Friday, October 29, 2010

one book (hopefully) stays, one book's a maybe

Happy Friday!  Two new stories have come to my attention via ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom.  One in Appleton and one in Belleville, both regarding recent book challenges.  Each of these events is rather sad since in both cases, the parents decided that instead of simply opting their own children out of reading the books, they feel they need to push their parenting styles on all students.  The first is an article, written by Kathy Nufer on  A parent challenged the the book The Body of Christopher Creed:
Hash said she chose to opt-out her son from reading it in communication arts class last school year because of its "profanity, vulgarity, sexual slang, sexual references, sexual situations, underage drinking, computer hacking, breaking and entering," and other situations, but also felt compelled to take her complaint further to the building and district level.  "It disturbed me so much that I decided I would be doing a disservice to our students if I left it at that," she told the panel.
After listening to Hash and other presenters, and working through a checklist to determine whether the book fits the goals and objectives of the freshman curriculum, the panel recommended unanimously to School Supt. Lee Allinger that the book remain where it is.  Allinger, who attended Monday's session, said he will review the recommendation and let Hash know his decision soon.
Meanwhile, in Belleville, another of Chris Crutcher's novels, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, was challenged according to  The decision is still pending: "The process started in September and a decision has still not been made."  The mother made a statement, saying,
"I am just one mom that cares what her son is reading at school. This is a required book in a required class.... There is pornographic and other sexual content on several pages. There are at least 52 pages where the Lord's name is taken in vain or there are swear words and other vulgar words. Also characters "portrayed as Christians" are sometimes ridiculed or portrayed in a negative way. This would not be allowed if the characters were Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, or any other religion. This book is not required by the state of Wisconsin and is not being used at all Wisconsin schools. I believe the Belleville School District could choose a better book."
A school district committee made a decision supporting the book, but the mother appealed the decision.  The superintendent now says that he is currently reviewing the way that the book is being used in other schools and is hoping to make a decision soon: "Ultimately, the question is probably not 'good book, bad book.' It's probably a case of might we find something better. There's a 'maybe so' component, like maybe we can find something better."  Freese said he has more work to do before making a decision on the matter.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No First Amendment protection for Teachers

"Teachers have no First Amendment free-speech protection for curricular decisions they make in the classroom," a federal appeals court ruled on October 21st, according to an Education Week article on School Law.  The following are excerpts from the article:

"Only the school board has ultimate responsibility for what goes on in the classroom, legitimately giving it a say over what teachers may (or may not) teach in the classroom," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, said in its opinion.

The decision came in the case of an Ohio teacher whose contract was not renewed in 2002 after community controversy over reading selections she assigned to her high school English classes. These included Siddhartha , by Herman Hesse, and a unit on book censorship in which the teacher allowed students to pick books from a list of frequently challenged works, and some students chose Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman.

"When a teacher teaches, the school system does not regulate that speech as much as it hires that speech," Sutton wrote, borrowing language from a 7th Circuit decision in a similar case. "Expression is a teacher's stock in trade, the commodity she sells to her employer in exchange for a salary. And if it is the school board that hires that speech, it can surely regulate the content of what is or is not expressed, what is expressed in other words on its behalf."

What do you think of this decision?  Does it limit the abilities of teachers to make decisions in the classroom to best suit individual classrooms?  What sort of impact do you think this decision will have on teachers in the future, if any?

Friday, October 22, 2010

We all knew it was coming

We all knew it was coming ever since the books became a hit only a short time ago.  The Hunger Games are now under fire in New Hampshire from a parent who objects to the story being read aloud to her daughter.  Lauren Barack wrote about it in an article for the School Library Journal on October 19th:
A New Hampshire parent has asked the Goffstown School Board to remove Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games (Scholastic, 2008) from her daughter's class, claiming that it gave her 11-year-old nightmares and could numb other students to the effects of violence.
I remember when I used to be afraid of dinosaurs and my grade 5 class was watching Jurassic Park during a class party.  I saw the opening sequence in which the guard gets eaten and was traumatized for a good two weeks.  My parents were concerned about me, but did they go to the school board and ask that every child be kept from watching scary movies?  No, because it's up to me and my parents to decide what kind of things frighten me and therefore it is up to us to decide what I should watch.  And my mom even watched Jurassic Park, so she knew what was going on.  In this case, however, the parents hasn't even bothered to read the book.  And she has decided to try and make everyone else follow her parenting style:

