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September 25, 2006 9:52 PM   Subscribe

Banned Books Week -- 25th anniversary year. How to deal with a challenge, what you can do generally, and of course, lists, and more lists. Captain Underpants is a more recent entry, i notice.
posted by amberglow (42 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why would Maya Angelou be in the top three? Who is objecting to what?
posted by leftoverboy at 10:07 PM on September 25, 2006


Ah, the love-hate relationship with Banned Books Week. I don't really care for the name - it's a bit misleading.... However, when Sally Kern helped HB 2158 to pass down in Oklahoma, I began to shift in favor of BBW... Luckily, Sally's HB 2158 was shot down.
posted by bradth27 at 10:13 PM on September 25, 2006


Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou --
Reason for challenges: racism, homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group

posted by amberglow at 10:14 PM on September 25, 2006


"First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. " - TINKER v. DES MOINES SCHOOL DIST., 393 U.S. 503 (1969)
posted by bradth27 at 10:18 PM on September 25, 2006


from Random House for Teachers: ...Another common tactic among censors is to check a book out of a library and refuse to return it. ...
posted by amberglow at 10:24 PM on September 25, 2006


and from there: "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." —John Morley

"Only the suppressed word is dangerous." —Ludwig Byrne

posted by amberglow at 10:28 PM on September 25, 2006


At my library, we celebrated Banned Books week by offering them to the public free of charge.

Seriously though, this is one of those things, that, even in a library environment, I found it hard to get riled up about. If a kid can't read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, he or she can a) read it later, or b) never read it. If I hadn't I wouldn't be significantly worse for the wear, and it is very much unsuited to the age group it tends to be "marketed" towards.

that being said, "Captain Underpants"?
posted by hoborg at 10:43 PM on September 25, 2006


Here are some public domain banned books in very high resolution.

Ambrose Bierce - Can Such Things Be? - pdf - flipbook
Harriet Beecher Stowe - Uncle Tom's Cabin - more versions
Jack London - Call of the Wild - pdf - flipbook
Voltaire - Candide - - pdf - flipbook
Walt Whitman - Leaves of Grass - pdf - flipbook
posted by rajbot at 10:47 PM on September 25, 2006


Captain Underpants? I bought that for my nephew. Age 6 mo. What's next? Everybody Poops?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:06 PM on September 25, 2006


If you want to follow ridiculous book challenges throughout the year, I recommend that you read the blog at Bookslut. They (Jessa Crispin and especially Mike Schaub*, who seems to be the more irate of the two when it comes to this issue) do a good job of documenting the inanity (and the sheer volume) of these challenges.

*That is, if he ever comes back. It's been a while. Is he on vacation? Is he gone for good? I need to know ...
posted by anjamu at 11:18 PM on September 25, 2006


What's next? Everybody Poops?

Oh, well then you want "You're a Naughty Child and that's Concentrated Evil Coming Out of the Back of You".
posted by bstreep at 1:10 AM on September 26, 2006


What's next? Everybody Poops?

Oh, well then you want "You're a Naughty Child and that's Concentrated Evil Coming Out of the Back of You".


Then there's "Nobody Poops But You."
posted by anjamu at 1:18 AM on September 26, 2006


that being said, "Captain Underpants"?

IIRC, it "promotes resistance to authority." Or something like that. Can't recall where I read this, but it is frequently challenged.

At my library, our banned books display is creatively decorated with yellow caution tape. This has caused patrons to keep a wide berth and custodians to ask what's wrong with the shelves. Hardly anyone asks about the books.
posted by scratch at 6:37 AM on September 26, 2006


Speaking of bookslut and Banned Books Week, Jessa posted this lovely little turd from Focus on the Family yesterday.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:41 AM on September 26, 2006


that being said, "Captain Underpants"?

Even he can't help us now.
posted by jonmc at 6:58 AM on September 26, 2006


Why would Maya Angelou be in the top three? Who is objecting to what?

African-American literature is a frequent target of book banners in all-white suburbs. If you look at the list, three of the books are by Toni Morrison, and she's the only Nobel laureate in the bunch. Mark Mathabane's Kaffir Boy and Alice Walker's The Color Purple are also on the list.

I also have personal experience of some book banners at my old junior high school who once objected to the showing of the film, Glory, in a junior high school history unit on the Civil War. The teacher received a complaint for showing a "color" film. Naively, she responded, "Why yes? It's in color, not black and white. Is it supposed to look like Matthew Brady photographs?" Instead, what the banners objected to was that the film had "colored people" in it.
posted by jonp72 at 7:16 AM on September 26, 2006


If only one could force the parents to actually read the books themselves before challenging them, perhaps that could open a dialogue with their kids. It works. I always wonder why these parents and advocacy groups don't trust young people to make decisions based on values, as if young people are blank slates, blindly accepting whatever material is put in front of them. It just isn't the case.
posted by cal71 at 7:23 AM on September 26, 2006


African-American literature is a frequent target of book banners in all-white suburbs.

