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Banned books week begins today.
September 20, 2003 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Banned books week begins today. This is the week where the ALA comes out fighting, by raising awareness, against the constant attempts at censorship from ideologues, religious groups, anti-free speech types, etc. Top 100 challenged books here.
posted by skallas (50 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I don't get this, none of the books are actually banned, people just complain about them.

Why isn't Demon Beast Invasion, a book that was actually banned, on the list?
posted by bobo123 at 5:18 PM on September 20, 2003


People complained about To Kill A Mockingbird? Who, the KKK?
posted by punishinglemur at 5:23 PM on September 20, 2003


Dammit, someone made my rant before I did. Librarians, of all people, should be in the business of the honest dissemination of information and should refrain from exaggeration and hyperbole. It isn't "Banned Books" week, because we all know full well what banning a book means, and this ain't it. It's Challenged Library Books Week.

Just think -- if everyone on Metafilter goes to their public library and demands that they remove the Kelley Blue Book, it'll be the Most Banned Book In America. Even if we all get laughed out of the library.

bobo123: because no one tried to remove it from a library.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:25 PM on September 20, 2003


Because before, when people complained about them, they do become banned.

In a climate of censorship, they could be banned. So we must be ever vigilant against the risk of censorship.

In some libraries, the books do get pulled from complaints, and the written word, no matter what is written, should never be restricted, and should be made available en masse to everyone, no matter their political or economic situations.
posted by benjh at 5:25 PM on September 20, 2003


Overzealous parents of the I-wish-my-child-would-never-grow-up variety probably complained about TKaM. [insaneparent]What's all this filthy rape stuff doing in a children's book?[/insaneparent]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:26 PM on September 20, 2003


Wow, bobo123, I hadn't heard that story. Horrible precedent set.
posted by harja at 5:27 PM on September 20, 2003


Because before, when people complained about them, they do become banned.

No, they become pulled from library shelves. Banned clearly means that you cannot buy the book anywhere, or that the mere possession of the book is itself punishable by law, or both. Cocaine is banned. These books aren't.

It's a laudable goal to point out that there are constant attempts to censor library contents, but calling that "banning" is pure, disingenuous hyperbole.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:28 PM on September 20, 2003


One of my THIS PUSHES MY BUTTONS AND MAKES ME CRAZY peeves. Will mostly shut up now.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:29 PM on September 20, 2003


It's interesting to see the stuff that people are still bitching about, sir. I mean some of these books have been on this list and lists like them for years and years. Additionally, many have on occasion been banned. That said, yes the linked to case is pretty bad, and it does fall under the banner of banned books; raising awareness of it and cases like it is in fact the point of the week.
posted by kavasa at 5:31 PM on September 20, 2003


In this age of trumped-up censorship allegations, from both the PC bashers on the right and the Dixie Chick defenders on the left, the ALA's bit of sensationalism is really quite tame. After all, people actually did try, sometimes successfully, to get these books taken out of libraries, which is a little different from trying to make someone feel bad for using an offensive word or trying to cut into a band's record sales.
posted by transona5 at 5:43 PM on September 20, 2003


On on a library commissison in my town. A father raised hell about a book that was with summer reading list suggestions. The book for teens but his non-teen looked at it and brought home. He marked up the many "bad" words in the book and demanded an explanation and that the book be removed. We are making him pay for the book he vandalized by marking it up .
posted by Postroad at 6:23 PM on September 20, 2003


seeing Where's Waldo on that list (#88) makes me a little skeptical of the whole thing - it's obviously a pretty small sample, at least.
no mention of Mein Kampf. Looks like most people were upset by teen books that dealt too explicitly with sex for their taste - as ROU_xeno said above, parents freaked by their children's natural development.
posted by mdn at 6:30 PM on September 20, 2003


After all, people actually did try, sometimes successfully, to get these books taken out of libraries

especially school libraries...that's where most of the challenges and bans actually take place nowadays i believe. The ALA has a section on Censorship in the Schools

Seventy-one percent of the challenges were to material in schools or school libraries. This is regarding the list linked to in the fpp.
posted by amberglow at 6:53 PM on September 20, 2003


My neighbor kid was the cutest thing! Then he started dealing drugs and supporting international terrorism.

