Books Banned in 2012 - 2013: A Reading List

It's Banned Books Week--the time of year to think of censored classics like J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye ("obscene"), Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer ("a cesspool") and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita ("one of the filthiest books I've ever read"), and chuckle at the puritanical sensibilities of our parents and grandparents.

But, and it might be easy to forget in godless New York, the banning of books: not actually a thing of the past. It's happening all over, so often that the American Library Association says its hard to even estimate how many books were banned in the past year.

"While we can point out a number of instances when we know a school board or library board voted to remove or restrict access to a book," Macey Morales of the ALA tells the Voice, "we are uncomfortable with offering any numbers because we know that our challenge reports are incomplete and even when a challenge is reported to us we don't always receive a follow-up report on the outcome of the challenge."

Robert Doyle of the Illinois Library Society, however, has helpfully compiled a list of books banned and challenged in the past year. It's not exhaustive, but if you're going to read a book this week, why not make it one of these?

The Family Book by Todd Parr Banned in the Erie, Illinois school district. The offending line? "Some families have two moms or two dads." Resource materials provided by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network were banned by the district as well.

Looking For Alaska by John Green Banned in Sumner County, Tennessee schools for "inappropriate language" and a scene involving (gasp!) oral sex. The controversy prompted Green (also the author of The Fault In Our Stars) to issue a strident video defense of his Printz award-winning New York Times bestseller.

Allah, Liberty, and Love by Irshad Manji Banned in Malaysia by officials who said it "insulted Islam" and had the power to "deviate Muslims from their faith." There was also speculation that the ban, which was struck down by a judge earlier this month, was related to the fact that the author is a lesbian.

Neonomicon by Alan Moore Banned in Greenville County South Carolina, where the librarian who made the decision called the book "disgusting." The public library's two copies were donated to a consignment shop.

And, what might be the most egregious example of the past year... 

500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures by Elizabeth Martinez, Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado, Message to Aztlan by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales, Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson, and Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña.

Banned in Tucson, Arizona's public schools. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal called the district's Mexican-American Studies program, where the books were taught, "brainwashing," and threatened to withhold funding from the district if it continued to teach the curriculum.

The full list of books banned or challenged in the past year:

Banned books 2012-2013

Send story tips to the author, Tessa Stuart

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