Sunday, September 18, 2022

Banned Books Week 2022

Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International celebrating the freedom to read.  Prominent First Amendment and library activist Judith Krug founded the event 1982.  The late Ann LaPietra (1933-2007) - owner and operator of the kids' place book store in Marshall, Michigan, and the creator of the John Bellairs Walk - was also a supporter of First Amendment rights and was known to create visual displays within her bookstore in support of Banned Books Week.

The 2022 celebration is September 18 to 24.

We recall coming across a list of "The Most Frequently Banned Books in the 1990s" in years past.  The fifty books in the list is reportedly taken from Banned in the U.S.A. by Herbert N. Foerstel, and includes the most frequently challenged book in schools and public libraries in the United States between 1990 and 1992. Banned in the U.S.A. has more information about the efforts to keep each title out of schools.

The Figure in the Shadows (1975) appears on the list, for reasons we can only assume have to do with the book's magic and supernatural plot.  As this is a 1970s book there is also some mild profanity, with Lewis Barnavelt swearing "God-dam dirty rotten no-good god-dam dirty..." (p. 36).

We've long wondered why Figure was singled out in this list.  Was it for magic?  If so, why this book and none of Bellairs's other titles - all (okay, most) of which include magic.  Was it for religious concerns?  There really aren't any overtly religious topics or scenes in this book, unlike the Johnny Dixon series featuring a preist.  Was it for language?  Both The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn (1978) and The Curse of the Blue Figurine (1983) feature characters verbally damning something.

At any rate, happy reading!

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