‘Banned Books Week’ Spotlights Censorship Efforts

By Catherine Gewertz — September 23, 2014 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

It’s Banned Books Week. That’s when librarians, teachers, students, authors, booksellers and others stake out their reading turf by making a public show of reading books that have been challenged or banned from the shelves of bookstores and libraries.

The 32-year-old event takes many forms: libraries are staging public readings of banned books, and individuals are taking pictures or videos of themselves reading banned books. (There is even a dedicated YouTube channel for those “virtual read-outs.”)

On Twitter, people are using the hashtag #BannedBooksWeek to swap news of the latest book prohibitions, and a Facebook page tracks activity and debate on the issue.

People looking for events to participate in—or for a way to publicize their events—can list them on a special page of the Banned Books Week website.

The weeklong event is co-sponsored by the American Library Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Association of American Publishers, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors, among others. Over the last few years, they’ve mapped scores of book challenges across the country.

In April, the American Library Association released its latest list of the most-challenged books in libraries. Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants topped the list, followed by Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (fueled, no doubt, by its inclusion on the Common Core State Standards’ list of exemplar novels for high school students.) Check for the other titles yourselves. Any surprises there?

The titles on that list are keeping some pretty luminary company, too. Other banned books, dating back to the mid-1800s, include Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. More recent works that have come under attack include The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Catch-22 (Joseph Heller), Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Dee Brown), The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury), Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell), The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) and For Whom The Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway).

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.