Freedom to Read: Banned Books (& Comics) Week 2014

Banned Books 2014-2

Banned Books Week is being celebrated this year from September 21-21, 2014. Although the general slogan for the week is “Celebrating the Freedom to Read” (http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek), this year’s focus is on challenges to comics and graphic novels. (http://cbldf.org/2014/06/celebrate-the-freedom-to-read-with-cbldfs-new-banned-books-week-handbook/).

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), a non-profit organization, has created a Banned Books Week Handbook that is available to download at no cost. (http://cbldf.org/2014/06/celebrate-the-freedom-to-read-with-cbldfs-new-banned-books-week-handbook/). The Banned Books Week Handbook includes information on “what comics are banned, how to report and fight censorship, and how to make a celebration of Banned Books Week.” (Id.). CBLDF has also released discussion guides that “provide guided questions and activities centered around challenged graphic novels” and has prepared its own FAQ page called Banned Books Week 101. (Id.) According to the CBLDF, comics are challenged for similar reasons as books, including “’adult content,’ ‘language,’ ‘sex/nudity,’ or ‘inappropriate for age group.’” (http://cbldf.org/resources/banned-books-week-101/). For examples of banned/challenged comics, see 22 Banned and Challenged Comics on the CBLDF website.

A printed version of some of the CBLDF FAQs is included in the law library’s Banned Book Week display (pictured above), located in the lobby on the first floor of Gold Star. The books on the display represent historically challenged books and the ten most challenged books of 2013. The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom reported 307 challenges in 2013, and the top ten most frequently challenged were:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey (offensive language, unsuited for age group, & violence);
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, & violence);
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, & unsuited to age group);
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James (nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, & unsuited to age group);
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (religious viewpoint & unsuited to age group);
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone (drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, & sexually explicit);
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, & unsuited to age group);
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, & unsuited to age group);
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya (occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, & sexually explicit); and,
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith (political viewpoint, racism, & violence). (Source: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10).

Jeff Smith, the author of the Bone comic series, drew the cover for the CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook. (http://www.infodocket.com/2014/06/27/comic-book-legal-defense-fund-cbdlf-releases-banned-book-week-handbook-and-discussion-guides/). See CBLDF Board Member and Bone Creator Jeff Smith on Banned Books Week on the CBLDF website for Mr. Smith’s comments on Banned Books Week and its emphasis on comics this year.

For more information about why comics and graphic novels are banned, visit the CBLDF at cbldf.org. For more information on Banned Books Week, visit the ALA’s Banned & Challenged Books website at http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek/.

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