Wisconsin book burners
July 22, 2009 10:32 PM   Subscribe

"If you told me we would be going through a book challenge of this nature, I'd think, 'Never in a million years.' "

A Wisconsin couple's petition to have certain "objectionable" books moved from the young adult to the adult section of their public library has lead to heated debates on both sides of the issue and has culminated in 4 "elderly" men filing a claim against the library in question. They're asking for a book to be removed and burned as it damaged their "mental and emotional well-being". The book is called Baby Be-Bop. The American Library Association's compilation of information on book burnings (200 B.C.E - present).
posted by sredefer (110 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
They seriously want them burned? Is this the 14th century? Not to mention that the whole idea is ridiculous anyway..

Censorship like this angers me in a way I can't put into words very well. I will just leave an exasperated grunt.

Eurgh.
posted by Askiba at 10:39 PM on July 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


"All the books in the young-adult zone that deal with homosexuality are gay-affirming. That's not balance," she said.
Precious.
posted by Tesseractive at 10:46 PM on July 22, 2009


"All the books in the young-adult zone that deal with homosexuality are gay-affirming. That's not balance," she said.

Yeah and all the books in the History section are anti-Hitler.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:48 PM on July 22, 2009 [70 favorites]


I don't even see what the problem is here. Since Amazon and Sony and Apple and the rest of the tethered e-content community has the right to simply make books magically disappear (or to be altered w/o prior consent of the end user), the solution is easy. Burn ALL the books in the library. Buy a couple hundred ebook readers and let the Christian's delete and or alter books to their hearts delight burning bright with righteousness and the love of their Lord. How can they be wrong? They can't. Their God told them they have a right to do whatever is necessary to spread the good word.

Who needs smelly inky things made out of dead trees anyhow, it's all so gross and materialistic and so not with the times. Ewww. Dead trees. Yuck.

Burn, baby, Burn...
posted by Skygazer at 10:50 PM on July 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Okay, now I want to read Baby Be-Bop, especially after looking at the Amazon page and reviews there for it. It sounds lovely. And it's part of a series? Interesting. (I have to admit that when I first read the FPP, I was wondering why senior citizens wanted to burn a Barney book.)

There are other ways to handle this. If they want to have anti-homosexuality books in the teen section, they can toddle on down to the local Christian Supply Store and buy a few and donate them to the collection. Libraries love to have donated books, don't they?

Braun, who says he is president of a Milwaukee group called the Christian Civil Liberties Union

Wow, he's 74 years old and hasn't figured out yet that, when reading a book, you can always close it and stop reading if you find it offensive? And I'm loving the "Christian Civil Liberties Union", which seems only to exist in the context of wanting to burn this book.

Frankly, I'm surprised they aren't taking more direct action, and just checking out the book and then never returning it, or burning it themselves at home or something. When I was buddying around with Jesus, some of the activist sorts in the group would do exactly that. (I don't know what they did when it came to the whole non-returned book fines came up.)
posted by hippybear at 11:09 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


you know who else burned books?
posted by killy willy at 11:13 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've just emailed the director to ask if they are accepting donations of books.
posted by crataegus at 11:16 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


(1) fuck banning a book.
(2) Here's a classier alternative to burning: Pulping them and using them to make roads
posted by boo_radley at 11:22 PM on July 22, 2009


I've just emailed the director to ask if they are accepting donations of books.


Generally, libraries don't - the books that are donated are often of a low quality (e.g. someone moves house and doesn't want to take their old books with them). Even if they're not, there's a significant cost in processing and cataloguing the books, as well as storage - probably more than the actual cost of even a hardback book.

So I say good for you for asking, but don't be surprised if they say 'no thank you'.
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:30 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's to debate? There is never a circumstance in which banning a book is acceptable, much less one in which burning it is to be tolerated. Period. End of discussion.

See how there was not debate required, unless you're a f*@$ing lunatic?
posted by StrangeTikiGod at 12:23 AM on July 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


"Their God told them they have a right to do whatever is necessary to spread the good word."

And my god (the Flying Spaghetti Monster, blessed be His noodly appendage) told me to smack them in the head for their foolishness. See how these Magical Sky Voices™ are so convenient for day to day guidance? Why, they can exculpate any activity!

Or we could be rational about these sorts of things, but there's no precedent for that, goodness knows.

I'm sorry for the double comment, but miscreants like this "Christian Civil Liberties Union" group make me furious that they purport to represent the will of all Wisconsinites. I've gotten my lederhosen in a twist. Where's the cheese?
posted by StrangeTikiGod at 12:30 AM on July 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


What's to debate? There is never a circumstance in which banning a book is acceptable, much less one in which burning it is to be tolerated. Period. End of discussion.

Any book that contains photos depicting rape or torture published or circulated without the consent of the victim(s) probably deserves banning. However, for most reasonable definitions of "book" I agree with you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:16 AM on July 23, 2009


Why do so many Americans have such a problem with their First Amendment?
posted by rhymer at 2:10 AM on July 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Well, the Weetzie Bat books are, to be fair, rather unconventional, usually reading, if I correctly recall, like a world which was something like a pre-Katrina New Orleans crossed with a perpetual Burning Man, only Neil Gaiman had been hired to decorate, and it was then populated by fantasy-prone personalities, schizotypal sorts, and folks with whole hosts of identity formation disorders. I'm not sure how the economy is supposed to work: I envision a sizable chunk of craft involving rocks, glitter, and taxidermy; about 60% of transactions conducted at endless flea markets; and "big industry" to be represented by Willy Wonka. Inhabitants rarely have reason, but they do have compulsions, phobias, and prophecy. Sexual orientation to be decided by dicerolls against a table of the phases of the Moon. No, not that Moon, the one in fairyland.

Which is to say, they're a great deal of fun.

Which is also to say, I think only a humorless grind with a grim and unwavering agenda, blind to anything else, would take them seriously.

I do like this startling new idea of balance. I'll need this Mrs. Maziarka's contact information so I can tell her that I'll be donating a large number of books on the occult to even out all of the Jesusy stuff. I wonder if they'll take audio CDs of Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls.
posted by adipocere at 2:49 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah and all the books in the History section are anti-Hitler.

You know who else was anti-Hit...wait. Look, I'll come in again...
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:00 AM on July 23, 2009 [15 favorites]


Not that I'm opposed to a few minutes' idle outrage at the actions of people thousands of miles away in a different country than me, but is there a reason besides some sort of solidarity that I should care about this? Do the legal challenges that the ala.org link mentions - having the book declared obscene, or potentially requiring judicial clarification of the library's rules and procedures as they relate to book complaints - have any precedence-setting effects that might chill free access to the kinds of ideas Baby Be-Bop presents in places that aren't a small town in Wisconsin?
posted by Fraxas at 3:14 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's to debate? There is never a circumstance in which banning a book is acceptable, much less one in which burning it is to be tolerated. Period. End of discussion.

