Each year during National Library Week, the American Library Association releases a State of America’s Libraries report. One of the highlights (or lowlights) is that it contains the Top Ten List of Most Frequently Challenged Books, compiled annually by the organization’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. So here’s this year’s “winners”, in order, and the reasons they were challenged:
- Captain Underpants (series), Dav Pilkey (offensive language, unsuited for age group)
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie (offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group) As an aside, Alexie spoke at SDSU to kick off the 2012 South Dakota Festival of Books last September.
- Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher (drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group)
- Fifty Shades of Grey, E. L. James (offensive language, sexually explicit)
- And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (homosexuality, unsuited for age group)
- The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit)
- Looking for Alaska, John Green (offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group)
- Scary Stories (series), Alvin Schwartz (unsuited for age group, violence)
- The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (offensive language, sexually explicit)
- Beloved, Toni Morrison (sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence)
I doubt anyone is shocked that Fifty Shades of Grey is on the list and while there are a few perennial “favorites” (And Tango Makes Three and Beloved, for example), there’s also some new entries this year. Thirteen Reasons Why is a 2007 young adult novel dealing with the reasons why a young girl committed suicide. Looking for Alaska, meanwhile, is a 2005 young adult novel that takes a before and after look at another young girl’s death. Both won numerous honors when released.
Instead of asking – “How much damage will the work in question bring about?” why not ask – “How much good? How much joy?”
Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare