This week is Banned Book Week in the United States. It’s a week when libraries celebrate all humans right to read any book they want. The US has a system where the user of any library can challenge a book’s existence in the library. The person who challenged the book will then need to deliver argument as to why the book should be banned. The vast majority of challenges of books is made by worried parents who want to ban offensive or objectionable books that they think their kids should be protected from. Sometimes the challenges are more organised and come from a group in society who has decided to try and get a specific book banned from the library. The library in question most often answers the challenge using their purchasing policy as the main argument.
When a challenge is made, its reporter to the American Library Association (ALA), who every year compiles a list of the most challenged books during the past year. A summary of the challenges made between 2000 and 2009 shows that the most common reason to challenge a book was that it was perceived as “sexually explicit”, closely followed by the reason “offensive language”.
Some of the books that’s been challenged the last years, and that are available at our library are (click the title for information if the book is available or not):
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games.
Some reasons for the challenges made were anti-family, violence and offensive language.
The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime av Mark Haddon
A murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger’s, a form of autism. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour’s dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.
Some reasons for the challenges made were offensive language and religious viewpoint.
Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.
Some reasons for the challenges made were offensive language, violence and homosexuality.
Brave new world by Aldous Huxley
Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free.
Some reasons for the challenges made were offensive language, sexually explicit and racism.
None of these books has been banned at the libraries in the US, mostly due to the libraries hard work to fight for every persons right a read what ever they want, a right that is included in The first amendment.
There is no similar system in Sweden, to challenge books that you as a user of the library feel is inappropriate. But that doesn’t mean that different books suitability is discussed from time to time. For example was there a lively discussion about whether the book Tintin in the Congo should be allowed in some libraries a couple of years ago.
Text: Katharina Nordling