Keeping it short and sweet today, with a visit to ALA’s Banned Books FAQ page, which you can find here. Who challenges books? Why?
They even have infographics addressing these questions. Here’s one on Who initiates the challenges:
Interesting, eh? Parents, attempting to control at least something in their children’s lives. But note the fine print: “Statistics based on 147 responses”. Not challenges or bans, but “responses” (I’m not sure to what). Elsewhere they state that ALA’s data is based on the 156 challenges that were reported in 2020. That’s 3 per state, or 13 per month, or 3 per week, or 1 every 2.34 days. The US population is about 333 million, so I’ll be generous and say that 250 million are readers. That makes 1 reported challenge for every 1.6 million readers. BUT. I must add that the ALA infographics I’m posting throughout the week are based on data reported to the ALA. Not all challenges are reported, nor do all challenges result in out-and-out bans.
Tomorrow, I’ll say more about Why books are challenged. (You saw a bit about that yesterday, in my discussion of Alexie’s book.)
Today’s banned book is James Joyce’s Ulysses. Banned by the UK government, but in the US by only the our Customs Service, the book was smuggled in and passed around. According to Politics and Prose Bookstore’s blog, the customs ban was lifted in the US in 1933, when Judge John Woolsey took time to read the book before making a decision. He ‘concluded his opinion by noting, “I am quite aware that owing to some of its scenes ‘Ulysses’ is a rather strong draught to ask some sensitive though normal person to take. But my considered opinion, after long reflection, is that whilst in many places the effect of Ulysses [on] the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac.”’
So, even if he didn’t like parts of the book, he saw no reason to keep it out of the hands of other readers. Good for you, Judge Woolsey. (BTW: next year Ulysses turns 100. Anyone want to join me in a year-long reading? Could be fun? Anyone?)
And lastly, if you want to while away a good 30 minutes, take a look at this list of books banned by governments, via Wikipedia. I think Salman Rushdie wins the prize for being banned by the most governments.
Tomorrow, innumerable reasons why. (And don’t forget: Gene Luen Yang tonight — See my post for Day 1 of Banned Books Week.)