Award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson, writer of oft-challenged novels that speak to the modern experiences of young adults, once described censorship as “the child of fear, and the father of ignorance.” These words resonate with librarians always, though particularly loudly at this time of year, as Sept. 26 marks the beginning of Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of our freedom to read. Every year, it seems, there is inevitably another story in the news of books that have been challenged by someone who finds them offensive. Recently, the Central York School Board in Pennsylvania came under fire for banning a fairly extensive list of books and other resources. The resources were primarily from Latinx and African American authors. Fortunately, under the gaze of the local and national spotlight, alongside community protests, the school board rescinded its ban.
As Anderson expressed, fear appears to be a primary factor that comes into play when books are challenged. Ideas that scare us, call our beliefs into question or try to make us consider a contrary perspective can trigger a feeling of wanting to deny their existence. Growing up, one author provided a better foundation for navigating life than what was being offered to me from adults. Judy Blume’s “Blubber,” “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret,” and “Forever,” were classics for thousands of readers as they confronted topics that adults didn’t want or know how to talk about. According to the American Library Association (ALA), Judy Blume is one of the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st century.
Every year, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracks challenges to library, school and university materials and services. Content that has caused controversy includes a wide variety of issues including those featuring LGBTQIA+, religious viewpoints, racial slurs, profanity, and more (see image above). In 2020, 273 books were targeted. We’ve created a list of the top 10 books, along with the reasons for the challenges. We urge you to check out some of these titles, and show your support for your freedom to read.
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