Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Banned Books Anyone?

As this week is ALA's annual "Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read," I checked out their website to learn more about the books that have been banned over the years. Why does the ALA devote a whole week each year to banned books? They want us to remember that as librarians, it is our responsibility to assert our First Amendment rights to free speech, and free reading ( website). Reading about the banned books made me think of some books that I have read and enjoyed that have been contested:
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain- I can understand the accusations against this book, with the derogatory term used in it to refer to African Americans.  However, I have seen a children's copy of this book, and the derogatory terms were omitted.  Is this taking away from the story?  Is that term supposed to be in there to remind us why it is wrong to use it?
  • His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Philip Pullman- The Golden Compass, recently made into a movie, was the first book in this trilogy.  The Catholic Church has major issues with this book, since Pullman is a self-defined atheist and the evil institution in the book does somewhat vaguely resemble the Catholic hierarchy. They do seem anti-religious, but they are fantasy novels.  As the daughter of a minister, I enjoyed them as fantasy novels, and did not address them as commentaries on religion.
  • Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling- Again, many religious communities have issues with this series because of the references to magic and the fear that children will believe that the magic could actually exist.  I actually had a class focused on the Harry Potter books, and my professor was a former Catholic priest.  He loved the books for the lessons offered in them, and for the wisdom given by Albus Dumbledore. 
This are only a few of the books on the list. What are some of your favorite banned or contested books? Do you understand why they were banned? Let us all use this week to reflect on our job as librarians to provide our patrons with diverse and varied reading selections.  As one librarian puts it "There is something in my library that offends everyone!"