Banned Books Week focuses on censorship

By Steven Adamo

Banned books like “The Catcher in the Rye” are commonly recognized, but banning books is still a big problem, and was discussed at the Banned Books Week Workshop held at the East Los Angeles College library last week.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), a surge in banned books happened in 1982, which lead to the creation of Banned Books Week.

Last year, the ALA released their yearly top-10 list of banned books, in which a book by Mariko Tamaki (illustrated by Jillian Tamaki) called ‘This One Summer’ topped the list at number one.

“Banned Books Week is a way to celebrate our intellectual freedom and First Amendment rights and recognize that these rights continue to be threatened in this day,” said Cynthia Orozco, librarian for Equitable Services at East Los Angeles College.

Orozco created the Banned Books Week workshop at the ELAC library. In her presentation, she discussed the difference between challenging a book and banning a book. To challenge a book, a person or group restricts access of the book to others by attempting to remove the book from the library or curriculum. If this effort is successful, then it is considered ‘banned.’

Common reasons for banning books are profanity, sexuality, violence or, in the case of the “Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, anti-Christian themes.

In one extreme case in 2011, Oak Meadows Elementary School in Murrieta removed all copies of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary after a parent complained about the phrase “oral sex.”

For example, last January, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal called the Tucson Mexican-American Studies program “illegal,” citing a state law that banned “racially divisive courses” from public schools.

Because of this incident, the Tucson Unified School District removed hundreds of books that were a part of the curriculum, and canceled courses.

The topic of intellectual freedom is also discussed in the workshop. According to the ALA, intellectual freedom “provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all side of a question, cause, or movement, may be explored.”

For more information on banned books, visit the banned books week website at

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