I knew we should have tried harder to keep him away from #88--Where's Waldo?
posted by tss at 7:37 PM on September 20, 2003


I can't tell you how much I loathe the phrase:

"Raising awareness"

die die die
posted by paleocon at 7:39 PM on September 20, 2003


Demon Beast Invasion, you say?

Gears begin turning...
posted by sharksandwich at 7:39 PM on September 20, 2003


parents freaked by their children's natural development.

Or parents concerned that Madonna's Sex (see #16) may not be the reference material/curriculum they want their children exposed to at age 15?

I'm not saying that I think that everything challenged should be removed from library collections. What I am saying is that it's reasonable for a parent to be concerned about -- and to some degree, expect some cooperation from society with regard to -- what your children are exposed to, especially in the context of public institutions. It's a legitimate if thorny question.

Growing up, most libraries in my community simply solved the problem by keeping some items in the collection, but shelved in an area where you had to ask a librarian to retrieve it for you. I can't recall if you had to get parental permission, or if they just figured if you were ballsy enough to walk up and ask for a given volume, you deserved it.

Of course, I sometimes wonder in retrospect what the standard for the separate colleciton was, since I read some pretty juicy (as well as some very practical and informative but off-limits) stuff in the normal collection.
posted by namespan at 7:51 PM on September 20, 2003


The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard

Huh? Why the hell, even by wacko fundy logic, would anyone wanna ban these books? The most harmless series I've ever seen, quite frankly.
posted by jonmc at 8:03 PM on September 20, 2003


I dunno... I'd say "Where's Waldo" has The Stupids beaten in the "harmless series" category. I'm still baffled about that.
posted by kevspace at 8:24 PM on September 20, 2003


The only conceivable reason I can think for banning Where's Waldo is the complete lack of educational value that it presents and that's not a bannable offense.
posted by graventy at 8:31 PM on September 20, 2003


Can someone help explain why The Catcher In The Rye was banned? Was it the cussing?
posted by Keyser Soze at 8:31 PM on September 20, 2003


Nope. It was the abject alienation and ennui.
posted by anathema at 9:08 PM on September 20, 2003



parents freaked by their children's natural development.

Or parents concerned that Madonna's Sex (see #16) may not be the reference material/curriculum they want their children exposed to at age 15?


That's obviously referring to the wonderful Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, not Sex. The fact that the author of Superfudge is one of the most frequently targeted for complaints makes me weep for our civilization.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:12 PM on September 20, 2003


Nope. It was the abject alienation and ennui.
posted by clavdivs at 9:24 PM on September 20, 2003


Where's Waldo was banned/threatened/complained about due to partially-bared breast on a topless sunbather (sorry kids, no pictures) in a beach scene.
posted by zsazsa at 9:30 PM on September 20, 2003


On the other hand, I'm not sure if Anne Rice's Adventures of Sleeping Beauty series, which are de Sade lite, really are absolutely necessary in a school library. I mean, if you can just check it out like a regular book, where's the illicit fun?

Okay, I'm just being flippant. But some of these titles boggle the mind--Shel Silverstein? And Go Ask Alice deserves to be on the list because it's not only a fraud, but it's badly written to boot. And because its entire premise is a lie.
posted by jokeefe at 9:48 PM on September 20, 2003


As zsazsa says, there's a partially bare-breasted sunbather in the blue Waldo book, toward the top left-hand corner if my memory from when I was 8 serves me right.

In high school, I had a teacher who pointed out Banned Books week to us. I was disgusted. Most of these books (with the exception of Demon beast invasion, which I was previously not aware of, thanks) aren't outright banned right now, but many of them were at some point in the not so distant past. Ulysses has been banned in the US at many different points throughout the 20th century. After my teacher pointed out the importance of this week to us, I researched it for a senior project, and was very glad I did. Everything, down to Little Red Riding Hood (halfway down, banned because Ms. Hood was bringing her grandmother wine) has been banned from public libraries for ridiculous reasons.

Now that I am a high school teacher myself, I will be sure to point out Banned Books Week to my students. Thanks for the link skallas.
posted by krakedhalo at 10:21 PM on September 20, 2003


OK, maybe I'm being dense here, but what parts of A Wrinkle In Time would cause someone to want it out of a library? Unless people don't want our children to break away from IT.

