Monday, August 29, 2011

Gay sex is worse than suicide or drug use...

A New Jersey school has dropped two popular books with—gasp! Gay sex scenes!—from their required reading lists, and apologized to parents for exposing their children to such a morally reprehensible act. The books? Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood and Nic Sheff's Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines. The meth and mental instability and suicide that make up the other major themes in the books? Those are apparently just fine. (
It baffles me to think that we are still so hung up on sex as a taboo subject, while drugs and violence are still visible to a staggering degree.  This actually reminds me of a recent incident in which the show Game of Thrones on HBO was criticized for showing too much female nudity, while absolutely nothing was said about the multiple beheadings in the season premiere, not to mention the themes of incest and rape.  It was all about the boobies.  (Though don't get me wrong, I'm in no way saying that the show is for kids!)  So this report of a backlash against gay sex is not at all surprising in some respects.  This does not mean that I am not appalled.

The fact that the two texts were part of list of books created by a group of teachers and approved by the Board of Education apparently means nothing.
Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council jumped on the book-banning bandwagon, telling Fox News that "Here we see the intersection of parental values being offended, the hyper-sexualization of our youth and the homosexual agenda being pushed. This just illustrates why a lot of American parents are not willing to entrust their children to the public schools anymore."
Apparently sex is the reason that American parents don't like the public education system.  They would rather students remain entirely ignorant to sex and sexuality, because, as we all know, you never get pregnant or catch an STI because of ignorance... right?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Heaven forbid that history speaks of sexuality!

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Challenged at the Culpeper County, Va. public schools (2010) by a parent requesting that her daughter not be required to read the book aloud. Initially, it was reported that officials decided to stop assigning a version of Anne Frank’s diary, one of the most enduring symbols of the atrocities of the Nazi regime, due to the complaint that the book includes sexual material and homosexual themes. The director of instruction announced the edition published on the fiftieth anniversary of Frank’s death in a concentration camp will not be used in the future despite the fact the school system did not follow its own policy for handling complaints. The remarks set off a hailstorm of criticism online and brought international attention to the 7,600-student school system in rural Virginia. The superintendent said, however, that the book will remain a part of English classes, although it may be taught at a different grade level. 

Source: Mar. 2010, pp. 57−58; May 2010, p. 107.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Banned Books Week Approaches!

In the good ol' US of A, the countdown to Banned Books Week (BBW) has begun.  BBW begins on September 24th of this year, and plans are being put into motion at many libraries in North America to prepare for both the celebration of the freedom to read as well as the inevitable contestations by conservative political and religious groups.  In case you are reading this and don't know much about Banned Books Week, here is a brief explanation from the American Library Association website:
Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.
In preparation for this even each year, Robert P. Doyle, in cooperation with a number of pro-freedom-to-read groups, puts out a publication highlighting some of the more visible and notable book challenges.  The publication, Books Challenged or Banned, comes out every year in the summer and is available through the ALA's website.  The 2010-2011 edition has recently been published, and as I did last year, I will be posting snippets each week (hopefully more than one if I'm not over-run with work) to highlight some of the more unusual or more public cases.

To start this cycle off, I bring you the case of Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology (Amy Sonnie, ed.)

Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology (Alyson Books)

Banned by the Rancocas Valley Board of Education from the Mount Holly, N.J. High School library shelves (2010) after a local conservative group expressed concern that the book was too graphic and obscene. The local group, part of the 9/12 Project, a nationwide government watchdog network launched by the talk-radio and television personality Glenn Beck, called for the banning of three books, all dealing with teenage sexuality and issues of homosexuality. 

The two other titles challenged, but retained were: Love and Sex: Ten Stories of Truth edited by Michael Cart, and The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities edited by David Levithan and Billy Merrell. Removed from the Burlington County, N.J. public library (2010) after a member of Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project complained about Sonnie’s book. Named as one of the best adult books for high school students by School Library Journal in 2001, the book was called “pervasively vulgar, obscene, and inappropriate.” 

Source: July 2010, pp. 154–56; Sept. 2010, pp. 199-200.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Will they never learn?

I wonder how many times people are going to ban books (or other forms of media) before they realize that it doesn't work!  One of the most prominent movie examples was the banning (or attempted ban) of the film Deep Throat back in the 1970s.  As soon as it started getting banned, it became more popular than ever!  It grossed millions more than was ever estimated.  The same thing happens with books, and I don't know why people aren't noticing this.

When The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian was banned from schools earlier this year and late last year, book stores in the districts that implemented bans saw skyrocketing sales of the title.  Now, in the wake of the banning of Slaughterhouse-Five in Republic, Missouri, the Vonnegut Memorial Library is giving out free copies of the book to students who want to read it.  This action would not have happened if the school board had not voted against it for purely idiotic reasons.  First of all, the guy who asked for its removal doesn't even have any children in any of the schools, and secondly, well, the guy's an idiot.  But you can read more about that in the previous post.

In a recent article in The Atlantic
, Barbara Jones, director of the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom is quoted:
“Maybe people are scared of the power of good literature,” Jones says. Time and again, those who are most offended by books are, as Scroggins is, people unaffiliated with public education or libraries. “I call them ‘True Believers.’ I guess people could accuse me of that too,” Jones chuckles, “Because I do have pretty strong feelings about freedom of expression.”
Apparently only 10 free copies of Slaughterhouse have been picked up from the Memorial Library, "But it’s summertime, and [they expect] to receive more requests once children return from vacation and they start to think about books again."

The more one speaks out against material, the more people want to see what the big deal is, leading to more purchasing, borrowing, and reading of the material that is under scrutiny.  Seriously, if you don't want more people reading the books that offend you, LEAVE THEM ALONE!

[End Rant]

Thanks for listening...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vonnegut library offers banned book to Missouri students

In the article "Vonnegut library offers banned book to Missouri students," Susan Guyett explains that
Up to 150 students at a Missouri high school that ordered "Slaughterhouse-Five" pulled from its library shelves can get a free copy of the novel, courtesy of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, library officials said on Thursday.
This decision comes in response the Scroggins controversy (see post immediately below) that has had academics up in arms for the past year ever since he claimed that books such as Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak and Slaughterhouse-Five are pornographic and contrary to Biblical teaching (I guess he's assuming these books are being taught in Sunday school instead of public schools?)  The following comment espouses many of my views on the subject and is much more articulate that I am most of the time:
"All of these students will be eligible to vote and some may be protecting our country through military service in the next year or two," Julia Whitehead, the executive director of the Vonnegut library in Indianapolis, said in a statement. 
"It is shocking and unfortunate that those young adults and citizens would not be considered mature enough to handle the important topics raised by Kurt Vonnegut, a decorated war veteran. Everyone can learn something from his book."

The offer of a free book to any Republic high school student who requests one is a way for the fledgling 7-month-old library, located in Vonnegut's hometown, to show support, she said.
I think this move is pure brilliance and I sincerely hope that students take the library up on the offer for the free text.  If only more libraries could afford to do this when books are challenged in nearby school districts.  In a way, this reminds me of when The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was banned and local bookstores were suddenly inundated with orders for the book.  I hope the library has the same "problem," if students requesting important texts can actually be considered a problem.

What do you think of this move by the Vonnegut Library?  Do you think other libraries should do this in other areas if feasible?

As always, thanks for listening!  (Oh, and please tell friends about this blog!)