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Banned Books Week 2016: Home

Banned Books Week 2016

What is a Banned Book?

As long as books have been with us they continue to be banned or challenged in every country in the world. The motivations for banning books are varied  the one common denominator in all bannings is the desire to silence speech and thought. Reasons are often illogical. Thousands of books were burned in Nazi Germany for contradicting the politics of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Authors around the globe have been attacked, arrested, exiled, or died at the hands of governments and leaders afraid their words would awaken complacent citizens. Books are challenged and banned in schools and libraries for fear students be exposed to realities and language outside the community ideology. A great deal of the time of those who seek to ban books have not actually read the books in question, they are simply jumping on the bandwagon of the opposition group.

A banned book is a book that may be removed from a library; not allowed to be published; not allowed to enter a certain country; not allowed to exist physically destroyed, (ex:  book burning in Nazi Germany); or a book whose author has been threatened with death or put to death, ex. during medieval-era Inquisitions and ias recently as 1988, Salman Rushdie for his book "Satanic Verses.")

Who Challenges Books & Why?

The call to ban a book comes from a wide variety of different groups and individuals all around the world. Although on a surface level they seem to represent a wide specturm of cultures and beliefs the common denominator is each in their own way functions from a fixed mindset. Their desire is to suppress books and materials that deviate from their perceptions of the world and  conflict with their beliefs.

By far the most common group wishing to ban books and other materials are parents. According to the American Library Association, libraries were faced with 4,659 challenges between 2001 and 2010. Currently the rate of reported challenges is between 300 and 400 books per year. Parents challenge books with the best of intentions which as they see it is to protect their children, but its important to remember that parents have the right to restrict their own children from reading a certain book, but they do not have the right to restrict other people's children from reading it.

According to : "Common Reasons for Banning Books," Fort Lewis College, John F. Reed Library. Banned Books, Censorship & Free Speech. (November 15, 2013), the most common reasons for challenging a book include:

Racial Issues: About and/or encouraging racism towards one or more group of people.

Encouragement of "Damaging" Lifestyles: Content of book encourages lifestyle choices that are not of the norm or could be considered dangerous or damaging. This could include drug use, co-habitation without marriage, or homosexuality.

Blasphemous Dialog: The author of the book uses words such as "God" or "Jesus" as profanity. This could also include any use of profanity or swear words within the text that any reader might find offensive.

Sexual Situations or Dialog: Many books with content that include sexual situations or dialog are banned or censored.

Violence or Negativity: Books with content that include violence are often banned or censored. Some books have also been deemed too negative or depressing and have been banned or censored as well.

Presence of Witchcraft: Books that include magic or witchcraft themes. A common example of these types of books are J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series.

Religious Affiliations (unpopular religions): Books have been banned or censored due to an unpopular religious views or opinions in the content of the book. This is most commonly related to satanic or witchcraft themes found in the book. Although, many books have also been banned or censored for any religious views in general that might not coincide with the public view.

Political Bias: Most Commonly occurs when books support or examine extreme political parties/philosophies such as: fascism, communism, anarchism, etc.

Age Inappropriate: These books have been banned or censored due to their content and the age level at which they are aimed. In some cases children's books are viewed to have "inappropriate" themes for the age level at which they are written for.

Many books have been banned or censored in one or more of these categories due to a misjudgment or misunderstanding about the books contents and message. Although a book may have been banned or labeled a certain way, it is important that the reader makes his/her own judgements on the book. Many books that have been banned or censored later were dropped from banned books lists and were no longer considered controversial. For this reason, banned books week occurs yearly to give readers a chance to revisit past or recently banned books to encourage a fresh look into the controversies the books faced.

"Free societies ... are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction. Free people strike sparks, and those sparks are the best evidence of freedom's existence." -- Salmon Rushdie

Censorship Quote

Censorship Quote

Banned Books Week 2016

A banned book is a book that has been removed a library or curriculum based upon the objection of a person or group, and thereby restricting the access of all library patrons and students. A challenged book is one where an attempt has been made to remove the book from a library or curriculum.

Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2015: 9 Have Diverse Content

The Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2015 


  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).


“The lack of exposure to other cultures fuels intolerance and cultural invisibility.” 

