Monday, August 30, 2010

morally ambiguous

There seems to be a trend among book challenges that seek to ban or challenge texts which deal with religion.  This is not to say that a Christian character who remains a Christian is a bad thing, but that a Christian character who may decide they are no longer Christian is a bad thing.  The idea that a person needs to have a religion in order to have a sense of morality is one that is catching in the book world over the last few decades.  Books like Are You There God?  It's Me Margaret (Judy Blume), and His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman), are being criticized for their challenges to institutional religion.  Are You There God tells of a little girl who can't decide what religion, if any, that she wants to be, and because she can't decide, the book ends with her simply having a relationship with God, but not through any particular institution.  Somehow this is unacceptable?  Oh, because without a religion, her morality is questionable.  The same goes for anyone reading Pullman's books.  Because there is a suggestion that a religious institution is not actually all-knowing and right, there is an uproar.  And not only because certain elements of the institution in his novel reflect certain religious institutions in the real world, but because of the moral ambiguity in the novel!

How did we end up at this place where ambiguity is such an awful thing?  If anything, ambiguity allows the readers (and the characters even) to explore and discover personal ways of understanding God, spirituality, the afterlife, etc.  These books aren't simply propaganda or ways of proselytizing to turn readers to a specific religious way of thought.  I say, bring on the ambiguity, 'cause otherwise, life's just not as interesting.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

naked boy on a horse

The Golden Mean was recently banned for its cover art on all BC Ferry services.  Deborah Marshall stated that the Ferry service is "a family show and we've got children in our gift shops."  And how, I ask you is this cover art inappropriate for children?  I mean sure, it has a bum on it, but is that worth removing the book from the gift shops so no discerning literature lovers can buy it?  It's simple enough to turn books so that only the spines are showing.

Craig Spence, president of the Federation of British Columbia Writers, called the ban "an overreaction to a photo that's artistic ... are you going to stop kids from seeing Michelangelo's David?  The kinds of graphic material that kids are exposed to, through advertising and other media all the time, go much farther than that, and they're not in a context that would give it the justification."

Seriously, what is this world coming to?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rowling vs. Lewis

What makes one book guilty of promoting witchcraft while another is simply a good piece of Christian literature?  I speak to the difference between The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter.  Perhaps it is common knowledge and perhaps it is not, but apparently Harry Potter is guilty of so much more than The Chronicles of Narnia.  Both have witches and wizards and magic and speaking animals.  But because Narnia is a Christian allegory in so many instances, it is somehow forgiven?  You don't see churches and schools advocating for the removal of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to the same extent as Rowling's books.  A few years back, the first five books of the Harry Potter series were challenged in the Gwinnet County School District for the promotion of witchcraft.  I gratefully acknowledge the wisdom of the  school board in doing nothing to the books, but the very fact that they were challenged while other books with magic and "witchcraft" were not is quite confusing to me.

 Do you have any experiences with book challenges based on witchcraft?  If so, what are your thoughts?

Rowling, J. K.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. 
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Publisher: Scholastic

The Gwinnett County, Ga. school board (2006) rejected a parent's pleas to take Harry Potter books out of school libraries, based on the claim they promote witchcraft. The Georgia Board of Education ruled December 14 that the parent had failed to prove her contention that the series "promote[s] the Wicca religion," and therefore that the book's availability in public schools does not constitute advocacy of a religion. On May 29, 2007, Superior Court judge Ronnie Batchelor upheld the Georgia Board of Education's decision to support local school officials. County school board members have said the books are good tools to encourage children to read and to spark creativity and imagination. Removed from the St. Joseph School in Wakefield, Mass. (2007) because the themes of witchcraft and sorcery were inappropriate for a Catholic school.

Source: Books Banned and Challenged 2008 by Robert P. Doyle

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Teen Lit Fest Canceled...

In a sad turn of events, the Humble, Texas Teen Lit Fest was canceled due to the decision by four other authors not to attend after Ellen Hopkins' invitation was rescinded earlier this month.  While it is tragic that the festival was canceled, perhaps it will show superintendent Sconzo that he should think a bit more before he tries to put the concerns of one librarian and a few parents above the entire community and audience of the festival.  Hopkins says in her blog that "Mr. Sconzo went on to say that there are so many authors they could never have them all at their Teen Lit Fests."  With that in mind, I am curious why Mr. Sconzo didn't just find more authors?  Oh wait, he already burned his bridges on that front!

