Ten Subversive Works

People who want to ban a book can’t think of a better argument than “SHUT UP!” The would-be censors are still busy compiling the 2009 list of banned books in schools and libraries across America as I type, but we can share the final 2008 list thanks to the American Library Association and Banned Book Week (Sept. 26 – Oct. 3). For those who can tolerate and even welcome thoughts other than their own, Banned Book Week celebrates the First Amendment and our right to read. The ALA has done a great job explaining what’s at stake on their Banned Book Week site. Thanks, librarians, for keeping the door to shared ideas wide open to everyone.

You don’t have to ban a book to keep it out of a child’s hands. You can just lock the door. So, I send my thanks to Providence Community Libraries, a new nonprofit here in Providence, which stepped up at the eleventh hour to acquire and operate all nine beloved neighborhood branches of the Providence Public Library. Thanks to PCL, the PPL’s plan to close branches in low-income neighborhoods was headed off this spring. Good thing, too, because libraries in our public schools, which serve the same neighborhoods, were essentially abolished and converted to conventional classrooms this fall.

Here are the ten books most frequently censored in 2008. Note the obsession with saving children from exposure to unconventional thoughts. (If you’ve ever talked to a child, you know it’s too late for that.) This year’s “honorees” join a proud list of subversive works banned in prior years, such as Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and James and the Giant Peach.

Out of 513 challenges (attempts at outright removal of a book) as reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
  3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
  5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group
  7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

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