There's room for debate I think. Just not on the grounds that these folks want to use. There's probably some arguments to be made with regards to privacy (suppose your therapist publishes a book all about you complete with all identifying information and without your permission), or intellectual property (copying someone else's work verbatim and slapping your own name on the byline). It's one thing to say you disagree with any such arguments, but I think there can certainly be debate.
posted by juv3nal at 3:15 AM on July 23, 2009


The pro civil rights stuff is way out of balance too. Better get more pro-slavery books! And EVERY book about pedophiles is against them, and that can't be right. How many books are there promoting Satanism? The children NEED balance in their reading! Just give these folks a Kindle with some Orwell, then send them home to enjoy their book-banning in private.
posted by jamstigator at 3:28 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't even see what the problem is here. Since Amazon and Sony and Apple and the rest of the tethered e-content community has the right to simply make books magically disappear (or to be altered w/o prior consent of the end user), the solution is easy. Burn ALL the books in the library. Buy a couple hundred ebook readers and let the Christian's delete and or alter books to their hearts delight burning bright with righteousness and the love of their Lord.

Except, of course, you're missing two (somewhat related) points.

Point the first is that the problem isn't with the books they see. They don't wwant anyone else to see them. Deleting their own virtual books wouldn't make them any happier than just not taking out the real books they don't like.

Point the second is that the library is a great place for people, especially kid-type people in their teens with odd feelings, to go and educate themselves. Often upon the topics that would be monitored or deleted from said ereaders. The people who need physical books most are the people that would be most harmed by ereaders.
posted by rodgerd at 3:29 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I was 12 (lo these many years ago), boys were never allowed to read Anne Frank and girls restricted because of oblique references to menstruation. It was kept behind the librarian's desk. A girl had to have a note from her mother stating that she had reached menarche or she could not check it out. This meant that if you were seen reading a library copy of Anne Frank everyone knew you were menstruating. No one read Anne Frank.

On the plus side, when I finally told my mother about this and she just bought a copy for me I read it through several times searching for the juicy, giggly parts, which of course, weren't there. So I figured out that adults are idiots, because they were trying to protect me from things that weren't there, therefore ALL of their warnings were suspect if not useless (this is how 12-year-old minds work). I immediately started crossing the street without looking both ways which led, inevitably, to sex and drugs and rocknroll. (This was the 60s after all)
posted by nax at 4:15 AM on July 23, 2009 [49 favorites]


So I figured out that adults are idiots, because they were trying to protect me from things that weren't there, therefore ALL of their warnings were suspect if not useless ...
This. People who are trying to warn teens about sex, drugs, etc always do this shit. They totally overreact and overstate the dangers causing kids to discount everything they say. Somehow they think that kids don't have bullshit detectors.
posted by octothorpe at 4:31 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


girl had to have a note from her mother stating that she had reached menarche or she could not check it out.
Good god those people are ridiculous. Did you have to show a driver's licence to read books where the characters drove motor vehicles? Or show the holes in your hands to read the New Testament? Fuckwits.
posted by fightorflight at 4:38 AM on July 23, 2009


The next hate-filled, ignorant, conservative douchebag that whines that there's a lack of "balance" because someone isn't willing to present their crackpot bullshit "side" on a non-issue is going to get a cement statue of a caveman riding a dinosaur right in the teeth.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 5:27 AM on July 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thought that their suggestion that library get books by, haha, "ex-gays" was not entirely out of place. A library is a place of free thought and the 1st Amendment protects all speech. It's up to the individual patron to be able to discern which of those books are/aren't appropriate/insane for them.

Now the whole thing is out of hand and has achieved a level of deplorable lunacy, but the out-of-hand rejection to purchasing "counter-books" struck me as just as nasty. But maybe I'm not getting the whole story
posted by GilloD at 5:45 AM on July 23, 2009


Oh man, don't take away Baby Be-Bop! Or any of the Francesca Lia Block Weetzie Bat books. Sure, they get repetitive and a little cliche by the end, but seriously, that series opened my eyes to an aesthetic and welcoming life style when I was 14. I curled up in those book. I devoured them. I think I went through the whole series in a week, it was just too addicting. After I read that I moved on to other books of hers, and even though I grew tired of her writing style and subject matter, the point is I grew. And being exposed to premarital sex and teens being crazy in California, it didn't change me behavior of anything. I'm so glad the Maziarkas aren't my parents.
posted by piratebowling at 5:47 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why do so many Americans have such a problem with their First Amendment?

It's a little-known fact, but most of the Bill of Rights is actually part of the Fake Constitution, which only governs Fake America.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:51 AM on July 23, 2009 [10 favorites]



It's a little-known fact, but most of the Bill of Rights is actually part of the Fake Constitution, which only governs Fake America.


Did you that Barack Obama was born on a SPACE STATION?! He ain't even American, he's a MOON MAN. We got a MOON MAN for a president over here!
posted by GilloD at 5:54 AM on July 23, 2009 [13 favorites]


I always get annoyed with idiots that want to censor books. Here's an idea, PARENTS should decide what is right for their minor children to read. If a parent finds it objectionable, well, families are dicatorships. Besides, how else are kids going to get their thrills by sneaking that copy of "The Coldest Winter Ever" under the covers with a flashlight.

But I suppose, Heaven Forbid, a parent actually monitor music, television or reading material. That would mean that the parent would actually have to interact with their kids in a meaningful way.

That assumes that kids read anything besides Harry Potter anyway.

BTW, have y'all read any of the books purported to be "Young Adult" fiction? It's mindblowingly adult. Complete with cursing, sex, drugs, smoking and riding in fast cars with fast boys. "Gossip Girl" (the books, not the show) and "The A List" are ghost written by the same people that do Jackie Collins (okay, a slight exaggeration.)

I was looking for books to stock my reading shelf in my classroom and I was astounded at the stuff that frankly I thought was too advanced for 14-year olds. Not only that, it's not good. I read "The A List" and it was terribly written.

So I had kids reading Eric Jerome Dickey. Their parents were jealous and wanted to read the books after the kids were done with them.

Good reading trumps all discourse.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:59 AM on July 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


To this day, I cannot comprehend why Christians wish to ban or burn books containing homosexuality, incest, violence against adults and children alike, torture of the innocent, supernatural phenomena, and drugs.

You know what other book has all that stuff?