Hopkins acknowledged the move by Pete Hautman, Tera Lynn Childs, Matt de la Pena, and Melissa de la Cruz, in a later statement:

We are authors and we believe in the power of books and knowledge. So authors dropping out is not so much in support of me, but a stand against censorship,” Hopkins said. “No one from the district ever came to me until they said to go away. They didn’t even bother to ask me what I would talk about. I wish they would have just voiced any concerns. They would have learned that I just wanted to talk about the writing process and how I got to where I am.

The School Library Journal had this to say on the withdrawal of the four other authors: "Yet while Hopkins knows inadvertently that teen readers will be punished for not seeing some of their favorite authors, she and the other writers believe the lesson, while tough, is valuable for them to witness as well."  Hopkins stated: We all feel badly that we're making this stand. We don't want our readers to feel like we're punishing them. But this is about having the right to read our books, and these people don't have the right to say you can't.

Monday, August 23, 2010

the homosexual agenda

I've come across the book King & King a number of times over the last few years, but I never really thought it would be a problem because it was a book parents could pick up for kids.  I never thought it would be a classroom text.  Not that I have any problem with it being used as such, but the repercussions never came to mind.  I came across the following challenges just a short time ago and my innards became wreathed in fire as I read about the parents who were concerned about the spread of the "homosexual agenda."  My husband and I have had a number of conversations on this very topic, though not necessarily in conjunction with King & King.  We have never come up with a satisfactory conclusion and are often left wondering why our copy of this agenda never showed up in the mailbox.  But I digress.  The very fact that parents think this is some form of indoctrination is what truly worries me.  Indoctrination seeks to subvert a healthy view or understanding of something, but this text seeks no such thing.  All it does is present a story of one prince who finds true love not in the princess next door, but in the prince!  In response to the claim that this book was indoctrinating students, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit gave a very strong response (which is in bold below.) The parents attempted to continue pursuing the case into the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Court refused to handle the case (Thank Goodness!)  I'll let you voice your own opinions on this, but I can assure you that I'm happy the book remained in use in the U.S. (though unfortunately not in Bristol, England.)

King & King
Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
Tricycle Pr.

Parents of a Lexington, Mass. (2006) second-grader protested that their son’s teacher read the fairy tale about gay marriage to the class without warning parents first. The book was used as part of a lesson about different types of weddings. “By presenting this kind of issue at such a young age, they’re trying to indoctrinate our children,” stated the parent. The incident renewed the efforts of Waltham-based Parents’ Rights Coalition to rid the state’s schools of books and lessons that advance the “homosexual agenda” in public schools. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf ruled February 23, 2007, that public schools are “entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.” Wolf said the courts had decided in other cases that parents’ rights to exercise their religious beliefs were not violated when their children were exposed to contrary ideas in school. The parents appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which dismissed the case on January 31, 2008. The courts said, “There is no evidence of systemic indoctrination. There is no allegation that the student was asked to affirm gay marriage. Requiring a student to read a particular book is generally not coercive of free exercise rights. Public schools are not obligated to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them.” The parents plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming the curriculum violated their right to religious freedom. Withdrawn from two Bristol, England, U.K., primary schools (2008) following objections from parents who claimed the book was unsuitable for children and that they had not been consulted on their opinions.

Source: Books Challenged and Banned 2009 by Robert P. Doyle
Newsletter on Intellectual FreedomJuly 2006, pp. 186-87
May 2007, pp. 105-6
July 2008, pp. 146, 166
Sept. 2008, pp. 194-95

Related Story: Democratic Candidates Say They're OK With Second-Grade Teacher Reading Gay Prince Fairy Tale

