Banned Books Week: Be a Rebel! Read a Banned Book!

In case you haven’t heard, this week is Banned Books Week! Hooray! To get into the spirit of things, I read oft-challenged YA classic Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher, and reviewed it over at Nisaba Be Praised.

via Goodreads

To make a long story short: it’s very much an Issue Book, but very well-written and balanced, and not too heavy-handed. I was nervous that potential fat-hate in the book would turn me off, but all in all I think the main character is a good example of the HAES approach and this is a book that kids should read and that shouldn’t be banned. Then again, I’m not really the kind of person who thinks any book should really be banned full-stop. Free speech, it is nice.

I picked Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes at semi-random from the list of books challenged or banned in 2010-2011 provided by the ALA; I’d heard of it before and it’s been on my TBR list for a while, so I figured now would be as good a time as any. There were some books I was really surprised to see on the list, though; particularly, The Egypt Games, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, which is listed on the 2009-2010 challenged list because a student’s father in Wichita Falls, TX, decided that the Egyptian worship rituals depicted in the book are really about “evil gods and black magic.” Which makes me want to be like, “Uh, guy–this isn’t ‘I don’t want to be Elfstar any more,’ this is kids using their imagination to engage with the past!” (Not that Chick Tracts are any less ridiculous, but that seems to be the world this guy lives in.) But, you know, different strokes. Or it would be different strokes if the father privately kept his son from reading about “evil gods” instead of making his mind up that this optional book on the reading list was inappropriate for any and all fourth-graders in the entire school district. Le sigh.

via Goodreads

After my review, I provided links to some resources if you’re interested in more information about book challenges and bannings, and Banned Books Week in general, but definitely pop over to the ALA site if you want to know more.


11 thoughts on “Banned Books Week: Be a Rebel! Read a Banned Book!

  1. No book has been banned in the USA for about half a century. Fanny Hill got that honor a long time ago. Challenged books in schools that are removed is different from banning. Setting aside that Banned Books Week is propaganda, the creator of BBW said:

    “On rare occasion, we have situations where a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library. In that case, yes, it is appropriate to remove materials. If it doesn’t fit your material selection policy, get it out of there.”

    See: “Banned Books Week Propaganda Exposed by Progressive Librarian Rory Litwin; ALA Censors Out Criticism of Its Own Actions in a Manner Dishonest to the Core.”

    See also: “Celebrate ‘Librarians Trying to Make Themselves Feel Important’ Week!,” by Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, 26 September 2011.

    Be sure to see a “banned” author admitting the ALA fakes its top 10 challenged book list for political reasons. See: “ Banned Books Week is Gay Promotion? Author Admits ALA Faked 2010 Top 10 Challenged Book List .”

    Oh yes, the ALA’s “censorship map” is plagiarized. By the ALA. And the ALA knows it and still uses it. See “How ALA Plagiarism Becomes Truth Through the Media Lens; SafeLibraries in USA Today.”

    • Mia says:

      Hmm…regardless of the semantics of whether books have actually been “banned” per se or not, I think Banned Book Week is a great period of time for examining censorship in the US, which most frequently occurs in our schools. “Totally inappropriate for a school library” is one thing, and I agree that it is part of a librarian’s position to see that their library is appropriately stocked for their readership.

      The problem with censorship of reading material in schools is that concerned parents frequently don’t stop at removing the book from their child’s reading list, but instead take it upon themselves to see that no child will have the opportunity to interact with the book because they deem it inappropriate, and that crosses a line as far as I’m concerned. Taking the OED out of schools because it provides a definition for “oral sex”? Good heavens, let’s everybody clutch our pearls.

      Maybe the trappings of Banned Book Week are imperfect–I’m not qualified to render a judgment one way or another–but I do think it gives folks who are paying attention in the United States and around the world a good opportunity to look at censorship and the challenging of books in educational settings. I will continue to support the ALA in their movement because I believe it is a worthy cause.

  2. D says:

    Wow, I remember reading The Egypt Game and LOVING it when I was younger. I had no idea it was challenged! And now I want to read the book you reviewed, too. Thanks for posting this, very interesting!

  3. I think the only banned book I’ve read is Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I read it on my own because I wanted to. I didn’t get the commentary the first time through, so, hnn. Still, censorship is one of my HOTBUTTONS, especially parents making choices for kids other than their own.

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