Home » Books: The U.S. Right to Challenge

What do Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird & The Color Purple all have in common? They are three of the books that remain on the U.S. “most challenged books” list, as put out annually by the American Library Association.
What does it mean to be a challenged book? A book gets this designation when groups or agencies take action to try to prevent a book from being accessible to the general public. In the U.S. there is often a formal process one can follow to lodge a challenge against a particular written work. Although many books are still challenged, this is not the same as a book being banned: eliminated from public viewing.
The American Library Association’s stance on challenging books is that as U.S. citizens, we have the right to lodge a complaint against a book and take steps to try to remove it from public accessibility. But their formal stance on banning books is that it is the individual’s responsibility to read or not read certain written works; it is not the job of the library to control what the public can and cannot access. They cite they are not here to be de facto parents—acting as gatekeepers for what children (and adults, too) can and cannot read. It is a personal choice.
The United States has a long history—and indeed very long list—of those books which have been most commonly challenged. And these challenges continue today. The three classic books mentioned above are examples of long-standing challenged books. Others include Judy Blume’s Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret, William Faulkner’s As I lay Dying, The Bluest Eye–by Tony Morrison, and Jack London’s The Call of the Wild.

The list can be a head-scratcher. But in the end, there is the fact that U.S. citizens have the right to have such a list; that’s something.

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