Sunday, August 22, 2010


This video (Blasphemy!) comes from the Free People Read Freely blog by the OIF (Office for Intellectual Freedom), a part of the American Library Association.  It contains some pretty interesting ideas and is well worth the 45 minutes, if you can set the time aside.  Sorry for the short post today, but it's been a pretty busy weekend so far.  I will be posting more next week again.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Publishers Weekly has come out with an update on the Ellen Hopkins situation after she was uninvited from the Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Texas. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook have been abuzz in the last 24 hours with news that four YA authors have pulled out of the annual Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Tex., a Houston suburb. The authors withdrew in support of writer Ellen Hopkins, who announced in a blog post last week that she had been disinvited from the festival, which is organized by the Humble Independent School District, and is scheduled for January 2011. In the post, entitled “Censorship Bites,” Hopkins announced that her invitation had been revoked after a middle-school librarian and parents approached a superintendent and the school board about her participation. Hopkins’s novels in verse deal with gritty subject matter: her Crank series, which concludes next month with Fallout, centers on meth addiction, while her 2009 novel, Tricks, was about teen prostitution. “We all feel badly that we’re making this stand,” Hopkins told School Library Journal. “We don’t want our readers to feel like we’re punishing them. But this is about having the right to read our books, and these people don’t have the right to say you can’t.”

In the last few days, four authors who were also scheduled to appear at the festival—Pete Hautman, Melissa de la Cruz, Matt de la Peña, and Tera Lynn Childs—announced in quick succession that they were also withdrawing. “What is important is that a handful of people – the superintendent, the one (one!) librarian, and “several” (three? five?) parents – took it upon themselves to overrule the vast majority of teachers and librarians and students who had
chosen one of the most popular YA authors in America to be their headliner,” wrote Hautman in a blog post. “That is a form of censorship as damaging and inexcusable as setting fire to a library.” And on her blog, de la Cruz wrote, “I believe that as a writer, we have to stick up for each other, and against censorship, and against people who want to tell everyone else what to think, what to read, what to watch.” Other authors scheduled to appear at the festival are Sharon Flake, Brian Meehl, and Todd Strasser.

Thank goodness for the support of other authors that are willing to take a stand against the stupidity of censorship in such a harmful and disturbing way. To have the views of three or possibly five parents take over an entire festival because of what they believe teens should be reading is despicable (and I don't use the word lightly.) This situation has me typing with pure disdain at the idea that elegant and prolific authors can be besmirched by the closed-mindedness of only a few members of the public.

Please feel free to comment if you think I'm overstepping my bounds as a blogger here, but also feel free to comment if you agree or have anything to say about this injustice. Thanks.

Please read these books! They're important and deserve attention.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On a lighter note... are a few quotes about censorship that should bring a smile to your face even if the topic is not one normally recognized as smile-inducing. Enjoy!

“Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” – Mark Twain

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” – Oscar Wilde

“All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!”
– Kurt Vonnegut, author

“Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”
–Winston Churchill

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
– Harry S. Truman, message to Congress, August 8, 1950

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasent facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
– John F. Kennedy. Remarks made on the 20th anniversary of the Voice of America at H.E.W. Auditorium, February 26, 1962

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech at Dartmouth College, June 14, 1953

“The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.” – Walt Whitman

Source: Certifiably Random

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

book ban in stockton

This is a follow-up on the banning of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I have been following a story on the Teen Lit Fest in Humble (a suburb of Houston.) Author Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass) was invited to speak at the Teen Lit Festival, but then, on the complaint of several parents and one librarian, she was uninvited. Uninvited! She is one of the most prominent YA authors out there, covering topics most wouldn't dare to touch, and her invitation was rescinded because a few parents had some "concerns" about the content. As I said in my last blog post, isn't it the responsibility of parents to monitor what their children read instead of simply depriving the entire community of the opportunity to read wonderful, powerful, and sometimes gritty works of fiction? I just don't understand the mindset that makes people think they are responsible for not only their own child, but everyone else's child as well!

In a comment I read from another censorship story, a parent had this to say: "Aside from the moral issues presented with this matter, it is not right to use taxpayer funds to pay for improper materials that some may find morally offensive." First of all, who is this person to decide what matter is morally offensive and improper for the public? Secondly, a library is a publicly funded institution whose responsibility is to appeal to ALL members of the community, and so why would the funding from ALL members of the community not be reflected in the wide assortment of texts on the shelves?

I'm sorry to you all for the rant, but I have trouble understanding why one person's moral judgment is suddenly the final word in situations where a wide range of interests and concerns is presented, such as at the Teen Lit Festival. If one person can get a widely read author uninvited from an event that is supposed to reach out to a very large audience, then where are we headed? This sort of thing baffles me and makes me upset, therefore I will end this post before I go on for pages and pages.

Please comment and let me know what you think about this sort of situation. What are your views on the role of the library as a publicly funded institution?