I don't particularly care for the LOLXTIANS thing most of the time, but the censorship is beyond ridiculous. This isn't based on "Thou shalt not pop a cap in thy neighbor's ass in order to steal his wife and his TV." Most of this has little to no basis in original Christian teachings, only modern constructs.

I like to imagine that should this particular type of religion twister find themselves at the gates of Heaven to meet Jesus as they so direly wish, that he looks them right in the eye and says "What the fuck? Seriously. What the fuck."
posted by Saydur at 6:06 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Outside West Bend, the fight caught the attention of Robert Braun, who, with three other Milwaukee-area men, filed a claim against West Bend calling for one of the library's books to be publicly burned, along with financial damages.

Little known fact: Robert is Eva's second cousin once-removed. That family's never been right.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:14 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a classier alternative to burning: Pulping them and using them to make roads

Where we're going, we don't read roads.
posted by oaf at 6:17 AM on July 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


You know who else was (eventually) anti-Hitler?
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:26 AM on July 23, 2009


Back in the early 90s I worked for a nonprofit that did a bunch of civil liberties stuff. They had a school censorship project, in which they tracked incidents of book challenges and bannings, and offered assistance to schools and public libraries facing such things.

School librarians would call me, whispering frantically about a challenge brought by parents objecting to Huck Finn or Anne Frank or [book about homosexuality]. Many young adult novels were challenged because they contained examples of a child defying his or her parents or other authority figure. A lot of these smaller school or public libraries didn't have formal mechanisms in place to deal with complaints like this, since they'd never experienced them before. Back before the Christian Right began a concerted effort to get members elected to the school board or library board, parents might come into a library and say "I don't want Johnny checking out books on [subject]," which I think is dumb - Johnny can just sit in the library and read those books rather than checking them out - but at least it's just a parent saying what they don't want their own kid to read. Fine. Whatever. But this newfangled thing about telling other parents what their kids shouldn't be able to check out of the library? I'd come home from work, my blood boiling.

I was one of those kids who was set loose in the library on a weekly basis and who never failed to check out less than the maximum number of books allowed. The only thing my mom wouldn't let me read were books she judged to be badly written.

There's a part of me that delights in stuff like this, because it makes it clear that some people out there, warped perspective and all, still seem to really believe that books matter and that what you read can change your life. This has certainly been my experience. I can only hope that the kids of parents like this do what kids everywhere have done since the dawn of time: go right out and do (in this case, read) what mom and dad say is wrong and bad and perilous and shouldn't even be thought about.
posted by rtha at 6:35 AM on July 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


a man told the city's library director he should be tarred and feathered.

give the man his due. at least he's upfront about being a medieval-level jackass. in this day & age, i'll settle for a little consistency.
posted by breadfruit at 6:37 AM on July 23, 2009


They seriously want them burned? Is this the 14th century? Not to mention that the whole idea is ridiculous anyway..
posted by Askiba at 1:39 AM on July 23


The don't want the gay book burned, you silly duck. They want the gay people burned. Duh.

From the article: "Then they stopped targeting a list of books and circulated a petition that asked the board to label and move to the adult section any "youth-targeted pornographic books" -- including books that describe sex acts in a way unsuitable for minors."

Youth targeted pornographic books? Like the book of Ezekiel from the Old Testament? Really, you should press through to verse 19, that's where it gets really hot.

The fundamental problem here, as always, is that stupid people are given rights and property, instead of a shovel to the head.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:38 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


God, I really can't wait to see how the current generation of preteens growing up with parents like this turns out when the kids get older. It'll be either awesome or the end of the world.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:41 AM on July 23, 2009


More juicy reading.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:42 AM on July 23, 2009


If we're gonna burn all the anti-Christian books with descriptions of sex, violence, strong language, and other such uncomfortable things, then we'd better burn all the Bibles along with them. Y'know, for balance.
posted by Lush at 6:44 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Keep our library clean?" It never started out clean. Show me somebody who thinks gay-positive material signals some kind of decline in the library's standards, and I'll show you somebody who's never read classic literature, ancient mythology, or (including?) the Bible.
posted by Rykey at 6:45 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those parents better not be letting their children read the Bible's all I can say. The Song of Solomon's in there, and if that ain't 'raunchy sex acts' then I don't know what is.

Climb that palm tree and take hold of the clusters of grapes, indeed!
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:55 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's room for debate I think.

There's always room for debate. These folks are not interested in debate.
posted by blucevalo at 7:02 AM on July 23, 2009


PARENTS should decide what is right for their minor children to read

This. There are many negative things I could say about my father, but one of the major positives was that he let me read ANYTHING. I would devour books, 30-50/month, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. We never discussed them, he never tried to push me down one literary path or another, he just stayed out of my way and let me read.

When push came to shove at school (some incident or another), I recall he stood up for me and quite accurately listed the authors I had been reading. Who knew he was paying attention, but there you go...
posted by jkaczor at 7:07 AM on July 23, 2009


From one of the pro-censorship parents:
PARENTS, BE FOREWARNED - THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO CHOOSE BOOKS FOR YOUR CHILDREN. THEY ARE THE LIBRARIAN CENSORS WHO HAVE REMOVED ALL COMMUNITY STANDARDS AND ARE, INSTEAD, IMPARTING ALA STANDARDS THAT PUT BOOKS CONTAINING CRUDE AND RAUNCHY SEX ACTS IN THEM FOR ALL CHILDREN ONTO THE SHELVES, CLASSIFIED FOR YOUNG ADULTS NONETHELESS, AT YOUR WEST BEND COMMUNITY MEMORIAL LIBRARY. YES, ALL CHILDREN! YOURS, MINE...THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY THEY SERVE! THEY ARE THE CENSORS. THEY CHOOSE.
They're censoring -- by not censoring!

The anti-censorship group also has a blog.
posted by jeather at 7:16 AM on July 23, 2009


it damaged their "mental and emotional well-being".

Wow, he's 74 years old and hasn't figured out yet that, when reading a book, you can always close it and stop reading if you find it offensive?


It's like the new Sutter Cane book. You don't really have an option to stop reading it, you know. He just grabs you by the hair, pushes your face into the pages, and then there's that whole blinding-light-horror-montage and that's pretty much it.

I'm pretty sure that book won't burn.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:20 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not that I'm opposed to a few minutes' idle outrage at the actions of people thousands of miles away in a different country than me, but is there a reason besides some sort of solidarity that I should care about this?

