The American Library Association launched Banned Books Week in 1982. It typically runs the last week of September, with the aim of educating Americans about censorship. Many libraries, including the Newton Falls Public Library, mark the occasion with displays that highlight famously banned or challenged books in their collections. We used lists such as “Frequently Challenged Classics,” “Top Ten Challenged Books by Year,” and “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books by Decade” on ALA.org and BannedBooksWeek.org for inspiration.
Though it’s called “Banned Books Week,” not all the books highlighted have been banned on a country-wide level (although some have been - for example, Salman Rushdie’s controversial 1988 book The Satanic Verses, banned in several countries including India and Iran, and James Joyce’s Ulysses, which drew complaints when it was being published as a serial in a literary magazine and was subsequently banned from the United States for more than ten years). More often, they are challenged in schools, where they are sometimes removed from reading lists or curricula, or libraries, where they can be removed from the shelves altogether. It’s worth noting that even if a book shows up on one of the banned or challenged book lists, it may have never escalated past the challenge phase. Sometimes a compromise is reached – teachers providing alternate book selections for a particular assignment, for example.
According to the American Library Association, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind has come under fire for its language and its portrayal of slavery. ALA.org cites two specific examples: a 1978 ban in a California school district and a 1984 challenge in an Illinois school district. In 2008, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was moved to the faculty section of a Massachusetts school library after it was deemed too frightening for middle school students.