Hi friends!

I just love the fact that the American Library Association and the Office of Intellectual Freedom do such a great job each year to remind us that freedom in reading is important and that we should all be mindful of the slippery slope that censorship can lead to. 

If you’d like to read more about this annual week-long event, check out ALA’s page:

www.ala.org/bbooks/

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From there you’ll find a wealth of fascinating, inspiring, and disturbing information about the history of banned books, and how book lovers of all stripes have responded to censorship and to Banned Books Week.  According to the site, “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”

Each year as part of the event, the ALA and the OIF release the previous year’s Top 10 List of Most Challenged books. This was the list for 2015:

1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.

2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”). 

3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.

Magenta 4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin (which received a Kirkus star and was named a Kirkus Best Book of 2014).
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”). 

6. The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.

7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).

8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.

9. Nasreens Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.

10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

Fascinating list.

Especially notable for the amount of complaints about content that had to do with homosexuality and transgender issues, religious viewpoint—mostly, it seems, towards the Muslim religion, but also towards the Bible, which shows that the desire for censorship comes from all angles—and explicit sexuality.

Fifty Shades of Grey is #2. Good grief. I have incredibly ambivalent feelings toward this book, and I’m always happy to argue the pros and cons of it for hours on end, but a banned book? Please.

Harry Potter didn’t make it this year, though. I guess we can count that as a victory? (The series remains among the most challenged books in the US according to Wikipedia.)

I take my role as a romance advocate very seriously, and one of the reasons I feel so strongly about what I do is because I meet people all the time who’ve never read a romance novel, and yet are keen to tell me all the reasons why they never will—the usual drivel of how poorly written they are, how simplistic, how anti-woman, how they’re all the same, blah, blah, blah….commentary coming from people who have never read one and never will.

We are socialized to believe romance novels are bad and bad for us. 

It offends me that Fifty Shades of Grey is on this list, since at heart it represents society’s desire to control what women read. (And goodness, I read Lace when I was in high school. Less explicit in some ways, more explicit in others….Not that my mother knew….)

But it offends me more that I Am Jazz is there, and it offends me most that Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out is there—and for these reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).

I’m grateful there’s a book out there, that’s in the words of transgender teens, that transgender youth can turn to, since transgender youth are at such risk to their physical and mental health. (There are many others, too.)

I’m offended there are so many books on there that specify homosexuality as a reason to ban books, so I’m reminded that there are way too many people who think of homosexuality as “wrong” or “unnatural” or “sinful.”

KiteRunner Overall, I’m grateful that there is a list underlining the fact that there are people who think books shouldn’t be written, people should be silenced, and messages—often messages that express the very things I believe in most strongly—should be stifled.

So if you have a chance, visit that site, and read some of the blog posts from authors who are speaking out against censorship and celebrating the freedom to read.

(And if you haven’t seen them before, every year the Mooresville, Indiana Public Library puts out an enlightening and entertaining video for Banned Books Week. This is their 2016 version.)

If nothing else, read a banned book. (Check out the list of most challenged books from 2000-2009. It includes Harry Potter (series) #1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings #6. Captain Underpants (series) #13. To Kill A Mockingbird #21. Gossip Girl (series) #22. In the Night Kitchen (by Maurice Sendak. Seriously.) #24 Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson #33. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez #48. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini #50.

So be subversive this week. Read a Banned Book. (Even if it is Fifty Shades of Grey. I guess those complaining readers haven’t discovered real erotic romance. We don’t need to tell them, do we?)

#HappyReading #ReadARomance #ReadABannedBook