Today is the start of Banned Book Week which runs from 25th September to 1st October. It is there to raise awareness of books that have been challenged and banned all across the world due to themes that some wish to ignore.
Book banning seems like old practice. The Nazis burned Jewish books, the Russian Soviets banned books that didn’t fit with their politics. It even happened throughout the UK and the US. However, what is most surprising is that it still happens today all over the world.
Many schools and libraries across America choose to challenge the book so they believe their children should not read. Many of these books carry important messages and ideas that I personally believe are important to read about to better understand the world. The American Library Association website lists the top books banned in different categories and years. It would surprise you how many popular books that you may have read and loved are frequently challenged.
This year’s Banned Book Week has the theme of diversity, something that has been talked about a lot recently. There are lots of books that have been banned for using racial slurs or racism as a theme, certain political ideas, people of colour characters and LGBTQIA characters. Check out the American Library Association’s lists of challenged books for more information.
This week, in support of promoting the censorship of such important themes, I am going to read some frequently challenged books.
The first book on my list is Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian’s Gray. This 19th century novel was very controversial at the time of publication Durban to homosexual suggestions and was banned in the UK for many years, whilst Wilde was imprisoned for being gay himself. I recently found out that when it was published, it was censored and a lot of Wilde’s original content was removed by the editor. An uncensored version was only published in 2011, over 100 years after it was originally published. I sadly don’t have the uncensored version so I will be reading the standard one this week.
The second book I plan to read is Looking for Alaska by John Green. This is a contemporary young adult novel that was listed as the top challenged/banned book of 2015 in American by the American Library Association. This is due to it being apparently unsuitable for the age group as a result of offensive language and being sexually explicit. John Green has discussed this in a video on his Vlogbrothers YouTube channel and he does not agree with these reasons. I have read Looking for Alaska before and I also do not agree that it should be banned. The ‘offensive language’ is much milder swearing than I have heard from real teenagers and the ‘sexually explicit’ scene is not explicit and is actually an educational and honest detail in a coming of age story. Looking for Alaska is one of the best young adult books I have ever read so I am so please do to reread it in order to raise awareness for Banned Book Week.
If I have time, I will also reread The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This was in the top ten most challenged books of 2014 due to the acts of violence included in the story. As it is set during the Afghan war, it is no surprise that it is violent! It is an incredibly important and diverse read which is why it should be included in the Diversity themed Banned Book Week.
I hope that you will consider reading a challenged book, or at least just a diverse book, this week. It is vital that people know about different world problems or types of people so we can have a better understanding of the world around us.