To censorship expert Pat Scales, the main concern is one parent attempting to set policy for the children of others. And this challenge, which comes on the heels of the American Library Association's (ALA) Banned Book Week, is a cautionary tale other parents should note, she adds.
"When a parent objects to a book being taught, a lot of school districts say a parent can take a child out," says Scales, a former school librarian and member of ALA's Intellectual Freedom Committee. "And a lot of parents have an objection because they say their child is being singled out. But you have already singled your child out. And no parent has a right to select the curriculum."
The principal has gathered a review committee, much like the committee which just finished reviewing Kaffir Boy in San Luis Obispo.  The committee has 30 days to review the book and report their findings.  This is being done even in the absence of a formal request for review from the parent.  This is all being done in good faith from the school.  They are not, however, bowing to the parent's wishes as has happened in some circumstances:
Although the school district requests that formal book challenges be handled by filling out a request for reconsideration form, LaSalle has yet to do so. To date, The Hunger Games is still being read in class, and LaSalle's daughter is removed from class during that time. Three copies of the book remain in the school library.
The article states that "Mrs. LaSalle asked what this book teaches students as far as honor, ethics, and morals. Mrs. LaSalle stated there is no lesson in this book except if you are a teenager and kill twenty-three other teenagers, you win the game and your family wins."  This parent has obviously never bothered to look at critical reviews or hear opinions from others because there is a lot about morals, and honor, and ethics in the book.  I'm hoping that the committee will see it the way Scales presented the argument in the quotations above, and that they will therefore keep the book in circulation at the school and in classrooms.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finally, some good news

In an act of pure sensibility, the review committee at San Luis Obispo High School that was charged with deciding the fate of Kaffir Boy (written about earlier this month here), voted unanimously to keep the book both in the school library and in the honors program curriculum.  Pat Pemberton, writing for the San Luis Obispo Tribune recapped the situation, saying,
Controversy arose when anonymous letters complaining about “Kaffir Boy” were sent to [history teacher Carrie] Zinn, school administrators and the school board. The letters complained specifically about a single page describing boys prostituting themselves for food.
The principal had put together a 7 person review committee shortly after the complaint.  The committee met with an audience of 50 people, including students, teachers, and parents.  Pemberton writes,
The audience unanimously favored keeping the book, both in the library and as a part of the honors class curriculum. When a committee member asked if the anonymous letter writer was in the audience, no one responded.
A few said high school students were old enough to handle the language used — one student suggested she heard similar language daily. And a couple of teachers expressed concern that banning “Kaffir Boy” would lead to challenges to other books, including classics such as J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.”
These concerns are certainly not unfounded, especially considering the challenge that recently occurred in Florida, where a mother requested that her son's school ban Catcher in the Rye because it took the Lord's name in vain and used to many "f" words.  Hopefully the review committee in that case will look at the handling of this situation and will not allow a single parent to limit what every student in the school reads.

There was a suggestion that there be a revised copy of the text used, that didn't contain the graphic details of the original, but that was removed from discussion early on. 
While teacher John Franklin suggested that the abridged version still conveyed the horrors of apartheid, others contended an edited version whitewashes history and disrespects victims of segregation.
Any comments, thoughts, or rants about this story?  I, for one, applaud the common sense of the individuals on this reviewing committee and congratulate them on their unanimous vote to keep the book in the curriculum.

Monday, October 18, 2010

the unintelligible mess that is book banning...

