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Since 1982, bibliophiles in America have been celebrating their freedom to read, which includes the freedom to read even those books which are considered controversial or unpopular, during Banned Books Week. This American Library Association event is celebrated on the last week of September every year.

"BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where the freedom to express oneself and the freedom to choose what opinions and viewpoints to consume are both met," according to ALA.

The ALA site also quotes the Intellectual Freedom Manual:

"Intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met: first, that all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate; and second, that society makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of the work, and the viewpoints of both the author and receiver of information. Freedom to express oneself through a chosen mode of communication, including the Internet, becomes virtually meaningless if access to that information is not protected. Intellectual freedom implies a circle, and that circle is broken if either freedom of expression or access to ideas is stifled." (emphasis mine)

The top 100 frequently challenged books in America from 1990 to 1999 are the following:

1. Scary Stories (Series), by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy's Roommate, by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
7. Forever, by Judy Blume
8. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
9. Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman
10. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
11. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
12. My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. It's Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
14. Alice (Series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
15. Goosebumps (Series), by R.L. Stine
16. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Sex, by Madonna
19. Earth's Children (Series), by Jean M. Auel
20. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
21. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
22. The Witches, by Roald Dahl
23. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle
24. The New Joy of Gay Sex, by Charles Silverstein
25. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
26. The Goats, by Brock Cole
27. The Stupids (Series), by Harry Allard
28. Anastasia Krupnik (Series), by Lois Lowry
29. Final Exit, by Derek Humphry
30. Blubber, by Judy Blume
31. Halloween ABC, by Eve Merriam
32. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
33. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
34. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
35. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters, by Lynda Madaras
36. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
37. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
38. The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
39. The Pigman, by Paul Zindel
40. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
41. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
42. Deenie, by Judy Blume
43. Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
44. Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden
45. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
46. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
47. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat, by Alvin Schwartz
48. Harry Potter (Series), by J.K. Rowling
49. Cujo, by Stephen King
50. James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
51. A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein
52. Ordinary People, by Judith Guest
53. American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
54. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
55. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
56. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
57. Asking About Sex and Growing Up, by Joanna Cole
58. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons, by Lynda Madaras
59. The Anarchist Cookbook, by William Powell
60. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
61. Boys and Sex, by Wardell Pomeroy
62. Crazy Lady, by Jane Conly
63. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
64. Killing Mr. Griffin, by Lois Duncan
65. Fade, by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What?, by Mem Fox
67. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
68. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
69. Native Son by Richard Wright
70. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies, by Nancy Friday
71. Curses, Hexes and Spells, by Daniel Cohen
72. On My Honor, by Marion Dane Bauer
73. The House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende
74. Jack, by A.M. Homes
75. Arizona Kid, by Ron Koertge
76. Family Secrets, by Norma Klein
77. Mommy Laid An Egg, by Babette Cole
78. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo A. Anaya
79. Where Did I Come From?, by Peter Mayle
80. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline Cooney
81. Carrie, by Stephen King
82. The Dead Zone, by Stephen King
83. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
84. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
85. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
86. Private Parts, by Howard Stern
87. Where's Waldo?, by Martin Hanford
88. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene
89. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
90. Little Black Sambo, by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose, by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education, by Jenny Davis
94. Jumper, by Steven Gould
95. Christine, by Stephen King
96. The Drowning of Stephen Jones, by Bette Greene
97. That Was Then, This is Now, by S.E. Hinton
98. Girls and Sex, by Wardell Pomeroy
99. The Wish Giver, by Bill Brittain
100. Jump Ship to Freedom, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

I am not an American, but I also believe in intellectual freedom. I believe in the freedom to read anything I would want to read and to have these books available without being banned or restricted. Speaking as a Filipino, I also believe in the freedom to buy and read any books I want without having to be subjected to the burden of paying such an onerous tax or customs fee on it that the tax or fee amounts to the taxation of knowledge, without having to be subjected to the ordeal of needing to personally apply for a tax exemption every time a book is sent to me from outside the country, so that the effort of obtaining the exemption is in itself another onerous burden.

Looking over the list, I noticed that I've read some of the books on it, or excerpts from them. Others are also on my list of books to be bought and read. However, I'm choosing to buy and read a book which I have always seen at the local second-hand bookstore but haven't picked up as yet.

For Banned Books Week I want to read "Bless Me, Ultima," by Rodolfo Anaya,winner of the Premio Quinto Sol national literary award for best Chicano novel of 1972. It is essentially a growing-up story of a boy who has to choose what to believe in and what to become. The book was banned after parents complained that it contained "profanity and pagan content" because the "Ultima" in the story is a curandera or wise woman / native healer.

Thank you to my friend Frances Ivy at Dear Me, for telling me about Banned Books Week and inspiring this blog post!

*Bold font = already read
*Blue font = read excerpts
*Purple font = to be read

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