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September 24, 2010
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Eagle County bookstore, libraries mark Banned Book Week

VAIL, Colorado - Harry Potter's author is in the good company of Huckleberry Finn, Finnegan's Wake, Benjamin Franklin and John Steinbeck.

They've all been banned from library bookshelves in the past year.

It's their week to be celebrated. The 29th annual Banned Book Week runs today through Oct. 2, all over these United States, home of the free to read what we darned well feel like.

This week we'll flip our figurative finger at those who would ban books. The Vail Daily will feature a couple banned books each day through Oct. 2.

The Bookworm in Edwards will showcase banned books all week, featuring the books and relevant quotes from the U.S. Constitution, said Anuschka Bales, the lead bookseller for the Bookworm in the Edwards Riverwalk.

Last year, a local high school teacher wanted her advanced English class to read "Perks of Being a Wallflower." It's the story of a modern teenaged boy and everything that goes with it. There's some drug use and drinking.

"People seem to have a problem with the book's main character being gay," Bales said. "There's some experimentation. And it's a more tolerant and open-minded view of homosexuality than some people might like."

People find all kinds of things to be upset about over time. Or not.

The same teacher had chosen "The Kite Runner," and its three graphic depictions of sodomy. There was no reaction from parents or the local public.

Then there's Harper Lee's classic "To Kill a Mockingbird," celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

It's been consistently challenged since it was published.

Many of of the early challenges stemmed from the author's apparent advocacy for minority rights. Some challenges centered on the book's depiction of rape, and the assertion that a rape depiction is not appropriate for children.

"It didn't fit with some of the prevailing social thinking of that time," Bales said. "Now it's challenged by some minority groups because the black characters are flat, not particularly important to the storyline."

The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom receives hundreds of reports on book challenges every year. Those are formal written requests to remove a book from a library or classroom because of an objection to the book's content.

There were 460 recorded attempts to remove materials from libraries in 2009 and more than 11,000 attempts recorded since the ALA began compiling book challenges in 1990.

"Not every book is right for each reader, but we should have the right to think for ourselves and allow others to do the same," said ALA president Roberta Stevens.

Public involvement is often the only thing that keeps books from being confiscated.

For example, the Stockton, Mo., citizens convinced the school board to reconsider its ban of Sherman Alexie's National Book Award-winning novel, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Sep 24, 2010 04:39PM Published Sep 24, 2010 04:36PM Copyright 2010 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.