Tag Archives: Banned Books Week

Banned Books and You

2 Oct

To wrap up Banned Books Week, last Saturday we invited our readers to post pictures of themseles with their favorite Banned Book(s), and we agreed to do the same!

Here are the results -scroll to the end to find out who won our giveaway prize!

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LTWF Contributors

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I don’t have all my books with me right now, otherwise I’d have just taken a picture with my bookshelf, but Lord of the Flies is a good stand in for the rest of them. I found the book thought-provoking and fascinating when I read it freshman year of high school and I’m pretty sure my education would have been poorer without it.

-Jenn Fitzgerald

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Being at school right now, I unfortunately don’t have access to my books. Otherwise, I’d also be holding THE GOLDEN COMPASS (though I only have the spanish translation!) and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. My school bookstore actually has a special “Banned Books” display going on right now, though, so I nabbed this book to take a picture! I was so surprised to find it there….right next to MEIN KAMPF no less!

-Kat Zhang

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Because I couldn’t fit all the books in (and my webcam sucks), you can’t really tell which books are there. But I have: Speak, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Amulet of Samarkand, and His Dark Materials books 2 and 3 (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass). I’ve lent my copy of The Golden Compass to someone, so sadly I couldn’t take a picture with it!

-Vanessa Di Gregorio

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LOLITA has been interpreted in many different ways – as a metaphor for the loss of power of the “old” countries of Europe to the “young” country of the United States, as a metaphor for the oppression of individuals by a totalitarian government – yet it has never been banned for political reasons.  French officials banned LOLITA for being “obscene,” as did the United Kingdom, Argentina, New Zealand (uncensored 1964) and South Africa.  This amazes me, because although I read it at a very young age, I never thought of it as “the book with sex in it,” but rather as the book with the most lyrical prose I’d ever read.

-Julie Eshbaugh

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-Sarah J. Maas

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-Samantha Bina

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You can’t really tell, but behind me is every banned book I own, from Harry Potter to Fight Club. Silence of the Lambs, Divine Secrets of the Ya -Ya Sisterhood, Lolita, A Wrinkle in Time, Giovanni’s Room, The Virgin Suicides, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Good Earth, A Passage to India, Postsecret, and The Bluest Eye.

And, of course, my favorite… Beloved, by Toni Morrison.

-Savannah J. Foley

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-Vahini Naidoo

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The three books in the picture are HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE, THE GOLDEN COMPASS, and a Serbian Cyrillic version of the Bible (Serbian because I don’t own an English version). Harry Potter I included for the obvious “Tis witchcraft!” reasons; Golden Compass is there for the supposed promotion of Atheism; the Bible is actually there for reasons different from just “I’m a Christian too.” I am a Christian, traditionally, but I’m not particularly devout.

The reason I included it is because there was a time when you weren’t allowed to have Bibles that weren’t in Latin. You could say they were “challenged”. This was because of supposed mistranslations and biases that would appear in, for example, English Bibles, but I thought it was interesting to note that a book whose content pushes certain people to ban other books was once banned itself.

Another interesting thing that they say, is that the reason it was only allowed in Latin was so that only Church men and women and very highly educated people (they were usually rich) would be able to read it. In a corrupt area, it could’ve easily led to the manipulation of a devout public.

And last little interesting tidbit.

In Latin, the word liber means book. Liber also means freedom.

Coincidence?

-Biljana Likic

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LTWF Readers

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Thanks for holding banned book week. I think it`s great that you`re bring attention to an act that is totally wrong.

The book I took a picture with is Wild Swans by Jung Chang. It hasn`t caused any controversy in the United States. In fact, it`s banned in China for political reasons, because the author is critical of the Communist Party. I hope that`s fine, because most of the banned books mentioned on the blog are mostly YA that have been challenged in the United States. I thought it would be nice to bring attention to a book that is banned for reasons that have nothing to do with bad language or sex. Maybe this will highlight the fact that compared to the US, other countries have it worse. Just imagine not being able to voice your political opinions!

