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Celebrate the freedom to read with Banned Books Week

Unless you’re reading “Fahrenheit 451,” the days of book burning — and banning — seem to be a thing of the past. But today, with books still being challenged and banned from schools and stores, Banned Books Week is celebrating the freedom to read nationwide and at the Shelter Island Library. Spanning from Sept. 22 to 28, the theme of this year’s event proclaims “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark,” urging everyone to “Keep the Light On.”

“Banned Books Week is an important reminder that, even today, books are being challenged and removed from circulation,” said Terry Lucas, the library director. “Recently, a school in Nashville prohibited the Harry Potter books at school because they show magic as both good and evil and contain spells that could conjure evil spirits. Other reasons for banning books include ‘Harriet the Spy’ because she spies and lies, ‘Fahrenheit 451’ for ‘questionable themes’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for promoting negativism and having no value for children.”

According to bannedbooksweek.org, the annual event was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week seeks to bring together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

But luckily for avid readers and Islanders, the local library isn’t afraid to live, er read, on the edge. Currently, the library is displaying a broad selection of formerly banned books. To add to the fun, the librarians have covered the books and written a quote by the author (not necessarily from the text). 

“People are enjoying the display. It is interesting to read the quote and then try to figure out what book is behind the cover. Hopefully, once you read the quote, you will want to pick up the book and see which one it is,” said Ms. Lucas. “We have also been posting information about Banned Books Week on our Facebook page for those that can’t get into the library.”

The Reporter asked Ms. Lucas to share some of the titles in the library’s collection with some of the most interesting, and humorous, reasons for banning. Her selections are:

‘Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain. First banned in Massachusetts in 1885.

‘Green Eggs and Ham’ by Dr. Seuss. Banned in China for its portrayal of early Marxism.

‘Tarzan’ by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Banned in California because Tarzan and Jane lived together in the jungle but weren’t married.

‘American Heritage Dictionary.’ Banned in Anchorage, Alaska for objectionable entries/language.

‘James and the Giant Peach’ by Roald Dahl. Banned because it contained the word “ass,” mentioned snuff, tobacco and whiskey and because a spider licking its lips could be seen as sexual.

‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell. Still banned in China and Korea for the satire of communism. Banned in UAE because a talking pig went against Islam.

Bannedbooksweek.org states: By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country. The website provides lists of the most challenged books for every year, with the most recent list appearing below:

Top 11 Challenged Books of 2018:

‘George’ by Alex Gino. Reasons: Banned, challenged and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion” and including a transgender character.

‘A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo’ by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller. Reasons: Banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints.

‘Captain Underpants’ series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: Series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple.

‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas. Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references.

‘Drama’ written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier. Reasons: Banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes.

‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ by Jay Asher. Reasons: Banned, challenged and restricted for addressing teen suicide.

‘This One Summer’ by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references and certain illustrations.

‘Skippyjon Jones’ series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner. Reason: Challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture.

‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: Banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking and for its religious viewpoint.

‘This Day in June’ by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten. Reason: Challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

‘Two Boys Kissing’ by David Levithan. Reason: Challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.