Freedom to Read Week is celebrated in Canada for the last week in February: February 22-28, 2009. There are a number of books that have been banned worldwide, and several that have been contested in Canada which are written by Canadian authors. On the Freedom to Read website there is some information about challenged books and magazines, and I’d like to mention a few that I have read.
There are the ever-popular objections to the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling because it promotes witchcraft; J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (one of my favourite books) because Holden skips school and swears a lot; Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series (including The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) because they promote alternate universes and atheism; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee because of the racial slurs and other language use; and Of Mice and Men (another favourite of mine) by John Steinbeck for the frequent use of God’s name in vain.
Some other writers I enjoyed as a child: Bruce Coville, his book Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher was a fantasy novel and thus requested from removal of school libraries; We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier was requested for removal because of the violence described in the book was too graphic and suggestive to young minds.
But do you remember R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books? We used to bring those to sleepovers, and other short, spooky tales. According to the PDF these were objected due to the violence and disregard of parental authority. What? I don’t remember that! Also, R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series was moved to the Junior High library (instead of Elementary) in some communities.
And Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker — we studied this in Elementary school, probably grade 4 when we were learning about the abolishment of slavery and the history of Canada. The story is about the underground railway during the 1850’s & 1860’s that was constructed from the southern United States to Canada. I remember learning a lot from this exciting, liberating, and hopeful tale. It has a positive spin because the people make it to Canada… but parents disagreed with the racial slang used in the book (apparently the n-word is used over 20 times… but I don’t remember that).
Also on the PDF are many magazines and books about gay/lesbian people, and human sexuality. Some of the objections are about Maxim Magazine, or Drawn and Quarterly (adult humour), but other objections were to educational books exploring topics regarding sexuality. There was one that seemed entirely educational entitled ‘The Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Book for Teens’ (or something to that effect).
And so, I would like to pledge to read Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaiden’s Tale. It’s been on my “to be read” list for a while, and I’d like to commit to reading this famous Canadian author. I am not going to give myself a deadline (because I want to be able to enjoy it). If you would like to join me in Freedom to Read Week, please leave a comment and let me know what you’re reading!