Actually, the idea of IT managed to freak me out quite thoroughly as a kid. But I digress.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:32 PM on September 20, 2003


ban these guys
because the name says it all.
posted by clavdivs at 10:34 PM on September 20, 2003


OK, maybe I'm being dense here, but what parts of A Wrinkle In Time would cause someone to want it out of a library?

Too scary for someone's precious weans?

L'Engle being a Catholic writer/apologist is probably enough to put her on some small number of people's shit-lists to start with.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:02 PM on September 20, 2003


If you want to be pedantic, Demon Beast Invasion isn't banned either — one store was sued for selling it. The closest thing to a banned book I've heard of recently is the Irwin Schiff case, where the author of one of those "you don't legally have to pay taxes, no really" books was prohibited by court order from selling it.

The Librarians Are Corrupting Kids blog is a great source of information on this sort of thing.

And Shel Silverstein did write some interesting stuff when he wasn't writing children's books.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:26 PM on September 20, 2003


#16? That's obviously referring to the wonderful Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, not Sex. The fact that the author of Superfudge is one of the most frequently targeted for complaints makes me weep for our civilization.

Bah. I meant #19. Unless the numbers are shifting somehow. Which could be, since on re-examination, I see the Goosebumps by R.L. Stine in the #16 slot.

And I fail to see how either Goosebumps or Blume's work could be challenged out a of a library as well...
posted by namespan at 12:24 AM on September 21, 2003


Think witchcraft, namespan. Goosebumps is full of all sorts of stuff that religious extremists would object to.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:38 AM on September 21, 2003


I've always suspected that what some of the fundy types objected to was the cultivation of any part of a child's imagination that was not under their control. Once you accept that premise then all the whacko objections to books make perfect sense.
posted by rdr at 12:52 AM on September 21, 2003


From the excellent Librarians Are Corrupting Kids website mentioned above:

The Jesus Non-Denominational Church of Greenville, MI, held a Harry Potter book burning this past Sunday. They also burnt *NSYNC cds, the Book of Mormon, rosary beads and non-King James versions of the Bible.

??????
posted by rdr at 12:59 AM on September 21, 2003


rdr: They also burnt *NSYNC cds

I guess they're not all bad, then! You go, obscure Greenville Christian-spin-off cultists!
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:31 AM on September 21, 2003


L'Engle being a Catholic writer/apologist is probably enough to put her on some small number of people's shit-lists to start with.

Except she's Episcopalian.

I'm a *huge* L'Engle fan, and I've got to say that A Wrinkle In Time and the two books immediately following it (but not the 4th in the series, which is about the Flood and which I really don't care for at all) are pretty darned non-denominational. She doesn't talk about specific theological points, instead choosing to emphasize free will and love. Which could be part of the problem, actually. IT isn't about free will and love, IT's about submission and authoritarianism... Which is what a lot of parents want their kids to do.

A good number of the books on the list I had to read for school, and in fact Wrinkle and How To Eat Fried Worms were read to my 5th grade class by our teacher. And she introduced us to Judy Blume, too (through Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Fudge, not Forever). Thanks, Mrs. Chenman!

I worked in a library when I was in high school, and they had a restricted shelf in the back room--Mein Kampf and all the sex ed books were kept there. I said something to the director about how they were taking up space needed for something else, and the next thing I knew, I was in charge of peeling off the "Restricted" stickers and shelving them on the regular shelves. It was always a lot of fun watching people check out The Joy of Sex--they'd almost always hide in amidst books about some other, totally unrelated subject.
posted by eilatan at 7:47 AM on September 21, 2003


Or parents concerned that Madonna's Sex (see #16) may not be the reference material/curriculum they want their children exposed to at age 15?

first of all, most of the sex books were sex education books - madonna's Sex was the exception; the majority of the sex books were things like "what's happening to my body" or whatever.

