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Book censors target teen fiction, says American Library Association


Edgy novels about sex, drugs and suicide are increasingly banned from libraries
and classrooms by Liz bury
theguardian.com, Monday 23 September 2013 15.11 BST
Attempts to ban books are increasingly driven by the desire to protect teenagers from
tales of sex, drugs and suicide in young adult fiction, the American Library Association reports.
This growing number of attempts to restrict edgy teen fiction was revealed as part of
America's Banned Books Week, from 22 to 28 September.
"Young adult is a big trend right now, and a high number of complaints
are directed at those books," said Barbara Stripling, president of the American
Library Association, which organises Banned Books Week. "There is a lot of
pressure to keep teenagers safe and protected, especially in urban areas, and
we are seeing many more complaints about alcohol, smoking, suicide and
sexually explicit material."
At No 2 on this year's banned books list is Sherman Alexie's The
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a young adult novel about a
Native American boy who attends a white school, just behind Captain
Underpants by Dav Pilkey. A New York City school struck it off reading lists
for 11-year-olds this summer, even though the novel won the US National Book
award for young people's literature. Featuring 14-year-old Arnold Spirit Jr, it focuses on
alcohol, poverty and bullying, and includes references to masturbation and physical arousal.
"Some people felt it was unsuitable for 11-year-olds, but I would be happy to give it to
my 11-year-old," said Charlie Sheppard, editorial director of Andersen Press, the book's UK
publisher.
Andersen is known for publishing edgy books for young adults. It brought out Junk, by
the controversial teen author Melvin Burgess, and this summer it published Annexed by
Sharon Dogar, a fictionalised account of Anne Frank's time in hiding, written from the point of
view of her companion Peter van Pels. Dogar's book angered Frank's family.
Sheppard said: "I would publish them all again and again and again. My view is that you
read to know that you're not alone. These books open readers to experiences and emotion. If
people are concerned about teens' behaviour, then they should look at computer games and not
[The Absolutely True Diary ], which will probably make them a better person. I can't see
what all the fuss is about."
Stripling added: "The Absolutely True Diary contains racism, so people think it shows
Indians in a negative way. But it tells it like it is."
Jay Asher's young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, about the aftermath of a teen suicide,
made it to No 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and was included in the top 10 banned
books in 2012.
"It has challenged a lot, because parents are concerned that it's about suicide," Stripling
said. She added that the American Library Association monitors research on the effects of
reading materials, and has found no evidence that reading about suicide encourages teenagers
to take their own lives.

"Teenagers tell us that they like to read about what's going on," Stripling said. "They say
'what do they [adults] think we are?', as if teenagers remain naive and uneducated when facing
these issues every day. The best way to protect them is to give them an array of things to read.
If they are over-sheltered, they will enter the world without coping skills."
A total of 464 complaints were registered by the ALA in 2012, and it has recorded
challenges to more than 11,300 titles since it first started monitoring in 1982. It estimates that
only one in every five attempts to ban a book is recorded, suggesting the real number is much
higher.
Authors who have regularly appeared on the banned-books list include JK Rowling,
Mark Twain, Judy Blume, Stephen King, Maya Angelou and John Steinbeck.
Banned Books Week begins today with a Twitter party using hashtags #bannedbooksweek,
#bannedbookparty and #heroes. The ALA will be awarding its annual "hero awards" for
"outstanding individuals and groups who have stood up to defend their freedom to read".
Authors, librarians and readers will post videos on a dedicated YouTube channel, in
which they talk about and read from their favourite banned books.
Banned books of the past decades
2000-2009
1. Harry Potter (series) by JK Rowling
2. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl, ttfn and l8r g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
1990-1999
Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Forever by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
See the full lists on the American Library
Association's website.