“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” has drugs.
“Persepolis” has naughty words.
“And Tango Makes Three” has gay penguins.
Those are the three most banned books from 2014, according to the American Library Association, so today would be a great time to pick one up: Tomorrow marks the end of the national book community’s Banned Books Week, a celebration of the freedom to read. As part of the week, Ivy Tech Northeast’s Library is participating in the READsistance, this year’s theme.
“A library has a mission to make education more rich, to provide a wider worldview,” says Sarah Ellsworth-Hoffman, a librarian at Ivy Tech Northeast.
And sometimes, that’s done through banned books.
“Censorship, even with the best intents, is overall more harmful than helpful,” she says.
For folks who might be missing the point of Banned Books Week, Ellsworth-Hoffman recommends this short video by Dav Pilkey, the creator of Captain Underpants.
To celebrate Banned Books Week, I’m reading “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou. My high school banned the book when I was a sophomore or junior because of a rape scene (two years after I graduated, a friend petitioned to get the book added back into multicultural lit classes–and won).
I asked some Ivy Tech Northeast Library employees to talk about their favorite banned books. Consider it your little subversive reading list.
The Ivy Tech Northeast Library has had banned books on display for Banned Books Week. (Click on the images to zoom.)
“‘1984,’ by George Orwell. It’s got elements of science fiction in it, which is kind of my genre. It’s a classic.” ~Jonathan Puckett, lead library clerk
“‘Animal Farm,’ by George Orwell. It was the first thing I read in English. I just came here in 1998 (from Russia). It’s a phenomenal reflection of the fascist regime from the point-of-view of the outsider. He never lived there, but he described it as if he did. It was like this guy lived where I lived.” ~Ellie Puckett, materials clerk
“‘Ulysses,’ by James Joyce, which is an easy choice because it’s one of my favorite books. He takes one man’s everyday experience and makes it into this epic story. He’s one of those authors who combines words in a way you’ve never seen combined before.” ~David Winn, morning library clerk
“‘Flowers for Algernon,’ by Daniel Keyes. I remember the first time I read that, about middle-school age, and just being blown away by the whole premise of the book. It was so sad, but it made you think–what every good book should do.” ~Carol Gibbs, library clerk.
Library director Diane Randall listed three favorites:
- “Bridge to Terabithia,” by Katherine Paterson. “It has been banned or challenged for death being part of the plot, use of the ‘lord’ outside of prayer, promoting New Age religions and the occult, and for the female protagonist Leslie not being a good role model.”
- “Snow Falling on Cedars,” by David Guterson. “It has been banned or challenged for sexual content and profanity.”
- “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. “Its themes of passion and a woman’s awakening to self were quite scandalous at the time. It has been banned/challenged for being morbid, vulgar, disagreeable, and scandalous.”
Tell us about your favorite banned book(s)!