Saturday, September 20, 2008

Banned Aid

I just finished putting up the display in the library for Banned Books Week, which is September 27-October 4 this year. "Closing books shuts out ideas" is the theme. I found several other quotes---"Free people read freely," for example. Here's a list of the ten most challenged books of 2007:

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

We have eight of them in our high school library, and lots more that hit the Top 100 Banned Books list year after year. To see them, click here.

Locally, a woman recently stole a sex-education book from a Maine public library, claiming it was pornographic. She refused to return it or pay for its replacement, so her pastor did. Interestingly enough, several library patrons replaced the book and there are about six copies now instead of one. With the revelation that the Republican vice-presidential candidate asked her town's librarian the "rhetorical question" (I believe she meant hypothetical question) on how one went about banning books, Banned Books Week has taken on an even greater interest to me.

The image of a librarian is a conservative one---the glasses, the bun, the sensible shoes so one can creep up behind miscreants who are defacing books. But beneath that veneer lies the wildly beating heart of a libertarian. I don't have a Masters in Library Science, but I believe I have the right to make my own decisions as to what I read, or , when they were younger, what my children read. I agree with Granville Hicks who said "A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to." I'll leave you with some other thoughts to ponder.

"I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man."-- Thomas Jefferson

"Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always be the last resort of the boob and the bigot."-- Eugene O'Neill

"Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose."-- George Orwell

"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime."-- Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart
Getting off the soapbox now. Go read a banned book!


BernardL said...

A library need only incorporate age restrictions to fulfill its duty to the public. The rest should be up to the parents, or for the adult: personal taste.

Elyssa Papa said...

I have nothing intelligent to add but this: Agree with you 100%!!!

Great blog, Maggie!!!

Tiffany Kenzie said...

What a great blog!

I must read more 'banned' books. I'm against censorship.

Lady Chatterley's Lover is my favourite book--which spent a great deal of time on the banned books list.

And Poor Huckleberry can't seem to come off the list! LOL I should read that, I've only ever seen a movie.

RevMelinda said...

Maggie! Preach it sister!

Janga said...

Right on, Maggie! Most of the significant books I know of have been banned--or at least challenged. Some people fear ideas. One that never fails to make me alternately laugh and weep is the challenge to Shel Silverstrin's A Light in the Attic because it "enourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them" and "glorifies Satan, suicide and cannibalism, and also encourages children to be disobedient."

J.K. Coi said...

I've read three of those ten, but I guess I've got to get my butt in gear so I can finish them off before the end of the year.
You go Maggie!

J.K. Coi said...

I can't believe Huckleberry Finn is still a "challenged book" in 2007?

Maggie Robinson said...

Bernard, I agree. It's up to parents to decide what's appropriate for their children. Most libraries have a children's section and procedures in place for restrictions.

Thanks, Ely! I know there are issues with public funds spent on controversial books, though.

Tiff, I think the more often a book is "banned," the nore people want to read it.

RevM, I only wish I was as eloquent as you are! Loved the sermon using that motherhood quote. I wish you'd preach in Maine!

Janga, LOL. Unreal. That Shel Silverstein is so subversive. Jack Prelutsky (sp?) too. Sometimes I think people misplace the funny bone God gave them.

JK, Twain was a man of his time and used the common language of his time. I can understand it doesn't sit well, but the broader implication of HF shows Jim to be an amazing hero. My daughter works with inner city kids in Boston who use the "n" word indiscriminately and it's driving her absolutely crazy. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

irisheyes said...

Awesome blog, Maggie! Censorship is fear plain and simple. I also believe that it is an adult's job to censor what their children read and then allow in the books little by little age appropriately and discuss them. Those who are too weak or afraid to do so want the schools or the government or society to do their parenting for them. It's the whole head in the sand mentality. If we can't see it it will go away.

One of my favorite bookmarks reads - Minds are like books: they function only when opened!

terrio said...

This topic has been a hot button for me for years. Goes back to being a headbanger in HS when Tipper was putting her damn stickers on everything.

I see censorship as ignorance. And seven years living in the buckle of the Bible belt was enough ignorance for me. It should surprise me anymore, but I still get amazed at the crazy things some people believe.

BTW - I bought Kiddo that A Light in the Attic earlier this year. She loves it. And if I remember correctly, they read that book to us (in my Catholic school) when I was in 2nd grade.

Santa said...

My kids have all cut their reading teeth on Shel Silverstein.

Does anyone remember the skuttle butt when the Harry Potter first came out? They're full of witch craft and the occult.

When my oldest cries 'censorship' we discuss why they can't read that particular book right now (it's all age related) and we discuss when they can pick it up again.

Maggie Robinson said...

Terrio, I remember Tipper too. Ooh, shades of Tippicanoe and Tyler too. Anyway, I don't mind music ratings for clueless parents---movies have them.I had a student who took out Bastard Out of Carolina (a frequently challenged book)who had no idea about it and was visibly shaken when she returned it. She said it should have come with a warning! We had a long discussion about books and why authors write what they do and how the book might have had different wording on the blurb.

Irish, love the quote! Here's one for you: "Knowledge is free at the library. Just bring your own container."

Santa, I totally agree it's all up to the parents. Too bad more parents aren't like you!

terrio said...

Maggie - I'm used to the stickers now and kind of get why they're there, but when you're 17 and it feels like these stick-up-their-butts old biddies are attacking something you love, you don't quite see things clearly. *g*

I was actually irritated last school year because Kiddo started reading the HP books (3rd grade) and her teacher told her she wasn't ready to read that. Uhm...excuse me. I think I'll decide that.

Maggie Robinson said...

Terri, I know, you rebel you. I remember when Frank Zappa debated Tipper on the subject too. She seemed a little freaked out, LOL. I admit I thought she was too goody-two-shoes at first, but then I actually heard the lyrics of stuff my son was listening to. Slap those stickers on, baby.

Gillian Layne said...

My older girls are on the Teen Advisory board at our public library and they are hosting "Banned book" Bingo on Monday night.

Maggie, I have a request of you and your readers. If any of you have a moment today, could you please drop by Terry Jo, Terru Jo from Fanlit, website and wish her well?

She's spent the last few months caring for her brother's family because her niece has leukemia. Today 8 year old Robynn is having a bone marrow transplant.

Terry Jo is doing an amazing job of keeping her romantic western writing alive while being there 24/7 for her family during this difficult time, and I would so appreciate it if we could spread some Fanlit love and remind her she's not alone.

Thanks so very, very much!