-Angela Kubo

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Thanks for spreading the word; you guys rock as always. ❤

-Ella

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Hi guys! I’m Heather, aka Postaxial. I’ve attached my photo for your banned books week blog. I can’t wait to see everyone else’s- this was a really great idea 🙂

-Heather (Postaxial)

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Here I am pictured with (from top left to bottom right): SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, 1984 by George Orwell, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, The Boy In Striped Pajamas by John Boyne [technically was only challenged, not officially banned – but I love it too much to leave it out], my 4 favorite Gossip Girl books [because the entire series would take up the whole picture], and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Other books that I have read but sadly don’t own (or ran out of money before I could buy them) include: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Things My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Pigman by Paul Zindel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, TTYL by Lauren Myracle, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Catcher In the Rye by JD Salinger, and Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Save for Things My Mother Doesn’t Know and TTYL [both of which I checked out of my school’s library], all those other books listed were required reading for my school. So I guess that means my high school promoted promiscuity, satanism, racism, and demoralization, right?

I am also wearing my cross necklace and a bracelet with Jesus and Mary and several other holy figures painted onto it. As you can see by my pillow shaped like a cross and the Holy Bible resting on top — I AM A PROUD CHRISTIAN WHO THINKS BANNING BOOKS GOES AGAINST OTHERS’ GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS TO CHOOSE!!

-C. Borchers

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-Lincoln Law

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Hey LTWF!

Here’s my shoddy attempt at a nice photo of me with my favourite banned book. As you can see, I took large amounts of effort to make it look interesting (obvious sarcasm). But yes, I love TKAMB. This novel is one of the great American reads! My – I might have had a crush on Atticus at one point. With regards to banned books, well, I think it’s absolutely shocking. Books are supposed to be about issues and ideas, we can hardly quash human thought and reflection without obliterating freedom and truth. Book inception? Haha.

Love,

Kim

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Here’s my entry for the banned book weeks picture post 🙂 My choice is The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which is most frequently banned in middle schools.  I suppose because it’s narrated by a fourteen-year-old girl, the first thought is that it’s for that age group, and then they see it’s about a girl being raped and killed and automatically set off the alarms.

-Joana Hill

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And the winner of the giveaway prize, selected through an online name picker, is….

Kim!

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Thank you to everyone who took a picture, commented, blogged, or read a banned book this week!

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Book of the Month – SPEAK

1 Oct

Today marks the start of a new month – and in honour of Banned Books Week, this month’s Book of the Month is Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the #SpeakLoudly twitter movement, and the voices of many bloggers crying out in outrage over the accusation that SPEAK’s rape scenes equate to nothing more than soft porn – and that it should be banned from schools.

First off, the fact that this man sees a rape scene as titillating and exciting is disturbing. That he thinks that a story centered around a rape victim’s silence is somehow morally degrading is ridiculous. That he is using religion to back up his argument is weak. That he is a man wanting to silence the voice of a rape victim (fictional or not) is sadly ironic.

Banning books is not an answer, or a solution. It is an attempt at silencing those whose voices are deemed unworthy, or morally questionable, or too vulgar. The opinion of a few should not dictate the choice of many.

I read SPEAK ages ago – probably when I was 13 or 14. And it impacted me greatly. Melinda is a character I will always remember. This is a book that speaks out for rape victims when they can’t.

By this point, I’ve lost a lot of the anger I felt when I first heard about Scroggins’ call for banning. Now I feel a sick, heavy feeling; a painful weight in my chest. When I first heard about this, I raged; I spoke out over Twitter, on Facebook, in the office, in class; anyone and everyone heard about how incredibly upset I was.

I think I wanted to throw something when I first read his argument – that was how upset I was.

Now, I’m still angry – but more than that, I am disappointed. It is sad to me that people are so willing to keep themselves and their kids so ignorant. That some people think themselves so above everyone else.

So here are some statistics. Did you know that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in America have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime? Did you know that every 2 minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted? Did you know that 15% of all sexually assaulted victims are under the age of 12? Or that victims of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression? Or 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? They’re also 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

And did you know that sexual assault and rape are one of the most under reported crimes, with 60% still being left unreported?

Yeah. And this man thinks that kids shouldn’t be aware of rape, that it will somehow corrupt them or teach them too much. Oh, and while we’re at it, he thinks kids in Elementary school shouldn’t learn about reproduction.

Let’s just tell kids that babies come from storks.

Ignorance is not bliss. But it does lead to a lot of misunderstandings. People hate what they don’t understand. People ignore what they don’t understand. And we shouldn’t ignore the fact that sexual assault and rape happen, and that a lot of people choose not to speak about it.

