Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ALA's Most Challenged Books for 2012 sadly contains no real surprises.

It’s that incredibly troubling time of year again!  The American Library Association has announced the most challenged books of 2012. According to the ALA:

A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported. Therefore, we do not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges.

So with 464 reported challenges that’s an estimated 1,600-2,000+ challenges! Now no one should ever complain that someone doesn’t want to read a book or doesn’t want their family to read a book.  However, when someone starts trying to deny everyone else form access to the book, that’s when us librarians get all worked up!  Below is the most challenged books along with the reasons they were challenged. 

Out of 464 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom
  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
These not be for every family, but Captain Underpants mix of crude and silly humor has made THOUSANDS of non-readers into readers.
  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
The ‘racism’ complaint boggles my mind.  The book is partly about the HARM of racism.  The book itself is not racist, however often books that tackle racism are complained about for ‘racism’. 
  1. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
Suicide in and of itself seems like an odd complaint to me. I mean it exists, we have to confront it on some level, right?
  1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
Well, apparently adults shouldn’t be allowed to read books written about adult situations.
  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
This is definitely a book that each family should decide for themselves about, but it’s only unsuitable for ALL children if the idea that homosexuality exists is unsuitable for ALL children.  That’s difficult to enforce.
  1. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Religious viewpoint is one of my least favorite protests.  We live in a country FOUNDED ON THE PRINCIPLES OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!
  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
These are all the MAIN reasons for books being removed.  I think they are absolutely good reasons for anyone to choose not to read a book.  Unfortunately, each of these reasons is also very subjective and so it’s a problem to say what is offensive language to you is offensive language to me.
  1. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
I will say if this book had been removed from my library as a child it would have saved me LOADS of nightmares, but scary books and nightmares are supposed to be a part of growing up!
  1. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

  1. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence
So in summation, always feel free to reject a book for you or your family for ANY reason, but when you are trying to remove access to a book for ALL families it should be done with great care and consideration.  

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