Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's Banned Books Week again

Banned Books Week began this weekend! Now this is my idea of a holiday.

Librarians, of course, stand at the forefront of those who battle censorship, and the American Library Association, one of the sponsors of Banned Books Week, keeps a top ten list, and you can see 2009's here. A great deal has been made this year of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is a perennial among banned books, and it's still up there and going strong. And other books that appear year after year are still secure in their places: And Tango Makes Three, Catcher in the Rye, and The Color Purple. The Harry Potter series has dropped off, replaced, perhaps, by the Twilight series. And I'm sure the ghost of Mark Twain is disappointed to find that Huckleberry Finn didn't make the cut this year.

All of which leads me to wonder why certain books make the coveted top ten, while others do not. For example, why not Their Eyes Were Watching God? All The Kings Men? (All The Kings Men, by the way, was required reading when I was a sophomore in high school. When the teacher assigned it, he remarked that it was "intense," but he "hoped" it wouldn't be "too much" for us.)

Anyway, back to which books make the list: Clearly, books are more frequently targets of censorship when they are more frequently read. Hence To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and the replacement of Potter with Twilight. But some of the others... why them and not others? And Tango Makes Three? Lauren Myracle's Internet Girl series?

I've been analyzing the lists from recent years, and I'm pretty sure that if you can't write a blockbuster like Catcher in the Rye, but you still want to make the most-censored top ten, you should chose one of these two meal tickets: (1) Write about homosexuality, or (2) write realistically about young adults, especially girls, maturing (while Judy Blume never made the top ten list with a single book, five of her books made the list of top one-hundred challenged books of the decade of the 1990's, which makes her a rock star among the censored). If you want to really stack your deck, you should write realistically about about young lesbian girls maturing. If the young adult lesbians are realistically witches or vampires, I don't think that would hurt.

Barring that, writing a story that portrays Christianity in a bad light is as good fallback.

Happy Banned Books Week everyone! Read a book!

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