Freedom of speech clashes with the world of literature as hundreds of books are challenged or banned yearly in the United States.
Banned Books Week at prompts readers to take a look at the most provocative works. The exhibit at Shippensburg University’s Lehman Library, displayed Sept. 21-27, includes “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, “ttyl” by Lauren Myracle and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. These books have been brought into question due to sexual content, religious viewpoints, drugs, alcohol, violence and topics deemed inappropriate to certain age groups.
“Even the Harry Potter books are banned simply because they have witchcraft in them, and it’s considered the occult by some people,” said Dr. Michelle Foreman, associate dean and director of libraries.
The children’s series “Captain Underpants” by Dav Pilkey was the most challenged book of 2013, according to ala.org (American Library Association) for offensive language and violence not suitable for children. Parents were concerned that the series encourages children to disobey authority due to the mischievousness of the two main characters. They are a couple of boys who play pranks on other children at school and create a super hero who only wears underpants. Second on the list is “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, a novel that questions standards of beauty. The main character is a black girl who wishes she had blue eyes like white girls.
Some of the challenged and banned books are considered classics including “The Great Gatsby” by F Scott Fitzgerald and “Ulysses” by James Joyce. “Even ‘Huckle Berry Finn’ was challenged,” said Chantana Charoenpanitkul, associate professor and government documents librarian. “But times have changed.”
When someone requests a book to be removed from a library, they typically fill out a form explaining their reasoning. Then library board members will review it to determine their action. The number one reason books are banned is because of sexual content, according to ala.org. For this reason “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James has been in the top ten lists due to themes of BDSM.
“Working in an academic library, I don’t think there’s a place for it [banning books] because we’re sort of the bastions of intellectual freedom,” Foreman said. “That’s what we stand for in academia.”