Banned Books Week: Works Targeted in California

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The_Fault_in_Our_StarsWe're in the middle of Banned Books Week, an annual event "celebrating the freedom to read" sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association and appromixately a dozen other organizations. The event puts the focus on books that have been targeted for removal or restriction at libraries and schools around the country due to their perceived inappropriateness.

Here in California, the Riverside Unified School District got the week off to a flying start by banning "The Fault in Our Stars," John Green's wildly popular young adult novel about teenage cancer patients. The Riverside Press Enterprise reports:

On Monday afternoon, Riverside Unified School District’s book reconsideration committee voted 6-1 to pull all three copies of John Green’s 2012 novel from library shelves at Frank Augustus Miller Middle School and not to allow other schools to buy or accept the book as a donation.

The book will be allowed at high school libraries, said committee chairwoman Christine Allen, librarian at Arlington High School, where the meeting was held.

The vote was taken after parent Karen Krueger made her case to the committee and asked its members – teachers, parents, a principal, librarian and instructional services specialist – to remove the book or make it available for checkout only with parental consent.

Krueger said she didn’t want to “come off as a prude” or block anyone’s freedom to read. But she questioned whether the book should be available at the middle school library because the subject matter involves teens dying of cancer who use crude language and have sex.

“I just didn't think it was appropriate for an 11-, 12-, 13-year-old to read,” she said. “I was really shocked it was in a middle school.”

The Press enterprise says 37 books have been challenged in the district since 1988.

Earlier this month, officials at Rancho Cucamonga Middle School closed the school library after a parent tweeted complaints about her daughter coming home with "Rabbit is Rich," by John Updike. From CBS Los Angeles:

Rancho Cucamonga Middle School’s principal immediately removed the book from the school’s library. After the investigation, if it is determined that the book had been checked out by other students, those students’ parents will be notified.

The principal also audited the library in order to ensure that no other titles by Updike remained, and all other schools in the district were notified to remove all titles by the author.

The library reopened this week.


You can check out some other books that have been targeted in California from 2007-2012 in this clickable map from the Banned Books Week website. The incidents were documented by the American Library Association and the Kids' Right to Read Project. Targeted books in the Bay Area include T. Coraghessan Boyle's "The Tortilla Curtain" in Santa Rosa,  Lois Lowry's "The Giver' in the Mt. Diablo School District, and  Mark Mathabane's "Kaffir Boy," which was actually banned from Burlingame middle schools.

And here are the most frequently challenged books in 2013. In the make-of-it-what-you-will department is the fact that No. 1 on the list is the graphic novel "Captain Underpants." NPR talked  to author Dav Pilkey about the distinction, as well as to Jeff Smith, whose "Bone" graphic novel series was the 10th-most challenged work.