Banned Books Week: Top 10 challenged books of 2010

Although it was recently called an exercise in propaganda, Banned Books Week is here again, being “celebrated” today to October 1. At the risk of being called a propagandist, I’m going to try to again have daily posts on the topic for the week. (Although I can’t say I’m a fan of this year’s poster. It seems a bit too ’60s retro to me — says the guy who is artistically challenged drawing stick figures.)

If you think this is a hackneyed issue, in the past few weeks there’s been a few news stories about books being challenged in schools, including Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (now available in a restricted area accessible only to parents) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet. With school now underway throughout the country, it is also a prime time for challenges to crop up.

But what are the really “hot” items? Here’s the top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2010 and the reasons given for challenging each, compiled by the American Library Association:

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. For the fourth time in the five years since it’s been published, this book about two male penguins who take care of a baby penguin tops the list (it was in second place last year). The reasons cited against it? Homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit.
  4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins. Reasons: drugs, offensive language, and sexually explicit.
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  6. Lush, by Natasha Friend. Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.
  7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones. Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.
  8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint.
  9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie. Reasons: homosexuality and sexually explicit.
  10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence.

I’ve actually only read two of the books on the list but have The Hunger Games on my Nook. Interestingly, Twilight (which I haven’t read) and the movies it spawned have been highly popular. In fact, I think it’s responsible for the recent dramatic increase in popular culture fascination with vampires. I understand The Hunger Games is also very popular and the movie being made is already generating some excitement. Does a sense of forbidden fruit increase the buzz?

You can cage the singer but not the song.

Harry Belafonte, International Herald Tribune, Oct. 3, 1988

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