Thursday, September 23, 2010

ALA Banned Books Week Begins Sept. 25

I took a quick look at the American Library Association's list of books frequently banned or challenged during 2009, and found two familiar author names: Walter Dean Myers and Jodi Picoult. Most of the titles on the list are children's or young adult books (although grownups often read these, too, when they are good writing!). A few are science fiction. Mysteries don't stand out on the list, except for Picoult's suspense thrillers.

But it seems to me that mystery readers have just been lucky so far -- nobody may have tried to ban Patterson, Grisham, Agatha Christie, Patricia Cornwell, Nevada Barr, Tony Hillerman, Dick Francis, Charles Todd, Eliot Pattison (unless you count China), Lisa Brackmann (unless you count China again), Stuart Neville, Laurie R. King, John Le Carré, Peter Lovesey, Cara Black, James R. Benn ... but it could happen.

And it wouldn't be because of the style of writing or even the "bad words" (as in Ginsberg's book-length poem "Howl"). It would be the ideas under the plots -- the things that the characters stood for in their choices.

So it seems to me it's worth taking a few minutes this year, as Banned Books Week opens tomorrow, to look at which books are being attacked now, and, if the spirit moves us, to stand up for them in one way or another. At risk today: SPEAK, a 1999 novel by Laurie Halse Anderson involving a girl who is keeping to herself the facts of having been molested. Interested in what the author has to say, and how social media are giving new ways for voices to defend Anderson's book and the right of teens to read it? Click here.

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