Banned Books Week (BBW): Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where the freedom to express oneself and the freedom to choose what opinions and viewpoints to consume are both met.
The ABFFE has a list of the most challenged books from years past. These are real books that real Americans are trying to ban from real libraries. For most of the books, they provide background information, including where and by whom the book was challenged. There is also a PDF of the most challenged books over the last year or so. No news yet on the most challenged books from 2009, but I’m told that’s coming.
Some of the challenged books are old standbys of censorial aggression – your Huck Finns, your Harry Potters, your Brave New Worlds, and so forth. Some are new to me, like the potentially adorable “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding”, which apparently documents the struggles of a small guinea pig as she learns to adapt to her uncle Bobby getting gay guinea pig married. Others just confuse, bemuse, amuse, and unsettle me, such as the challenge to Esther Drill’s Deal With It, a sex-education novel for girls which was challenged on the grounds of being – and I am not making this up – “happily nonphallocentric.”
These are enlightened times.
Anyway, I’ve created a Google Map to map out the book challenges. I think it might be an interesting exercise to visualize whether there are hotspots of censorship in the country. Anyone can edit the map, so if you’d like to help, feel free to join in. You can either refer to the ABFFE’s detailed list or add your own, but please supplement them with corroborating evidence!