September 24, 2010

Banned Books of 2009? Mouth Punch!

The Office for Intellectual Freedom (of the American Library Association) gets reports of challenges (of books) in public libraries, schools, and school libraries from a variety of sources, and a shocking majority of challenges go unreported. Estimates from the ALA is that its statistics reflect only 20-25% of the challenges that actually occur.  While working in a public library I don’t get to hear too many of these (as I am not really a librarian) but while working as a tutor with a small (5000 title) non-circulating, private library, I did get a bunch of these.  A few of my favorites (paraphrased from adults) were

  1. “This book has a picture of a monkey and a human on the cover and I don’t believe in evolution.” ~ The book was about kung-fu.
  2. “These books are about religion and should not be here” ~ This was directed at a children’s book about the Hindu celebration of Diwali.  The parent amazingly chose to ingore the hundreds of books on Easter and Christmas.
  3. “The Koran is unamerican” ~ Right.  I had an children’s book of Rumi’s poetry in my poetry section.  It was nice. I kept it there.  It was not unamerican (if it were, I would have purchased two).
  4. “This is about witchcraft” ~ This was my largest comment coming from numerous parents about any popular children’s book. I mean ANY!  Too many to list.  Just assume from now on that if it is popular and has teens in it then it is also about witchcraft or the occult.
  5. “Catholics don’t believe in God” ~ I am still confused by this one.  It seemed to be about the Berenstein Bears book series but I still can’t figure what they were talking about.  But they were quite adamant about it and when I explained my family was Catholic and definately believed in God, they were notrelieved.  Then explaining that I was Buddhist and didn’t believe in God was the capstone to that conversation.
  6. “Where is the Bible?” ~ Unless I could find a children’s version of every major world religion, I would not include a Bible in my collection (in this case, it was my private library and I made that caveat).  It took me two years but I found a children’s version of Buddhist Sutras, the Koran, General Taoism, General Hinduism, General Buddhism, Wicca for Kids, Native American faith and the Jewish faith among many others.  Once the collection (54 books strong at the end of my term) was complete they all went out with the children’s bible stories.  The fact that next to no major children’s publishers had a decent world religions selection was disturbing.  Equally disturbing were the complaints I recieved about every cultural or historical book talking about world religions except the bible-stories.
  7. “This is atheist propagnada” ~ His Dark Materials Triology by Pullman.  This was not surprising from some parents.  What was mind-blowing was that an agency-wide email went out warning teachers/tutors/staff/parents to warn our students/family/friends that this movie was “Anti-Christian” and “Pro-Atheist.”  This was one of the few times I went to my supervisor frothing at the mouth and really voiced my complaint that as a “secular” agency we should not be pushing religious views over an agency-wide email.

So on to the “ALA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009” starting with number 1.   This list reflects a wide range of themes so have fun:

ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs  [awesome book.  I did “high-shelf” this one for grades 6 and up.  I gave it many props for fooling me into thinking it was tame…it wasn’t]

“And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality [Holy Crap! I did not have this one in my collection but I should have! It is about time someone took a stand against books portraying the animal kingdom as anything but heterosexual (I’m looking at you Bonobos…filthly penis-sparring bonobos).  I smell a sequel.]

“The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide [Anti-family?  Thank goodness I live in a world that so embraces respect and understanding enough to throw blinders over anything but a proper, happy, 2.34 kids, suburban family.  Because if we talk or read about anything otherwise the structure of the world will dissolve, Jesus will come, believers raptured away and that would only leave…wait.Ok. Ban this book.]

“To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [Still with this one?  The south is racist.  Get over it.  This is perhaps the most widely read book ever.]

Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group [The only one that I agree with.  Nothing to do with “religious viewpoint” but everything to do with anything that causes so much projectile vomit cannot be good for us.  That and thank you for making vampires complete whoosies.]

“Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [Still?]

“My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence [Anything with a list that long can’t be all that bad…here is an description “Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate — a life and a role that she has never challenged…until now.” … holy shit, I need to read this book.]

“The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [The title is pure gold.  I’m sold.]

“The Color Purple,” Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [This one is unfamiliar to me. But any movie that paints Danny Glover in such a negative light about things that never, ever, ever, happen in society needs to be banned…forever]

“The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [NUDITY?!  NUDITY?!  Is it a picture book?  Because if it isn’t, I find it hard to believe a book without pictures could have nudity in it.  Perhaps that can be covered under “Sexually Explicit?”]

Seven titles were dropped from the list, including: His Dark Materials Trilogy (Series) by Philip Pullman (Political Viewpoint, Religious Viewpoint, Violence); Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz (Occult/Satanism, Religious Viewpoint, Violence); “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya (Occult/Satanism, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Sexually Explicit, Violence); Gossip Girl (Series) by Cecily von Ziegesar (Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group); “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” by Sarah S. Brannen (Homosexuality, Unsuited to Age Group); “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini (Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group); and “Flashcards of My Life” by Charise Mericle Harper (Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group).

I noticed a drop in “Occult/Satanism” so either lambasting satanists is out of season or maybe it worked and the dark lord is rising…who knows?

So go out and buy, or better yet, borrow a banned or challenged book at your local library and encourage an educator to do a “Banned Book List.”  I started one for the kids I tutored and they loved it.  I have never seen more children and young adults, that ordinarily didn’t read, start tossing down books like mentos.


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