So it's Banned Books Week again. It's one of my favorite bookstore holidays by far (second only to Women's History Month, when we always tear it up with awesome displays and blog posts). We have a particular fondness for the fight against censorship here in the Kids Department, because books for kids and teens get banned and challenged with a particularly alarming frequency and fervor.
Not everyone is familiar with the fact that books are removed from libraries all across the country every year due to complaints and challenges. I know this because we try to put books on prominent display when we hear they've been challenged somewhere, and customers are often surprised to hear that book-banning is alive and well.
And this year, there's been a shocking number of really fantastic books getting picked on. It doesn't matter if we like a book: if it gets banned somewhere, it deserves support from people passionate about intellectual freedom. As a bookstore, we want to celebrate people's right to read. And it particularly burns when a book you love, a book that you know is spectacular, gets banned or challenged. Especially when it seems like a particularly important book, a book that you know has had an impact on teenagers all over the country. Winning an award won't save a book from being challenged or banned. Knockout writing won't either. And even when a book confronts a difficult topic with the clear intent to help kids and teens deal with that topic in reality, in their own lives, it still gets attacked for even bringing up the subject.
Rape, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, racism, homosexuality. Writing about these topics can be dangerous for young adult authors, even though teens want desperately to read books about exactly those things. Sometimes just for the thrill of it (which is just fine!), but I would say more often than not because they're touched by all of those things and they want to read about other kids like them. All it takes is listening to the authors of books for teens talk about their fan mail to get a feel for how powerful it can be for teens to read books that reflect their lives. And this week, we're going to shine a spotlight on a few really great books that have been challenged or thrown out of libraries and bookstores. Stay tuned.
-Anna, Kids Books
P.S. Can we all agree that banning Fahrenheit 451 is pretty hilarious? Banning a book about book banning always sounds like a punch line to me.