By Deborah B.
“Stop! You can’t eat that bacon! It’s bad.”
You pause and look at the stranger. “It’s bacon. Even bad bacon is good.”
“No, I mean it’s bad for you.” And with that, the stranger whips your plate of crispy bacon off the table and tilts the contents into an oversized Hefty. You:
- Apologize to the clearly well-meaning stranger and hand over the offending pork.
- Shoot your hand into the bag, fish around, grab a fistful of what feels like bacon, and jam it into your mouth.
- Throw your body atop the table, effectively blocking brunch, or something equally dramatic.
While there may be solid arguments against bacon as a factor in health and wellness, most people – clever teenagers especially – would agree the choice of what to eat should belong to the eater or (maybe) the parents of said eater. Thus, bacon becomes my tasty, non-vegetarian metaphor for censored materials in honor of Banned and Challenged Books Week.
Banned and Challenged Books Week is an international celebration of the freedom to read and the right to open access of information. Libraries around the globe host events during the last week of September designed to expose and oppose the suppression of ideas, even those many consider unpopular, unorthodox, or downright yucky. HCLS contributes with The First Amendment, a news literacy class exploring the legal protections, exceptions, and precedents of that Constitutional powerhouse.
The American Library Association launched Banned and Challenged Books Week in 1982, following the verdict in Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico by Pico. In brief, the local school board deemed certain books in their district’s collection “filthy” and removed them. A group of students took issue with this unilateral action and sued. Yes, teens sued the school district and won, albeit narrowly. The Supreme Court ruled that while governing boards had discretion over their collections, that discretion, “must be exercised in a manner that comports with the transcendent imperatives of the First Amendment.”
So, can books and materials still be banned? Yes, but there should be a formal process, called a challenge, which requires written documentation explaining the nature of the objection. The respective board of the organization or company, be it a library, museum, or even a store, must evaluate the contested material and assess whether to retain, remove, or relocate it. Every year the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom collects and publishes a list of the most challenged books. Most are titles for children and teens.
Are you listening, teens? People want to take your bacon! How about, instead, an act of quiet rebellion? Read a Banned or Challenged book. Then join the conversation. Here a few examples that may interest you:
Drama by Raina Teglemeier has been challenged repeatedly for “LGBTQ themes. ” Other titles receive similar treatment for “sexually explicit” (Merriam-Webster’s 10th edition for the term ‘oral sex’), racisim, violence, profanity, or religious or political viewpoints. Some are simply considered “unsuited to any age group” (Captain Underpants), which is a catch-all for material considered to have no redeeming value. For the record, the ALA (and HCLS) understands that humor is a matter of opinion. However, we have a problem with stealing those laughs from others who want them.
Brightly has a list of suggestions to get you started: https://www.readbrightly.com/15-banned-books-every-tween-teen-read/
Deborah B. loves certain Banned Books more than others, but is an equal opportunity consumer of pork products.