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Every year this week, the good folks at the American Library Association “celebrate” Banned Books Week. It’s a way of drawing attention to all the books that are challenged for removal from libraries for various reasons, usually having to do with material deemed inappropriate for young students assigned to read them.

Though it should be noted—as Ruth Graham points out at Slate—really this should be called “Censored” or “Challenged Books Week” since you can’t really ban books in the United States of America; much as some people might wish that were not true.

The most frequently challenged titles are frequently assigned books that do any of the following:

  • depicts teenagers acting like teenagers
  • includes gay characters who aren’t treated as lepers
  • reflects in any way the world as it actually is, not how religious fundamentalists, PC extremists, trigger-warning bluestockings, and closed-minded nativists imagine it to be

Sherman Alexie's book moved up to #1 in 2014, though it's been placing in the top 10 for years now.

Sherman Alexie’s book moved up to #1 in 2014, though it’s been placing in the top 10 for years now.

You can see many examples of the above in the ALA’s list below of the most commonly challenged books for the year 2014:

1)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10)  Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: sexually explicit

The ALA has posted a list of books that are not just frequently challenged but are also on the Radcliffe Publishing Course’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. (Including, very ironically, 1984.)

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