The Top Ten Challenged Books of 2012

Thanks to Jason Boog at GalleyCat for alerting me to this article from the American Library Association which, among other things, lists the top ten ‘challenged’ (aka ‘banned’) books of 2012. Here they are:

• Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkeybooks
• “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie
• “Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher
• “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E. L. James
• “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
• “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini
• “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green
• Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
• “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls
• “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison

By far the most popular listed reason for the ban? “Offensive language.” More in the article, including examples and critical analysis. Enjoy!

4 Comments on The Top Ten Challenged Books of 2012

  1. The leadership of American Library Association doesn’t seem to realize that the flip side of censorship is propaganda. Dictatorships routinely engage in both. The ALA’s staff doesn’t seem to have devoted enough attention to the topic to even understand the issues involved. They’d rather sneer than attempt to understand.

    Look a bit more closely and you’ll find that these ‘challenges’ often revolve around parents who feel, often with good reason, that a particular book will be harmful to their children. They’re not trying to get the book’s sale banned by the government (censorship), they trying to prevent that book from being forced on their children, particularly by schools. What they’re opposing is propaganda and indoctrination, particularly of the youth, which as much a characteristic of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR as was censorship. That’s what the ALA doesn’t understand.

    Although it didn’t make this year’s list, one example is Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, which is filled with derogatory remarks about black people and dreadful stereotypes of them. And would any sane parent want their thirteen-year-old daughter to read Fifty Shades of Grey, which Wikipedia notes, “is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism.” I think not.

    it’s sometimes said that the definitive mark of a free society is the absent of bans on seditious libel, meaning remarks intended bring into contempt a government even though those statements are true. A government that doesn’t use censorship to defend itself isn’t likely to use it for any other purpose.

    But it’s equally true that a definitive mark of a free society is that it makes no effort to indoctrinate its citizens and in particular no effort to use the schools to impose a certain point of view on children or adolescents in defiance of the wishes of parents. A government that isn’t trying to indoctrinate children probably isn’t suppressing the dissent of adults either.

    In the past, those impositions typically involved ideologies such as socialism (the USSR) or nationalism (Germany even before Nazism). Today, it’s more likely to involve issues of sexuality, hence the fuss surround books such as Fifty Shades of Grey.

    Years ago, I was involved in a dispute with the Seattle school district over its plans to make a story puffing life as a teen prostitute required reading for junior high students. (It was already required reading for high school students.) Had that fus gotten a bit more attention, I suspect that story would have made the ALA’s ‘challenged’ list.

    I sometimes wonder how many of the young teen prostitutes killed by the Green River killer were pushed into prostitution by that foul and twisted story when it was required reading in Seattle’s high schools. You can find their names and ages here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Ridgway

    Notice that two, never identified, may have been as young as twelve or thirteen. Think of them each year when the ALA releases their list of ‘challenged’ books.

  2. Mr Perry, you are completely incorrect.

    Let me clarify – you’re correct that parents are often concerned about what they see as propaganda or indoctrination. You are completely wrong in this statement:

    “They’re not trying to get the book’s sale banned by the government (censorship), they (sic) trying to prevent that book from being forced on their children, particularly by schools”

    The ALA’s “challenged books” list does not contain books that parents (or anyone, for that matter) have asked to have removed from required reading lists. It contains books that people (pre-dominantly parents) have asked (or demanded) be removed from AVAILABILITY IN SCHOOL LIBRARIES. There’s a huge difference between “don’t make my kid read this” and “don’t allow this to be available for any kid who happens to want to read it”.

    The former may well be an attempt to prevent coercion. The latter is attempted censorship.

  3. Omar, it’s nice to hear from you, and thanks for the comment.

    But don’t let yourself get too worked up about Michael Perry. Personally, I love the guy; I think he’s got a lot of heart and a ton of passion. But he’s pretty much Captain Horseshit around these parts. I actually used to think he was a troll, just trying to get a rise out of people with his comments, which do frequently get our readers’ blood boiling. But no, Michael has his convictions and he sure ain’t shy about sharing them!

    Quite often Michael’s logic is faulty—that seems to have been the case here—and that sort of thing does tend to rub me the wrong way. But frankly, I love the fact that we have a few regular commenters who almost always seem to have dissenting viewpoints. It keeps things exciting!

  4. Thanks for the welcoming words and the gentle suggestion to avoid troll feeding, Dan. Don’t worry too much about my blood pressure – I’m long passed the days of getting agitated over a stranger’s speech. I still indulge an innate proclivity to pick certain types of nits (confusing connotation with denotation, arguments to emotion, and a few others). I’m still partly naive enough to hope that pointing out such mistakes might help prevent their repetition. Online that may not even be naive, since far more people than Dan could see this comment thread. Even if he’s un-inclined to accept my critique, it may still be useful to someone else.

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