Last week I read about a girl, a teenager from Idaho, who, after her school banned Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, decided to start up a petition to campaign for the book to be unbanned. The book was on the curriculum for many schools in Idaho, but following a campaign by some parents it was removed on the grounds that it contained profanity and sexual and anti-Christian content.
The teenager, Brady Kissel, decided to mount a petition and got 350 signatures from fellow pupils asking the school to re-instate the book, but to no avail. The issue was picked up by Rediscovered Books, a local book store, who ran a crowd funding exercise to raise money to buy each of the 350 signatories a copy of the book. They raised $3,400, which was more than enough. Brady and the bookshop gave away copies of the book outside her school on World Book Day, but the story escalated further when some parents called the police to stop her, stating that Brady was giving children books without their parents’ consent.
The police, however, saw nothing wrong in what she was doing and let her carry on.
The national press then picked up the story and, eventually, the publishers of the book became involved and decided to provide a free copy of the book for anyone who wanted it. The American Library Association cites the book as the third most challenged/banned book in the States. Strangely enough, the Captain Underpants series tops the list, with Hunger Games coming in at number five. Most of the books that are challenged by parents fall into books aimed at the 14-18 age group. The expanding Teen/YA market probably has something to do with that.
You might say, well that’s the USA for you. But I’ve heard stories from authors in the UK whose books are sometimes excluded from a school because of their content. A “book ban” in the UK would happen, if at all, at school level, usually following a head teacher’s decision, not a formalised complaint or challenge to a school board or the American Library Association as in the States.
The States has a constitution which protects freedom of speech. Brady Kissel argued that, as teens, they too have the same rights as adults and banning a book contravened that. What actually happened every time a book was banned was that teenagers went out and got hold of a copy in another way.
I know some writers in the SAS have had their books banned in the States. But has anyone had their books banned by a school here?
I hope not...