That time of year is upon us--when we celebrate our freedom to read! Every year, the American Library Association compiles a list of books that have been challenged or banned throughout the country. From these, they compile their annual top ten list, the books that have been challenged most frequently. And this is Banned Books Week, when we celebrate these books.
Five years ago, I shared my favorite banned books here. Well, believe it or not, there are still books being banned, and I have some new favorites to share with you.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons for challenges: Drug use, profanity
Reasons I like it: Oh, this book is powerful. It is a ripped-from-the-headlines story of a teen girl who witnesses an unarmed friend shot by a police officer. The ramifications of this are startling. The story of the unarmed black teen becomes national news, and she is the only one who knows what happened. This was a can't-put-it-down, important read. It also has won many awards and will be a movie next month.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier (on the top ten lists in 2014, 2016, and 2017)
Reasons for challenges: LGBT content
Reasons I like it: Telgemeier is insanely popular with middle school readers! She writes stories that feel like real kids, and illustrates them. Her graphic novels are colorful, funny, and creative. Drama tells the story of Callie, who loves theater, but can't sing/dance, so she joins the crew. Here, she finds her place among like-minded individuals, and discovers drama both on and off stage. It's adorable and so realistic (as someone who was in a middle school drama club, I attest to this).
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons for challenges: violence, profanity
Reasons I like it: Somehow, I managed to not read this book in high school or college. It wasn't until a few years ago that I actually picked it up. It was a childhood encapsulated so well, and made me nostalgic for a time I never lived in. However, a big portion of the book covers the injustices to the African American community, and the case that young Scout's lawyer father is trying. It was an eye-opening look into the legal system, and not in a good way. If you, like me, have avoided this book, pick it up sometime. It's a quick read, and worth its Pulitzer.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Reasons for challenges: offensive language
Reasons I like it: First of all, how dare they? I was shocked when this book appeared on the banned books list in 2016. Our staff love this book, see here, here, here, here, and here (we may have a problem). In fact, at the American Library Association Annual Conference this year I was asked to read a passage from my favorite banned book and the first thing I thought of was this: (see the embarrassing clip here if you want). I had the opportunity to ask Rowell what she thought of this when I was fortunate to see her speak in 2016, and it's a sore subject.
If somehow you've managed to avoid this book, I'll tell you a bit about it. Eleanor is an outcast in her high school in the 80s. Park is an oddball too. The two of them form an unlikely friendship forged first in their shared love of music, and then developing into more. It really encapsulates high school teen years well, and it's a beautifully written ode to first love.
These are all books I've read in the last few years, and enjoyed reading. It saddens me to see others trying to keep them from your hands. So raise your voice and stand for the banned with me! As Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, said "Banning books gives us silence when we need speech."
For more information on Banned Books Week, visit www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks.