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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", My Read for Banned Books Week 2012.

To help decide what to read for Banned Books Week, I looked over a book called, appropriately, Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read by Robert P. Doyle.  Doyle's book is itself quite interesting and full of intriguing tidbits.  For example, in 1981 the novel Don Quixote was banned by the Chilean military junta for supporting individual freedom and attacking authority.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (hereinafter "Wallflower") warranted in its Banned Books listing about a column and a half of commentary.  The picture below shows photocopies of the listing.  The book is about a young man in his first year of high school and Wallflower's target audience is the high school age reader.  As a result, the challenges were mainly to the book's inclusion on summer reading lists and in school libraries.  Two particular listings transformed this book into an instant must read for me.

First, in 2005 the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction wrote school district superintendents and principals "asking them to make sure that the book is no longer available to minors or any other students."  Oh, Arizona.  What shall we do with you?

Second, a Wisconsin group called West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries worked for four months to have Wallflower (and other books) moved from the community library's young adult section to the adult section and labeled as containing sexual material.  The library board voted unanimously to keep the book in the YA section and rejected labeling or restricting access to it.

So, controversial in Wisconsin.  Banned in Arizona.  And based upon everything I read in Banned Books, I concluded that Wallflower's plot ventures into all the hot button issues of adolescence: sex, drugs, suicide -- even awkwardness.

In sum, it is perfect reading for Banned Books Week.

So I read.  And I'll post more thoughts on The Perks of Being a Wallflower later in the week.

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