P.S. At least 4 authors have turned down the invitations to speak at the Teen Lit Festival since Hopkins' invitation was rescinded.

Monday, August 16, 2010

what the &%$#?

Today, I am taking a look at an article on a book (Shooting Star) under review by the Broken Arrow school district. I think this article really speaks to the necessity for parents to have a home-based system of "censorship," for lack of a better word. Every family decides what they think their children should or shouldn't hear about or see or learn, right? So why is it that some parents feel it is their place to put their own restrictions on every other family in the school district? Sure there are swear words in Shooting Star (Fredrick McKissack Jr), but does that negate the message? Surely not. The words of a text are a way to tell a story. If this story takes place in a setting where a swear would be heard, is it really useful to leave them out at the risk of making the text sound unreal? Some parents may think so, and so it is up to those parents to make sure they read what their children are reading in order to make informed decisions about what books should be brought home and which should be left at the library or seen in the classroom. Most teachers seem to have no problem with assigning a different reading if a parent is strictly opposed to a certain text. I think censorship on a large scale is absurd and ties up time and resources that could be better utilized in other areas. As one person commented on the article, "I know we've been having hot weather, but has it really hit Farenheit 451 in Broken Arrow?"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

challenges: mapped

This is definitely worth looking at. The map shows books challenges by city and region. If you click on the blue dots, you can see the reasons for each challenge. The sad part is, the ALA believes that 70-80% of all challenges go unreported. Still a great resource!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

letter to a patron

A Colorado Librarian, back in 2008, wrote to a patron who wanted the children's book Uncle Bobby's Wedding to be removed from the Children's section. I am including here a few excerpts from the letter that he wrote in response to the patron's request because I believe he has a great way of explaining the situation and the responsibilities of libraries.

Here's what I understand to be your concern, based on your writings. First, you believe that “the book is specifically designed to normalize gay marriage and is targeted toward the 2-7 year old age group.” Your second key concern is that you “find it inappropriate that this type of literature is available to this age group.” You cite your discussion with your daughter, and commented, “This was not the type of conversation I thought I would be having with my seven year old in the nightly bedtime routine.”

First, I think you're right that the purpose of the book is to show a central event, the wedding of two male characters, as no big thing. The emotional center of the story, of course, is Chloe's fear that she's losing a favorite uncle to another relationship. That fear, I think, is real enough to be an issue for a lot of young children. But yes, Sarah Brannen clearly was trying to portray gay marriage as normal, as not nearly so important as the changing relationship between a young person and her favorite uncle.

You feel that a book about gay marriage is inappropriate for young children. But another book in our collection, “Daddy's Roommate,” was requested by a mother whose husband left her, and their young son, for another man. She was looking for a way to begin talking about this with son. Another book, “Alfie's Home,” was purchased at the request of another mother looking for a way to talk about the suspected homosexuality of her young son from a Christian perspective. There are gay parents in Douglas County, right now, who also pay taxes, and also look for materials to support their views. We don't have very many books on this topic, but we do have a handful.
In short, most of the books we have are designed not to interfere with parents' notions of how to raise their children, but to support them. But not every parent is looking for the same thing.

Your third point, about the founders' vision of America, is something that has been a matter of keen interest to me most of my adult life. In fact, I even wrote a book about it, where I went back and read the founders' early writings about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. What a fascinating time to be alive! What astonishing minds! Here's what I learned: our whole system of government was based on the idea that the purpose of the state was to preserve individual liberties, not to dictate them. The founders uniformly despised many practices in England that compromised matters of individual conscience by restricting freedom of speech. Freedom of speech – the right to talk, write, publish, discuss – was so important to the founders that it was the first amendment to the Constitution – and without it, the Constitution never would have been ratified.

How then, can we claim that the founders would support the restriction of access to a book that really is just about an idea, to be accepted or rejected as you choose? What harm has this book done to anyone? Your seven year old told you, “Boys are not supposed to marry.” In other words, you have taught her your values, and those values have taken hold. That's what parents are supposed to do, and clearly, exposure to this book, or several, doesn't just overthrow that parental influence. It does, of course, provide evidence that not everybody agrees with each other; but that's true, isn't it?

Finally, then, I conclude that “Uncle Bobby's Wedding” is a children's book, appropriately categorized and shelved in our children's picture book area. I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won't agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don't imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.

If you wish to read the entire letter, you can find it here.