I think folks in this thread have elucidated any number of reasons to care. But not caring is, of course, as always, an available alternative.
posted by blucevalo at 7:21 AM on July 23, 2009


with descriptions of sex, violence, strong language, and other such uncomfortable things

You see there... I thought you were talking the Bible.
posted by yeti at 7:32 AM on July 23, 2009


with descriptions of sex [...] and other such uncomfortable things

ur doin it rong
posted by uncleozzy at 7:36 AM on July 23, 2009


Braun, who says he is president of a Milwaukee group called the Christian Civil Liberties Union

Rule of thumb: If you are burning someone else's property because you don't like it, it is not your civil liberties that are in trouble.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:43 AM on July 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


Elderly men are using squishy language like "mental and emotional well-being"? Whatever happened to crotchety curmudgeons who say socially inappropriate things because they're too old to care? Damn, we're turning into a nation of complete wusses.
posted by jonp72 at 7:43 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder if they'll take audio CDs of Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls.

Holy crap! That's on CD? It has one of the best samples ever... "Kiss.....the goat!!!!"
posted by jonp72 at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2009


This is a PETA move. By that I mean that people who know they are fighting an uphill and probably unwinnable battle have decided to use incredibly out-there posturing in order to get the widest exposure possible. I spent a chunk of time yesterday reading about this and the whole thing pisses me off.

- It's been going on for months since the parents originally challenged a list of books that started out short but expanded to about 80+ books. If you look at the website for the library, it's pretty low-tech for a community of 30K people. This is a small town in a lot of ways, by Wisconsin standards
- The library was "dragging their feet" dealing with the book challenges -- the most important thing a library can do in these cases is have a policy alredy written and follow it to the letter -- and so there is the added kerfuffle of the four board members being removed which smacks of partisanship but it's totally unclear what really happened to them, to me
- ultimately, the parents' challenge -- they requested to have a long list of books moved from the YA area to the adult area. These are not adult books, they are written for teens on teen topics, some of those topics include sex, gay sex/love and sticky issues like pregnancy, abuse, etc -- wasn't successful and so these men have decided to sue the library for harm. This will not be successful either, in fact it's crazy, but it's in every damned papper because of the ZOMG BOOK BURNING

And, sadly, there's the LOLXIAN angle, mainly from the parents in the initial challenge who were working closely with the "Christian Civil Liberties Union" a group that barely exists to the extent that they don't even have a website but is now heavily Googleable mainly because of this story. They've appropriated the language and tactics of the ACLU without, you know, fighting for the first amendment or anything cool like that.

As much as I respect parents' rights to do more or less what they want as far as their kids and the library, I feel like they really lost this fight for good when they started wanting books out of the library for being "anti-Christian" because, well, that looks weird on its face to anyone not involved in their own crusade. People without a dog in this fight can SEE that those people are off-kilter (as if the book burning didn't do it). There's even an argument to be made that having books about "ex-gays" while I find them personally repugnant, might be a decent move in any good sized library. There's a lot of selection for libraries that happens under the heading of "community standards" which can flavor the collection to reflect the people who live in it and that can mean more "gentle reading" or a Christian books section of the population wants that.

I wish that there were more information abotu this on either the library website or the town website. It would be nice to have strong statements about "This whole thing is ridiculous, thanks for working with us while we deal with this intolerance" from the town and the library.
posted by jessamyn at 7:54 AM on July 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


and, self-link, here are the links I put together on this topic yesterday.
posted by jessamyn at 7:55 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


WWSPD?
posted by ericb at 7:55 AM on July 23, 2009


> When I was buddying around with Jesus, some of the activist sorts in the group would do exactly that.

A while back at a branch of the library system I used to work at, a guy came in and complained that he didn't want Oscar-freakin'-Wilde's books on the shelves because - get this - Wilde was gay, and he didn't want his son "exposed" (as though the books were jumping off the shelves and spreading their legs covers at him, and as though Wilde was the only gay author in the entire library) to them. He was politely told that this was not going to happen. Not long after that, "someone" came in and cut most of Wilde's books up with a knife or scissors.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:02 AM on July 23, 2009


"All the books in the young-adult zone that deal with homosexuality are gay-affirming. That's not balance."

I assume everyone here is OK with some anti-homosexuality books, pro-Hitler books and pro-slavery books in the library? Certainly fine by me. No point in talking the talk if you don't walk the walk.
posted by Wood at 8:24 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lovely. Mr. Wilde would have a witty and perfect aphorism to apply to that sort of situation, but it makes me just want to puke.
posted by blucevalo at 8:25 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love how most every social-activism group that prefaces it's name with 'Christian' or 'Family' is pretty much guaranteed to be a font of virulent bigotry. Wait, not love.. the other one.

Altho I bet they'd really lose it if they knew what was on the shelves at my local library...
posted by FatherDagon at 8:39 AM on July 23, 2009


Book burning? I don't get it. The books still exist elsewhere unless they are way old. You can buy them on Amazon. Go to another library. Take a trip into the big city to buy yourself some dirty, dirty reading material. Burning a couple of copies of a naughty book doesn't do crap to keep it out of the hands of impressionable young folk. What they need to do is start burning publishing houses. And authors. And people's brains, because you know that's where all the really objectionable material is stored.
posted by Never teh Bride at 8:51 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I seem to remember that censorship was a subject in one of those eighties TV shows. It ended with a teacher slowly reading the list of banned books and all the kids writing them down.

I always thought that was a GREAT ending.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:20 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


True story: My mom didn't want me reading Tom Jones, she thought it was too dirty. The cover had me convinced it was going to be like a Dickens novel, and truth be told I probably would have been bored fairly quickly by it. Instead I picked up a copy of American Psycho which some prankster put in the young adult section. For years I had it in my mind that Tom Jones must have contained some unfathomable horrors that American Psycho didn't touch. When I finally picked it up in high school, I read it at arms length and with every page turn I kept expecting that this passage would finally have Tom Jones cut up a prostitute and do unmentionable things to her. About forty pages in I began to realize that it wasn't going to happen and was greatly disappointed.
posted by geoff. at 9:31 AM on July 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


Doesn't the church have something about "be not afraid" that these people can cling to in their time of overwhelming fear?
posted by orme at 9:35 AM on July 23, 2009


Here are some other suspect books in the West Bend Community Library catalog:

Catcher in the Rye (both copies checked out)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (only copy checked out)
Lady Chatterley's Lover
American Psycho
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Heather Has Two Mommies
The Handmaid's Tale
Blubber, Judy Blume (5 copies!)
To Kill a Mockingbird (multiple copies)
Slaughterhouse-five; or, The children's crusade, a duty-dance with death (including one copy in the young adult area)
Ordinary People, Judith Guest

Alas, no Tom Jones.

