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Banned Book Week: Celebrating Taboo Literature of Tomorrow

Update Date: Oct 01, 2012 12:45 PM EDT

In an effort to fight censorship and raise awareness, the American Library Association and related groups began their annual observance of Banned Book Week.  

During this week, events will be held in many communities and online to celebrate literature and educate people of the perils of censorship. Some of the most celebrated books, by some of the most brilliant authors, have been banned for one reason or another.  Interestingly, age appropriateness or community standards were the most often cited reasons for banning a particular book or author.  

For example, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was banned due to offensive and vulgar language, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird was banned due to sexual and social issues, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain has been banned on social grounds. Concord Public Library called the book "trash suitable only for the slums." The references and treatment of African Americans in the novel reflect the time about which it was written, but some critics have thought such language inappropriate for study and reading in schools and libraries and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, was banned for passages that were considered "sexually offensive," as well as for the tragic nature of the book, which some readers felt was a "real downer."

Last year, the American Library Association (ALA) reported that there were over 320 occurrences of book banning in the U.S. 

The most banned book last year was Lauren Myracle's Internet Girls series, the ALA reported. Consisting of "ttyl," "ttfn," and "l8r, g8r," the series is written entirely in "Internetspeak," making heavy use of the kind of abbreviations seen in the book titles. The series follows three high-school students from their sophomore year through graduation, exploring sexuality and the perils of adolescence.

The ALA reported the book has been banned for "offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, [and as] unsuited to age group."

The next most frequently banned book was The Color of Earth and its sequels by Kim Dong Hwa. This series of comic books, or graphic novels, follows the lives of a single mother and her daughter in rural Korea.The coming-of-age story details and illustrates one girl's rise into maturity and romance. According to the ALA, "The Color of Earth" has been banned for "nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, [and as] unsuited to age group."

Surprisingly, the popular young-adult series The Hunger Games was the third most banned book last year. The series, partially adapted for the major motion picture released in March, centers on a post-apocalyptic future in which children are forced to fight each other for survival. The ALA lists the books as being banned as "anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic, violence."Before banning any book, the authorities in charge should remember that one of the hallmarks of the Nazi rise to power was the banning and eventual burning of books that did not conform to community standards. 

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