Every year, the American Library Association and other groups sponsor a week-long celebration of intellectual freedom: Banned Book Week, the last week in September. The main goal of BBW is to protest censorship and acknowledge books that have been challenged, praising them for their value and meaning and their ability to change lives.
The theme this year is very meaningful in light of the #ownvoices movement, speaking to the idea that banning books takes away the voice of authors and readers who are seeking to validate their own identities and experiences through fiction.
Did you know that books are challenged in schools and libraries every year? In 2017, there were 354 challenges, up from 323 in 2016. Here are the top 10 most challenged books from the last year.
It is an interesting mix; the majority of the books deal with racial or LGBT+ content. There are classics, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, which was also included in PBS’s Great American Read list. And there are some brand new books, such as The Hate U Give. This is a very interesting inclusion because it was only published in February of last year, yet it already made the most challenged list. That says to me that it is a powerful book, which is certainly corroborated by the number of awards it has won.
I’m excited to be reading The Hate U Give this week. It has some difficult subject matter; as you can see, it was challenged for its “vulgarity” and depictions of drug use, to say nothing of its very timely portrayal of a police shooting. You can read more about the challenges against the book on the Banned Books Week website.
As a parent myself, I understand the instinct to want to shield our kids from anything upsetting or dangerous, thinking that they are not prepared to handle it. But drug use and police shootings are facts of life, and how will kids ever be prepared to handle these concepts if they don’t first read and think about them? We are not required to agree with the viewpoint of everything we read; in fact, we can better understand our own feelings and opinions by reading points of view that challenge them.
The Hate U Give has a lot to offer readers of all ages, including a fresh, young, authentic voice in its protagonist Starr. I love Starr’s progression as she processes her grief and trauma, finding her voice and speaking out for justice with courage. I really recommend it, and I’m looking forward to the movie adaptation coming out next month, too.
Have you guys read any of these (or other) banned books? Which is your favorite?