Those righteous crusaders better get on the ball and start campaigning against those books too.
posted by blucevalo at 9:55 AM on July 23, 2009


The four plaintiffs -- who describe themselves as "elderly" in their complaint --- claim their "mental and emotional well-being was damaged by [the] book at the library."

Man, they must not have read a lot of the other books that live in libraries, because if they can get this tore up about some kid's gay sex book, their minds would atomize reading Clive Barker.

The claim, unconnected to the Maziarkas, says the book "Baby Be-bop" -- a fictional piece about a homosexual teenager -- is "explicitly vulgar, racial and anti-Christian."

I was unaware that public libraries were obligated to only shelve books which meet the standards of and are found acceptable by the Christian church. They really need to put that on a sign up in front or something, because I was under the impression that they catered to a larger reading audience.

Besides, some of us like things that are vulgar, racial, and a bit anti-church.

"The books could still be checked out freely by anyone."

Oh the horror! That reading material might be made available for just anyone? Shocking! Clearly the only answer is to burn that shit.

For the first time I'm actually glad that most of the relatives that lived in West Bend have passed away. I'd hate to think that they were surrounded by idiots like this.
posted by quin at 10:03 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Two side-by-side comments, above:

A while back at a branch of the library system I used to work at, a guy came in and complained that he didn't want Oscar-freakin'-Wilde's books on the shelves because - get this - Wilde was gay, and he didn't want his son "exposed" (as though the books were jumping off the shelves and spreading their legs covers at him...

I assume everyone here is OK with some anti-homosexuality books, pro-Hitler books and pro-slavery books in the library? Certainly fine by me. No point in talking the talk if you don't walk the walk.


This is kind of a fair point. Anti-homosexuality books aren't going to leap off the shelves and force themselves on anyone, either. Although it makes sense that the public and/or library can decide what it's going to devote public money to putting on their shelves, this cuts both ways, too.

But them I'm not for much of banning any reading material.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:10 AM on July 23, 2009


Can someone who's read Baby Be-Bop please explain to me what the elderly men might mean, exactly, by "racial" as a description of a book's contents, and an explicitly negative one at that?
posted by Navelgazer at 10:11 AM on July 23, 2009


You know, shit like this reminds me of my dad saying "You cannot expect reasonable behavior from unreasonable people."

People who have their beliefs about what constitutes right and wrong, what's acceptable and unacceptable spoon-fed to them from an early age and are threatened by anything that makes them question or defend said beliefs are, in my experience, extremely unreasonable in their behavior and in their expectations of the world around them.

I keep thinking things like the Internet and access to reasonable discourse with people of differing religions, politics, ethnic backgrounds, educations, world experiences and philosophies will change this phenomenon. But willful ignorance is apparently never going away god fucking dammit, this pisses me off!!!!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:14 AM on July 23, 2009


Anti-homosexuality books aren't going to leap off the shelves and force themselves on anyone, either. Although it makes sense that the public and/or library can decide what it's going to devote public money to putting on their shelves, this cuts both ways, too.

Don't burn my copy of And Tango Makes Three, and I won't burn their copy of Mein Kampf.
posted by blucevalo at 10:14 AM on July 23, 2009


Apparently this is the "racial" content to which the person takes offense:

Braun said he found the homosexual content particularly offensive. “They call one character ‘faggot’ with every swear word you can think of ... and they use the N-word,” Braun said.
posted by blucevalo at 10:19 AM on July 23, 2009


I assume everyone here is OK with some anti-homosexuality books, pro-Hitler books and pro-slavery books in the library? Certainly fine by me. No point in talking the talk if you don't walk the walk.

I'm pretty sure I'm remembering correctly that both the town's libraries and the library at my public high school, in my very Jewish town, had copies of The Diary of Anne Frank and Mein Kampf available.

Libraries have limited resources. They are not all like the Library of Congress, which itself does not contain every book ever published (I don't think). Librarians and library boards make decisions about what books to carry and what books to not carry. The vast majority of the decisions are made based on what they know will bring people in - books from the NYT bestseller lists, Pulitzer winners, the top 40 from Harlequin, etc.
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on July 23, 2009


I'll go book for book with them. They can burn a book that offends them and I'll burn a book that I find stoopid. We'll see who runs out of material first. I'll start with Tim Lahaye and move on to Star Trek novelizations, Warhammer, Longarm and Glenn Beck's fucking Christmas book.
posted by zzazazz at 10:32 AM on July 23, 2009


Oh, c’mon, can the irony be thicker? His names Braun, he’s 74 years old. Clearly he’s one of the Hitler Youth who fled Argentina to go to Wisconsin.
Book Burning. You have to laugh. Idiots.

"Their God told them they have a right to do whatever is necessary to spread the good word."

My God too. His names Huitzilopochtli. Would you care to lay down on this ziggurat? I need your heart. You want the sun to come back don’t you?

“Do the legal challenges that the ala.org link mentions … have any precedence-setting effects that might chill free access to the kinds of ideas Baby Be-Bop presents in places that aren't a small town in Wisconsin?"

The bounds don't matter. “Any power must be an enemy of mankind which enslaves the individual by terror and force.... All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded to the individual.” - Einstein
posted by Smedleyman at 10:49 AM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I assume everyone here is OK with some anti-homosexuality books, pro-Hitler books and pro-slavery books in the library? Certainly fine by me. No point in talking the talk if you don't walk the walk.

The reason these things get so sticky, well one of them, is this point. Most libraries that I know of DO walk the walk and have books on many perspectives on a topic. This is less clear-cut with, say, weird racist screeds but a lot more obvious with some of the ex-gay literature that is out there and which you will probably find in your public library. In fact, in the circles I travel in, it's a lot more common to see libraries going really out of their way trying to be balanced than to be on the record as saying certain books are not okay for the library.

It's a weird bind in some ways. You can't both say "books change lives" in a way that strongly suggests that books have a transformative positive effect on people and at the same time tell people who are outraged about book content that books can't also have a transformative *negative* effect [which in some people's minds might mean that their kids become gay, or sexually active, or use bad language] I mean, I hope people understand which side of this argument I'm coming from and am not implying that I think those things are bad things.

To me a lot of the people who are arguing for the intellectual freedom aspect of this can sometimes gloss the fact that it's not the fact that books are awesome, it's the fact that ideas are awesome (even "bad" ones) and they help you become a person, your own person. Sometimes that person you become is not the person other people want you to be. And thus we have these challenges. If reading a book about Nazis is going to make you become a Nazi, then that's a terrible but necessary part of adhering to the ideals of intellectual freedom and I think that's a tough idea for people to stomach sometimes and so they pussyfoot around the topics that really make these discussions difficult.
posted by jessamyn at 11:24 AM on July 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


This is helpful inasmuch as it reminds us how transformative books can really be. I had a young guy in the library the other night and we were closing so I asked him if he needed any help.