What do you think of his response? Do you agree with the way he handled the complaint?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Looking for Alaska

John Green in a beautiful rant when his book gets challenged:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Geography Club

I've read a few books by Brent Hartinger and I can confidently say that the amount of "explicit sexuality" is almost non-existent. Except that it's sex. That is to say, there is sex, but there is nothing explicit about it. Brent Hartinger would agree with me. In fact, he already has. In an interview by the Kids' Right to Read Project, Hartinger states: "the sexuality in my book is pretty mild, especially compared to other teen novels. In most cases, I think that’s just an excuse to attack it because it involves – shhhh! mustn’t be spoke out loud! – gay people." In Wisconsin, a group called the West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries went so far as to claim "obscene or child pornography." Sometimes I wonder if these groups even know about porn, because to claim that this novel is like porn would be to say that decaf coffee is like Red Bull: they are two very different extremes. I am happy to note that the West Bend library voted 9-0 to keep the books right where it is, and where it should be, in the Young Adult sex- uh, I mean section.

Author: Hartinger, Brent
Title: Geography Club
Publisher: HarperTempest

Challenged at the West Bend, Wis. Community Memorial Library (2009) as being “obscene or child pornography” in a section designated “Young Adults.” The library board unanimously voted 9–0 to maintain, “without removing, relocating, labeling, or otherwise restricting access,” the books in the young adult category at the West Bend Community Memorial Library. The vote was a rejection of a four-month campaign conducted by the citizen’s group West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries to move fiction and nonfiction books with sexually explicit passages from the young adult section to the adult section and label them as containing sexual material.

Source: Books Banned or Challenged in 2009-2010, Robert P. Doyle

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

100 visits

Thank you to all of those who are currently reading and keeping up with this blog! It feels so much more worthwhile when I have actual readers. Now, how can I get all of you who are reading, to comment or post your own personal thoughts/experiences?

challenges ad absurdum

The Freedom Writers Diary (Erin Gruwell) is the book that inspired a film, which in turn inspired young people and teachers across the globe to look at how writing can help cope with life, love, dreams, and fear of the future. This same book that was so inspirational, has also been challenged and banned in the United States because of the stories therein. Each account comes from a student of Erin Gruwell and tells a story that is meant to express the writer's angst, confusion, passion, and path to understanding. How is it that censoring these stories is helpful? To censor a personal life story is to censor life, and that is just not possible.

While I am disappointed in Perry Meridian High School for removing the book without a formal complain process, I am even more disturbed by the challenges to this and a number of other books in Michigan. The Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE) and the American Family Association challenged these texts in a local High School and failed to present a valid case. They then moved up and, in my opinion, grasped at straws by "filing a complaint with the State Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that the books violate laws against child pornography and sexual abuse" (KRRP).

I can understand if someone wants to challenge a text, but if they are voted down or if the challenge fails to present a valid case, then the group or individual should understand that it is time to move on. Presenting gross and unjust representations of texts (i.e. child pornography and sexual abuse) is just an act of desperation. But enough of my ranting. Share your opinions. Let me know what you think about these sorts of challenges.

Here's the source material that I discussed above:

Title: The Freedom Writers Diary
Author: Erin Gruwell
Publisher: Random House

Banned in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 2008
The Freedom Writers Diary was removed from English 11 classes at Perry Meridian High School in February 2008 while students were in the process of reading it. No formal complaint process against the book was initiated, students’ parents had signed permission slips indicating their approval of the book’s use, and the book is freely available in the high school library. ABFFE and NCAC were joined by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in sending a letter to the school board opposing the book’s removal.

Challenged in Howell, Michigan, February 2007
The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell, Black Boy by Richard Wright (Harper), The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Random House), Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (Macmillan), and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Random House) were challenged in Howell High School in February 2007 for sexual themes and profanity by members of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE) with assistance from the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association. ABFFE and NCAC organized a coalition of nine free expression groups who sent a letter to the school board urging them to keep the books. The school board voted 5-2 to retain all of them. Dissatisfied with this result, the AFA also assisted LOVE in filing a complaint with the State Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that the books violate laws against child pornography and sexual abuse. ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release condemning the decision. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, federal, state, and local prosecutors alike declared the complaints to be without merit. ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release applauding the decision.

