Read a Banned Book

2015-banned-books-graphicOne day my fourth-grade teacher peered into my desk, where I’d stashed a copy of a popular and slightly controversial novel I’d borrowed from my mother, to entertain myself with during free period. Mrs. Prusak wasn’t amused. She pulled me into the hall and asked, “Do your parents know you’re reading that?”

The thought had never occurred to me. Books were ubiquitous in my house. I was an early reader, and I picked up whatever was sitting around. It never dawned on me that I had to ask permission. I just made sure I kept my mom’s bookmark in the right place.

My parents were apparently fine with my literary choices, and Mrs. P backed down. But if the school or the library or someone else’s parents decided that there were certain books I wasn’t allowed to read, I would have been furious.

Just the thought of that possibility still makes me shudder. That’s one of the reasons I’m such a big fan of Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of our freedom to read.

This year, the now-international event will run from September 27 through October 3, and libraries, schools, bookstores, and entire communities are planning a slew of events ranging from virtual read-outs to public discussions of books and more.

This year’s theme is young adult fiction, which is particularly appropriate because most ban or challenge attempts are made against books targeted for teens, often in the guise of “protecting” them.

According to Judith Platt, chair of the Banned Books Week National Committee, “These are the books that speak most immediately to young people, dealing with many of the difficult issues that arise in their own lives, or in the lives of their friends. These are the books that give young readers the ability to safely explore the sometimes scary real world. This Banned Books Week is a call to action, to remind everyone that young people need to be allowed the freedom to read widely, to read books that are relevant for them, and to be able to make their own reading choices.”

Heading up the list of 2014’s most frequently challenged/banned books is a multiple award-winning young-adult book by Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. In fact, of the top-ten most-challenged books, six are YA titles, according to the American Library Association.

I like to read a book (sometimes more) from the banned list during September, and this year, I chose Alexie’s. It’s brilliant, especially the way he uses humor to stick a pin in gut-wrenching subjects like racism, bullying, alcoholism, and domestic abuse. I’d understand why some parents might bristle at the thought of their children reading it. They have the right, as guardians, to see to the education of their children, but I don’t believe it gives them the right to make decisions for the entire community. Because when a ban or a challenge is issued, it goes deeper than simply an expression of opinion — it’s an attempt to have access to that work restricted. And that’s censorship.

If you’d like to pick up my “read a banned book challenge,” here are the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2014, and why they were cited.

If you’d like to learn more about Banned Books Week and events in your area, or start one of your own, visit their new website:

Author: Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of four novels. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Learn more about Laurie at her website and her Amazon author page.

20 thoughts on “Read a Banned Book”

  1. I’ll be choosing a book to read from that list. The Kite Runner is the only one I’ve read.

    The only good thing about the banned books movement is that it provides tons of free advertising for some excellent books (not that there’s really anything good about censorship.)

    Great post, Laurie. Do you remember which book so horrified Mrs. P?

  2. Checking the list shows that whoever compiled it has a real hang-up about sex and the younger generation. Poor soul. doesn’t she or he know that the kids already know far more about sex, drugs and abuse than adults usually give them credit for?

    I must see if there is anything equivalent to Banned Books in the British publishing industry.

  3. Most amazing article (and, by extension, material) I’ve ever read. I looked at the list of currently banned books, and before I even looked, I knew which one would be first on the list. And I was right! The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I dare say I have read about 80% of the “banned” books, and yet no harm (that I am aware of) has befallen me. I have raised a family of four productive children (ages 38-45), always been employed, never been arrested – in spite of having read these classics. What a bunch of tommyrot!

  4. Would it be possible for me to re-blog this on my own blog? I wouldn’t want to do so without your permission.

    I think my readers would certainly appreciate reading this article.



  5. When the guardians, if we can call them that, refer to protecting our children, what they really mean is insulating them. Our children need to be prepared for a world full of difference and challenge. Insulating them produces adults with backward and divisive prejudices that spell chaos for the globe. Without open minds and a full education our children will be deprived if the tools they need to fight prejudice and, by consequence, discrimination and conflicts of all kinds.

  6. Great article, Laurie. I was stunned to see The Kite Runner on that list. I do not remember anything objectionable in it, but then again, taste is so individual. I recall being on a road trip with our school’s orchestra when I was fourteen, and we were all huddled in the back of the bus, reading juicy sections from Lady Chatterly’s Lover. When you’re a teen and your body is changing, you’re naturally curious about sex. Where else can you learn safely about this subject and other so-called banned ones than through books?

    1. Thanks, Diana. It’s just the right time, I think anyway, for kids to explore bigger issues, outside of their own experiences, or to help them feel “less alone” if they’re dealing with something difficult themselves.

  7. Great article, Laurie. I am always amazed whenever people want to ban books. I’ve never heard of anyone dying from too much information; too little, maybe, but not too much. And we all know bad PR is still PR, so here’s to all the books on the banned list!

      1. Re: The Kite Runner: the book-banners probably objected to a certain incident that happened to one of the boys in the story. I don’t want to spoil the story for those who might not have read it yet. Just a thought.

  8. Aside from animal abuse and distracted drivers, there are few things that anger me more than book banning. Those who have anointed themselves the protectorates of all things safe and acceptable lounge in their ivory towers, proselytizing and passing judgment upon the rest of us. Literacy is the key to real freedom – freedom from mental and physical abuse; freedom from the limitations set by others; freedom to chart our own courses in life. And, of course, such levels of freedom threaten the ivory tower dwellers; people who often use religion as the principle tool of oppression. Reading a banned book is the best way to combat this arrogance. There are some books I don’t like or care to read. But, as much as I may despise them, banning them is the worst thing to do. That’s really just a form of cowardice.

    Keep writing and keep fighting, people!

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