Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned Books Week Sept 26 - Oct 3

It's Banned Books Week. The annual attempt by the American Library Association to inform the public about challenged and banned books in the US. Every year across this country parents, administrators and others challenge books in school and public libraries. Mostly, their intentions are good. They want to save their children from material they deem inappropriate.

The top three reasons stated for challenging a book:
  1. Sexually explicit
  2. Language
  3. Unsuited to age
2008's top ten banned books
  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, sexism, and unsuited to Age Group
  2. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier Reasons: offensive Language, sexually explicity, violence
  3. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit
  4. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman Reason: religious viewpoint
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain Reason: racism
  6. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. TTYL, by Lauren Myracle Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou Reason: sexually explicit
  9. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris Reasons: sex education and sexually explicit
  10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

Some of these come as no surprise. Huckleberry Finn has been on the banned books lists for decades. It's the number 5 most challenged book in the last decade alone. The Color Purple is 17th most banned book fro 1990-1999. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is number three on that list. Certain books just hit people's buttons. Those three certainly fit the description of button pushers.

Number 1 came as a bit of a surprise to me. And Tango Makes Three has been the number one most challenged book for the last three years. It's the story of Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap penguins allowed to hatch and raise an egg at the Central Park Zoo.

As the picture implies, this is a children's book. A picture book that is somehow sexually explicit. While it does talk about the true story of Roy and Silo, I doubt it goes into any sexually explicit detail. What it does do is talk about same-sex parenting. The scary homosexual agenda strikes again.

Same-sex parents and animal homosexuality aside, calling The Color Purple and It’s Perfectly Normal both sexually explicit evokes two completely different meanings to me. The Color Purple has several scenes, if I remember correctly, that can honestly be described as "sex scenes" inasmuch as intercourse is being described. It's Perfectly Normal is completely different. It's all about educating kids about their bodies. Sex education, yes. Sexually explicit, no. Though what's wrong with a little sex education is an entirely different story.

I remember as a college student in the 80s at the University of Texas at Austin that during Banned Books Week the University Co-Op would have a window display. It was always eye-opening to see the books piled high in the window that had run into the censor. Things like Catcher in The Rye and Clockwork Orange were expected. Charlotte's Web was not. It's the same with the current list. Calling And Tango Makes Three objectionable makes about as much sense as Charlotte's Web to me.

Banning books because we deem them upsetting, dangerous or distasteful is a slippery slope. One that leads to bonfires, master races and despotism. It insults the intelligence of our children and is the lazy way of dealing with difficult subjects. Whether or not Mark Twain meant The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be a treatise on racism in America is moot. It describes the time and place of its setting accurately. Can it be used to initiate discussion? You bet. Should it be read by middle and high schoolers? Absolutely.

The same is true of any of these challenged books. Read them. Use them to get your kids to think.

It's not illegal. Yet.

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Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

This always gets my feathers ruffled. I teach Fahrenheit 451 every year and it provides a good opportunity to discuss censorship.

Aliceson said...

I remember reading both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Color Purple in High School, heck maybe even middle school. The race issue of Huck Finn came up and we discussed it. Nobody was offended and we didn't need our parent's permission. It made for a great discussion, one that I remember and appreciate 15 years later.

Earlier this year I read on a blog (can't remember which one right now) about a book that was under pressure to be removed from a local Library around here. The next day I went to my Library and checked out Baby Be Bop. It was not the "filthy homosexual teen romance" that it had been made out to be. It was a teen drama with hardly any sexually explicit language yet beautiful imagery. I thought it was actually a great read for mature teens.

LeftLeaningLady said...

No time to read for fun right now. I am barely getting through the required reading for school. (Ok, I admit it, I am NOT actually reading every word!) But I will book mark this and look for these over the Christmas break. I read "His Dark Materials" a couple of years ago, it is all 3 of the books beginning with "The Golden Compass" It was not an easy read, but I enjoyed it. I am usually contrary enough to read something simply because I am told I should not.

Sassy Britches said...

"It insults the intelligence of our children and is the lazy way of dealing with difficult subjects."

PRECISELY. I'm shaking my fist right now.