By Lisa M. Rabey
Systems & Web Librarian
Each year, hundreds of books are challenged across the U.S, and many of those challenges pull the books off the shelf for good. Nearly 80% of those challenges are never reported. In 2011, according to American Library Association, more than 300 books were removed from libraries for content objection ranging from violence, to nudity, to offensive language and even for something as benign as technical errors. Almost always, the challenge was initiated by a parent.
But why are the books challenged? Sometimes it can be for a religious disagreement, other times it can be for difference in political viewpoint. A recent, and rather publicized, case is Chicago Public Schools’ attempt to ban Persepolis (GRCC has volume 1 and 2 of Persepolis in the library), the award winning graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi of her childhood during the Iranian revolution, from the 7th grade classroom. According to the CPS spokesperson, it was found the content in Persepolis was not suitable for the 7th grade curriculum and as a compromise, had suggested of pulling the graphic novel from the classroom but leaving it in the library for students to read on their own accord.
There was one tiny catch — many of CPS’ middle schools did not have a library in the school, books were kept within the classroom. So the compromise was a false one.
Thanks to the pressure by the Chicago Teachers Union, the people of Chicago, and the viral sensation this created on the Internet, the decision was overturned.
But not every challenged book is going to have a happy reversal ending. And much of this has to do with context, content, and even location. Below is a map of where most of the book challenges took place in 2010. If you click on the link “View Larger Map,” it will take you to a magnified Google map. Now what’s cool is that in the magnified map, you can cilck on a location point and get the story behind the book that was challenged and why.
To get a idea of the type of books that are challenged, below is several sources of lists of challenged books, including the classics.
- NCTEF list of censored or challenged books
- ALA’s Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century
- ALA’s Banned and Challenged Classics
Lastly, censorship doesn’t only happen in books, but it also happens in art, music, and graphic novels to name a few mediums. Below are links to a few well regarded non-profit organizations that work tirelessly to protect the artists rights of free speech and to work with them on censorship disputes.
- Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
- Arts Advocacy Project
- NCTE Anti-Censorship Center
- Project Censored
- National Coalition Against Censorship