Home Local News ‘We don’t censor’: Leath, other libraries celebrate Banned Books Week

‘We don’t censor’: Leath, other libraries celebrate Banned Books Week

The Harry Potter series, seen on display at Leath Memorial Library for Banned Books Week, has been challenged nearly every year since the first novel was released in 1997 due to occult themes.
William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — The Sandhills Regional Library System and other libraries across the nation wrapped up Banned Books Week on Saturday.

Leath Memorial Library in Rockingham had a display set up with several books that have been banned or challenged because of ideas that some people disagree with.

Illustrating this year’s theme — “Censorship leaves us in the dark” — the display featured a large light bulb on top and electronic candles around the books.

The week is sponsored by the American Library Association and promotes the freedom to read and censorship awareness issues, according to Leath Supervisor Shannon Hearne.

“There’s all different reasons why they might be challenged or banned,” she said.

Most of the recent banned or challenged books deal with sexuality, racism and violence, Hearne said.

Each year, the ALA releases a list of the Top 11 Most Challenged Books from the previous year.

According to the ALA, its Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 347 challenges of 483 books to library, school and university materials and services in 2018.

Out of the most recent list, all but two were banned, challenged, relocated or restricted due — at least partly — to sexual content and several of those featured LGBTQIA themes: “A Day in the Life of Marlon Brundo;” “Drama;” “This Day in June;” “Two Boys Kissing;” “George;” and “Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot.”

According to the ALA, the Captain Underpants series has been challenged because “it was perceived as encouraging disrupting behavior.”

The two without sexual content as a factor were “Thirteen Reasons Why,” which addresses teen suicide; and the Skippyjon Jones series, because of depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture.

“The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas, in addition to sexual references, was banned and challenged for profanity, drug use and being deemed “anti-cop.”

The Alex Gino book “George” also came under fire because “it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history … change their bodies using hormones and for mentioning ‘dirty magazines,’ describing male anatomy, ‘creating confusion,’ and including a transgender character.”

Other reasons the books made it on the list include political and religious viewpoints.

The ALA also kept track of comic books and graphic novels that have been challenged, as well as plays that caught the ire of parents and school administrators.

Stage productions that were considered controversial include:

  • “Legally Blonde” — An Ohio principal fired the teacher in charge, said the play went against the school’s code of conduct, and criticized the “booty dancing” and use of the word “skank.”
  • “The Producers” — A New York superintendent considered the Mel Brooks satire of Broadway — which centers around two producers putting on a sure-fire flop, “Springtime for Hitler” — obscene and demanded the removal of all swastikas from the set.

High school productions of “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Rent” were canceled and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” was banned in a New Hampshire school district.


The Leath display featured several books from the current list, as well as those from year’s past.

“A lot of the books will show up year after year,” Hearne said.

Some of those included classics like “Charlotte’s Web,” “Huckleberry Finn,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” along with contemporary books like the Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter series.

The latter has faced controversy for glorifying the occult since its release 22 years ago, according to a 2017 article by the ALA. Just weeks before Banned Books Week, J.K. Rowling’s popular series was in the news again after the books were removed from the shelves of a Catholic school library in Tennessee for using “actual curses and spells.”

“The Diary of Anne Frank” was also on the display because of being “a real downer.”

Ironically, Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451” — which deals with state-sponsored censorship, with all books forbidden and burned by firemen if found — has been censored in the past, including by the publisher.

A 2015 article on Readingpartners.org lists several children’s classics have also been banned or challenged: Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” for sexism; Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” for its negative portrayal of the logging industry; and Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” for supernatural elements and being “too dark.”

While Hearne said she can understand why people would have problems with certain elements, like racial language used in Mark Twain’s novels and “Gone with the Wind,” she believes everyone “has a right to information.”

She added that controversial language and themes in some books were accepted when they were first written and, in the case of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” were used to by authors “to get their point across.” 

“Here, we don’t censor,” Hearne said. “Public libraries, we don’t censor. We try to have something for everybody.”

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.