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Reflections on the End of Banned Books Week

Ashley Tedesco, blog editor

Every time I hear about books that are banned by various schools, public libraries, and other supposedly liberal learning outlets, I always assume it would never happen “here.” Here in college, in New York City, in the northeast, or wherever “here” is at the moment. While no books have been banned in Manhattan in the last three years, just last August, the Brooklyn Public Library placed a ban on a book called “Tintin Au Congo” because they believed it portrayed Africans in a negative light, according to bannedbooksweek.org. The book is currently only available in a back room of the library by appointment only, under the same kind of authority as those pricey and heavy resource books are, including the encyclopedia and the dictionary.

Speaking of dictionaries, there have actually been cases made to ban the dictionary on the basis of being obscene, because it offers definitions of words generally filed under the category of being profane. No kidding. There are other frankly ridiculous examples, but here are a list of the top 10 most banned books in 2009:

ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), Lauren Myracle (nudity, sexually explicit, offensive language, drugs, and unsuited to age group)

And Tango Makes Three, Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson (homosexuality)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky (drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (racism, offensive language, unsuited to age group)

Twilight (series), Stephanie Meyer (sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group)

Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger (sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group)

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult (sexism, homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited too age group, drugs, suicide, violence(

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, Carolyn Mackler (sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group)

The Color Purple, Alice Walker (sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group)

The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier (nudity, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group)

(Information from BannedBooksWeek.org)

The last time I checked, that which was supposedly “fit to be censored” was only that which had absolutely no redeeming artistic value. I’m pretty certain literature counts as art, and is therefore inherently full of redeeming artistic value. In fact, some of the best books I’ve read in the last 6 months are on this list, which lists the top 100 most banned books for the last decade, including The Kite Runner (#50) by Khaled Hosseini, the only book to ever render me speechless, and The Handmaid’s Tale (#88) by one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood. Not to mention elementary school favorites like Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (#90), Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (#99) by Judy Blume, and, of course, the ever-popular Harry Potter series, which tops the list at number 1, because apparently, reading about fictional wizards denies the existence of God or something. Huh. Should’ve thought of that after reading the whole series within a week of its release and then declaring a Religious Studies major.

The fact of the matter is that censorship is, unfortunately, alive and well. But it will never fully succeed, especially in a society so dominated by all things virtual. So as Banned Books Week comes to an end, make a new year’s resolution of sorts to check out some books on the banned books list. Next on my list? Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (#36) and Beloved by Toni Morrison (#26). Read on!

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