instead she is subjected to rejection, violence, and an unwanted pregnancy. Slowly, she begins to descend into madness. Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 1970.
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
DB 57457 / CL 12274
An Afghan in California recalls a fateful 1975 day in Kabul that seared his soul at age twelve–the day he won a kite tournament and abandoned a younger companion to rape. That cowardice keeps haunting him during exile in America until the opportunity for atonement arises–back in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Violence and some strong language. 2003.
A Stolen Life: A Memoir
by Jaycee Dugard
The author describes her 1991 abduction at age eleven by parolee Phillip Garrido and his wife. Recounts her eighteen years of captivity, during which she endured sexual abuse and raised two daughters, and her 2009 discovery and rescue. Strong language, explicit descriptions of sex, and some violence. Bestseller. 2011.
Banned Books That Shaped America
Infographic: A Visual History of Banned Books