Gah! It’s already Thursday of Banned Books Week and I haven’t been celebrating it by reading some appropriately scandalous literature—or at least, so I thought. Turns out, the book I’ve been devouring this week on my commute to and from work—The Hunger Games—was one of the 10 most challenged titles of 2010 according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Whew, glad I didn’t blow that one.
But after I looked at the entire top 10 list, I couldn’t help but wonder about the state of parenting in the country today—or at least the perceived state of parenting. Here are the offending selections from last year, with the reasons for the challenges to them:
1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson (challenged for homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and being unsuited to age group)
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (challenged for offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence)
3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (challenged for insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and being sexually explicit)
4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins (challenged for drugs, offensive language, and being sexually explicit)
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (challenged for being sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence)
6. Lush, by Natasha Friend (challenged for drugs, offensive language, being sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group)
7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones (challenged for sexism, being sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group)
8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich (challenged for drugs, being inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint)
9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie (challenged for homosexuality and being sexually explicit)
10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (challenged for religious viewpoint and violence)
With a list like this, only two options are possible: Either parents lack the ability to control what their children are reading, or there are a vocal minority of individuals who think parents lack that control—or just think that they’ll do a better job of raising your kids than you will. (I suspect I know which is going on here, but since I don’t have any empirical statistics on hand, I’ll just leave it open to speculation.)
I can only hope that one day, when I have children, I’ll be aware enough of what they’re consuming (media-wise, although food-wise would be good to know, too) and will have raised them enough to comprehend things like, Huxley’s “brave new world” of genetic engineering and recreational sex is not intended to be seen as what society should aspire to, or that the drug use in Crank isn’t glorification. If my kids don’t understand that, then I’ll have far bigger problems than the fact that they dared to pick up a book.
And if a book earns a place on the ALA’s frequently-challenged list because it might make kids ask tough questions, or think about the world (past, present, or future) in a way that’s unsettling, then every week should be Banned Books Week.