Marcus Smith, in an article on The Daily Cougar, wrote an article at the closing of Banned Books Week 2010, talking about some of the unintelligible reasons for banning or challenging books.  Some books are challenged based on sincere concerns which, unfortunately, tend to breach American First Amendment rights, but many are challenged for seriously stupid reasons.  Smith writes:
Book banning is rarely done on the basis of logic or thoughtful consideration, but more so on ignorance and prejudice. When books are banned for absurd reasons such as pro-communism in George Orwell’s “1984” or pro-racism in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” — the exact opposite of what these books advocate — you’re left wondering if some people have even read the books they challenge.
I don't often wonder, because in so many cases it's proven the challengers haven't read the texts, based solely on the argument brought forward in the challenge.  In the examples listed above, it is obvious that the challenger either didn't bother reading the text, or they are just unable to bring a critical eye to the reading experience.

In his article, Smith brings forward a very absurd challenge that is enough to make me wonder if the majority of book challengers even use common sense.
The Texas Board of Education [...] banned the children’s picture book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin, a book that helps toddlers learn about colors and associate meaning to them. The reasoning behind this was that they confused the author with another Bill Martin, author of “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation” despite the fact that a simple glance at the book would have prevented this.
Silly, you say?  I concur.  This seems to be a lesson about the emphasis we place on political correctness rather than critical thought.  Books are meant to encourage thoughts and ideas, which they cannot do if they are challenged and kept away from children's curious hands.
Book banning does not protect children; it harms them, chiefly by attempting to instill political correctness or agendas and ignoring a novel’s core meaning and values. When books are banned and kept out of the grasp of children, you effectively limit their potential understanding of the world through other viewpoints.
Thanks Mr. Smith for your intelligent analysis of the effects of keeping books away from Children for truly ridiculous reasons.

Friday, October 15, 2010

At least learn how to write...

I am all for expression and encourage people express their opinions about literature in whatever way they feel necessary, as long as it doesn't obstruct others from making their own opinions.  That's the point of this blog.  I want to encourage people to see the impracticality and destruction caused by certain groups or individuals by trying to limit access to books and other forms of literature (graphic novels, films, plays, etc.)  This week I was wandering the unlimited hallways of the internet, trying to find content for today's post.  I came across an opinion piece on
Wesley Scroggins is an associate professor of management at Missouri State University, and he wrote this article criticizing book choices in classrooms.  He claims that "In high school English classes, children are required to read and view material that should be classified as soft pornography."  The books specifically targeted are Speak, Twenty Boy Summer, and Slaughterhouse Five.  The article is frightening enough simply because Mr. Scroggins is trying to limit access to literature and knowledge.  He doesn't just stick with High School but also spotlights sex-education classes in all grades.  Where am I going with this, you ask?  If you read the article, I'm sure you'll understand.  I'm trying to say that if you're going to share your opinion, at least learn how to write a sentence!!!

Mr. Scroggins... I'm sorry, Dr. Scroggins, writes sentences that would cause certain grammar critics to feel faint.  An entire blog post on The Rejectionist is devoted to the horrific grammatical errors that cause one to laugh rather than take anything he says seriously.  Here's one example from The Rejectionist's blog entry.  The bold is from the original article:

The content ranges from naked men and women in cages together so that others can watch them having sex to God telling people that they better not mess with his loser, bum of a son, named Jesus Christ.
The comma, Dr. Scroggins, is a friend, not a foe; and a loyal, staunch friend it may be to a writer who treats it with the respect and admiration it is due. Yet you, sir, appear determined here to heap upon this hardworking little ally all manner of abuses; unsurprisingly, in your hour of need the comma has betrayed you, thanks to your callous disregard for its proper employ.
Another sentence that proved quite difficult to interpret was as follows:
In this book, drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex.
And how, pray tell, does a drunken teen use “condoms to have sex”? We consider ourselves pretty worldly, good sir, but we are quite baffled as to the exact logistics involved in “us[ing] their condoms to have sex.” Perhaps you are more well-versed in the vagaries of kink than this innocent Rejectionist, Dr. Scroggins. A little light shed on the technicalities of this activity would be most useful, as we are left here to our imagination, which we must admit is failing us entirely.
Perhaps this is going to get taken as me just being rude.  But that is not the case at all!  I simply think that if you are going to go to the trouble of making random claims in an attempt to place limitations on what people can read, the least you can do is put together a thoughtful comment, and check your spelling.  Dr. Scroggins, unfortunately, did none of the above.  Of course he also thinks that the sex is Speak is bad for High School students to read.  The sex that takes place is rape.  It's tragic, not sexy.  Come on, Dr. Scroggins, there's this thing called context!

