Today starts Banned Books Week! In fact, 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of this national event that celebrates the freedom to read. This is also the fifth year that we’ve featured the event on our site! The traditional fifth year anniversary gift is wood and the modern is silverware if you’re considering getting us a gift. Anyway, as the American Library Association says, “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings 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. 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.”
You can learn more about Banned Books Week and how you can participate at the American Library Association Website. While you’re there you can view a list of frequently challenged books that are considered classics. And on this, the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week AND the 5th anniversary of us celebrating Banned Books Week on The Magical Buffet I picked a classic very close to my heart to share with you today.
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Banned in Ireland (1932). Removed from classrooms in Miller, MO (1980), because it makes promiscuous sex “look like fun.” Challenged frequently throughout the U.S. as required reading. Challenged as required reading at the Yukon, OK High School (1988) because of “the book’s language and moral content.” Challenged as required reading in the Corona-Norco, CA Unified School District (1993) because it is “centered around negative activity.” Specifically, parents objected that the characters’ sexual behavior directly opposed the health curriculum, which taught sexual abstinence until marriage. The book was retained, and teachers selected alternatives if students object to Huxley’s novel. Removed from the Foley, AL High School Library (2000) pending review, because a parent complained that its characters showed contempt for religion, marriage, and family. The parent complained to the school and to Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Challenged, but retained in the South Texas Independent School District in Mercedes, TX (2003). Parents objected to the adult themes—sexuality, drugs, suicide—that appeared in the novel. Huxley’s book was part of the summer Science Academy curriculum. The board voted to give parents more control over their children’s choices by requiring principals to automatically offer an alternative to a challenged book. Retained in the Coeur D’Alene, ID School District (2008) despite objections that the book has too many references to sex and drug use.
In high school I was given a list of books and told to choose a book on the list to read. I chose “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. I can say unreservedly that no child should have to read this book. Not because of sex, drugs, or suicide, but because the book stunk. Seriously. One of my biggest regrets in high school was picking “Brave New World” from that damn list. Why? Why, oh why didn’t I pick “1984”? You can leave it in the libraries, but please, teachers, I beseech you, stop the misery now, don’t have your students read “Brave New World”. Consider it a Banned Books Week anniversary gift.