"I'm just going to go get some Burroughs and other Beat writers", he loudly proclaimed. At the time, I felt a bit cynical about the whole thing but it sure beats (heh) this nonsense.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:31 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ginny Maziarka speaking at the West Bend library hearings. (w/ other related videos).

A segment from Christian talk show Crosstalk America, about the West Bend brouhaha.
posted by ericb at 12:08 PM on July 23, 2009


Zowie. Extremely well said, jessamyn.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:24 PM on July 23, 2009


A solution to this problem would be to shelve all the young adult books with the adult books. I'd like to see a young christian head into the stacks for a copy of Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing and come out with Running with Scissors: a Memoir.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:14 PM on July 23, 2009


I have thought for a while now that the reason these sorts of people get upset at books is because they're books. These good Christian people understand the power of the bible as The Book and The Word, and ascribe that same power to all codices. So, if My Book is good and can influence the people in good ways, then the books that are "bad" are also Books, and will influence people in "bad" ways, so I must struggle against them (there's that whole "Kampf" thing again).

We, on the other hand, take a critical gaze upon these things and recognize that books are just things and that we must think about what we read in them.
posted by djfiander at 1:29 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


And jessamyn is totally right. There are probably plenty of books in the library that I wouldn't like my child reading and then adhering to. If we each get to ban the things we don't like, the only thing at the library would be a copy of the phonebook. Instilling solid values in a child means being there to hold their hand and advise them when they are confronted with the parts of human nature you find unsavory. When my kid checks out Mien Kampf, I hope that I am ready to have an intelligent conversation about it and not reach for my matches.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:30 PM on July 23, 2009


I won't comment on the presence of "ex-gay" books in the library, because they might be there, but I do think that one rational explanation for the fact that all the books about homosexuality in the library are "gay-affirming" is that that's what the medical profession says we should do.

Homosexuality is not a pathological state, it is normal. People end up with mental and social problems not because they are homosexual, but because they are repressed and rejected. So books that say the faggots are bad and we need to shun them are harmful, in a psychological sense, and are not appropriate materials for a library to collection.
posted by djfiander at 1:32 PM on July 23, 2009


I can't help but feel that a lot of these comments--and I've read a lot both here and on other sites of, well, the same persuasion--have a tinge of proprietariness about the library. As if, Why would stupid fundie Christians even care about the library? It's where we went to get away from them!
posted by adoarns at 2:00 PM on July 23, 2009


If by "proprietariness" you mean "a desire to prevent books from being banned and burned," then yeah, I'd say I'm pretty proprietary.
posted by blucevalo at 2:04 PM on July 23, 2009


You know, if the last fifty years have taught us anything, they should have taught us that the minute you tell a teen "don't read this book" and mean it, that teen will do everything in their power to read that book.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:05 PM on July 23, 2009


Point the first is that the problem isn't with the books they see. They don't want anyone else to see them.

That, and laziness. You certainly have your people who think x is wrong and want all instances or mention of x to go away. However, you also have people who think that dropping their kids off alone at a library for a couple of hours or sending 'em there after school is good parenting (and in some ways it can, depending on how old the kids are) but they can't do it if there are books there that they don't want their kids to read. So, torn between having to stay at the library with their kids to keep an eye on their reading or ask the library to remove books taht they don't want their kids to read, some choose the former and some choose the latter.

Me, if I were in that position (of wanting to control what my kids read), I think I'd set up a room in my house as a reading room, and bring home armfuls of new books every week for my kid to spend hours with.
posted by davejay at 2:14 PM on July 23, 2009


I'd like to see a young christian head into the stacks for a copy of Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing and come out with Running with Scissors: a Memoir.

Although, if the stacks are alphabetical by title, it's more likely they'd walk out with Tales of the City. Which would also be just fine.
posted by hippybear at 2:17 PM on July 23, 2009


At first I had my doubts about Robert Braun and the CCLU -- they sounded like a big put on, a merry prank by drug-crazed liberals. 70-year-old guys claiming this kids' book harmed them emotionally. Sure! But then I saw the video in this blog and I didn't laugh. (I don't believe that is Braun in the clip.) Braun is a kind of prankster. Every year (at least up to the year 2000 when he was busted) he would demonstrate in favour of jury nullification in the Milwaukee courthouse. Another suit has him appealing an anti-picketing ordinance in Brookfield, WI. Nothing to do with, say, abortion clinics. He was picketing a private home. So the guy is a hobby litigant. I suspect the CCLU is an ad hoc group that he invented.
posted by CCBC at 2:28 PM on July 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, if the last fifty years have taught us anything, they should have taught us that the minute you tell a teen "don't read this book" and mean it, that teen will do everything in their power to read that book.

Previously?

*snert*
posted by Night_owl at 2:45 PM on July 23, 2009


have a tinge of proprietariness about the library.

Based on what I see using this greasemonkey script, it's because many of us actually work in libraries.
posted by jessamyn at 3:16 PM on July 23, 2009


Not that I'm opposed to a few minutes' idle outrage at the actions of people thousands of miles away in a different country than me, but is there a reason besides some sort of solidarity that I should care about this?

Well, my experience has been that crazies, particularly this religious flavour of crazy, love to hook up with crazies elsewhere to export their brand of crazy. Certainly US religous crazies have been advising their New Zealand coutnerparts and providing money over the last ten years in how to impose relgiious crazy on the rest of us. I see no reason to believe that the same won't happen elsewhere.

A while back at a branch of the library system I used to work at, a guy came in and complained that he didn't want Oscar-freakin'-Wilde's books on the shelves because - get this - Wilde was gay, and he didn't want his son "exposed" (as though the books were jumping off the shelves and spreading their legs covers at him, and as though Wilde was the only gay author in the entire library) to them.

So you pointed him at The Selfish Giant and watched his head explode at the idea the bog ol' fag wrote heavily religious kids' stories?

Anti-homosexuality books aren't going to leap off the shelves and force themselves on anyone, either.

I would be surprised to find a public library that only stocked bibles with the anti-gay bits excised, so I suspect they're already there. And I'd be disapointed in a library that didn't stock Hitler's War, because even if the author has become a loon, it's an interesting read for (a) people studying WW II and (b) people studying the history of Holocaust denial.

Likewise, I'd certainly expect Mein Kampf to be available for scholarly purposes.
posted by rodgerd at 3:26 PM on July 23, 2009


So books that say the faggots are bad and we need to shun them are harmful, in a psychological sense, and are not appropriate materials for a library to collection.

