Banned Books Week

Saturday, September 24, 2011

“Without freedom of speech, there is no freedom.”

—Bette Greene

Today marks the start of Banned Books Week, a weeklong celebration of the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Sponsored by the American Library Association since 1982, this week shines a light on the benefits of intellectual freedom and raises important questions about the themes, ideas, and concepts resonating—for better or for worse—in the cultural consciousness.

In anticipation of the week ahead, we asked a diverse collection of authors to share their thoughts and experiences related to censorship. Hit play to see Pat Conroy, Bette Greene, Jean Craighead George, and relatives of William Styron and Terry Southern discuss censorship.

Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing fascinating stories, experiences, and insights from Richelle Mead, Kevin O’Brien, and Barbara Hambly, among many others, everyday on the blog. We’ll also spotlight excerpts from banned and challenged fiction.

Here’s what on the docket. We’ll come back and update this post with links as new items appear on our blog and elsewhere.

To kick things off, we invite you to today’s featured excerpt: “Endless Love” by Scott Spencer. Published in 1979, Endless Love is touted as one of the most powerful books ever written about young love—and one of the sexiest books ever written.  

According to the ALA, books “usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information.” Top reasons for challenging books are sexual explicitness, offensive language, and age inappropriateness. Other reasons include the promotion of homosexuality, nudity, presentation of sexual education, and “anti-family” elements. We urge you to explore the beginning of Endless Love and see where it fares.

Banned Books Week Collection

Later today you’ll also hear from Richelle Mead—an author who is, as far as we know, the only author whose entire series was banned before she even began to write it.

Finally, you can find more fast facts and resources related to Banned Books Week below. If you’d like us to add your facts or resources to the list, please share them in the comments below or tweet them our way.

Fast Facts (thanks to eNotes):

  • More than 11,000 books have been challenged or banned. In 2010 alone, 348 challenges were reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom.
  • Every country in the world has banned books. In England, D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was the object of numerous obscenity trials. In Italy and Yugoslavia, Jack London’s Call of the Wild was banned in 1929 for being “too radical.”
  • Before a book can be banned, it must be challenged. Between 1990 and 2006, the Office of Intellectual Freedom reported that 6,346 books were considered for banishment.
  • Radical actions have sometimes been taken against books. For example, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was considered vulgar, immoral, and even “bestial.” In East St. Louis, the board of trustees ordered all three of the library’s copies to be burned.
  • Judy Blume, writer of preteen and teen fiction, is one of the most frequently banned of authors. She laments, “(I)t’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

Resources:

National Coalition Against Censorship

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