Banned Books

This past week—September 26 to October 3—was Banned Books Week. A number of events in libraries and bookstores helped bring attention to the large number of books that are regularly banned in our schools and communities. One piece I read in the online magazine “Truthout” by Connie Schultz reported that the American Library Association claimed that last year there were 513 challenges to books across the country, yet an estimated 80 percent of such challenges go unreported. Schultz cites these authors as some whose books have been challenged in the last two years: Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Julia Alvarez, Ernest Gaines, Kurt Vonnegut, Khaled Hosseini, Bobbie Ann Mason, and J.D. Salinger. In fact, the ALA recently released its list of the 100 most banned books and my memoir, “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in LA” (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster) was number 66 on the list. The book has been the subject of school and library bans since it was first published in 1993. It received more attention in the late 1990s when schools districts in Illinois and California led some of the most prominent challenges. The banning of my book seems to have waned in recent years, although I think this is mostly due to the mass media not paying attention as it once did. I still hear from people that some schools continue to ban my book, although they are probably part of the 80 percent that fails to get reported to the ALA or other anti-censorship organizations. Anyway, this issue of banned books should be year-round. Don’t let a small number of narrow-minded, mostly right-wing parents and/or school officials decide what should or should not be read by young people. Work with your school and your children about the books they read—even a controversial book can be a teaching opportunity. c/s

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