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Censorship

Read Free Samples of the Most Challenged Books of the Year

To celebrate Banned Books Week, the American Library Association (ALA) is hosting a virtual reading of banned and challenged books on YouTube.

To help you find books to support, we’ve reprinted the ALA’s annual list of the most frequently challenged library books of 2011.

We’ve linked to free samples of all the books on the list–follow the links below to read these controversial books yourself.

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Banned Book Trading Cards

To celebrate the 30th annual Banned Books Week, one library in Kansas has gotten artistic. The Lawrence Public Library has created the Banned Books Trading Cards project, a series of drawings inspired by banned books and authors created by local artists.

Each trading card is inspired by a banned book or author. There is one for each day of the week.  The week kicked off with an homage to George Orwell‘s Animal Farm (pictured right) created by artist Barry Fitzgerald, followed by an homage to Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, drawn by Kent Smith. Today’s card by an artist known as Webmocker, celebrates John Updike’s Rabbit, Run.

Here is the artist’s statement: “Burning and otherwise destroying books being a favorite activity of censors, deconstruction seemed an appropriate approach to this tattered (literally falling apart as I read it) copy of Rabbit, Run.  Coincidentally, this book was purchased at the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library book sale.”

Share Your Favorite Banned Book on YouTube

What’s your favorite banned or challenged book? Read it on video to celebrate the the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week next week (September 30 through October 6).

The American Library Association is hosting a virtual reading of banned books on its Virtual Read-Out YouTube channel, and anyone can submit a video of themselves reading a challenged book. So far, they have collected 59 videos. Here’s more about the program:  

Videos (no more than two minutes long) can be submitted by anyone as long as it includes a reading of a banned or challenged book. The video must include information on where and why the book was banned or challenged. You may also wish to add your thoughts on the importance of keeping that particular book on library or bookstore shelves. Videos of up to three minutes long can be submitted giving eyewitness accounts of local challenges. For those who are camera shy, you can still participate in the Banned Books Virtual Read-out by creating a video montage that centers on banned/challenged books. Thomas University created a video last year that can be used as an example.

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Fifty Shades of Grey Book Burnings Stoke Controversy

On November 5th, UK-based anti-domestic violence group Wearside Women in Need plans to burn copies of E.L. JamesFifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

According to Mail Online, director Clare Phillipson championed the bonfire after reading two-thirds of the novel. She explained: “we have libraries wasting and grossly misusing public money to buy a book which says: ‘domestic violence is sexy.’”

The New York Daily News reported that Ohio-based DJs Chad Zumock and Alan Cox also hosted a Fifty Shades burning back in July 2012. Cox argued that their event did not advocate censorship because all the participants joined in voluntarily.

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‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Returns To Florida Library System

After pulling the erotica book from its shelves, the Brevard County Library System in Florida said that it would return Fifty Shades of Grey to its shelves. Library Services Director Cathy Schweinsberg explained: “We have always stood against censorship. We have a long history of standing against censorship and that continues to be a priority for this library system.”

The decision comes after criticism from groups like the National Coalition Against Censorship, arguing that sexuality is “an integral part of the human experience.”

Here is more from the library’s website: “The decision is in response to public demand, but also comes after considerable review and consideration by the library system. In all, 19 books from the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy that were previously available will once again be available through the library system.”

Literary Groups Defend ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Comparing Fifty Shades of Grey to Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Fear of Flying, prominent literary groups criticized the Brevard County Public Library system for refusing to carry E. L. James‘ racy novel.

The National Coalition Against Censorship circulated the letter, getting signatures from the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, PEN American Center, American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Independent Book Publishers Association. Follow this PDF link to read the letter. Here’s an excerpt:

The idea that “erotica” should be categorically excluded from public libraries has no merit. Sexuality, an integral part of the human experience, has always been part of creative expression. As the late Justice Brennan observed, “Sex, a great and mysterious motive force in human life, has indisputably been a subject of absorbing interest to mankind through the ages.” Indeed, a library’s collection would be incomplete without the, by now classic Memoirs of A Woman of Pleasure (“Fanny Hill”), Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer or even Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. There is no rational basis to provide access to erotic novels like these, and at the same time exclude contemporary fiction with similar content.

’50 Shades Of Grey’ Pulled in Florida Libraries

E. L. James‘ bestselling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has been pulled from some library shelves in Florida. The book is being removed from Brevard County Public Libraries for its graphic depiction of S&M and bondage.

Library services director Cathy Schweinsberg explained to Florida Today: “Nobody asked us to take it off the shelves. But we bought some copies before we realized what it was. We looked at it, because it’s been called ‘mommy porn’ and ‘soft porn.’ We don’t collect porn.”

Florida resident Linda Tyndall has created a petition trying to urge the library to reconsider. The petition explains, “Because banning books is wrong, no matter what the perceived content.” (Via The Guardian)

China Section at London Book Fair Generates Protest

The London Book Fair opened with a protest against a special section on China, a country whose censorship policies have led to the imprisonment of authors.

The annual event includes more than 60 sessions dedicated to the Chinese book market including: “China and UK Literature Forum,” “Modern Chinese Masters,” and “Science Fiction in China.” The Associated Press has the story:

A lone protester demonstrated outside the ‘China Market Focus’ section of the fair Monday morning, holding a picture of imprisoned Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and a sign saying ‘stop literary persecution.’ Writers and anti-censorship groups also have criticized the decision to invite an officially sanctioned slate of Chinese writers to the fair.

Most Frequently Challenged Library Books of 2011

The American Library Association (ALA) has released its annual list of the most frequently challenged library books of the year. We’ve linked to free samples of all the books on the list–follow the links below to read these controversial books yourself.

During the past year, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received 326 reports of “attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.” The list was part of the ALA’s 2012 State of America’s Libraries Report.

Here’s more eBook news from the report: “The rapid growth of ebooks has stimulated increasing demand for them in libraries, but libraries only have limited access to ebooks because of restrictions placed on their use by publishers. Macmillan Publishing, Simon and Schuster and Hachette Book Group refused to sell ebooks to libraries. HarperCollins imposed an arbitrary 26 loans per ebook license, and Penguin refused to let libraries lend its new titles altogether. When Random House raised ebook prices, the ALA urged it to reconsider.”

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Police Drop Criminal Investigation into Middle School Teacher Who Read ‘Ender’s Game’ in Class

In South Carolina, Aiken Public Safety have closed a criminal investigation into a Schofield Middle School who read to his students from Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. The investigation began when a mother complained to police and school officials over “pornographic” reading material in the classroom.

Here’s more about the case: “On March 12, the teacher was placed on administrative leave while police and school officials investigated whether he breached school policy or the law when he read from three books, among them Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, which became the focus of the probe when a 14-year-old student’s mother complained about the subject matter of the book.”

Despite the end to the criminal investigation, the Aiken County School District’s internal investigation is still ongoing. If you want to share your opinion about the controversy, here is contact information for the office of the school district’s superintendent.

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