This week, the Kids’ Right to Read Project, a group that monitors book censorship, said the number of challenges to books reported to the group increased by 53% in 2013.
Project coordinator Acacia O'Connor told Shelf Awareness that she could not explain the increase, but that many involved writers of color, including Sherman Alexie, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. (All three also appear regularly on American Booksellers Assn. lists of challenged books.)
“Whether or not patterns like this are the result of coordination between would-be censors across the country is impossible to say,” O’Connor told Shelf Awareness. “But there are moments, when a half-dozen or so challenges regarding race or LGBT content hit within a couple weeks, where you just have to ask, 'What is going on out there?'”
The Kids' Right to Read Project is an effort of the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Assn. of American Publishers and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
This month, the group and other advocates helped persuade the Teton School District in Idaho to return Rudolfo Anaya’s novel “Bless Me, Ultima” to the classroom.
The group's letter in defense of “Bless Me, Ultima” pointed out that the book is often used in Advance Placement exams, along with other controversial books, such as “Ulysses,” “The Color Purple” and “Catch-22.”
The group cited a 1948 Supreme Court decision that stated that any attempt “to eliminate everything that is objectionable...will leave public schools in shreds. Nothing but educational confusion and a discrediting of the public school system can result....”
The American Library Assn. keeps an annual count of the number of times books have been banned or challenged. From 2001 to 2012 (the group's 2013 count isn’t in yet), reports of potential censorship have varied from the mid-300s to the mid-500s.