But secondly, how is it going to harm your 15-year-old to see pictures or read about sex? At that age, I think you can pretty much guarantee the subject has already crossed his or her mind. Educating kids and trying to help them be more comfortable making well-thought-out decisions about their sexual experiences seems like a better strategy than hiding books and pretending they won't think dirty thoughts until after their 18th birthday, when suddenly they'll be competent, knowledgable adults capable of making informed choices on the subject.
posted by mdn at 9:01 AM on September 21, 2003


ROU: The ALA addresses your concern on their website: "Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) is asked why the week is called “Banned Books Week” instead of “Challenged Books Week,” since the majority of the books featured during the week are not banned, but “merely” challenged. There are two reasons. One, ALA does not “own” the name Banned Books Week, but is just one of several cosponsors of BBW; therefore, ALA cannot change the name without all the cosponsors agreeing to a change. Two, none want to do so, primarily because a challenge is an attempt to ban or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A successful challenge would result in materials being banned or restricted."

I guess, for the ALA at least, they are looking at the small picture. To ban a book in Radcliff Kentucky certainly doesn't mean it is banned everywhere. One in Montreal, Canada could still buy the book. But, for the poor 12 year-old in Radcliff that book is lost.
posted by ?! at 10:09 AM on September 21, 2003


I guess, for the ALA at least, they are looking at the small picture. To ban a book in Radcliff Kentucky certainly doesn't mean it is banned everywhere.

There are materials which are banned in every nation in the world, yet are still obtainable should you make the effort.

Does that mean there is no book which is truly banned? It's a small picture unless the material is absolutely unobtainable?

There is no "small picture" version of banning. If it's a public institution and can not lend a certain book, that book is banned, even if it is available in the next township over.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2003


?!: But all of the books -- not a majority -- are challenged, not banned. None of the books are banned. The ALA should do a better job of educating its compatriots. And "banned or restricted" is just hooey; they mean "restricted."

To ban a book in Radcliff Kentucky certainly doesn't mean it is banned everywhere.

Nononononononono. "For someone to request that a book in Radcliff Kentucky's school library be removed or reshelved," not "To ban." Not "To remove the book," not "To punish ownership of the book." But merely "For someone to request that the book be removed or reshelved, even if that request is ignored and the requester ridiculed or beaten to death by Conan the Librarian."

Does that mean there is no book which is truly banned?

If the sale, purchase, or ownership of a book is punishable, then it's banned. Cocaine is banned, despite which you can readily obtain some if you really want it. The Catcher in the Rye is not banned anywhere in the US of which I am aware.

Which isn't to say that BBW isn't about some real problems. But their tone and language are so histrionic and disingenuous as to approach outright lying.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:24 AM on September 21, 2003


As an English teacher with a classroom library of roughly 500 new books purchased by the Department of Education for use in my classroom, I must say I'm pleased by the number of books from this list in my classroom.
posted by etc. at 3:14 PM on September 21, 2003


ROU: I think I understand your point regarding the ALA.

But you don't mean that none of these books have been "banned" do you?

I guess I use this dictionary.com definition of "banned" -- "Censure, condemnation, or disapproval expressed especially by public opinion."

I also see this definition: "To prohibit, especially by official decree". In both cases I've seen books banned. If they remove that book from the bookshelves in Radcliff then it is prohibited for that 12 year-old.

She can't travel to Louisville to pick up a copy of the book. She can't use a credit card to order it from Amazon. She won't see that book unless a parent gives it to her. Also, the younger kids moving into the middle school library may never know they can't read the book because they don't even know it exists. Isn't the book "banned" for them also?

And five fresh fish: good call. I should have used "local" and "complete" banning. ALA considers every "local" challenge or removal as a "banning" while I thought ROU was looking at "banning" as only being true when it was a "complete" ban.
posted by ?! at 6:01 PM on September 21, 2003


But you don't mean that none of these books have been "banned" do you?

Yup, I do.

I guess I use this dictionary.com definition of "banned" -- "Censure, condemnation, or disapproval expressed especially by public opinion."

I don't. I don't think that an expression of censure constitutes a banned book. By that definition, my stating that The Probability Broach is laughably awful and full of muttonheaded ideological rantings bans it.