Squares with my experience. When the token far-right conservative of my old high school district's board drew up a challenge list a year ago, Beloved was represented, obstensibly for its bestiality scene. Interestingly, there were a few books of more recent vintage on the block—among them Freakonomics, (for, I assume, its discussion of abortion) and Perks of Being a Wallflower (for all the teen sex, both consensual and nonconsensual). The book list lost some momentum when it came out that the school board member had not actually read most of the books she cited; she'd drawn up the list based on some isolated, out-of-context excerpts. The challenge was voted down 6 to 1.

However, she was able to win some support from neighborhood busy-bodies, and she might well try again. Hopefully, future local elections will maintain a strong pro-sanity voting bloc on the school board.
posted by Iridic at 7:51 AM on September 26, 2006


My school removed this book from its general tenth-grade English curriculum, mostly because there was a description of oral sex that lasted for multiple pages.

I was in ninth grade at the time, and I remember my English teacher explaining that they decided (ostensibly after a slew of parent complaints) that probably not everyone would be comfortable discussing that particular subject in class. They did keep copies of the book in the library, at which point probably every kid in school checked it out under the guise of seeing what all the fuss was about.

As regards Glory, we had to sign a permission slip to be allowed to watch it in middle school. Another time someone's mom complained about the fact that they were going to let us watch The Breakfast Club, and that was the end of that as far as I remember. I still have never seen it, so I am really not clear on what potentially offensive material is contained therein.
posted by anjamu at 8:22 AM on September 26, 2006


as if young people are blank slates, blindly accepting whatever material is put in front of them. It just isn't the case.

Have you been to church lately? Or seen this?


I am really not clear on what potentially offensive material is contained therein.

They smoke weed, all become friends, hook up and nothing bad happens to them.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:42 AM on September 26, 2006


While we're talking about banned books, let's not forget those perennial favorite targets, books with gay content/themes. Some recent faves for the book banners include Brent Hartinger's Geography Club, Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland's King and King, Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and in some places in the US, pretty much anything else that presents a "postive depiction of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle" (to quote wingnut Alabama state legislator Gerald Allen, who tried to get Tennessee Williams banned last year).
posted by blucevalo at 8:55 AM on September 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Captain Underpants. I never knew it would come to that.
posted by agregoli at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2006


Fighting censorship is very important.

Someone else trying to keep you and your children from choosing to read any one book should always infuriate you, even if it's a book you wouldn't read anyway. Whether a book is suited to you or your child's age group is only for you to decide. You can't make that call for anyone else. Period.

If anyone's given that power over anyone else, we're screwed. First Amendment. Very important.
posted by lampoil at 9:56 AM on September 26, 2006


> First Amendment. Very important.

Only forbids government censorship. Censorship by social pressure from private groups or individuals is fine, dandy, A-OK. Whichever side cares the most and works the hardest wins--just as it should be.
posted by jfuller at 12:09 PM on September 26, 2006


Public schools, public libraries.
posted by lampoil at 12:53 PM on September 26, 2006


Intellectual freedom is an professional interest of mine. Ironically my vociferous discussions on the topic have been with other librarians. "Of course we must stock Blume and Rowling. But my God, that Grand Theft Auto will turn all our kids into crack-dealing, hooker-beating sociopaths!"
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 12:54 PM on September 26, 2006


From the top 10 banned in 2005:
“It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families” by Robie H. Harris for sex education and sexual content.
Oh, geez. I wonder if the book challenge is from the same idiots who promote abstinence-only education despite massive evidence against them.
posted by mystyk at 2:39 PM on September 26, 2006


Whichever side cares the most and works the hardest wins--just as it should be.

Censorship and other such battles are won or lost on the basis of who "cares the most and works the hardest"? Fascinating.

How about rephrasing that to "whichever side has the most moolah to throw at craven politicians"?
posted by blucevalo at 4:01 PM on September 26, 2006


I would think Ms Angelou would be very happy to be in the company of Captain Underpants.

They aren't "banned", they are challenged. Once again, ALA shrilly drives away anyone who might actually do anything positive.

In order to get any Federal money, USian public libraries must filter Internet computers that children have access to. We'd do better to focus on that issue, which affects every community that isn't rich, than to focus on scattershot challenges a wide variety of books for a wide variety of issues.
posted by QIbHom at 4:42 PM on September 26, 2006


You can't take the internet home with you from the library or from your school library--you can take books. If they're removed or challenged, that avenue is closed--not filtered, but closed.
posted by amberglow at 5:05 PM on September 26, 2006


The most controversial books in a public library don't go home. When you are a confused 12 year old, you aren't taking that book on homosexuality home with you.

