For nearly as long as the written word has existed, it has been a target for censorship.
Whether it's "To Kill a Mockingbird" (racism, offensive language, unsuited to age group), the Bible (religious viewpoint, corrupt or misinterpreted translation) or "Harry Potter" (anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, violence), the power of language has effectively caused others to question their freedom and the rights spelled out for them by the First Amendment.
To commemorate that freedom, to encourage reading and promote free speech, libraries and schools across the nation are celebrating hosting Banned Books Week, which kicked off Saturday.
"I think it's really good to highlight something like this," Middletown resident Betsy Donnelly said while checking out books at Russell Library in Middletown.
The U.S. is a tolerant, free country, she said.
"This is freedom," she said, pointing to the books.
At Middletown's Russell Library, a display was erected Monday showcasing several controversial books surrounded by a metal cage. Around it, dozens more books on banned books lists across the nation are featured.
The list of books, which encompasses works that were either objected to or actually banned, includes old classics like "The Great Gatsby" and "The Catcher in the Rye" — as well as 21st century phenomena: the Twilight series and Carolyn Mackler's "The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things."
It also mentions the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. Apparently a California parent wasn't thrilled when a child found within its alphabetical catalog the term "oral sex," and so a local committee met to discuss a ban.
But if you think the days of censorship are behind us, think again.
In the state of Connecticut, four towns banned four books in the last three years. In 2007, West Haven's Molloy Elementary School library challenged Dugald Steer's "Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin" because of concerns that the book exposes students to the occult.
In 2008, Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was challenged at Manchester High School because of its "racially insensitive language" peppered throughout the pages. The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the National Coalition Against Censorship wrote a letter to the city's newspaper in opposition of the changes and the book was later returned to the curriculum.
The year 2009 brought with it two bans: one in New Haven and one in Cheshire.
The first, "The Cartoons that Shook the World" by Jytte Klausen included twelve cartoons of the prophet, Muhammed in an effort to depict how they caused outrage across the Muslim world. A Danish newspaper originally published the cartoons — including one depicting the prophet wearing a bomb-shaped turban — in 2005. Other Western publications also printed them. A year later, massive protests erupted from Morocco to Indonesia where rioters torched Danish and Western products in response to the cartoons.
The second book, "In the Middle of the Night: The Shocking True Story of a Family Killed in Cold Blood" was challenged by the Cheshire Public Library. The author, Brian McDonald, recounts the home invasion of Dr. William Petit and his family. In 2007 Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes allegedly invaded the Cheshire home beating Petit with a baseball bat and raping, torturing and murdering his wife and two daughters. Complainants want the book kept off the library shelves until the men accused of the crime have been tried.
In the U. S. when books are banned it is usually because of objections to sex, profanity and racism, objections which are most often directed toward schools and school libraries, according to the American Library Association.