Wednesday, 30 September 2015

T5W: BANNED BOOKS





Welcome back to Top Five Wednesday! Top Five Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Lainey over at GingerReadsLainey and you can see the complete list of Wednesday-ers here. This week's topic is 'banned books you've read'.

As you may know, this week is the American Library Association (ALA)'s Banned Books Week; as they describe it, an 'annual celebration of the freedom to read'. Historically, censorship has always been a problem but many books are still challenged and even banned in some places today, as their content is deemed 'inappropriate'.

From the Banned Books Week website:
"Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2014, and many more go unreported."

So I've had a read of the ALA website and chosen five banned or challenged books that I've read to feature today:

01. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker.
I mentioned this book in a previous Top Five Wednesday on required reading, because this was a book that I studied in school and might not have read otherwise. As I mentioned in that post The Colour Purple focuses on the lives of African-American women in rural 1930s Georgia; it's an epistolary novel from the perspective of fourteen year old Celie, and follows her for over thirty years through her struggles with abuse, sexism, racism, love and illness. It is undoubtedly Walker's frank treatment of these themes which have made it a frequently challenged and banned book since it's publication in 1982, and I would urge you to read it.

02. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
This important book was also mentioned in my required reading post and you've definitely heard of it even if you haven't read it. It's another book which deals largely with themes of racism and the ALA has reported it as one of the most frequently challenged classics of all time, it even ranked at number 21 in the 100 most frequently challenged books of 2000-2009. How ridiculous is that? I'm glad that in the UK at least it's still a key book in literary education and is on the curriculum of many secondary schools.

03. Looking For Alaska by John Green.
Although probably my least favourite John Green novel, I still enjoyed Looking For Alaska and thought that it was beautifully written. It's a boarding school novel that follows Miles "Pudge" Halter as he meets and falls in love with fellow classmate Alaska. Looking For Alaska has been frequently challenged and even banned in some school districts since it's release. It's been described as encouraging "gateway sexual activity", as it contains one (disastrous and not at all encouraging, might I add) oral sex scene, which is one of two mildly-erotic scenes in the novel. John Green himself has addressed the complete ridiculousness of these challenges in his 2012 video entitled "I am not a pornographer".

04. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
I mentioned Perks in my top five books with mental health post as a book that helped me recognise my illness and one of my favourite books of all time, yet it's one of the most frequently challenged books of the 21st century. It was ranked at number eight in the top ten  most frequently challenged books of 2014 and has been in the top ten list six times in the last ten years. 

05. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. (not pictured)
This book isn't pictured as I don't actually own a copy but I remember reading it at school and loving it. It's about a boy named Max who, after causing havoc, is sent to his room without supper where he sails away to the island of the wild things and becomes their leader. This brilliant children's book from one of the world's most renowned illustrators was banned across the USA immediately after it's release and has since been frequently challenged because of it's realistic portrayal of children as less than angelic and it has been flagged by many as 'psychologically damaging' to young children.Yeah, right.

So those are my top five picks for banned books that I've read. I really enjoyed the research for this post and found it so interesting to see the variety of books that have been frequently challenged and banned over the years!

Have you read any of these books? What do you think about them being banned?

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