In the United States, September 28th (or the last school day of September) is celebrated as: Ask a Stupid Question Day. This holiday stems back to the 1980’s when teachers began a movement to challenge their students to ask more questions within the classrooms. Teachers began this holiday because students were overtly sitting back not asking any questions in fear of being tormented by other classmates, for asking what they felt was a “stupid” question. Ask a Stupid Question day allows students a day of freedom to ask any and all the questions they might have without the likelihood of being tormented by other students. But let us each be honest, we have all been in a situation ourselves where we have thought or even said the line “this may be a stupid question but…” There should be no shame in asking a “stupid” question because as Forrest Gump says “Stupid is as stupid does.”
To top off the celebration of Banned Books week, the final step is to become a globally active citizen and act to protect your freedom to read. There are three different approaches that can be taken to act and protect your freedom to read, which consist of staying informed, challenging censorship, and to support your local schools and libraries. There are several ways in which you could stay informed and they consist of being presenting and aware of what is happening, be present at school and library boards as well as PTA meetings, in addition to branching out and connecting with groups that are persistent in reserving their right to read, such as The Freedom To Read Foundation and The National Coalition Against Censorship. Several approaches that can be taken to challenging censorship is to write letters to public officials, develop an association to oppose censorship in local area, and of course document the censorship to the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Lastly, the different approaches that can be taken in supporting local schools and libraries would be to of course participate in Banned Books week in addition to teaming up with others from your local library.
Captain Underpants was written and illustrated by Day Pilkey as a children’s novel, which in turn became a book series consisting of ten different novels. This novel series follows two fourth graders, whom happen to be neighbors and best friends, George Beard, Harold Hutchins as well as their comic book superhero Captain Underpants, who inadvertently becomes real through their hypnotized “megalomaniacal principle” Mr. Krupp. This series rangers anywhere from Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie in 2001, Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People in 2006 and in 2014 Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000. However, this novel has been one of the top challenged books due to its “offensive language” and its unsuitability for the age group in which it is intended for (children).
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
A Child Called It was written as an autobiography by Dave Pelzer in 1995, based on his life as a child growing up with an alcoholic mother. This novel was written as the first volume of Pelzer’s trilogy, and is depicted through the eyes of a child suffering from tortuous child abuse through unpredictable games and starvation. Pelzer (the child in this novel) survived through his willpower to live and his dreams, dreams that one day he will be loved, taken care of and calling him their son. This child survived by learning how to “play” his mothers games seeing as how he was living in the basement, was only fed rotten scraps, and was regarded no longer as a boy but a mere “it”. This novel was challenged in 2013 for its intense description of child abuse.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Thirteen Reasons Why was written by Jay Asher as a young-adult fiction novel, becoming a 2007 New York Times best selling young-adult fiction novel. This story is about Hannah Baker, who was a high school student who committed suicide through the means of pills from a small town. Upon her death, she left behind two set of tapes to be distributed, one set was for those who had either influenced her suicide and how they played a role and the second was for those who had helped her. This novel was challenged due to its use of sexual, drug and alcohol references, as well as the topic of suicide which was seen unsuited for the age group in which was primarily reading the novel.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was written by Sherman Alexie in 2007 intended for the young adult audience. This was Alexie’s first young-adult fiction novel he had written however he had only previously written standup comedy, screenplays, short stories and adult novels. This book is illustrated by Arnold Spirit, Jr., a fourteen year old Native American Teenager, in the first person narrative who is going through the transition of once attending a high school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to an all-white public high school in Reardan, Washington. This book has been added onto the challenged books list due to its profanity and sexual references such as masturbation, pornography, as well as racism and religious mockery.
Allah, Liberty and Love
Allah, Liberty, and Love was written by Irshad Manji and released in 2011 primarily only in the United States as well as Canada. In this novel Irshad Manji takes her readers on a journey on the “how’s to” in reconciling one’s faith and freedom while living in a world controlled by repressive dogmas. Throughout this novel Manji illustrates to her readers the importance of the needed “moral courage”, the ability to fight repression and speak up for what you believe. This novel was banned because Malaysia officials alleged it contrasted Islamic teachings, leading to a raid, however others (such as activists) suspect that is was banned because Manji is a lesbian, due to the fact that she is merely trying to make a globally active citizen.
Banned Books Week is an annual celebration encouraging one’s own freedom to read as well as to increase awareness of books currently being challenged or banned in the United States. Banned Books Week takes place during the last week of September, and has been ever since 1982. The importance of this awareness celebration is to highlight the literacy works that have been challenged or banned within the previous year, typically due to their “unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints”. The limited availability of these books takes control away from the public, limiting their freedom to read, and prevents them from developing their own opinions and conclusions on a certain literacy work. This week is designed to help encourage readers to fight for their freedom to have open access to literacy works, by the allowance of all literacy works to be publicly available, as well as heighten national awareness to the harms brought by censorship. During this week the entire book community, whether it is authors, teachers, librarians, readers, booksellers, etc. come together in the unity to bring awareness and fight for the freedom to read.
The New York Times published its first issue today, September 18, in 1851. Crown Library’s collection of microfilm is located on the lower level of the library. Stop by some time to have a look at our microfilm collection–and even print pages that you want to keep.
Here is the front page of the September 18, 1855 edition taken from our microfilm collection: