Banned Books Week for 2016 recently ended but it got a lot of people talking about censorship, political correctness and infringement on free speech.
Here are some research paper topics on banned and forbidden books.
Banned Books Week scavenger hunt
You could write your term paper on the various ways libraries and free speech groups celebrate Banned Books Week. For example, this year, the Washington, DC Public Library hosted a scavenger hunt for patrons to scour local shops, cafes and bookstores to find books wrapped in black paper with white lettering of titles like “Smut,” “Filthy,” “Trashy” or other words that were used to describe books when someone tried to ban them. The once-banned The Catcher in the Rye was titled “Anti-white,” A Separate Peace by John Knowles was labeled “Filthy Trashy Sex Novel” and Native Son by Richard Wright was called “Profane and Sexually Explicit.”
“In Banned Books Scavenger Hunt, The Prize Is Literary ‘Smut’,” at NPR.org, September 15, 2016, Lynn Neary wrote that “The whole idea for the hunt was motivated by the desire to have more of the public involved in Banned Books Week, … says Linnea Hegarty, executive director of the D.C. Public Library Foundation… When books are banned, their supporters disguise them and circulate them surreptitiously, she says, and the idea was to capture that spirit.”
Censorship and political correctness
An interesting term paper topic is to write about the role of political correctness in censorship. Jack Ohman, a political cartoonist who received the Pulitzer Prize in 2016, participated in Banned Books Week at the Eugene, Oregon Public Library. Concerned with free speech rights, he commented that there are two categories of political correctness, often used as a reason to censor people.
The first: “I think (conservatives) use the phrase ‘political correctness’ as some sort of longing to be able to tell jokes about women, blacks, Jews, Muslims without consequences,” as if they were at a 1950s dinner party, reported in “A Pen Finely Honed,” by Francesca Fontana, posted in the Register Guard, September 18, 2016. The second, on the liberal end of the spectrum, Ohman said, “People are shutting themselves off from ideas that they don’t agree with…Just because you don’t agree with somebody doesn’t mean you need to be in a safe zone so your virgin ears don’t hear (it).”
Banned LGBTQ books in Texas
Another good topic for a term paper is to write about banned children’s books. The Kid’s Right to Read Project led a coalition of free speech groups to defend two books – Gayle Pitman’s This Day in June and Cheryl Kilodavis’ My Princess Boy – which a few vocal protesters tried to ban from the children’s section of the Hood County, Texas library, claiming the books were promoting a perverted lifestyle to children. The free speech groups said that removing the books, which were constitutionally protected information, would send a negative message to LGBTQ members of the community.
Pitman received threats of violence against her and against LGBTQ people. After members of the free speech groups spoke in favor of the books, the county commissioners decided to leave the books where they were. Pitman said: “[Books] about LGBT people continue to be challenged throughout the United States. Why? Because the most powerful way you can marginalize and disempower a group is to erase them – literally or metaphorically – from existence. That’s what book banning – and censorship in general – is all about,” posted in “Author Shares Cautionary Tale of Censorship for Banned Books Week,” by Caitlin McCabe at Comic Books Legal Defense Fund, September 27, 2016.
For more information, check out Questia’s library on Banned Books.
What’s your opinion on banned books and censorship? Let us know what you think in the comments.