I went to this wonderful event at my local high school this week, a "Banned Books Week Reading."
The school's GSA and their poetry publication club teamed up with the librarians and put on a lunchtime event where students and faculty took turns getting up and reading a few lines from their favorite banned books. The very clever librarians brought a stack of additional banned books from the library for students to grab as they felt inspired.
It was a powerful and inspiring event (I got a few new titles added to my to-read pile!) but the moment that really stood out for me was when one young woman got up and read the first few lines of her favorite banned book from her cellphone screen.
I think in all the noise and worry about losing physical books as e-books and technology advance, we can lose sight of the fact that if they resonate, the words - the stories - will continue to be read.
And now with technology, it's even easier to find these stories that others would ban.
So to celebrate our freedom to read, I thought I'd share the first few lines from each of the top 10 most challenged books of 2010. Because as was said by one of the faculty members who read from "The Diary Of Anne Frank," which had been challenged by a parent who didn't want their child to have to read it out loud in class:
"I'm going to challenge that challenge by reading the book out loud right now."
The 10 most challenged titles of 2010 were:
And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
In the middle of New York City there is a great big park called Central Park. Children love to play there. It has a toy-boat pond where they can sail their boats. It has a carousel to ride on in the summer and an ice rink to skate on in winter. Best of all, it has its very own zoo. Every day families of all kinds go to visit the animals that live there. ...
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group
The Black-Eye-Of-The-Month Club
I was born with water on the brain.
Okay, so that's not exactly true. I was actually born with too much cerebral spinal fluid inside my skull. But cerebral spinal fluid is just the doctors’ fancy was of saying brain grease. ...
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit
A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY. ...
Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit
For these first lines, since Ellen writes novels in verse, I've scanned the first poem, since layout is so important in her work:
The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping. ...
Lush, by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group
Well, my father is at it again.Saturday, 2:35 A.M., while all normal fathers are sleeping, mine stumbles through the door, breaks a vase, then proceeds to eat a plate of cold lasagna face-first.From my post at the top of the stairs, I watch him. Still face-planting the lasagna. Still face-planting the lasagna.If you ever catch your dad in this position, some advice: ...
What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Most people just call me Sophie
(which is the name
on my birth certificate),
or sometimes Sofa.
Zak and Danny think it's cute
to call me Couch,
"How're your cushions doing today, Couch?"
Or sometimes they call me Syphilis,
which I don't find one bit funny.
My parents usually call me
Sophie Dophie or Soso.
And Rachel and Grace call me Fifi,
or sometimes just Fee.
But Dylan calls me Sapphire.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint
Serving in Florida
Mostly out of laziness, I decide to start my low-wage life in the town nearest to where I actually live, Key West, Florida, which with a population of about 25,000 is elbowing its way up to the status of a genuine city. The downside of familiarity, I soon realize, is that it’s not easy to go from being a consumer, thoughtlessly throwing money around in exchange for groceries and movies and gas, to being a worker in the very same place. ...
Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit
Speaking for Ourselves:
A Note From the Editor
Thank you for picking up Revolutionary Voices, a creative resource collection by and for queer and questioning youth. A first-of-its-kind anthology, this book was created as a forum for today’s queer youth movement to address the issues that shape our lives.As youth who have “grown up” during the ‘80s and ‘90s, we are the product of a unique historic moment in which queer youth are increasingly visible and coming out at younger and younger ages. ...
Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group
1. First Sight
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. it was seventy-five degrees in Pheonix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. I was wearing my favorite shirt – sleeveless, white eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka.
Don't those openings make you want to read on?
If so, you can join my Banned Books Reading Challenge, where I'm aiming to read all ten of these by the end of the year!
A few more things to share:
You can check out a very cool interactive map of book challenges in the USA here.
And here's the incredible Judy Blume (whose books have faced numerous challenges) with a Banned Books Week message:
So read a banned book - even if it's on your cell phone!
And with every word, you'll join me in celebrating our freedom to read.