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Banned Books Don't Work

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community—librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.  You can learn more about Banned Books Week from Banned Books Week.

The following Department of Labor blog, Banned Books Don't Work, is  authored by Carl Fillichio who heads the Labor Department's Office of Public Affairs.  Carl would like  readers to share their  thoughts on books, poems or plays (banned or not banned) that shaped their view of work, workers  or workplaces.

Banned Books Week is an annual event that reminds us of our freedom to read. It is a project of the American Library Association that is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress—our partner in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Books that Shaped Work in America initiative. The week, usually held in late September, shines a spotlight on the value of free and open access to information.

The week is a unique way to bring librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers and readers together around an important issue. And I think it’s the perfect opportunity to highlight a few of the Books that Shaped Work in America, since readers might be surprised to learn that some of them have been challenged or the target of a ban attempt.

For example: Despite winning the National Book Award in 1953, Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” (ranked 19th on the Modern Library’s list of “100 Best English-Language Novels of the Twentieth Century”) was challenged in Randolph County, North Carolina, high school libraries. And also in North Carolina, two high schools boards challenged Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,”even though the science fiction novel won the 1986 Booker Prize and the 1987 Prometheus Award. Critics took issue with the strong language or content of both classic novels.

Other books on our list that have been the target of ban attempts include: “The Grapes of Wrath,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Color Purple,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Animal Farm,” “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” “The Jungle,” “Native Son,” “Moby Dick” and “Sister Carrie.” Although attempts to ban books are very disappointing, the reasons behind why people have tried to do so are worth exploring and create an excellent starting point for discussion and debate among readers.

What book, poem or play (banned or not) shaped your view of work, workers or workplaces? Share them with us.


Carl Fillichio heads the Labor Department’s Office of Public Affairs.


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