… Banned Books Week. I bet you thought that the familiar lead-in combined with the cooling temperatures was going to end with “Christmas.”
Acclaimed author Sherman Alexie responded in an interview that he celebrates April 15 (tax day) as Independence Day ~ earning enough money from his writing to have to file tax forms signaled his “independence.” Similarly, I’ve chosen Banned Books Week as my unusual celebratory selection.
The 2015 Banned Books Week runs from September 27-October 5 and the theme is Young Adult (YA) literature. The ten YA novels on the frequently challenged list created for this year’s theme by the American Library Association (ALA) includes many of my family’s favorites. Sherman Alexie’s brilliant semi-autobiographical work, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, tops the list.
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 through the collaborative efforts of publishers, libraries, and others in the “book” business. The ALA reports that over 11,300 works have been challenged since then; with 311 in 2014. The ALA maintains a list of challenged works. There are likely more challenges that go unreported as works quietly leave shelves and become inaccessible in libraries and schools. As Chris Finan, director of American Book Sellers for Free Expression, writes in his column 311 Reasons to Celebrate Banned Books Week:
Recent investigations in two states suggest the number may be even higher. Students at the Missouri School of Journalism used requests under the Freedom of Information Act to discover 51 challenges in Missouri between 2008 and 2012. Only six (12 percent) were reported to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The Texas ACLU used FOIA to uncover 65 unreported challenges in 2011 alone.
Whatever the actual number of challenges, we can be sure that there would be many more if there weren’t people all over the country resisting efforts to ban books. Booksellers have joined teachers, librarians, parents, students, and other concerned citizens in fighting back.
We got into the mood here at the Ruth Lilly Law Library. Hannah Alcasid and Susan David deMaine put together this inspiring and outstanding tribute. I am proud to say that my family has read and enjoyed most of these books.
The tattered “Complete Unexpurgated Authentic Authorized 1958 Edition” of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (banned in 1928) was one of my contributions.
My reason for celebrating Banned Books Week? I am grateful to those courageous and talented authors whose works challenge us to question ourselves and the status quo. I am particularly grateful for those authors like Sherman Alexie and Philip Pullman who give children the courage to question and challenge; to see beyond the limits of their circumstances; and demand their voices be heard when what the “adults in the room” are accepting doesn’t make sense or simply isn’t “right.” Banned Books Week reminds me how fortunate we are to have these authors and the champions that defend the challenges to their works.
Image credit: Catherine Lemmer