Welcome to Banned Books Week – Los Angeles Times
Itâ€™s the 34th annual Banned Books Week, a celebration of writing that has been challenged by would-be censors.
This year, the emphasis is on diversity, a nod to the fact that more than half of the books challenged or banned in American libraries and schools are by writers of color.
The Banned Books Week website features a list of frequently banned books dealing with characters with diverse backgrounds. It includes perennially challenged authors such as Sherman Alexie, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Khaled Hosseini.
Itâ€™s not just authors of color who are being targeted. The most recent American Library Assn.â€™s list of challenged or banned books includes several titles dealing with LGBT issues, including David Levithanâ€™s â€œTwo Boys Kissing,â€ Alison Bechdelâ€™s â€œFun Homeâ€ and â€œI Am Jazz,â€Â a childrenâ€™sÂ book co-authored by Jazz Jennings, a teenage transgender girl.
Libraries and bookstores across the nation are observing Banned Books Week by promoting literature by frequently challenged authors, often in innovative ways.
In Washington, D.C., the public library system organized a scavenger hunt leaving books across the city with black-and-white covers featuring no information other than the words would-be censors used to describe their contents. (â€œThe Catcher in the Ryeâ€ is â€œanti-white,â€ and under the cover boasting â€œfilthy trashy sex novelâ€ is John Knowlesâ€™ â€œA Separate Peace.â€)
Skylight Books in Los Angeles will observe this yearâ€™s Banned Books Week with an open mic featuring authors Steph Cha, Natashia DeÃ³n and Chris L. Terry on Tuesday night, and theyâ€™ll be running a â€œblind date with a banned book sale.â€
In Â February, Banned Books Week chair Charles Brownstein noted the â€œalarmingâ€ trend of nonwhite authors being challenged, writing, â€œBy shining a light on how these ideas are censored, we hope to encourage opportunities to create engagement and understanding within our communities, and to emphasize the fundamental importance of the freedom to read.â€
A report released Monday by PEN America echoed these concerns withÂ â€œMissing from the Shelf: Book Challenges and Lack of Diversity in Children’s Literature,â€Â addressing the issue of LGBT authors and authors of color being disproportionately targeted by those seeking to ban books.
â€œWhile book bans and challenges may seem like a thing of the past, they are alive and well in schools and libraries around the country,â€ PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel said in a statement. And they â€œdisturbingly, tend to disproportionately target books that speak to the experiences of LGBT people and people of color.â€
The events are sponsored by a number of groups, including theÂ American Library Assn. and the American Booksellers Assn. (AAP).
On Â AAPâ€™s website, project manager Olusina Adebayo explained why books with minority themes are so frequently challenged.
â€œBecause the definition of diversity stems from what is considered to be outside the norm it has frightened parents who want to protect their children from overexposure,â€Â Adebayo writes. â€œThe banning and censorship of books stifles constructive dialogue and promotes division over understanding. Unfortunately, our society has characterized that which is different as being bad or off-putting.â€
Schaub is based in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter.
The top 10 most-challenged books of 2015
1. â€œLooking for Alaskaâ€ by John Green. Â Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicitÂ and unsuited for age group.Â Â Â
2. â€œFifty Shades of Greyâ€ by E. L. James. Â Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age groupÂ and other (â€œpoorly written,â€ â€œconcerns that a group of teenagers will want to try itâ€).Â Â Â
3. â€œI Am Jazzâ€ by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. Â Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpointÂ and unsuited for age group.Â Â Â
4. â€œBeyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Outâ€ by Susan Kuklin. Â Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age groupÂ and other (â€œwants to remove from collection to ward off complaintsâ€).Â Â Â
5. â€œThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Timeâ€ by Mark Haddon. Â Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age groupÂ and other (â€œprofanity and atheismâ€).Â Â Â
6. The Holy Bible. Â Reasons:Â Religious viewpoint.Â Â Â
7. â€œFun Homeâ€ by Alison Bechdel. Â Reasons: Violence and other (â€œgraphic imagesâ€).Â Â Â
8. â€œHabibiâ€ by Craig Thompson. Â Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicitÂ and unsuited for age group.Â Â Â
9. â€œNasreenâ€™s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistanâ€ by Jeanette Winter. Â Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age groupÂ and violence.Â Â Â
10. â€œTwo Boys Kissing” by David Levithan. Â Reasons: Homosexuality and other (â€œcondones public displays of affectionâ€).
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