Not buying it. This is a free speech issue, not a we're "rational" and they are not or we have the "medical profession" on our side and they don't. I mean, seriously, bring on the hardcore racist stuff.
posted by Wood at 3:38 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with Wood on this. As much as I hate anti-gay rhetoric, I cannot take a stand against censorship without being willing to include speech I find loathsome under the protective umbrella.

Just as the First Amendment does not guarantee a freedom from offense and outrage at others' speech, it also does not guarantee a freedom from psychological harm.

That said, I'm still suffering from a lot of the fucked up attitudes I was exposed to as a kid. And I don't mean the "hey, it's okay if you are different" kind of attitude. More like the exact opposite.
posted by hippybear at 3:47 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm half tempted to start writing books that support morally repugnant (imo) ideas, and then picketing libraries until they stock them.
The Misunderstood Genius of the Nazi Party
Israel and the Zionist Agenda
Palestine, Those Fuckers
Smiling Women Post-Abortion: A Story in Pictures

posted by graventy at 3:54 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Upon non-preview, that morally repugnant doesn't really apply. But they're bad ideas for books nontheless.

While I agree with Wood saying that the First Amendment means all the stuff we don't like too, his first comment reads like pure troll. Thanks for the thorough answer, jessamyn.
posted by graventy at 3:57 PM on July 23, 2009


Trolling? How so? It was phrased a bit proactively I suppose but hardly seems offensive. It was partly in response to the third comment with 50+ favorites.
posted by Wood at 4:02 PM on July 23, 2009


Ugh, that should be provocatively.
posted by Wood at 4:02 PM on July 23, 2009


I've been thinking about this, and I think that Foam Pants touches on what I want to say a bit - I was one of those kids who were in the library every single week checking out the maximum books I could. We had a fairly small public library, and I'd made it through the YA section far before I had outgrown "YA" so I moved on - Stephen King, John Saul, Peter Straub (the librarian who tipped me off to John Collier I consider a guardian angel), and when I finished those moving onto the true crime section. My parents supported me reading, and didn't censor me at all, not even during a brief Lizzie Borden fascination. And even to this day, I've got an amazing peer relationship with my parents. I credit that to the fact that they trusted me. I knew I could go to them and talk with them no matter what. And sadly, I think this is the root of the problem here - these people don't trust their children, and want to keep them coddled and "safe" and in a little bubble for the rest of their lives. They might want to "debate" - but not with their own.

I went to a Christian college, and in my time there I can tell you the kids who were the most rebellious trouble makers - the ones who were sheltered and coddled growing up. Some went back to their faith after graduation, but others have broken ties with their parents and religion all together. I hate to say it, but I can see it with these people - their kids are going to be attracted most to what their parents fear. Instead of trying to "save the children" of their community, maybe they should actually talk to their own kids about diversity and how not everyone in the world is like them - but that we're al equals with valid points of view.
posted by librarianamy at 4:03 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then we get into the "how the internet is not the library" and vice versa. Since library funds and library space are not infinite, every book that goes in has to be selected in one way or another. This usually happens through incredibly dull processes of reading reviews, fulflling patron [and/or scholars, in an academic library] requests and removing old stuff to make room for new stuff. The reason most libraries don't have "hardcore racist stuff" is because of a few reasons, usually

- standard book jobbers don't sell it [same reason there's not more anarchist history or any other fringe-y topics honestly]
- book reviewers don't review it
- patrons don't request it
- it doesn't reach the top of the "what's important to buy this month" list, there's always something above it that's on the NYT best seller list or something similar
- librarians don't see any other reason, in the absence of 1, 2, 3 and 4 to stock it

You can sort of apply this to pornography too, but there's a more complicated set of calculations that goes into that sort of thing, in my opinion. However, I agree with djfiander in that books about gay topics are not in any way pandering or promoting any more than books with female characters are "promoting" feminism or women, or whatever the heck it is. I wish more librarians would just say this. "We don't agree with your unsupported perspective about homosexuality, the library is not your church, it's not appropriate for you to expect it to conform to the same perspectives"

So, then the internet happened and libraries that were used to this selection thing had their intellectual freedom mettle tested by allowing/offering internet access. Porn, hate speech, whatever thing offends you, doesn't cost extra to shelve and/or to purchase. Now how do you feel about intellectual freedom? So, there was a schism, a big one. Many libraries (the minority, I think, in the US) employ filters for a complicated series of reasons, many of them legal [do NOT get me started on CIPA] but others employ them because of community standards or because of busybodies like the folks in Wisconsin, in some cases who are also working in libraries.

And there are a lot of conflicting things going on... people in the library complain about seeing porn in the library at the same time as the library often has internet use policies that say "hey, you need to pay attention to your kid, we can't control what he/she looks at on the computers" And in many cases, libraries that get this sort of attention have to deal with very real funding threats as a result of them -- sometimes due to wingnuts, sometimes not -- and have to make some calculated choices about what to do.

So, as with everything, it's tricky and made trickier when there's a magnifying glass put right up to it. Like many not-for-profit organizations, what the lirbary does "mostly works" which is great news. However, looking too closely reveals a lot of internal contradictions which while not that terrible in and of themselves, allow people to wedge their attitudes in there and create trouble like this. It's a profession run, to a certain extent, by introverts and this sort of conflict thing is not their forte. Makes me miss Judith Krug.
posted by jessamyn at 4:04 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"So books that say the faggots are bad and we need to shun them are harmful, in a psychological sense, and are not appropriate materials for a library to collection."

I think Foam Pants is totally right about jessamyn being totally right, ideas are critical to personal development and critical thought and restricting access to them is more harmful than any given idea may be.
Why wouldn't one allow someone to read anti-homosexual literature or anti-semitic literature such as Mein Kampf?
I think 'American Psycho' is completely inappropriate for a young adult to read. I wouldn't want it out of the library though. If one of my kids at 12 wants to read it, I'd have them read Sartre's "No Exit" first and I'd pick up some GQ and Adbusters material so they'd have an idea that it's not all about chainsawing hookers.
So, ok, no Mein Kampf - howabout The Merchant of Venice?
Let's back up a bit - St.John Chrysostom? Should we let him in the library? Never heard of him? Oh. He was extremely anti-homosexual. So - how about now? Yes? No?
Well, whatever one answers - given one is ignorant of Chrysostom's work - one is judging before the fact whether someone else should see it based on someone else's discription.
So - why not find out yourself what his ideas are? Whether they're odious or have any merit or whatever.
And if you should be afforded the opportunity to inquire into the material and develop your own perspective - why shouldn't anyone else?