Source: The Kids' Right To Read Project

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

historical perspectives on Canadian publishing

Interesting article from the Department of Canadian Heritage:

From the banning of Molière in seventeenth-century Quebec to the challenges faced by Margaret Laurence for her novel The Diviners beginning in the 1970s, censorship has been a thorn in the side of Canada’s literary and publishing history. Government officials, customs agents, the church, the religious right, and arbiters of “social correctness” have played a major role in enforcing and influencing regulations regarding censorship. Their actions have led to the establishment, by authors, publishers, librarians, and citizens, of numerous groups and events designed to highlight the democratic rights of Canadians to buy and read books and magazines of their choice... [continue reading the article]

Monday, August 9, 2010

new marketing strategy?

Pretty much everyone knows that when something gets censored or banned, it only increases popularity. The film "Deep Throat" was not popular at all upon its release, but audiences increases exponentially the moment the government began banning it from theatres across North America. The same goes for young adult literature. When a book gets challenged, it only seems to make the situation worse. Suddenly groups are reading the book out loud to promote it, rather that it simply sitting on the shelf with minimal exposure. By challenging a novel, institutions and individuals, in reality, only make the text more visible and enticing to young people. Novels never before seen as interesting are suddenly exposed as containing something "restricted" which makes teens want to read all the more readily. Dave Iseman on believes that Stockton schools have discovered this route to exposure and are using it to their advantage. By challenging The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie), they have successfully caused an increase in readership. Bookstores even began to bring in extra copies of the book because of the newly piqued interest by community members. Is this the beginning of a whole new marketing strategy?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Judy Blume, Queen of Censorship

Who has decided that books need a happy ending or a sad ending? Or any specific ending at all? Judy Blume's novels tend to have very ambiguous endings and she has no trouble selling her novels to young people all around the globe. Wait, I take that back, because of her ambiguity she is popular amongst young people, but she is one of the most challenged authors out there right now. She currently holds four spots on the 100 most challenged books from 2000-2009 according to the American Library Association, as well as five spots on the 100 most challenged books from 1990-1999, also from ALA. The novels most challenged are as follows:

Forever [teenage sex, love, and loss]
Blubber [bullying and body image]
Deenie [masturbation and sexuality]
Tiger Eyes [masturbation and sexuality]
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret [sexuality and religion]

Each of these books is censored and challenged for dealing with issues that young adults have to deal with on a daily basis. And they don't always end happily (or at all in some cases.) Some people believe they can protect teens from these issues by removing books, but seem to forget about the reality on which the texts are based. Judy Blume is now part of the National Coalition Against Censorship and is constantly battling challenges to her books. All I can say is, "Way to go Judy Blume! Keep up the good work." What about you? Have you read any of Judy's books? What do you think about them? What sort of reception have you seen or heard toward her novels?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

censoring penguins?

A true story being banned? How does that work? In And Tango Makes Three a male-male penguin couple hatch an egg and raise a baby. It's real life. What exactly do parents and "concerned" groups think they will accomplish through challenging a true story? I'm not sure, but here's the info. Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I would really like to hear what anyone has to say on this subject.

Authors: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Title: And Tango Makes Three
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

And Tango Makes Three was placed on restricted access in all elementary school libraries throughout Loudoun County in February 2008. The book was challenged by one parent who objected to the story of two male penguins who parent a chick as an attack on families headed by heterosexuals. The book was reviewed by two committees of librarians, teachers, principals, parents, and administrators at the school and district levels. Both committees recommended against any restrictions on the book. Despite these recommendations, the Superintendent decided to restrict student access to the book, which was made available only to teachers or parents. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Superintendent urging him to reverse his decision, and our comments on the issue were printed in the Loudoun Times-Mirror. We also provided resources on book challenge policies and the First Amendment in schools to members of the school board. The Superintendent later returned the book to circulation based on “procedural errors” in the review process.

Two parents challenged And Tango Makes Three for use in elementary school libraries in Ankeny, Iowa. The parents objected to the story of two male penguins who parent a chick because they say the book is not “age-appropriate.” ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Ankeny School Board opposing the challenges in November 2008. We also provided information on the First Amendment in schools to school officials. The board voted 6-1 in December 2008 to keep the book on library shelves.

Source: The Kids' Right to Read Project

Thursday, August 5, 2010

a few interesting articles...