Laurie Halse Anderson spoke out against Mr. Scroggins on her own blog:
My fear is that good-hearted people in Scroggins’ community will read his piece and believe what he says. And then they will complain to the school board. And then the book will be pulled and then all those kids who might have found truth and support in the book will be denied that. In addition, all the kids who have healthy emotional lives but who hate reading, will miss the chance to enjoy a book that might change their opinion.
Thank you to Laurie Halse Anderson for her well-written and grammatically correct response.  And to reiterate, I do not hold anything against Dr. Scroggins if he wishes to be of the opinion that Speak and Slaughterhouse Five are soft pornography.  What I am against is the idea that because he holds these opinions, others should not be allowed to read the literature.  That is what truly scares me; that people who can't take the time to write a strong argument are being listened to and are able to impose limitations onto others.

Care to share your thoughts and opinions?  Feel free to talk about the original article's meaning or the horrible construction of it, The Rejectionist's blog post, or Laurie Halse Anderson's response.  It's all fair game.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

in other news...

"The American Civil Liberties Union is suing a South Carolina jail over a policy that prohibits inmates from having any reading materials other than the Bible."  The article on highlights actions that the ACLU is taking in an attempt to overturn the jail's Bible-only policy.  Publishers had been trying to send self-help literature and magazines to the prison, but starting in 2008, their attempts were thwarted.  The literature was either sent back, or seized.  An email was sent out by First Sgt. K. Habersham stating that "Our inmates are only allowed to receive soft back bibles in the mail directly from the publisher.  They are not allowed to have magazines, newspapers, or any other type of books."  The ACLU is attempting to overturn this policy, saying that it violates First Amendment rights.  "In addition to unspecified punitive damages, the lawsuit asks a federal judge to order the Bible-only policy halted and to let a jury hear the case."

Also in the news this week is the re-classification of a book at the Waukee Public Library.  The notes that "'The Notebook Girls,' a diary cataloging the real-life experiences of four New York City high school girls, will now be housed with the library's adult nonfiction collection."  This comes in response to a book challenge last month about foul language in the text.  The article also notes that the book originally "created a stir in the publishing world with its frank discussions about adolescent sex, drinking and drug use when it was released in 2006."

The book is a diary-style account of the lives of four girls living in New York.  Do we really expect it to be devoid of any sort of language or sexuality?  And if so, why would it be published if there was no public desire for books with such content?  There is obviously a market, so should we make the book disappear because it appeals to it's demographic?  I think not.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Risha Mullins' Story

