The list includes classics such as The Great Gatsby
, The Catcher in the Rye
, The Grapes of Wrath
, To Kill a Mockingbird
and The Lord of the Flies
. More recent controversies swirled around The Hunger Games
, Captain Underpants
, and And Tango Makes Three
, a popular children's picture book.
“A lot of the titles are rather stunning,” said Bruce DeLaney, owner of Rediscovered Books
, celebrating its eighth year in Boise, four of those years on Eighth Street in the city’s downtown core. “It really makes these lists of banned books so interesting and, quite frankly, so frustrating.”
DeLaney stood alongside a display table in his store, showcasing titles that have been (and many still are) challenged.
“We’ve had people walk into the store, look at the books on this table and ask, ‘Why is that book banned? Or that one? I read that book as a child and I can’t imagine this book being banned,’” DeLaney recalled, adding that the banned books have been among the most popular titles in history. “No one seems to want to challenge a book that no one wants to read. Books that weren’t being picked up aren’t challenged.”
Banned Books Week, which runs through Saturday, Sept. 27, has become a unique form of celebration from the American Library Association,
highlighting the debate and the ever-present threat of censorship.
“All these years later, Fahrenheit 451
(published in 1963) and Catcher in the Rye
(1951) are still on the list,” said DeLaney.
And the controversies continue every day. As recently as April, the Meridian School District (now known as the West Ada School District) challenged Sherman Alexie’s young-adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of aPart-Time Indian
when a grandparent objected to its language.
DeLaney ended up distributing hundreds of copies of the same book in his store and in a Meridian park following the controversy.
“It’s simply not right for somebody else to decide what you can or can’t read,” he said.
And that’s not to say that robust dialogue shouldn’t be generated by controversial themes or language. Take Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
for example, which repeatedly uses the N-word.
has gone through two sessions of being challenged: first because Jim was the hero. Here was an African American that was the most sympathetic figure in a novel and that drove people nuts,” said DeLaney. “But now people object that their children are reading a book that contains the N-word. I long to live in a society where that specific word no longer has the power to hurt; but we are not there. But I still think Huck Finn
is a piece of literature for people to be exposed to.”
And that’s why Huckleberry Finn
and dozens of other amazing titles are 20 percent of their regular sale price at Rediscovered Books this week to celebrate Banned Books Week.
“We’ve also had some of the staff read some passages from their favorite banned books and put them up on social media
,” said DeLaney. “But what we really want people to do is buy a banned book, take it home, read it, give it someone else.”