Check out these resources if you're interested in censorship debates or young adult literature. All of these articles seem to highlight the fact that book challenges mostly come from one person or group that feels they know what young people should be reading or encountering in life. They somehow feel there is a perceived innocence that they must protect, but without actually starting a dialogue with those whom they are attempting to shield. Take a look:

"Censorship and Young Adult Literature" by Jennifer Kemper

"Free Speech Groups Fight Gay Book Ban" by

"Gay-Anthology Ban Engulfs Burlington County Public Library" by Beverly Goldberg

"Hideous Book Remains in Fond du Lac School Library" by Beverly Goldberg

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Religious Freedom?

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series is an example of literature that has been targeted by a religious institution, being criticized and challenged vehemently by the Catholic church for having anti-Christian views. Churches are given many freedoms by the government, and as such are expected to maintain somewhat of a separation from politics [or such is the hope.] When other viewpoints are brought up in public places, such as libraries, however, these same religious institutions expect special treatment, having whatever they ask for removed from the shelves, but making sure none of their own material ever gets touched. In regards to Christian vs. other literature, a librarian I was speaking with had this to say: "I also have Christian fiction in my library. I'm hoping that if anyone ever does challenge the GLBTQ books, I can pull out my Christian fiction and point out that there are those who wouldn't want IT in the library either."

If religious institutions want to remain separate from government and secular politics, they have to expect that there will be some anti-religious views. So libraries, keep those views safe! We can't expect people to think for themselves with books that have only one view.

Author: Pullman, Philip
The Golden Compass, [The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass]
Publisher: Knopf

Removed, but later returned to the library shelves at dozens of schools in the publicly funded Halton, Ontario, Canada, Catholic School District (2007) despite that the books were challenged as being "written by an atheist where the characters and text are anti-God, anti-Catholic, and anti-religion." The book and two other Pullman titles from the Dark Materials trilogy were pulled from public display for review, but are available to students upon request. The publicly funded Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Catholic School District (2007) returned the book to its library shelves two months after ordering its removal. Detractors accused the book of having antireligious content. Similar concerns prompted the Catholic League, a Roman-Catholic anti-defamation organization in the U.S., to urge parents to boycott a movie version of the book that was released in December 2007. Challenged at the Conkwright Middle School in Winchester, Ky. (2007) because the main character drinks wine and ingests poppy with her meals, and the book presents an anti-Christian doctrine. Pulled from the St. John Neumann Middle School and Lourdes High School in Oshkosh, Wis. (2007) because of concerns about what critics call its "anti-Christian message." Challenged at the Shallowater Middle School in Lubbock, Tex. (2007) because of the book's "anti-religious messages." Pulled from the library shelves at Ortega Middle School in Alamosa, Colo. (2007) for what critics regard as the book's anti-religious views. District officials later returned the book to circulation. Retained by the publicly funded Dufferin-Peel Catholic School District in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada (2008) with a sticker on the inside cover telling readers "representations of the church in this novel are purely fictional," and are not reflective of the real Roman Catholic Church or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

: Books Challenged or Banned in 2007-2008, Robert P. Doyle

Monday, August 2, 2010

Running With Scissors

I ask you, the reader, this question: Does every act in life carry the proper consequence every time? Do those who do wrong always receive the proper punishment, or those who do good receive the proper reward? No, they do not. So why is it that some people believe that books need to carry an unrealistic expectation of consequences? Running with Scissors is a perfect example since it's challenge is based in some part on a "total lack of negative consequences throughout the book." Whatever happened to realism in books? It's a memoir! It's not supposed to have a happy ending! *sigh* Here's the facts:

Burroughs, Augusten
Title: Running with Scissors
Publisher: St. Martin

Challenged as a suggested reading in a class where juniors and seniors earn college credit in Hillsborough County, Fla. (2010). Four high schools — Plant, Middleton, Hillsborough, and Bloomingdale — voted to keep the book and place a “Mature Reader” label on the front cover. Three high schools — Sickles, Robinson, and Lennard — will require parental consent. Gaither High School and Riverview High School voted to ban the book. The book was banned at Riverview because, “This book has extremely inappropriate content for a high school media center collection. The book contained explicit homosexual and heterosexual situations, profanity, underage drinking and smoking, extreme moral shortcomings, child molesters, graphic pedophile situations and total lack of negative consequences throughout the book.”

Source: Robert P. Doyle, Books Challenged or Banned in 2009–2010