Look, we all know what a banned book is -- it's a book that you can't (easily) get, because the government punishes its possession, sale, or purchase. Banned books were a hallmark of your favorite totalitarian regimes. A banned book means being sent to the gulag for having forbidden books. A banned book is not a book about which someone somewhere sometime expressed displeasure. It's not a book that might or might not have been taken out of a public library, or reshelved out of the children's area.

In both cases I've seen books banned. If they remove that book from the bookshelves in Radcliff then it is prohibited for that 12 year-old.

No, it's not. She's entirely legally free to purchase a copy if she wants to, even if doing so is tremendously inconvenient.

There are lots of books that won't be in the public or school library in Radcliff. Shepsle's The Giant Jigsaw Puzzle on committee appointments in the House almost certainly won't be there. The kid can't get it anywhere including the main used-book sites (Lord knows I've tried) because it's out of print and the print runs were small. Is it banned? Of course not. Its presence or absence or availability doesn't make something banned; the punishment of its possession makes it banned.

They're presumably calling it Banned Books Week because that trades on all of its connotations -- of totalitarian regimes, of the gulag, of the burning books and Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, of people being jailed and tortured and killed because they read the wrong books.

Using that language to describe a situation in which someone objects to a library book -- even if the book is not removed, even if the book is not reshelved -- is simply disingenuous and manipulative, which is not something that libraries and librarians ought to be in the business of.

Like I said, it pushes buttons in a THIS MAKES ME COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL WHY WON'T THEY JUST ADMIT THAT THEY'RE BEING IDIOTS way.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:03 PM on September 21, 2003


Banned books were a hallmark of your favorite totalitarian regimes....

I had thought we stopped banning books here in America in the 1960s (not so long ago at all) and that Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer was the last totally banned book in the US, but that's not true.

Book burnings actually still happen too--there were quite a few copies of Harry Potter and other witch-related books burned within the past year.
posted by amberglow at 7:40 PM on September 21, 2003


ROU: "Like I said, it pushes buttons in a THIS MAKES ME COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL WHY WON'T THEY JUST ADMIT THAT THEY'RE BEING IDIOTS way."

I see we may not be on the same plane of irritation on this. But, one last point of difference: "She's entirely legally free to purchase a copy if she wants to..."

I don't see that law and legality are a requirement of banning the book. Again, I believe removing a book from a locality is a "banning." I think I can see that you don't agree.
posted by ?! at 8:34 PM on September 21, 2003


Ban the Giver? What the hell are you retards thinking? THE GIVER, for chrissakes. Theres more fucked up stuff in the Bible.
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:16 PM on September 21, 2003


Excuse me, but I have to ask this - Why the hell has no-one posted a picture of Waldo/Wally's topless sunbather? I demand my monday morning cartoon porn!
posted by twine42 at 5:07 AM on September 22, 2003


Didn't notice anyone with this link yet: the Banned Books Blog, last year hosted by Michele of "A Small Victory", this year is hosted by Solonor's Ink Well
posted by briank at 8:08 AM on September 22, 2003


I don't see that law and legality are a requirement of banning the book....

Well rule of law is sort of important. If I ban a book from my own house and forbid my [hypothetical] kids from reading it, have I banned it? The argument would likely say no, because the kids can leave the house and get the book from the library. If the library then removes it from the shelves, it is banned? Well the argument is no, I believe, because it is available elsewhere for purchase or borrowing.

As much as we bibliophiles would like to believe, there is no mandate that people have access to libraries as a U.S. rule of law. It's a nice thing, sure, and most communities try to have libraries, but they don't all. Up here in rural Vermont many towns don't have libraries at all, mine is one. Is a book banned because I don't have a library at all?

The reason banning has such a strong connotation is precisely because it has a legal meaning. The reason ALA's holiday seems weak is, to me, is

1. it's mostly a marketing holiday anyhow, let's be real
2. these books aren't banned, period.

I do have to say that I am in Xeno's corner, the whole idea of Banned Books Week [as opposed to something more relevant, like let's say the business of textbook writing and approval which contains more censorship than any Kentucky library, or standardized testing] makes me annoyed. ALA has tremendous power to fight for good, as we witnessed with the John Ashcroft telephone call last week, why waste it on something that's so badly-phrased and poorly implemented?
posted by jessamyn at 8:13 AM on September 23, 2003


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