Banned Books Week: A good reason to love your librarian


Tina Fey and her mateys may yet be the cutest bookaneers around, but they’re no longer alone: Sept. 29 marked the beginning of Banned Books Week 2007, and this year they’re riding on First Book’s raggedy coattails with the salty theme, “Ahoy! Treasure Your Freedom to Read and Get Hooked on a Banned Book.”

Sponsored in part by those crazy intellectual freedom–loving folks over at the ALA (American Library Association; see a full list of sponsors here), Banned Books Week celebrates freedom of expression and freedom of access. It’s the perfect time to say thank you to your local Maria Bello — I mean, librarian — and this year it’s also a good excuse to say Arrrr and Avast!, especially if you forgot to observe Talk Like a Pirate Day like I did last month.

On its site, the ALA provides lists and graphs, including information about the ten most frequently challenged books of the preceding year. The 2006 crowd welcomed a newcomer in the top spot, children’s book And Tango Makes Three.

That’s right, folks. Don’t let the fuzzy little one fool you; those penguins are evil. So are Harry, Ron and Hermione; the Garcia Girls; Celie; a certain caged bird; Beloved and Carolyn Mackler‘s Butt, at least according to some — usually, it seems, parents who are terribly afraid that their children might read something other than the half-dozen interesting books that don’t talk about wizards, muggle mind-altering substances, discrimination, abuse, sex or (even worse) gay sex.

All right; maybe there’s a few more than a half-dozen, but not many. Of Radcliffe Publishing’s “Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century,” 42 have been challenged or banned, including a couple of those mentioned above (The Color Purple and Beloved).

In addition to talking about challenged books, Amnesty International uses this week to talk about writers and others who are themselves persecuted for expressing, distributing or reading “unacceptable” texts. It’s easy to take Judy Blume for granted, but I know I’m incredibly lucky to have had a high school teacher who taught what she believed in, even if it meant using old photocopies instead of approved textbooks (shout out to Ms. Butler, wherever you are).

There are events all over the country , or you can celebrate by pulling out your copy of Forever and reliving why it still causes such a stir. First, rabblerousers, tell us — what are your favorite challenged books?