“But wait… we live in America. Books aren’t banned here!” you might think.
Well, check out the following figures from the American Library Association describing data from 2001-2010.
Over the past ten years, American libraries were faced with 4,660 challenges.
- 1,536 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;
- 1,231 challenges due to “offensive language”;
- 977 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;
- 553 challenges due to “violence”
- 370 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and
Further, 121 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 304 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”
What books are these, one might wonder? Here’s a list of the top hundred books banned or challenged from 2000-2009. At the top of the list, we see J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. We also see John Steinbeck, Maya Angelou, and Mark Twain — literary classics!
To quote Bertrand Russell,
Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth, more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.
Intellectual freedom is necessary in preserving a free society. It was the ability to challenge the status quo that lead to advances throughout American history, such as establishing women’s rights and abolishing slavery. By supporting the freedom to read, one supports the right to think, to speak, and to believe, as outlined in the First Amendment.
So, as we come to Banned Book Week, think about what it means to be able to read what one chooses. Read a banned or challenged novel. Help guarantee that freedom of information is valued in our society.