This week the American Library Association is celebrating Banned Books Week. While the most frequently challenged books on the lists for each year are for books for or marketed at children or young adults, there are a fair number of acknowledged classics. The reason for most challenges, where reasons are given, is due to sexual explicitness or unsuitability for age range (though check the ALA site for more statistics). Nat Hentoff’s very entertaining and thought-provoking YA book, The Day They Came To Arrest The Book, shows what can happen when certain elements – concerned parents, teachers, and so on – object so much to a book that they think the best way to protect against it is to remove it from the shelves. Hentoff’s book illustrates the issue by using Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (to which one parent initially objects because of its racism) in an American high school, and the divisions and controversies which ensue as a result.
While I don’t think we have a similar celebration in the UK, the idea of retaining our rights to keep even controversial books available is one that should be cherished everywhere.
(Thanks to The Literary Omnivore for the heads up)