April 16, 2013

The banned books of 2012: toilets and bondage

by

What does it take to get a book banned in America? Underpants. Bondage comes a measly fourth.

On Monday, the American Library Association published its annual study on the state of American libraries, including the “Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books in 2012,” which is, as you might expect, a list of books that are worth reading. The list is compiled from formal, written complaints made by parents, teachers, or the general public.

Topping the list is Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series, which was objected to on the grounds of offensive language and being unsuitable for its age group. The popular children’s series has been on the list before, but this is the first time that it has reached the number one spot. S&M sensation Fifty Shades of Grey was the fourth most complained about book in America.

As always, many of the books are for children and the report also includes a number of anecdotes which serve to highlight the dependable prudishness and lack of humor of American school boards.

“In Pennsylvania, the Annville-Cleona School District board voted to remove an award-winning children’s book from elementary school library shelves due to concerns about partial nudity in its illustrations. “The Dirty Cowboy,”…tells the humorous story of a cartoon cowboy taking his annual bath. When the cowboy’s dog doesn’t recognize his fresh-smelling owner and refuses to hand over his clothes, the cowboy is left naked—but with his private parts strategically covered by objects like a cloud of dust.”

Already this year, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which tells the story of a young girl coming of age during the Iranian revolution, was banned for no good reason by the Chicago school system. One can only hope that 2013 does not continue as it began, with reactive silliness and misjudged censorship.

This full list is:

Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.

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