The one good thing about this whole situation is that people have been coming together to show their support. To have seen people so passionate about SPEAK and many of the other banned and challenged books out there is inspiring. It gives me hope that one day we’ll be past all of that. That we’ll all be free to Speak Loudly. Kudos to everyone out there who speaks up for the freedom to choose what we (and our children) will read – and to everyone who stood up for a book like SPEAK.

So if you haven’t read this book yet, I highly suggest you pick it up.

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Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

QOTW: Favorite Banned Book

30 Sep

CHAT TONIGHT!

We will be hosting a chat tonight at 9 EST. The topic will be ‘getting to know the LTWF girls’, in honor of the fact that we are accepting applications for membership!

You can visit the chat through this link.

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Saturday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week. Here at LTWF we’re dedicating the whole week to awareness about banned books. We’ve got a lineup of fantastic articles, culminating in our announcement of our banned books-inspired book of the month for October on Friday. This coming Saturday we will post pictures of ourselves with our favorite banned books, and pictures that our readers send us. One lucky reader will even get a giveaway prize!

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This week, in honor of our Banned Books celebration, we thought we’d answer the question: What is your favorite Banned Book, and how has it affected your life?

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My favorite banned book is BELOVED, by Toni Morrison. For me it beats out all the others (even Harry Potter!) because of how much it influenced me as a writer. I think the first copy I ever read was from my teacher’s personal library in high school. I didn’t know much about other writers at that time (though I was calling myself one), and Toni’s forward to the book was part of what convinced me that I was an actual writer, not just crazy. She described the idea for the story coming to her as she stared across her backyard: an imaginary woman climbed up out of the river and leaned against her gazebo. ‘Nice hat.’

The personal way that Toni interacted with her characters really resonated with me as a young writer. When I read the actual book itself, I fell in love. BELOVED is rich and spooky, with characters more complicated and human than any others I’ve ever read. I get why it’s banned: it takes a shockingly realistic look at the trials of real life, and the spiritual emptiness that came for many former slaves. It has abuse, rape, adultery, infanticide, explicit sexuality, and shows various types of segregation and discrimination. And guess what? It was based on a true story.

I can’t understand why anyone would want to cover up such a beautiful story that takes a hard and honest look at life post-slavery. The writing is magnificent, and inspired me to take my own to a new level. There were so many fragments stuck out at me, but the one I want to leave you with is this:

“She cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don’t know her name?”

-The Writer Condensing Three Books Into One

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I got TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as a birthday present sometime in late elementary school or maybe early middle school. I can’t remember who gave it to me, but I remember loving it from the very first read. I adored Scout and somehow, identified with her immensely though we were very different. I loved Atticus and Jim.

To be honest, I didn’t catch much of the political or racial themes of the book. It’s kind of like how I read ANIMAL FARM when I was eleven and then when someone remarked in eighth grade about how the book commented on socialism in Russia, I gave them a look like they were crazy. All I’d gotten from the book was a weird but interesting story about…well, animals on a farm.

Does my younger self’s utter lack of understanding of the some of the main themes of these books mean I wasn’t ready for them? That my librarian and whoever gave me TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD should have told me to wait a few years? I don’t really think so. In fact, I would have loved it if, instead of preventing me from reading these books completely, someone had been open to discussing them with me afterward. That, I think, would have done a lot more good.

Either way, I have since gone back and reread both books, and I’m really glad to have had two experiences with each–the more innocent, simpler version of my childhood, and the one I glean now after having grown up a little more.

edit:  Wow–I completely forgot that NORTHERN LIGHTS/THE GOLDEN COMPASS is banned/controversial in some places. You all know how much I love that book!

-The Writer Who Just Signed With An Agent!

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My favourite banned book, and this is somewhat cliched, is probably FIGHT CLUB by Chuck Palahniuk. This book was the first thing I’ve read which I considered truly subversive — and no, I hadn’t seen the movie — and I’d read a lot of rather edgy realistic fiction before reading this. The central concept of FIGHT CLUB, a bunch of guys getting together and bashing each other up in an attempt to find some kind of spirituality, is disturbing.  At the same time, on some levels, it’s also an interesting exploration of the emptiness and dislocation that can occur in a modern world.

I can see why the book’s been banned. But at the same time, I think that we need books like this that are provocative and gritty. FIGHT CLUB made an impact on me as both a reader and writer — as a reader, it made me seek out other books to challenge and unsettle me, and as a writer it made me appreciate minimalism and the power of a dark, entrancing voice. More importantly, I think, reading banned books that are subversive like FIGHT CLUB, gave me the confidence to unflinchingly explore any subject matter in my own novels.

