Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Banned Books

We are in the midst of Banned Book Week (Sept. 29-Oct. 30) and I can't help but think back to the first time I had encountered the idea of a "banned" book. It must have been the summer before second or third grade and I was leaving the library with my dad and brother. There was a woman there trying to get our library to ban some books and I don't remember the specifics of the conversation, but I am pretty sure that in a subtle (or knowing my father a not-so-subtle) way told the woman she was an ignorant fool. And after explaining to my brother and I what that woman was doing there I remember thinking that she was a fool. Didn't she know about the First Amendment (my smart ass knew all about freedom of speech)? And from that moment on I was always enthralled with the idea that there were books that "challenged" and why people would be against them being on the shelves of libraries across the nation.

To me, the reasons why are ridiculous and it seems to only be a handful of people in the country who have a problem. They say that it is not appropriate storyline, language or matter that should be discussed by parents. 1) If you don't want your kid reading a book, don't let them (this obviously becomes more difficult as they get older, but it is the same argument used for violent video games or movies) 2) This is why this next generation is going to be sheltered idiots not knowing how to interact in the "real world."

The whole point of a book is the historical, cultural context surrounding it. And really its not as though books are as negatively influential as those TV shows, movies or video games. When was the last time you saw a kid paddle down the Mississippi with an escaped slave? (No. 5) Or a doll come to life or something equally as "scary" and unreal? (No. 16) And last time I checked EVERYONE goes through puberty (No. 40, 61, 95 and 58) Of course there is my personal favorite of stupid Margaret praying to get her period because she thinks that it will make her fit in (No. 62). Despite it not really accurately portraying the true pains of Aunt Flo, it is something that ALL girls go through.

Censorship is something that I am never going to completely understand, and finding the fine line of where I stand is difficult, but I do know for one thing, banning books is something I will never agree with.

Here is the list for 2006 (courtesy of the ALA):
  • "And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Gossip Girls" series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;

  • "Alice" series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;

  • "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things" by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Scary Stories" series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;

  • "Athletic Shorts" by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language.

  • "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group

  • "Beloved" by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.

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