Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Objecting to Books

The American Library Association has released its annual list of "most frequently challenged books," the works that received the most formal written complaints filed with a library or school in an attempt to have an offending tome removed. Here's the top ten for 2008, along with the reasons given for the complaints:

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence
  3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, violence
  5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, violence
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group
  7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
    Reasons: homosexuality, unsuited to age group
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
    Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Whenever I see such a list I always wonder what is wrong with the people filing the complaints. Do they simply have nothing better to do? Are they really worried that some book in a library is going to corrupt their child? They must not have much faith in their own teachings. As parents, don't they monitor what their children read? People differ greatly on what constitutes age-appropriate reading, and about the topics they think are suitable material for children. But some people think they should get to decide for everyone else.

I grew up in a conservative Christian family. My parents would probably have objected to most of the books on this list. If I came home with a book that they didn't like (and I did occasionally), they'd take it up with me. But they weren't arrogant enough to presume that they should decide what books other people's children should be allowed to read.


  1. These same people doubtless encourage their children to read the bible: a book filled with rape, murder, incest, and genocide just to name a few things unsuitable for children.

  2. Of course. But they just can't tolerate gay penguins. Because you know reading about a male penguin couple might turn their kids gay.