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September 25, 2014

Too Graphic? 2014 Banned Books Week Celebrates Challenged Comics

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September 29, 2011

Books that deserve to be banned

Not that we take Banned Books Week lightly. But some classics are painful enough to ruin reading forever.

By Laura Miller

Book banning is a serious matter, and the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week is an important consciousness-raising exercise. True, a lot of the titles on the ALA’s list of targeted books have been “challenged” rather than actually banned, and — thanks to the ALA’s ability to mobilize the press and public opinion — most of those challenges end up being disregarded or overturned. Still, every year dozens of citizens, usually parents, try to get books removed from school curricula and libraries.

And so we ask: Where were these censors when we really needed them — that is, when our 10th-grade teachers assigned “Beowulf” or “The Pearl”? As deplorable as real-life book banning may be, there’s some required reading that those of us at Salon would love to see retired from the nation’s syllabuses simply because we were tortured by it as kids.

“What is the educative value of making nerdy kids (or anyone, I suppose) read ‘Lord of the Flies’?” asks film critic Andrew O’Hehir. “Is it pure sadism? To rub their faces in the gravity of their predicament, and the likely fact that they will sooner or later be sacrificed to a nonexistent God by their classmates? Now, I recognize the book’s literary value, no question, and the point that it’s an allegory about human society and not strictly about children or for children. But that’s not how you read it when you’re 11, for the love of sweet suffering Jesus. Really hated that experience.”

For my part, while I was a voracious independent reader of children’s fiction from the second grade on, “Lord of the Flies” — and another novel I was ordered to read at age 10, “Animal Farm” — convinced me that “grown-up” books were unrelentingly bleak and politically didactic; this kept me from venturing beyond the kids’ section of the library for a few years.

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US prisoner forbidden to read Pulitzer-winning history book

Prisoner Mark Melvin and the book he was forbidden to read. Photograph: PR/Alabama Department of Corrections

Inmate sues under civil rights legislation, after Alabama jail withholds study of the historical treatment of black Americans.

By Alison Flood

A prisoner in an Alabama jail has claimed in a lawsuit that his jailers prevented him from reading a Pulitzer prize-winning book about America’s racial history, thereby violating his civil rights.

Kilby Correctional Facility inmate Mark Melvin says he was sent Douglas Blackmon’s award-winning history book Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II in September 2010, but was told he was not allowed it, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed by the Equal Justice Initiative in the US district court for the middle district of Alabama. The news comes as the US marks Banned Books Week, an annual nationwide celebration of the right to read.

The complaint claims Melvin, serving a life sentence after being charged at 14 with helping his older brother commit two murders, was denied access to the book because of regulations which allow officials to withhold mail if it could be “an attempt to incite violence based on race, religion, sex, creed or nationality”. Based on original documents and personal narratives, Slavery By Another Name tells of the tens of thousands of “free” black Americans who were bought and sold as forced labourers decades after the official abolition of slavery.

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September 25, 2011

Banning & Burning Books in America

By Frederick Clarkson

Every year, there are hundreds of documented efforts to restrict or outright ban books from school and public libraries. Many of those responsible are groups and individuals affiliated with or encouraged by the Religious Right, particularly in recent years as the American Family Association has whipped up-fears about Harry Potter books and films.  That’s why the  American Library Association and the American Booksellers Foundation for Freedom of Expression lead the organization of the annual Banned Books Weekto highlight the importance of the Freedom to Read.

This year, Banned Books Week is September 24−October 1, 2011.

The annual list of banned or challenged books run the gamut from Harry Potter to Huckleberry Finn and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The top ten most challenged books for 2010 were:

1) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson; 2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie; 3) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley; 4) Crank, by Ellen Hopkins; 5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins; 6) Lush, by Natasha Friend; 7) What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones; 8) Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich; 9) Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie; 10) Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

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September 24, 2011

Mark Twain story formally ‘unbanned’ in US

Mark Twain: "The deep unconscious irony of it delights me." Photograph: Bert Underwood/Getty Images

Eve’s Diary, embargoed in 1906 over its illustrations, formally restored to library to launch Banned Books Week.

By Alison Flood

The return to library shelves of two controversially banned novels – Mark Twain’s Eve’s Diary and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five – marks the start of America’s annual celebration of prohibited literature, Banned Books Week, on Saturday.

Twain’s comic short story told from the perspective of Eve was banned from Charlton Library in Massachusetts in 1906 after its trustees objected to illustrations of a naked Eve – or as the New York Times put it at the time, “her dresses are all cut Garden of Eden style”. When Richard Whitehead became a trustee of the library in 2008, he stumbled across the century-old controversy and decided to track down a copy of the banned book, complete with illustrations.

“Knowing that Banned Book Week was coming up in September [he] proposed the idea of having an official ‘unbanning’ of the book,” said the library’s director Cheryl Hansen. “On Tuesday, September 20, 2011 the board of library trustees unanimously voted to unban Eve’s Diary. I think that Mark Twain would be very pleased and I’m sure that he would have something humorous to say about it.” At the time, Twain wrote in a letter that “the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me”.

Eve’s Diary’s reinstatement follows the return of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic title Slaughterhouse-Five and Sarah Ockler’s young adult novel Twenty Boy Summer – about two girls coming to terms with the sudden death of a loved one – to a school library in Republic, Missouri. Unlike the Twain title, these two novels were first banned not a century ago but earlier this summer, after a local resident called them immoral and said their presence on the school curriculum and in the library was “unacceptable, considering that most of the school board members and administrators claim to be Christian”.

A public outcry followed their removal and the books have now been reinstated – but in a restricted section of the school library and only accessible by parents.

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September 5, 2011

Bookstores Gear Up for Banned Books Reading

Booksellers around the country are responding to the Internet read-out that is the focus of this year’s Banned Books Week, Sept. 24-Oct. 1. Bookstores of all sizes are planning events during which they will create videos of customers reading from their favorite banned books. “We are really pleased with the response from bookstores. In addition to the Tattered Cover Book Store and other stalwart supporters of Banned Books Week, we have been contacted by stores that are planning their first BBW events,” Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), said.

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