Celebrate Banned Books Week—Alabama authors you need to know

Homewood Public Library
Judith Wright, Teen Librarian. Photo via Homewood Public Library

Banned Books Week is September 26-October 2, and you know what that means, don’t you? It’s time to grab those so-called illicit books and get to reading! Here’s a look at three Alabama authors whose books landed on the banned list.

Behind the pages of Banned Book Week

Wondering what banned book week is all about? Well, my fellow bookworm, it’s a week dedicated to celebrating the freedom to read.

Held during the last week of September, the event spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. Even more, it brings together bibliophiles across the entire book community.

So what does it really mean for a book to be banned or challenged?

To find out, I reached out to Laura Tucker, Head of Children’s Services at the Homewood Public Library near Birmingham.

“A challenged book is an attempt to remove the book from a library or school or bookstore by an individual or a group. A ban would result in the actual removal of that book.”

Laura Tucker, Head of Children’s Services, Homewood Public Library

1. Harper Lee — To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, Books
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Photo via Sheila McCallum

You’re sure to know this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and American Classic. And if you’re from Bama, you better, because the author Harper Lee spent the majority of her life in Alabama.

She was born in 1926 in Monroeville, and it was at the county’s high school where she first developed an interest in literature. She later attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery as well as The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

According to the American Library Association, To Kill A Mockingbird made the top 10 on several challenged and banned book lists. 

  • No. 4 of Top 10 Banned Books for 2011. Reasons: offensive language, racism and unsuited to age group.
  • No. 7 of Top 10 Banned Books for 2017. Reasons: violence and use of the N-word.
  • No. 7 of Top 10 Most Challenged Books for 2020. Reasons: racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character and its perception of the Black experience.

2. Suzanne Collins — The Hunger Games Trilogy

Hunger Games, Books
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Photo via Sheila McCallum for Bham Now

If you weren’t reading The Hunger Games Trilogy from 2008-2010, what were you even doing with your life? Me, I jumped on that series like a cat on a tuna can.

Little did I know, the author, Suzanne Collins, graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham in 1980 as a Theater Arts major.

So why was this best-selling series challenged?

The books, which are aimed at a young adult audience, are about a dystopian future where a group of children must fight to the death in an annual contest. Holds up three fingers for Tribute Rue.

The American Library Associated revealed The Hunger Games made the No. 5 on the list of Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2013. The reasons: religious viewpoint and unsuited to age group. 

This same list also revealed the Captain Underpants series by Day Pilkey made the No. 1 spot for offensive language, violence and unsuited for age group. So, there’s that.

3. John Green — Looking for Alaska 

Books
Looking for Alaska by John Green. Photo via Facebook

If you know anything about Indian Springs School near Birmingham, you’ll be interested to know it served as the inspiration for much of this book by John Green. The author graduated from the school in the 90s.

Looking for Alaska was published in 2005 as a young adult, coming-of-age novel. But it wasn’t all fun and games, because it’s been challenged countless times.

The American Library Association claims this is why:

  • No. 7 Top 10 Most Challenged Book for 2012. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  • No. 7 Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2013. Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  • No. 1 Top 10 Most Challenged Books for 2015. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
  • No. 6 Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2016. Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”

Now that you know which Alabama authors’ books have spent time on the banned list, do you want to read these books even more?

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Patience Itson
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