CHICAGO (CBS) — This week marks 30 years of the annual Banned Books Week, and multiple Chicago area libraries and educational institutions are holding readings and discussions.
Banned Books Week honors what organizers call freedom to read. The 2012 celebration will be held through Oct. 6.
The American Library Association began Banned Books Week began in 1982, after challenges to books skyrocketed.
Since then, more than 11,300 books have been challenged, organizers say. The ALA says there were 326 challenges to books recorded last year alone, and many more go unreported.
“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 in 2010. “Their targets range from books that explore the latest problems to classic and beloved works of American literature.”
In 2011, the 10 most frequently banned or challenged books were:
• ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r, by Lauren Myracle, a three-book series that began in 2005, written all in text messages to present the story of three girls experiencing the drama of high school – including sex, drugs and alcohol. Reasons for bans: “offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group.”
• The Color of Earth, by Kim Dong Hwa, the first in a series of graphic novels, published in 2009, about a girl coming of age in rural Korea, as her tavern-owner mother is scorned for her single life. Reasons for bans: “nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group.”
• The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, a science fiction trilogy published between 2008 and 2011, recounting the adventures of a teenage heroine in a post-apocalyptic authoritarian society. Reasons for bans: “anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence.”
• My Mom’s Having a Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillstead Butler, a 2005 story about a little girl named Elizabeth whose mother his having a baby , and who learns all about the baby’s development including “how the baby got inside mom.” Reasons for bans: “nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; 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 for bans: “offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group.”
• The Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – a trilogy published between 2002 and 2004, chronicling an elementary school-age girl who grows up in an all-male home after her mother dies. The series discusses topics from religion to dating and sex. Reasons for bans: “nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint.”
• 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 for bans: “insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit.”
• The Gossip Girl series, by Cecily von Ziegesar, an 11-part series published between 2002 and 2007, revolving around the lives of teenage girls at the Constance Billard School for Girls, a private school on the Upper East Side in New York City. Reasons for bans: “drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit.”
• To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the classic 1960 novel that deals with issues of rape and racial prejudice in the Depression-era South. Reasons for bans: “offensive language, racism.”
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 for the past couple of years, 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.
But events have still been going on in Chicago this week.
From Tuesday through Thursday, DePaul University is holding its own read-out of banned and challenged books. The read-out will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday at the Lincoln Park Campus Student Center Auditorium, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave.; and from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on the 11th floor of the Loop DePaul Center, 1 E. Jackson Blvd. A panel discussion on censorship will also be held from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Richardson Library, 2350 N. Kenmore Ave.
On Friday, the Browne Parker Literary Press, a book publisher specializing in literary fiction, is holding a “celebration to read” at its offices, at 317 W. 103rd St.
Separate read-outs of banned books are also planned for 6:45 p.m. Thursday at Shimer College, 3424 S. State St. And patrons are being recorded on video all week for the virtual readout at the Highland Park Public Library, at 494 Laurel Ave. in Highland Park.