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Banned Books Week: Brentwood Library Book on Gay Marriage is Contested

Censorship is alive and well, as highlighted by Banned Books Week. The Maplewood and Brentwood library directors try to have books for everyone.

Banned Books Week: Brentwood Library Book on Gay Marriage is Contested Banned Books Week: Brentwood Library Book on Gay Marriage is Contested

The importance of the First Amendment and the concept of "intellectual freedom" might not always be readily apparent to most kids, but Banned Books Week is a great opportunity to make those lessons come alive for children—and adults

Banned Books Week is held annually during the last week of Sept. (Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2012). The week is an occasion for libraries and bookstores across the U.S. to help folks realize just how real and ongoing a problem censorship is.

More than 11,000 books have been challenged (though not necessarily successfully censored) since 1982, the inaugural year of Banned Books Week.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), the vast majority of challenges to books are  initiated locally by parents, likely in well-meaning attempts to protect their children.

At the Brentwood Public Library, Uncle Bobby's Wedding, a book about gay marriage, is currently being contested because a patron doesn’t think it’s appropriate for children.

"This happens all the time," Woods said. "It doesn’t happen much here, but I have colleagues for whom it happens a lot."

Woods will respond to the challenge, and if that doesn't satisfy it, the book will go before the library board.

"Our collection policy is, like most libraries, that we operate from a very inclusive perspective," she said. "I buy books and material that I don’t agree with, but that’s not for me to decide."

Maplewood Public Library director Terry Donnelly wrote a blog in Patch on this topic called, Libraries—Something for Everyone.

"It's been said that if a library doesn't have something to offend everyone, it's not doing its job," Donnelly wrote. "Liberals don't have all the answers, conservatives don't have all the answers. Libraries have an obligation to present all sides of every argument, so that people can make up their own minds."

Last year, there were 326 challenges reported to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, based on everything from offensive language, to violence, insensitivity, religious viewpoint and sexual explicitness. In addition to those challenges, the ALA estimates that as many as 60 to 70 percent of challenges may go unreported.

Over the past year, the 10 most challenged titles were:

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle 

2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa

3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

8. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones

9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Among banned and challenged classics you’re likely familiar with are:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Beloved and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

If you’re interested in celebrating Banned Books Week as part of a lesson for your kids—or simply to feel like a rebellious reader—check out these additional resources:

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