Monday, September 27, 2010

The 10 most challenged books of 2009

Here we are in the middle of the 29th annual Banned Books Week, so in honor of that occasion, let's take a look at some of the books that people were trying to get banned last year. These are the ten books that were most often complained about and requested to be removed from the shelves by patrons of libraries. I have to admit that I'm not even familiar with some of these books that are specifically for children or young people, but I may have to read them anyway as a protest.

1. TTYL by Lauren Myracle: Never heard of it and that author's last name sounds made up, but what do I know? I lead a very sheltered life. People complained about it because of sexual explicitness, offensive language, unsuitability for its targeted age group, and drugs.

2. And Tango makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell: This one was knocked off its #1 perch where it had been for a while. The story of homosexual penguins really gets some peoples' knickers in a twist.

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: Again, I have to admit my ignorance of the book, but some people thought it was anti-family. I suppose the same might be said of The Brothers Karamazov or Madame Bovary, among other titles that come to mind.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: This is a perennial on complained-about or banned books lists. People complain about racism and offensive language. I guess if you talk about racism or write about racism some people consider it racist.

5. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer: This great favorite of many young people offends some because of its sexual explicitness, "offensive religious viewpoint", and because they feel it is unsuitable for the age group for which it is intended. I haven't read the book and don't intend to, not because any of that stuff offends me but just because, from what I know of it, it doesn't interest me in the least. I suppose if I were stranded on a desert island and that was the only book on that island, I might read it.

6. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: Another perennial on such lists. Sexually explicit, offensive language, and "general unsuitability" are some of the complaints made about it.

7. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult: I've never read any of Picoult's books but maybe I should. Just look at the list of complaints people make about this book: sexism, homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, offensive religious viewpoint, drugs, suicide, and violence! I think Ms. Picoult may have just retired the trophy for hitting all the hot buttons.

8. The Earth, My Butt & Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Macklen: Don't you love that title? I know it would win my award as the best title of all time, but some folks complained that once you got past the title, it was sexually explicit, had offensive language and was generally unsuitable.

9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker: Sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuitable were some of the things complainers said about it. Also, there were complaints about the negative portrayal of black men, but then that was sort of an essential element of the plot, wasn't it?

10. Chocolate War by Robert Cormier: And, once again, I have to admit my ignorance of a book, but the complaints about it are much the same as made about so many others on the list - sexually explicit, offensive language, and violence.

You know, reading this list, I have to wonder at the obvious glaring omission of The Bible. If you are offended by violence, occasional sexual explicitness, and offensive religious viewpoints, this book has them all. I know I am offended by the religious viewpoint that demands that "God's army" kill every man, woman, child, and animal in a village or town so that "God's chosen" can have the land. There are certainly offensive portrayals enough of many people including Egyptians, one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world, as well as Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Romans and many others. As for sexism, don't even get me started!

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