Chances are that one of your favorite books has been challenged or banned at some point, and my favorites are no exception. Here are a couple of my favorite books that made ALA’s top ten most frequently challenged book list for 2014. It is worth noting that a challenge does not necessarily result in a removal or banning of the book; many wonderful people have stood behind these titles and fought to keep them on the shelves.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons for challenges: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
Reasons I like it: 14 year old Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, has grown up on a Spokane Indian reservation in Washington. Junior is looking to reach his full potential and avoid becoming another Native American stereotype. He leaves troubled school on the reservation for greener pastures, only to find himself rejected by both his new white classmates and his old Native American peers. Junior is trying to maintain his identity in a white man’s world while struggling against the oppressive cycle of poverty and the unfortunate consequences of addiction. Racism, poverty, and addiction may not be the most
pleasant of topics, but they are incredibly relevant to many children in in our country.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughn, art by Fiona Staples
Reasons for challenges: anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
Reasons I like it: Two soldiers from opposing sides in a tragic intergalactic war fall in love and have a child. The couple sets off to keep their daughter safe from war but many obstacles stand in their way, pushing their relationship to the edge. While Saga features many different creatures from all sorts of backgrounds, each character is given a sense of humanity and purpose. These characters make mistakes. They fall in and out of love. And they have obligations and deep emotional baggage. As a reader you feel all of it as you learn and grow with them. Their stories are relatable, and should not be banned because of language and images that are cherry-picked without providing context.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons for challenges: sexually explicit
Reasons I like it: I actually had problems getting this book because it was always getting checked out! Drama follows the story of Callie, a theater nerd who is looking to find herself at middle school with as little drama as possible. But as any middle schooler could tell you, that’s all there is. Callie is determined to put on the best show possible, but the cast is having a hard time working together. And when two brothers come along and Callie develops a crush, things get even more complicated. It’s a wonderful story about finding and surrounding yourself with those who support you and a great tool for starting a conversation about love and acceptance. Now that doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
True, these books may not be for everyone. But that is a determination that should be made on an individual level. What one person finds offensive and obscene may not bother someone else. Everyone should be able to read what they like, regardless of what their neighbor may think of a particular title. As Ellen Hopkins wrote in her poem "Manifesto" (which I highly recommend you read):
You do not speak for me,Happy reading!
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.