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Before I get into today’s post I wanted to take a moment to make an official announcement: I am going to participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I will devote my spare time in November toward accomplishing a lofty goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. That equates to an average of 1,667 words per day in order to accomplish that goal. But to those who succeed, they will have about 175 pages of a novel written.

The obvious choice for me is to pick up where The Curse of Fierabras left off and continue the story of Dante and Jerek after their escape from the Capital. You can find my NaNoWriMo page here, and I will attempt to leak a few excerpts and updates on my progress throughout the month.

So look forward to the finale of Ogre Hunt in the next week or so.

Last Saturday kicked off an annual event that I have been a supporter of for many years: Banned Books Week. While this post is coming along much later than I would have liked, I simply could not let this year pass by without making some sort of post in honor of this great cause. So here is some information about Banned Books Week.

What is Banned Books Week?

Readers across the world unite for a common cause at the end of September each year. They proudly display traces of their literary protest by creating websites, lists, Facebook posts, blogs and tweets about the event or their participation in the event. Bookstores and libraries place the forbidden material in prominent displays. The week is about expressing your freedom to read.The first Banned Books Week started in 1982 as a response to the growing number of challenges being placed against schools, bookstores and libraries. According to the Banned Books Week website, more than 11,300 books have been challenged since its inception in 1982. Last year there were 326 reported challenges against books, and the top ten can be seen in the list to the right. The foundation for Banned Books Week, and its importance according to the American Library Association, is

“Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.”

Why are Books Banned?

Most often books are challenged with the best of intentions: protecting children and others from perceived potentially harmful information. Depending on each individual, this could be a wide range of things from religious beliefs, violence, profanity, sexuality and ethical matters. There have also been instances where books were challenged for reasons such as police officers being portrayed by pig characters and the author having the same name as someone with disagreeable political views. In the latter case, concerning the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, the accusation was a little off the mark. According to the American Library Association, the top three reasons cited for challenging materials are:

  1. The material was considered to be “sexually explicit”
  2. The material contained “offensive language”
  3. The material was “unsuited to any age group”
Concerned parents certainly have a right to monitor what their children are reading, just like they monitor their children’s television, movie and video game habits through the rating system. The line is crossed when parents, teachers and librarians begin to try and restrict what other people’s children can read. The Library Bill of Rights has an interpretation of the Free Access to Libraries for Minors posted on the ALA website:
“Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.”
When the motion to challenge books exists, it is a violation of the First Amendment. In the case of Texas v. Johnson, Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. made the following statement:
“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
Where Can I Learn More?

There are many places where you can learn more about Banned Books Week and its importance to your First Amendment rights. There are also a lot of lists out there recommending books to read. The following list is far from comprehensive, but it is a great place to start to expand your knowledge.

Did you read a banned book this week in honor of this event? What is your favorite banned book?