I recently read Risha Mullins' story on SpeakLoudly and was almost brought to tears by the injustice of the entire situation that occurred.  Risha Mullins was a teacher who brought a love of reading to the classroom, creating an environment of open appreciation rather than stifled analysis.  Not desiring to burden the students with classics that they could not and did not want to read, she brought forward texts that the students would enjoy, could relate to, and ultimately those novels created a desire to continue reading outside of the classroom.  The Moo Moo Book Club is particularly inspiring, being nurtured from a starting group of 15 kids and growing to 130.  In her post Mullins writes,
Remembering when the Moo Moo Book Club kids taped posters of their favorite books all over the school—totally taking ownership of their books by taping “recommended by” plaques beneath each poster—and how after that, non-club kids would stop by my room and ask to borrow a book. Remembering Teen Read Week of 2008 when the 130 book club kids marched through the school, boom box blaring, tossing bookmarks through the Ag. department, the Science and Math wing, the Freshman hall, and the Board of Education building, dancing, chanting “Moo Moo Book Club,” proudly sporting their recommended book posters on strings around their necks.
This account is enough to remind anyone that kids don't hate reading if they can relate to and enjoy what they have in their hands.  They hate reading when they are stifled by expectations of reading and understanding The Classics.  And then it all changed with one email from an ignorant adult:
Remembering the email that stopped it all. Two years ago this week. A parent whose child had chosen to read Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles, and how that parent sent an email to the superintendent, the board members, the principals, and me saying that I taught “soft pornography.”
After that email, my curriculum coach told me—in the principal’s office, with him present—that she had to beg the superintendent not to shut down the Moo Moo Book Club, and that she quoted him when she said, “one more problem with books and the club is gone.” I remember asking if he could do that. And I remember her laughing. Then on October 10, 2008, I received the edict—on signed letterhead: “After investigating the situation and discussing it with Ms. X, I have decided that all books in question in your classroom library and on the Moo Moo Club reading list will be pulled and reviewed…” Every book. Class and club. And yet not a single official challenge had been filed, as board policy required for a book to be suspended.
And the situation got worse.  Risha Mullins was subjected to interrogation and intellectual abuse, in my opinion.  She was constantly under surveillance, had her book choices challenged at every turn, and was required to follow procedures that no other teacher was subjected to.  And yet it still got worse:
That’s when the letters to the editor started. The entire community suddenly had opinions of me and my books. As a result, the faculty got heated. Students came to me several times saying what this teacher and that had said about me and the “godless” books I forced students to read to “advance the ALA’s gay propaganda.” Yes, a student said that to me. Several district administrators, teachers, and lunch ladies stopped speaking to me after the letters in the paper. And one Sunday, while working in my room after church, I heard mumbling in the hallway. Parents were praying in the hallway outside my door. Defeated, I retreated to my room where I proceeded to work with Jimmy Buffett blaring in the background.
To be subjected to this kind of treatment is beyond an issue of fairness.  This is despicable.  A teacher is hired to help children learn, to introduce them to subjects that they can be interested in, and to engage them in critical thinking so they can go out into the world with a mind that can work independently of some rigid structure that some would use in the classroom.  She was later forced to resign and was unable to obtain another job for a while because of all the pressure and the negative press from the situation.  She did, however, have the opportunity to speak in a number of conferences and was backed up by the NCAC as well as a number of prominent authors (Chris Crutcher, Ellen Hopkins, etc).  Her story highlights the usefulness of YA books and shows how well students can perform when introduced to literature they want to read.
Last month, Montgomery County’s test scores came out. Reading went down six points. As I sit here right now, still remembering, I think of how my students’ predictive assessment scores had been amazing all year before the test. According to the data, my classes had surpassed the Honors-track sophomores’ reading scores. I’m remembering the discussions I had with my classes about peaceful resistance, about trying on the tests because it was our only way of showing the district that reading YA worked.
This story is tragic, but at least it brings greater publicity to the injustices of imposing moral boundaries on books.  Read the whole story.  It's inspiring and amazing.  And maybe even send off a note to Risha Mullins and let her know that she is appreciated and her bravery is inspiring. 

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Boyd Tonkin's supplemental list...

I posted a short while ago on the books that are "mad, bad, and dangerous to read" according to the blog Banned Books.  Today I found another website called BookTryst which wrote about a few additions to the list from the British website by journalist Boyd Tonkin:
For British journalist Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of The Independent, the London list plays it way too safe. It contains, for the most part, what could be called the usual suspects of banned book lists, such as Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, Brave New World, 1984, and Catch-22. According to Tonkin, "this selection errs too much on the cosy side," and will "reinforce a glib sense of superiority towards redneck Bible-bashers, small-town prudes and Stalinist apparatchiks." He responds by creating his own list of 10 additional titles, which "might stir a tougher discussion of the costs, and benefits, of truly free expression."
These supplemental books suggested by Tonkin, are as follows:
1/ Sherry Jones, The Jewel of Medina. Criminal violence prevented a UK edition of this novel about the Prophet's wife Aisha, after an attack on its publisher's home. 

2/ David Britton, Lord Horror. Cleared of obscenity in 1992, Britton's sulphurous blend of Holocaust themes and SM porn made Savoy Books in Manchester the most prosecuted publisher in Britain. 

3/ Osama bin Laden, Messages to the World. Expertly edited by Bruce Lawrence, this collection of the al-Qa'eda leader's statements will not be gracing any display shelf soon. 

