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CHICAGO (CBS) — This is Banned Books Week, and a local theater company is staging readings from last year’s most frequently censored books.
The American Library Association began Banned Books Week began in 1982, after challenges to books skyrocketed. Since then, more than 11,000 books have been challenged, and challenges have been issued in every state in the country.
“People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups – or positive portrayals of homosexuals,” the ALA said last year. “Their targets range from books that explore the latest problems to classic and beloved works of American literature.”
In past years, the ALA has staged a “Read-Out” of the 10 most frequently banned or challenged books at Bughouse Square, at Dearborn and Walton streets. But this year, the event has been replaced with a “Virtual Read-Out,” in which people were invited to submit a reading from a frequently banned book, or give an eyewitness account of an attempt at censoring a book.
The clips have been gathered on a “Virtual Read-Out” YouTube channel, which includes an appearance by Whoopi Goldberg reading a Shel Silverstein poem.
But events are still going on in Chicago. The City Lit Theatre Company is holding readings of last year’s the 10 most frequently challenged books all week at various public libraries in the city and suburbs. The troupe appeared at the Harold Washington Library on Sunday, and are set for appearances at various branch and suburban libraries through the week.
In 2010, the 10 most frequently banned or challenged books were:
• And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, a 2005 children’s story based on two real-life male penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York that coupled and raised a chick together. Reasons: “homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group.”
• The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, a 2007 young-adult novel about a Native American teenager living on a reservation, and his struggles attending an all-white high school. Reasons: “insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit.”
• Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the classic 1932 novel depicting a dystopian future in the year 2540, in which a World State unifies most of society, children are created through laboratory processes, and people are locked into castes that are decided during infant development. Reasons: “insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit.”
• Crank, by Ellen Hopkins, a 2004 young adult novel about a teenage girl who plunges into methamphetamine addiction, based on the experiences of the author’s own daughter. Reasons: “drugs, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit.”
• The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins, a science fiction trilogy published between 2008 and this year, recounting the adventures of a teenage heroine in a post-apocalyptic authoritarian society. Reasons: “sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group.”
• Lush by Natasha Friend, a 2006 young adult novel about a 13-year-old girl who struggles with an alcoholic father. Reasons: “drugs, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group.”
• What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones, a 2001 young-adult novel in verse about a high school freshman and her trials in the world of adolescent dating. Reasons: “sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.”
• Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich, a 2002 nonfiction account in which the author attempts to measure the effects of welfare reform on the working poor by going undercover and taking a variety of low-wage jobs. Reasons: “drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint.”
• Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie, a 2000 literary anthology created for “radical queer youth.” Reasons: “homosexuality, sexually explicit.”
• The Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer, the famous 2005-2008 series of vampire-themed fantasy novels that have since been adapted into big-budget movies. Reasons: “sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group.”