I worked in a library where we actually kept track of the subjects of the misshelved YA books, so we could buy more in that topic. They never went out, but, man, they got used.

School library funding is another thing people should spend more time getting het up about as a real problem. I know several public school librarians who make three times what I do (translation, a living salary), but their book budget is US$500/yr. or less. And has been for 20-30 years.

Banned Book Week is stupid, silly, misleading and distracts from real problems. Kind of like ALA in general.
posted by QIbHom at 5:25 PM on September 26, 2006


I brought books home all the time, and so did everyone i know--we knew how to keep them secret. (of course, that was pre-internet, when there were no other places to get info)
posted by amberglow at 5:38 PM on September 26, 2006


Jumping on the banned wagon with a quiz...
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:21 PM on September 26, 2006


Banned Book Week is stupid, silly, misleading and distracts from real problems.

I agree that school library funding is a big problem, but I don't see how this conclusion follows from that.

If books are banned, libraries (particularly public libraries and school libraries) suffer. It's not complicated.
posted by blucevalo at 10:18 PM on September 26, 2006


blucevalo, BBW isn't about banned books, it is about challenged books. It is a distraction from real, systematic problems. Putting up a BBW poster, or wearing a button makes you feel like you are doing something. You aren't.

You'll do a lot more for challenged books if you go to your local public library, and charge them out once or twice a year.
posted by QIbHom at 5:57 AM on September 27, 2006


They aren't "banned", they are challenged. Once again, ALA shrilly drives away anyone who might actually do anything positive.

This is hairsplitting. The ultimate goal of a challenge is to have the book banned. Just because censors are ineffective, that's no reason to let them off the hook.
posted by jonp72 at 6:29 AM on September 27, 2006


This is hairsplitting. The ultimate goal of a challenge is to have the book banned.

No, the ultimate goal of a challenge is to reshelve the book out of the kids' section, or to remove it from the library.

This is the same as "banning" in the same sense that being rudely propositioned in a bar is the same as violent rape. We know what it means when something is banned: if you're caught with it, you face criminal prosecution. Removing books from a library because the local yokels don't like them is silly and a problem, but it's a far cry from banning books.

If you want to actually deal with a problem of censorious jerks, checking out commonly-challenged books seems a good way. Another thing to do would be to look for books that have been reshelved out of the kids' section and complain that it's hard for you and your kid to find the books you're looking for because [whatever] isn't shelved where it should be.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:47 AM on September 27, 2006


What percentage of challenged books get pulled from libraries? I couldn't find that out when I was doing papers on this stuff in library school 10 years ago.

Makes me suspicious. As does counting every single challenge for any reason as "censorship." The line between juvenile, YA and adult is very fuzzy, and one can make thoughtful arguements that, for example, _I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings_ belongs in adult (where it can still be found, and charged out, by teens). It is, after all, a very emotionally challenging book that an awful lot of adults can't handle.
posted by QIbHom at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2006


You'll do a lot more for challenged books if you go to your local public library, and charge them out once or twice a year.

Point well-taken, QIbHom. But I'm still not sure I understand how the distinction between "challenged" and "banned" is much of a difference in the broader scheme of things.

I'm not arguing that the effect of "challenging" books is the same as (for instance) a government censor outlawing a book in Iran or Belarus. Nonetheless, I think Banned Books Week serves an educational purpose, if nothing else. The Gerald Allens of the world have less to get away with when Banned Books Week is publicized.

I don't agree with a lot that the ALA does, but to my way of thinking, Banned Books Week just doesn't rise to the level of a federal case.
posted by blucevalo at 9:08 AM on September 27, 2006


Oh, and Focus on the Family really wants us all to remember the "distinction" between "challenged" and "banned," too.

Phil Burress with Citizens for Community Values says the event is a fraud put on by the American Library Association. “What people need to understand is that this is the American Library Association’s way of trying to censor those who exercise their free speech rights and say that there are books in the library that should not be available to children.”
posted by blucevalo at 10:32 AM on September 27, 2006


Focus on the Family is a bunch of right wing nutjobs, but they happen to be right on this particular thing.

Is it really too much to suggest that ALA should be accurate?
posted by QIbHom at 11:29 AM on September 27, 2006


Is it really too much to suggest that ALA should be accurate?

Okay. I'd like to suggest that Focus on the Family be accurate as well (a very tall order for them). When they say, "Many books have been questioned by parents and moved to different parts of the library," what does that really mean?

It means, in some cases, that "challenged" books are placed behind a counter where they can't be accessed without asking permission; locked in cases; or exiled to some closed-off portion of the stacks where they'll never circulate or see the light of day again.
posted by blucevalo at 3:24 PM on September 27, 2006


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