- Ellen Riordan President of the Association for Library Service to Children

The American Libray Association Diversity Policy

"The American Library Association (ALA) promotes equal access to information for all persons and recognizes the ongoing need to increase awareness of and responsiveness to the diversity of the communities we serve. ALA recognizes the critical need for access to library and information resources, services, and technologies by all people, especially those who may experience language or literacy-related barriers; economic distress; cultural or social isolation; physical or attitudinal barriers; racism; discrimination on the basis of appearance, ethnicity, immigrant status, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression; or barriers to equal education, employment, and housing.

Libraries can and should play a crucial role in empowering diverse populations for full participation in a democratic society. In order to accomplish this, however, libraries must utilize multivariate resources and strategies. In the library workforce, concrete programs of recruitment, training, development, advancement and promotion are needed in order to increase and retain diverse library personnel who are reflective of the society we serve. Within the American Library Association and in the services and operations of libraries, efforts to include diversity in programs, activities, services, professional literature, products and continuing education must be ongoing and encouraged."

Censorship Resources at Mt. Sac Library


In the Library Catalog




In the Films on Demand Database

"Why Books are Banned" segment from Writers amd Censorship

"Banned Books"  segment from Freedom of Expression Must Include the License to Offend

"Facing the Censor's Gun" segment from Battle Over Books: Censorship in American SchoolsI


Censorship and Freedom of Information: Should the government prosecute journalists who publish classified information?

By the Numbers: Censorship and Freedom of Information

Editing the Classics: Should classic works of literature be edited to make them less offensive?

Young Adult Literature: Is current young adult literature appropriate for teen readers?

Parents Challenge Young Adult Fiction at Libraries



Mt. Sac Professor Bill Cushing Discusses Centorship

Frequently Challenged Books with Diverse Content

On Jan. 1, 2012, a law passed by the Arizona Legislature eliminated Tucson's K-12 Mexican-American studies program on the grounds that they "promoted hatred and division" and promoted overthrowing the US governement.  Mexican Whiteboy was among the books that could no longer be taught but could still be used by students for recreational reading.

“Fear of corrupting the mind of the younger generation is the loftiest form of cowardice.”— Holbrook Jackson

Cited by a parent "Not because students might get nightmares to read how the Frank family had to hide in an attic until they were dragged into Nazi death camps, but because at one, brief point, 14-year-old Anne describes her maturing anatomy."  - Scott Simon (NPR)

Cited by a parent as inappropriate for her child (an 11th grader) cited for its lack of innocence, its language, and sexual content. “I didn’t find any literary value,” said a school board member before the board voted 5-2 to ban the book.

Parent complaint that the books is too graphic and too violent for use in the classroom for 10th graders.  Several County Commissioners  stepped into the fray. One called for a book rating system and argued that the book offered no life lessons. “It’s filth…. Honestly, what normal family is like this book? The Manson family, maybe, Ted Bundy? I think this is just so wrong,”

A small coalition of parents in several communities take offense with the the book, along with ianother books by the same author, Nasreen's Secret School. They considers the books as anti-Christian and claim that children should not be exposed to the knowledge of war and violence.

This book, an anthology of diverse families,  was  banned from a midwestern public library (but later reinstated) because two of the  stories were about homosexual couples and their children.

More Frequently Challenged Books with Diverse Content

Banned & Challenged Classics


The Great Gatsby was challenged  because of  language and an allusion to an extramarital affair, as well as the nature of Jay Gatsby's status as a bad boy bootlegger.

Challenged in the late 1960s and mid 1970s for obscene contant incluking "vulgar language, sexual scenes, and things concerning morqal isusues."

 Kern County, CA was the destination of the Joads, a migrant family in The Grapes of Wrath.. Kern County was also among the many places that banned the book in 1939. Local officials and landowners in many areas felt the The Great Gatsby libeled them, lying about their treatmeant of migrant workers. As is the case with so many who challenge books many had never read the novel. In Kern County, while a local librain rished her job trying to get the book reinstated. The ban remained in effect for 18 months.

To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged or banned throughout the years vor a variety of reasons most of whcih centers around racial content. Specifically these include "racial slurs," promoting "instituionalized racism," and "conflicting with the values of a community."
Other challenges invole the use of profanity and sexual content.

The challenges to A Color Purple being banned in Oakland, CA and other areas due to sexual and social explicitness" and its "troubling ideas about race relations, man's relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality."

For more information:  Banned or Challenged Classics

Censorship Quote

Censorship Quote