The Truth About The Notorious “Banned Books”

Nellie DeWaard

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Perhaps you’ve heard about “Banned Books Week”, annually taking place on the week of September 24 through September 30. It is an event celebrating the freedom to read, almost like a protest against the removal of books deemed “inappropriate” by those possessing authority over libraries and schools. Some examples of the popular banned books that have shaped America are: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, The Autobiography of Malcolm X,  by Malcolm X, Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, The Call of The Wild, by Jack London, The Catcher In The Rye, by J.D. Salinger, Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, and The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Mr. Patrick, head librarian at Forest Hills Northern High School, states that these banned books “were purchased for a good reason, and as librarians, it is our job to protect the intellectual freedom of students and their ability to choose what they want to read.”

As this is one of their most important duties in the school library, he says that “most librarians tend to be vehemently opposed to the banned books rule.”

Banning a book isn’t a simple procedure. “It often begins with an objection to a book from a parent. He or she has a concern over a book and wants it removed from the library. This person must then file a complaint before a committee, who will make the decision whether or not to ban the book.”

Books are challenged by parents usually more often than organizations, teachers, or religious groups. Although there are many reasons books are restricted from students, Mr. Patrick says that “the number one reason I see books banned is due to the topic of sexuality because it is an issue that people are thinking about and is on the rise on the news. But really, it changes with the climate of our society.”

Many classic banned books are actually read in English classes today. There are also well-known banned “modern-day classics” that are read in and out of high school english classes. An example of what Mr. Patrick calls a modern-day classic is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Reasons for its unsuitability include “anti-family”, “offensive language”, and “unsuited for age group.”

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