We’ve probably forgotten that there even was a 2009 by now (I mean, shit, it’s April), but even so the American Library Association has released its list of last year’s Most Frequently Challenged Books. A challenge, for the purposes of the list, is a formal request for a book to be removed from a library’s collection. Though we optimistically tend to associate book-banning efforts with 20th century totalitarianism, or medieval style theocracies like those found in Iran or South Carolina, there are still plenty of people in the modern, civilized United States of America who don’t want the children of their communities to be able to read filth like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Color Purple.
Topping the list, apparently in a three-way tie, are Lauren Myracle’s so-called “IM books” ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r, all of which are written entirely in a form approximating instant messaging. Among the reasons cited for challenging the IM books: the presence of nudity, drugs, explicit sexuality, and offensive language. I’ll go with the last one, at least — I find IM-speak like “ttyl” and “l8r” pretty goddamn offensive.
To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read as part of my 10th grade English class, is at #4 on the list. One of the reasons listed for its being challenged is “racism.”
. . . No shit? Yep, says it right there. To Kill a Mockingbird. Racism.
Hang on a moment . . .
Okay. I’ve gone over the entire list again, and shockingly I have not found challenges to Johnny Got His Gun for its blatant pro-war themes, nor to Mrs Dalloway for its sexism, nor The Chronicles of Narnia for its antitheism. But there sits To Kill a Mockingbird, the fourth-most-challenged book of 2009. For its racism.
Not that the reasons cited for the other nine books on the list make any more sense. Three of them list “homosexuality” as reasons for being challenged. It’s the only reason mentioned for the #2 book on the list, And Tango Makes Three. That’s it, just “homosexuality.” The mere presence of homosexuality in the book was enough to propel it to being the second-most-challenged book of the year. I couldn’t help but notice that none of the books on the list were cited for their pervasive heterosexuality.
The Twilight series is #5, though not for being idiotic, terribly written, brainless pieces of fucking shit that rape multiple genres of storytelling and exist for the sole purpose of separating teenage girls from their disposable income. Did parents call their schools and public libraries to complain about this artless tripe taking up shelf space that might have gone to The Outsiders or Looking for Alaska? No, they did not. Instead, the Twilight books make the list for being “sexually explicit,” and their “religious viewpoint.”
Every book other than the totally gay And Tango Makes Three is cited as being “unsuited to age group.” What the hell does that mean? And isn’t that more of a cataloguing issue? How it is the book’s fault if Jude the Obscure gets shelved in the children’s section?
What must go through someone’s mind before they contact a library and demand that a book be removed from the collection? What sort of a person feels entitled to use their own personal taste and morality (bland and archaic though it may be) to decide what others are allowed to read?
No one who would take the time to read this in the first place, I suspect. So the hell with them.