This week is a freebie topic, and I'm usually pretty awful at coming up with my own topic for these things. You'd think that given how much I love books and lists, I'd be good at marrying the two together, but apparently not. I dithered around with half a dozen topics, and eventually decided that it was a good opportunity to talk about books that are regularly banned or challenged in school and public libraries, particularly in the US.
I don't know what it is about the US, but y'all love to ban you some books. Good Lord... Australia's not entirely innocent either - American Psycho is still banned in Queensland and can't be purchased or borrowed by under 18s in all other states - but the American Library Association records about 500 challenges or requests for bans each year. If you want to find out more, you can click here. As always, all images are from Goodreads.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
This is STILL consistently in the top 10 banned and challenged books every year. You'd think after 50-plus years - and after the Civil Rights movement - that people would be used to its contents, but apparently not. SIGH. It's gone from being contentious for discussing rape to being contentious for using racial slurs. And look, I get it. But you can't rewrite and sanitise history. Plus, it opens up discussion opportunities in the classroom about racial inequality at the time and in the present. Which is far more valuable than giving kids a boring, politically correct book to read.
2. Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling
This was a big one back in the early 2000s, with parents regularly complaining to librarians and teachers that the book promoted Satanism and was against family values and was anti-Christian blah blah blah. Oh my God, get the giant stick out of your arse and just be happy that your child is reading, will you? Some of the most religious people I know adore everything about this series. So quit burning it (seriously) already.
3. The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank
Seriously, people?? It was already heavily edited by her father prior to publication, and people are STILL complaining about it? And before you go thinking that this was contentious a million years ago, NOPE. Last year. Apparently a parent decided that Anne being all "Huh. I have a vagina" was too pornographic for her daughter to handle. Her DAUGHTER. Yup. That happened.
4. Looking for Alaska - John Green
This one doesn't get banned because of Alaska's fate. Oh no. It's contentious because it's basically considered a "gateway drug" to lewd behaviour because it features teenagers drinking and smoking and making out and swearing. WHATEVER IS THE WORLD COMING TO??? Teenagers NEVER do any of those things in the real world, right??? *headdesk*
5. 1984 - George Orwell
Another one that falls into the "Seriously?? We're STILL challenging this??" pile. This one was banned outright in the USSR, and is still regularly challenged or banned in US schools for being pro-communist (ironic, considering it was banned in the biggest communist country on earth) or anti-government. Um. So it's anti-government, but it's still pro-government, just not the government you approve of? My head hurts. Just let your kid read the damned book already.
6. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
So you don't want your kid reading a book about rape, I get it. But considering 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lives and considering I've heard stories of many MANY boys complaining that the raped protagonist is "whiny and should just get over herself", it's essential that books like this remain in libraries, schools and classrooms, regardless of its controversial content.
7. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Again, I totally understand why it gets challenged. It's an incredibly violent series with some pretty horrific concepts in it. And, thanks to the movies, younger and younger kids are wanting to read them. But there are ways around it rather than just demanding that they be banned outright. I work in a primary school library, used by kids from age 6 to age 12. We have The Hunger Games series, but they're kept behind the circulation desk and are only loaned out to kids who are mature enough to handle the subject matter at the discretion of the librarian. Demanding that it be banned is an excessive reaction, especially in a high school library!
8. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
So...you want to ban a book about suicide for being a book about suicide? Um. What. Look, I get that it's serious subject matter. But teenagers need to know that their actions can have major consequences, that something that seems insignificant to them can be a huge deal to someone else. And this book shows that perfectly.
9. Letters from the Inside - John Marsden
This one was pretty contentious in Australia back in the early to mid-90s. It's the story of the pen pal friendship between two teenage girls, one of whom is in prison and the other of whom has a seriously creepy older brother. It's pretty dark, and I can understand why people didn't want their lower secondary kids reading it. But the fact remains, sometimes family members ARE insanely creepy and you DO need someone to talk to about it, even if that person happens to be in prison.
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
Look, this wasn't one of my favourite books. I found it pretty meh, to be perfectly honest. But I can understand why a lot of teenagers adore it. It tackles a lot of difficult subjects simultaneously, including child abuse and same sex relationships, so it's understandable that parents aren't too keen on their kids reading it. But the fact remains, it's a coming-of-age novel, and every teenager will likely find SOMETHING in there that they relate to personally.
Which of these have you read? Do you think they should be banned in schools?