Founded in 1982 in response to the dramatic increase of challenges to books in libraries and schools, the Banned Books Week Coalition “seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship.” Banned Book Week, promoting the tagline: “Stand up for your right to read: defend the first amendment,” is typically held during the last week of September.
According to the American Library Association (ALA), since 1982 more than 11,300 books have been challenged due to political, religious, sexual and social reasons. Each year, the ALA publishes the top ten most challenged books based on reports form schools and libraries, although about 75% are never reported. James LaRue, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom notes that in the past decade there has been a discernible shift, linked to changing demographics in the nation, for the reasons books are challenged: from offensive language and explicit sex to issues of diversity. LaRue elaborates: “[There has been a shift to ban books] focused on issues of diversity — things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities. It seems like that shift is very clear. There’s a sense that a previous majority of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are kind of moving into a minority, and there’s this lashing out to say, ‘Can we just please make things the way that they used to be?’”
Paradoxically, banning a book is the surest way to encourage a young person to read that book. LaRue adds: “If what you’re trying to do is stop this book from getting into the hands of a minor, the surest way to [fail] is to declare it forbidden.”
Here are the list of top ten banned books from 2015 followed by the key reasons:
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Violence and other (“graphic images”).
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter
Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).
For further reading: Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds by Dawn Sova (1998)