From kite runners to gay penguin families, these are the books your local librarians are fighting for
image via (cc) flickr user LansingLibrary
The American Library Association has released their annual “State of America’s Libraries” report, and for anyone interested in one of the country’s most important educational resources, it’s a must read.
The report offers a look at where things stand on a number of library-related issues, such as accessibility, diversity, and funding. It also addresses the role each type of library—Public, School, and Academic—plays in our society today. With two-thirds of Americans in agreement (when’s the last time you saw those words in sequence) that libraries have a positive impact on a community, the ALA’s report offers some encouraging news, including the fact that there has been a 54 percent increase in attendance at public library programming over the last decade, with nearly 100 million attendees in over four million programs across the country in 2012 alone.
But not all the news is quite so unambiguously uplifting. In the “Issues and Trends” portion of the report, the ALA lists the 10 most “challenged” books of the past year—books which, for a variety of reasons, were subject to censorship requests. The list was compiled by the American Library Association’s Office For Intellectual Freedom (OIF) from out of 311 challenges. The books therein represent a wide swath of styles, genres, and subject matter, as do the complaints leveled against them.
Per the ALA, the 10 most challenged books of 2014 are:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying.”
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Reasons: Gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” and “graphic depictions.”
And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda.”
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues.”
It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it [to be] child pornography.”
Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation.”
A Stolen Life: A Memoir, Jaycee Dugard
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: Sexually explicit.
Using criteria established by author Malinda Lo, founder of DiversityInYA.com, the OIF determined that eight of the 10 most challenged books of the past year contained “diverse” content, as defined by:
—Non-White main and/or secondary characters
—LGBT main and/or secondary characters
—Disabled main and/or secondary characters
—Issues about race or racism
—Issues about religion, which encompass in this situation the Holocaust and terrorism
—Issues about disability and/or mental illness
—Non-Western settings, in which the West is North America and Europe
In response to these censorship efforts, and in defense of readers’ first amendment rights, the report explains that the ALA is organizing “[c]onference panels and intellectual freedom advocacy efforts [...] to reverse this growing trend.”
If panels aren’t your thing, though, you can always show your support for these books by checking them out from your local library. But remember: As good as it might feel to take a stand against censorship, you’ll have to do so quietly, or risk a severe “shush-ing” from the library staff.
Deep down, though, I’m sure they’ll understand.