4/ "Richard E Howard" (ie Richard Verrall), Did Six Million Really Die? This Holocaust-denial pamphlet by a National Front stalwart still sways neo-Nazi minds. 

5/ Richard Lynn, The Global Bell Curve. The psychologist advocates the central role of inherited racial differences in intelligence, putting East Asians at the top and sub- Saharan Africans near the bottom of an ethnic IQ scale . 

6/ Marquis de Sade, The 120 Days of Sodom. For some the magnum opus of the "divine marquis", his industrial-scale porn epic comes (in a recent edition) prefaced with de Beauvoir's essay, "Must we burn Sade?". No, the great feminist said. 

7/ Pauline R√©age, Story of O. The most notable novel by a woman in the Sadeian tradition, in all its icy masochistic poise. The author's real name was Anne Declos. 

8/ AM Homes, The End of Alice. As much a reversed-out Lovely Bones as a homage to Lolita, Amy Homes's fictional journey into the paedophile mind prompted calls for its banning from the NSPCC. 

9/ Sayed Qutb, Milestones. In this core text for jihadis, the Egyptian ideologist fashioned a still-influential manifesto for every later generation of angry, militant Islamists. 

10/ Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf. We know too much about the message, but what about the royalties? A Jewish charity sent back cash received from them; does the state of Bavaria still hold the rights?
Have you read any of these titles?  Do you think they cross any sort of boundaries or lines at which we should think about censoring them?  Share your thoughts.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ellen Hopkins is my hero...

Ellen Hopkins recently posted an article in the Huffington Post called Banned Books Week 2010: An Anti-Censorship Manifesto.  It's a pretty great article and here are a few marvelous quotations:
Some call my books edgy; others say they're dark. They do explore tough subject matter -- addiction, abuse, thoughts of suicide, teen prostitution. But they bring young adult readers a middle-aged author's broader perspective. They show outcomes to choices, offer understanding. And each is infused with hope. I don't sugarcoat, but neither is the content gratuitous. Something would-be censors could only know if they'd actually read the books rather than skimming for dirty words or sexual content.

According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, removing an author from an event because someone disagrees with their ideas or content in their books meets the definition of censorship. And in protest, five of the seven other festival authors -- Pete Hautman, Melissa de la Cruz, Matt de la Pena, Tera Lynn Childs and Brian Meehl -- withdrew. Our books are all very different. But our voices are united against allowing one person, or a handful of people, to speak for an entire community.
Check out the whole article!

The Virginia Beach Public Library has highlighted And Tango Makes Three in a recent article on their library blog which highlights books picked by staff members.
[Some] accused the authors of only telling part of the story. “Critics say the book does not explain that the real penguins -- on which the story is based -- split-up as soon as a potential female partner was introduced into their environment. And one of them later mated with her.”

On the other hand, Justin Richardson stated in the New York Times in 2005, “We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families. It's no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.”
Click here to read the story of how, in 2008, parents successfully got the book banned from a school library for being pro-homosexual propaganda that was insidiously promoting homosexuality to young children.
Critics say the book does not explain that the real penguins -- on which the story is based -- split-up as soon as a potential female partner was introduced into their environment. And one of them later mated with her.

"In other words, the homosexual activists recommend a story, which is ... not even a true story," LaBarbera argues. "The penguin who returned to normalcy, of course, the kids don't know about that. 
Quite the statements....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Graphic Novels

On September 28th, during Banned Books Week, the Huffington Post featured an article on the top 10 banned graphic novels.  The article gives the reasoning behind each challenge, but balances this out with by quoting the current President of the ALA:
"Not every book is right for each reader, but we should have the right to think for ourselves and allow others to do the same," said ALA President Roberta Stevens. "How can we live in a free society and develop our own opinions if our right to choose reading materials for ourselves and our families is taken away? We must remain diligent and protect our freedom to read."
Here are the top 10 challenged graphic novels and the reasons behind it all:
  1. Sandman (Neil Gaiman): Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
  2. Blankets (Craig Thompson):  Sexually Explicit content, Other (unspecified)
  3. Bone (Jeff Smith): Sexually Explicit content, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs
  4. Fun Home (Alison Bechdel): Sexually Explicit content
  5. Maus (Art Spiegelman): Anti Ethnic
  6. Pride of Baghdad (Brian Vaughn): Sexually Explicit content
  7. Tank Girl (Jamie Hewlitt): Nudity and Violence
  8. The Dark Knight Strikes Again (Frank Miller): Sexually Explicit content
  9. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Alan Moore): Nudity, Sexually Explicit Content and Unsuited to Age Group
  10. Watchmen (Alan Moore): Unsuited to Age Group
Have you read any of these graphic novels?  Do you have anything to say about the reasons behind the challenges to each one?  Do you think there should be any guidelines for what is allowed in graphic novels aimed at younger audiences?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Anonymous complainer wants SLO High to consider book ban...