-The Newest LTWF Contributor Out on Submissions

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I’m going to go with THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK on this one. You can tell how much I’ve read it because my battered copy is missing the back cover, and the pages are stained from me eating while I poured over it. I don’t usually dog-tag pages, but these ones are folded over, passages are underlined, and I have notes in the margins. I even have a copy in German, and one in Italian; that’s how much I love this book.

I first read THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK in fifth grade. Even then, I felt a powerful pull to the book, and it’s stuck with me ever since. People claim that it’s “sexually offensive,” and that the nature of the book is just depressing, but I disagree completely. I always thought Anne’s words were uplifting and hopeful. Despite the horrible things going on around her, she still believed in the inherent good in people. That’s a message I’d think we’d want our kids to understand and take to heart.

My high school actually did this as a play, and it is my most treasured memory from those years. Some of my favorite lines, the ones I often repeat in order to ground myself, seemed even more profound coming from someone’s mouth. It’s amazing to me that one girl could embody so much hope in times of utter despair, and I will never forget the lessons this book taught me.

-The Writer Working on Three Novels At Once

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I think you might have guessed that my choice would be LOLITA.  I can’t remember much of how I first encountered the book; I can’t even remember how old I was when I read it the first time.  The thing I do remember is how stunned I was that any book, no matter how brilliantly written, could make me empathize with a character as treacherous and selfish as Humbert Humbert.  It was my first experience with an “unreliable narrator,” and LOLITA made me see for the first time that even the vilest villain sees himself as sympathetic.  That experience, combined with Nabokov’s incredible prose, the sharp descriptions of the beautiful and the grotesque found in the many suburban American towns through which the main characters traveled, and the irony (and even humor) that can be found in every chapter, gave me my earliest ideas that maybe one day I might want to be a writer.

-The Writer on Submissions

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What Banned Book has affected your life the most?

The Right to Read

27 Sep

Saturday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week. Here at LTWF we’re dedicating the whole week to awareness about banned books. We’ve got a lineup of fantastic articles, culminating in our announcement of our banned books-inspired book of the month for October on Friday. This coming Saturday we will post pictures of ourselves with our favorite banned books, and pictures that our readers send us. One lucky reader will even get a giveaway prize!

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The Right to Read

by Savannah J. Foley

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When LTWF decided to honor banned books week by inviting readers to post pictures of themselves with their favorite banned book(s), I wanted to do a picture with every banned book I owned.

I went to my bookshelf, and grabbed the few I knew without a doubt were high on the banned books list… Beloved, The Bluest Eye, The Great Gatsby, Running With Scissors, and Harry Potter. Then, as I began to scan over my shelves again, I realized that a lot of titles had properties that were probably considered ‘inappropriate’. Curious, I pulled all my favorites from the shelves and googled their histories.

They had all been banned. Every single one.

Fight Club, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Gabriela Clove and Cinnamon, Giovanni’s Room, A Passage to India, The Good Earth, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Silence of the Lambs. I had been able to recognize which books were banned simply by identifying my favorites.

My favorite books are filled with sexuality, violence, family issues, infidelity, broken hearts, cultural schisms, prejudice, segregation, internal sadness and fleeting joy. They are filled, in essence, with humanity.

When someone says a book should be banned, they are saying that its content is inappropriate for existence, not just children. They are trying to cover up the fact that none of us are perfect, completely moral, and well-balanced people. When I was a young reader growing up, I was drawn to these types of books because they felt gritty, and significant. I read a lot of other happy, bland fiction, and I thought that was a more normal representation of people. Imagine my surprise when I grew up and learned that it was the darker, edgier books that more closely resembled reality.

Humans mess up. We fall down, and we struggle to get back up. We try to hold on to the good things, and sometimes we do, but sometimes we don’t. That doesn’t make life bad. That makes it a journey. And lying to kids about what they are and what they will be only sets them up for disappointment, dissatisfaction, and intolerance.

I’m white, financially secure, and straight. But my diverse reading experiences have given me an empathy and tolerance for people very different from me. I used to not like certain groups of people, but I realize now that was simply because I didn’t understand them. I didn’t understand they were human, too. Since then, I’ve tried to live by a quote: “You cannot fear that which you understand.”

