Welcome to Banned Books Week! Banned Books Week is like Christmas for me: it allows me to queer my reading like I queer my gender. The American Library Association receives reports every year of attempts across the country to ban books from schools and libraries. Challenged books mean that someone is attempting to have the materials removed from said school or library, actual banning means the removal of those materials. In other words, banning a book means the triumph of censorship. And as a person that others are constantly trying to censor, I say hell to the no. In 2011, there were at least 326 challenges to reading material in the United States. The ALA estimates that more than 70% of these challenges go unreported, which means the number of actual attempts at censorship in 2011 is probably closer to 554.
Here are a few ways to celebrate Banned Books Week. Party hard with some inappropriate reading!
+ Participate in the Virtual Read Out. Head on over to this YouTube channel and extol the virtues of the freedom to read. Here are the criteria for submission, and here’s where you can send your stuff.
+ Read a banned or challenged book! There are so many lists to give us inspiration, such as this timeline from the ALA (which features the Perks of Being a Wallflower,) this list of challenged classics (which includes half the things I was assigned to read in high school,) and the list of top ten challenged books by year (including the Hunger Games in 2011 and Tango Makes Three in 2010, challenged specifically for homosexuality.)
+ If novels aren’t your style, try graphic novels instead. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a list of the most frequently challenged graphic novels. Anyone surprised that Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is on there? Anyone? They also happen to have a feature on the death of Tereska Torrès, the author of America’s first lesbian pulp novel, so they’re a pretty great resource in my book.
+ Follow some literary tumblrs! Malaika did all the leg work for us here back in August. My personal favorite is Book Riot.
+ Get some free challenged books! A journalist at Money Talks News compiled a list of free downloads of banned books, so if you’ve just been waiting for the right moment to read 1984 or Lolita, now is your money-saving chance.
+ Read about controversial authors! Here’s something about Salman Rushdie after the Ayatollah’s death warrant, in the New Yorker last week. Oh, and here’s a whole section of Judy Blume’s website dedicated to censorship. And here’s an interview with Sherman Alexie! And of course, who doesn’t want to listen to Alison Bechdel speak in New York on October 6th and again on October 15th?