Live and Let Live – looking at 2010’s most challenged books during Banned Books Week 2011

Tomorrow is the kick off of Banned Books Week 2011, and to applaud the work of all the people who keep books on the shelves, let’s look at last year’s most challenged books.  What was the first book you remember reading that completely Blew Your Mind?

I remember being delightfully surprised by the sexual content/suggestion in Dean Koontz books (mild though it is was), which was a nice advance beyond the teenage angst and lust of the Christopher Pike books I had been reading. And, I never heard of a Koontz booked being challenged or banned. A short google search will tell you that just because I haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Apparently “Night Chills” has been repeatedly challenged for its explicit sexual content, or is it sexually explicit content? Either way, it sounds like I should have kept reading me some Koontz (except his ideology leaks through too much, which is kinda why I stopped in the first place, and it sounds like it’s gotten worse). Then again, it sounds like this book features sexual violence against women, so my instincts were right after all.

While Koontz tickled some fancies, I don’t know that I’d say he Blew My Mind. That honor would most likely go to “Kindred” by Octavia Butler, or “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. And even those books are maybe books that pushed my mind further open. Books from my youth blew my young mind, first: “A Bridge to Terabithia” showed me how much magic I had in my own imagination, “The Secret Garden” taught me to nurture myself, and “Where the Red Fern Grows” was like “Little House on the Prairie” on crack, in a good way. Recognize these books? Did you participate in 5th Grade Book Feud, too? “Superfudge” exposed me to the idea of living in an apartment in New York City – that actually did blow my mind a little bit, and Judy Blume was a solid part of my childhood library. I am stretching my mind to think of “classics” that really knocked my socks off, or stunned me. To help, I returned to the list of banned books, and although I didn’t see it there, I was reminded of reading Flannery O’Connor and Toni Morrison in college, loving each woman’s books, and seeing the breadth of female authors works expanding across the horizon.

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite books, or books you remember opening your eyes to the sparkling possibilities of this beautiful world.

For now, here are 2010’s most challenged books, I think I shall try to read some of them, how about you?

The 10 most challenged titles of 2010 were:

And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexaully explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

Lush, by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group

What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint

Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit

Twilight (series), by Stephanie Meyer
Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group

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7 Comments

Filed under Book Project

7 responses to “Live and Let Live – looking at 2010’s most challenged books during Banned Books Week 2011

  1. Melanie

    Where the Red Fern Grows!! Such a good book! I also loved “The Giver” by Lois Lowry at about that same time in life – think they are making it into a movie now.

  2. Katie

    I’ve read several from that 2010 list. I’ll be interested to see which ones you pick.

    • I will have to order them since I didn’t find any in the library on base. I have to double check if any are in the oconus library system that we share.

      Do you recommend any? Might help me prioritize which to purchase.

      • Katie T

        I have taught Brave New World several times and love it, so if you haven’t read that one it should be prioritized. The Hunger Games is another great example of a dystopia, but is geared toward a younger crowd and super accessible.

        Twilight is terribly written but a fun and easy escape.

        Nickel and Dimed is worth reading (for cultural literacy if nothing else), but I found the whole experiment to be inauthentic and contrived and would have liked to have seen the same type of story come from somebody who had legitimately lived the life she portrays firsthand.

        Love Sherman Alexie.

        And Tango Makes Three is very sweet and my daughter is a big fan.

        • Thanks! This will be helpful. Ditto on Alexie. Read Nickel & Dimed and agree that it was contrived, and thought it was powerful nonetheless – couldn’t figure out how it could have been better covered as I was critiquing her approach in my head – other than a firsthand account, but what would be compelling about reading someone’s account who hadn’t made it out? (I might read it, but I doubt it would get a book deal…). Read all the Twilight books right after (1) moving to the Olympic Peninsula in 2009, and (2) finished the bar exam (also 2009) – it was the perfect antidote to the heavy study, but I agree it was terrible overall. Listened to the first book of Hunger Games on audiobook and have had BNW on my bookshelf forever – missed it in undergrad. I really appreciate your feedback and will use it to prioritize my reading!

          • Katie T

            Re: Nickel and Dimed, I had a hard time not thinking about her as a privileged, educated, outsider no matter what the situation, since that is something that you just can’t shed no matter how you pare down your possessions. She went in with a car, which many wouldn’t have in similar circumstances, and she always knew that no matter what, she had a safety net and she could just bail or cheat on the experiment if need be. She was more employable than most because of her education and she even confessed that. She also knew it was a finite amount of time that she would be living that lifestyle, so the sense of being born into a life in which the system has you down and it is very difficult to escape wasn’t conveyed as clearly from her narrative.

            I believe she did try to address these issues by depicting the real stories of those she worked with along the way, but the stories she did depict were not all that compelling to me. I just found myself thinking that there must be somebody out there who actually grew up in the poverty she champions and could string together a few sentences themselves after having received an education and gotten out somehow. Either way, though, her book did reach many people and open a lot of eyes, so in the end I would call it a win on her part.

            • Great points, including the final “win” on her part. I guess I focused on that part in the end, and have recommended the book to a lot of people without reservation.

              I think there is a voyeuristic portion of the book that would deter anyone who authentically lived that life from choosing to write about it in the same way. That’s a guess, of course; as I am uber privileged and always have been in comparison to the people she writes about. It has been my experience that people in challenging situations like that tend to see themselves as a part of the whole (i.e. the world at large) and her writing almost reduced them to subject matter, in a way. I really respect her choice to write about these people, though you have a really solid point about her limitations on perspective.

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