Banning books is a display of fear. It’s a display of ignorance. It promotes false realities, an isolates people from their own emotions.

Now, I can understand why a parent would not want their sixth grader to read American Psycho. But it’s better to talk to your kids about what they’re reading, and help them make decisions about what they’d be comfortable with, rather than take away the choice from readers everywhere.

The problem with banned books is that one leads to another. We ban Nazi hate literature. Then the Marquis de Sade. Then American Psycho. Then Silence of the Lambs. Then Fight Club. Then Harry Potter. Then The Hunger Games. Then anything that anyone says has a value that could wake children from their innocent dream-world of perfect happiness and normality. But guess what? Children aren’t blissfully naïve little angels. They know that people aren’t perfect, starting with their parents and extending to the rest of the world.

Like many other bloggers have testified, reading ‘morally questionable’ books doesn’t make one a social deviant. It makes one wise. It make one empathetic. It lets you care about people you otherwise might hate, or ignore.

Don’t presume that you know what I need or want better than I do. Don’t you dare think that you can make decisions for me, my children, or my family. Keep your hands off my body, my eyes, my voice, my land, my possessions, my love, and my books.

Don’t ban ideas. Don’t ban humanity. Don’t ban freedon. Don’t ban books.

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

Banned Books Week – Support a Challenged or Banned Author & Giveaway!

25 Sep

Today marks the beginning of banned books week, which runs until October 2nd. Lately, challenged books have been talked about all over the blogosphere and twittersphere – especially concerning YA titles. From Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK being deemed pornographic, to Sarah Ockler’s TWENTY BOY SUMMER and Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, there’s no doubt about it: we’ve seen quite a bit of censorship going on. (Heck, even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has been banned from a school this year – no lie!). 

In this day and age, you’d think we would all be a little more open; you’d think that we would all respect the right for people to choose what they want to read. You’d think people claiming rape to be pornographic wouldn’t be taken seriously (I mean, really? That’s horrifying). It’s bad enough that there are issues of white washing on covers – now we’re going to try to censor books with minority protagonists? We’re going to ban books because it contains homosexuality? Because they look at the human condition and point out our flaws, our shortcomings, our problems?

The reasons people choose to challenge (and try to ban) books is numerous. And here at LTWF, we believe that books being banned is equivalent to them being burned. We should be able to freely choose the books we want to read, and the books we want our children to read. To ban a book is to take away the choice from someone else –someone who has the right to choose.

So if you agree with us, we’re asking that you join us in supporting banned books and their authors by purchasing (or by borrowing from your library to tote around in public) a banned or challenged book. And if you can, we’d love it if you could also show your support by sending us a picture of yourself with a banned book you have chosen – and next Saturday, we’ll post your pictures on the blog. We want to visually show our support for banned and challenged books – so please, go out and buy a book (or even if you already own it – chances are you do!), and take a picture. Own more than one banned book? Take a picture of yourself with all of them!

And If you’re on Twitter, join the #SpeakLoudly movement.

So just to help you out (for those who aren’t as aware of what books have been banned), here is a list of the Ten Most Challenged Books from 2009 according to the ALA:

1. “TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs
2. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality
3. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide
4. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
6. “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
7. “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence
8. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
9. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
10. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

(also check out the 200820072006, and 2005 lists and decade lists for the ’90s and ’00s)

The most frequently challenged authors of 2009:

Lauren Myracle, Alex Sanchez, P.C. Cast, Robert Cormier, Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, Stephen Chbosky, Chris Crutcher, Ellen Hopkins, Richelle Mead, John Steinbeck

And if that wasn’t frightening enough, take a look at the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st Century.

And want to know some of the more recently challenged books? Here is a list of all the challenged and banned books of 2009-2010.

So, tell everyone you know; help make others aware. Those of us against banning books can speak our minds just as loudly as those who are for it. We will not be silenced – we will Speak Loudly. So stand up, be proud, and tell people why book banning is just plain ridiculous.

~ The LTWF Team

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GIVEAWAY

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As we said in the article above, we are asking our readers to take a picture with their favorite banned book(s) and send it to us (letthewordsflowblog AT gmail DOT com). We will post your pictures (and our own) next Saturday, and choose one lucky reader who sent us a picture to receive a giveaway prize!

We are giving away this bracelet from Carolyn Forsman. OR, if you don’t want it/don’t wear jewelry, we will ship you one banned book of your choice!