Earlier this month, a parent in Randolph County, North Carolina filed a 12-page complaint about Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man, one of three potential novels that Randleman High School juniors had been asked to read over the summer. The matter went to the Board of Education, which last week voted 5-2 to remove all copies of the novel from school libraries. Voting in favor of the ban were Board Chair Tommy McDonald, who called the novel “a hard read,” and member Gary Mason, who announced that he “didn’t find any literary value” in the book, according to the Asheboro Courier-Tribune. Invisible Man won the 1953 National Book Award and is widely considered one of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century.
Unfortunately, according to Jeremy Ellis, general manager of Brazos Bookstore, it’s often the most important novels that get banned. “Great books challenge our basic notions about the way things are—that’s one reason they’re great,” Ellis says. “Their ideas often run counter to certain communities.”
This week is national Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Brazos Bookstore is marking the occasion on Saturday from noon–6 by partnering with Workhorse Printmakers and Spindletop Design. For the second year in a row, customers will be able to pull their own prints of banned books from printing presses supplied by Workhorse. There are four prints to choose from.
All week, Brazos will be putting up quotes from banned books on its windows; inside, there’s a table stocked with banned books, from Catch-22 to Lolita to The Satanic Verses. “It’s basically every classic that you could ever think of,” Ellis says. “You’d be surprised sometimes at what’s on that list.”
According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which collects reports of challenged and banned books, here were the most challenged books of 2012:
- Captain Underpants (Dav Pilkey)
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)
- Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
- Fifty Shades of Grey (E.L. James)
- And Tango Makes Three (Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson)
- The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
- Looking for Alaska (John Green)
- Scary Stories series (Alvin Schwartz)
- The Glass Castle (Jeanette Walls)
- Beloved (Toni Morrison)