That's the name of the article, by Colin Rigley, posted on the New Times website on September 29th:
[Mark] Mathabane wrote about his experience in an autobiographical account of South African apartheid, Kaffir Boy. However, due to an anonymous complaint about a passage in the book in which Mathabane describes how some children would prostitute themselves for food, San Luis Obispo High School has begun a review process that could potentially remove Kaffir Boy from the school’s curriculum and its library. The book was listed as the 39th most challenged book by the American Library Association, which is protesting bans during Banned Books Week now through Oct. 2.
 How can an autobiographical account be considered unsuitable for younger audiences?  If one child had to go through a distressing situation, then why should others not read about how he was able to get through it and become an author, using his story to help others?

Friday, October 1, 2010

On a lighter note...

So, I was reading some blogs today because it's easier than doing homework.  I came across this blog called Forever Young Adult which features an article entitled "The True Story of How Books Ruined Our Lives."  In this blog entry, a number of contributors review how certain books from the ALA's Top 100 Banned and Challenged Books list ruined their lives forever.  I'm going to put a few directly into this entry, but the link above will take you to the rest of the entries.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by margaret atwood
reviewed by erin
After I read The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time, I immediately set out to have an affair. But that wasn’t enough; I seduced a man away from his wife and married him. And then my bank account was turned over to my husband, but that was actually fine, because I’m a girl and shouldn’t be worrying my head over finances anway. And then my husband and daughter did a runner for the border, and I was captured, and then I was forced to go help old, rich white people have babies by lying on the wife while the husband has perfunctory missionary sex with me. Then I had an affair with a chauffeur. Mostly, however, I spent a lot of my time thinking about sex or my place in the world, which was obviously very shocking for a sixteen year old, because before the moment I read The Handmaid’s Tale, I’d never wondered at all about my changing body or role in society.

Forever, by Judy Blume
reviewed by meghan
when i read “forever”, the first thing i could think of to do was run out and lose my virginity. too bad i was 28 and had been married for 5 years when i read it, but luckily people have invented the concept of being a born-again virgin. i’m sure it’s for people like me who read “forever” too late. but more than having lots and lots of secks, the book really made me get proactive about talking to the folks at planned parenthood. i now have stacks of their brochures and hand them out with free condies to everyone i see, and i’m on the pill, the patch, the ring and the shot. mr t won’t be getting a sibling anytime soon!

where’s waldo?, by Martin Hanford
reviewed by erin
Oh, sure, you think I’m kidding, don’t you?  “Why would anyone ban Where’s Waldo?,” you ask.  “It’s a stupid visual exercise with a guy wearing a stripey red and white shirt!  Well, okay, why would anyone other than Manchester City fans ban Where’s Waldo?”  Well, I’m here to tell you that Where’s Waldo?  RUINED MY LIFE.  Do you guys even KNOW what’s in a Where’s Waldo? book?  Well, I’ll tell you!  Drawings of people!  Tons of people!  Short people, tall people, fat people, skinny people, brown people, peach people, people who read books, people who eat sandwiches, people who kiss each other, people who wear red dresses and a big hat, people who don’t wear much at all, people who like sports, people who go to the zoo, PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.  Christ on a cracker, it’s almost as if this entire world is peopled by people doing peopley things with other people.  WELL I WON’T STAND FOR IT.  I’m not letting my kid look at a book with pictures of people in it!  She may want to talk to one of them someday!