Saying something shouldn't be in the library because it's repressive is misplacing the influence of the concept. So too, just because experts agree that something is 'normal' and something else isn't doesn't mean that no one should be allowed to explore the concept themselves and discern its meaning, or lack thereof.

Tycho Brahe scientifically developed a model of the solar system that was mathematically correct, religiously tolerated, observationally based and so logically consistent (within the technological measurement capabilities of the day), widely accepted and completely wrong.

While I agree there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, I can't agree that any idea should be excised on the basis that it is 'harmful.'

Certainly libraries have limited space and have to choose their materials, I'd think, on concepts that are more useful or topical or some such. So outmoded and more obscure concepts - the toroidal ring model for atomic shells, say - the library might not have, and I'd say probably shouldn't have, loads and loads of books covering this topic. Or the flat Earth, and so forth.
So anti-homosexual screeds on that basis, sure, why hang on to something that isn't relevant and is outmoded?
Mein Kampf - bit different. But that's history, not science. And it's still good to know what those assholes thought and why so we get an idea of why they wanted to burn books way back then.
Unless we're going to bar Santayana for saying intolerance itself is a form of egoism, and to condemn egoism intolerantly is to share it.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:06 PM on July 23, 2009


Braun said he found the homosexual content particularly offensive. “They call one character ‘faggot’ with every swear word you can think of ... and they use the N-word,” Braun said.

About that. I just did a quick check:

$ curl -s http://www.gutenberg.org/files/76/76.txt | egrep -i "\<nigger[s']?\>" | wc -l
203

... meaning Twain uses the word some variation of the word 'nigger' over two hundred times in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has this passage (which Bookhouse reminded me about in a previous thread):

So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn't know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I'll go and write the letter--and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.

HUCK FINN.

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking--thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he's got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

"All right, then, I'll GO to hell"--and tore it up.

This is the example I use to remind myself how important context is, and to caution myself against drawing hasty conclusions just because I have a little bit of evidence for something.

In Baby Be-Bop one of the times you'll see the word 'faggot' it comes out of the mouth of a skinhead before he beats the protagonist, a young man who's coming to terms with being gay. So.

On the plus side, this thread is the reason I saw the Song of Songs today. 6.10 - 6.13 is just beautiful.
posted by amery at 5:28 PM on July 23, 2009


I'm honestly not even fszed by this shit anymore. I just have this niggling sensation in the back of my mind that somewhere, somebody is doing something utterly retarded in the name of religion.
posted by tehloki at 6:12 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


fzsed. i'm going to say that more often
posted by tehloki at 6:13 PM on July 23, 2009


Also, I'll add that the people complaining about the lack of racism and homophobia are full of shit - there's plenty of homophobia or racism to be found in any meaningful sample of literature written in English. Your Merchants of Venice, your Oliver Twists, Bulldog Drummond, whatever. The problem isn't a lack of "other viewpoints"; the problem is people who are hysterical over having other viewpoints beginning to get some recognition.
posted by rodgerd at 6:28 PM on July 23, 2009


Another challenge that we are facing in holding this conversation is that we are all speaking of the library as a platonic thing, and that all libraries are similar in how they collect things. Jessamyn touched on this tangentially in her most recent comment, but I think it needs expanding a little.

Every library has, or should have a collection policy. It usually includes the some of the criteria that Jessamyn mentioned ("x number of reviews" is apparently a common criterion in public libraries). The library that I work at probably does have monographs about the ex-gay movement, and it might even have some that are in favour of the movement. I don't know, and I don't really care because I'm not responsible for psychology, psychiatry, sexuality, or gender studies. But if somebody at my university requested a title like that, I expect that the relevant librarian would probably buy it, to support the research mission of the institution, as they say. (For example, Philippe Rushton is a faculty member at my school [and his literature research methods tell me everything I need to know about the quality of his work].)

But the public library in the town I live in doesn't have the funding to buy material that presents every side of an issue. Honestly, they probably don't spend too much on the human sexuality and gender studies part of their collection beyond the vanilla because it's not worth the controversy in my very conservative county. They should, but at another level, for most people, it's more important to have the popular fiction and latest TV chef cookbooks, and making sure that they spend their limited budget on that is good fiscal practice.
posted by djfiander at 6:41 PM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


And my god (the Flying Spaghetti Monster, blessed be His noodly appendage) told me to smack them in the head for their foolishness. See how these Magical Sky Voices™ are so convenient for day to day guidance? Why, they can exculpate any activity!

Hmmm, I think my Tarot deck has something to say about this.
posted by crossoverman at 8:03 PM on July 23, 2009


- standard book jobbers don't sell it [same reason there's not more anarchist history or any other fringe-y topics honestly]
- book reviewers don't review it
- patrons don't request it
- it doesn't reach the top of the "what's important to buy this month" list, there's always something above it that's on the NYT best seller list or something similar
- librarians don't see any other reason, in the absence of 1, 2, 3 and 4 to stock it


Exactly. A library isn't obliged to be comprehensive or "balanced." But once a book is on the shelf, you need a good, REAL reason to remove it. Something like, it's actually been mistakenly misshelved in the children's department when it was meant to go in adult. To move it simply because someone doesn't like or disagrees with the content is against the law.

Rule of thumb: If you are burning someone else's property because you don't like it, it is not your civil liberties that are in trouble.

Actually, I think they are. When book banners succeed, everyone's civil liberties are harmed. Including their own.

Not that I'm opposed to a few minutes' idle outrage at the actions of people thousands of miles away in a different country than me, but is there a reason besides some sort of solidarity that I should care about this?

Well, I don't know. But for me, free speech and the right to read need to be enforced and upheld everywhere they're threatened, because those are the fundamental rights that allow us to fight for all our other rights.
posted by lampoil at 8:43 PM on July 23, 2009


claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library,

Either they are masochists because they sought out, read and finished reading an entire book that traumatized them or they already had serious mental issues because merely seeing a book traumatizes them so much.

An argument based on "OMG think of the children" already hangs by a microscopic fraying thread, but then to claim personal damage is inexplicable. Who exactly forced them to read these books?

You know what would be cool? A Library of Banned Books, where all they would stock is books that have ever been asked to be banned or burned. That's one way to get kids into reading.
posted by like_neon at 5:44 AM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


My local library has some "ex-gay" memoirs and some books about praying the gay away. They're books from mainstream publishers by people who have some professional credentials; serious efforts, even though I find them totally nuts. I imagine there are some patrons who find them a useful resource.

Similarly, my local library has The Bell Curve and a few other books that posit inherent differences in intelligence between people of different racial backgrounds. Again, books from mainstream publishers by people who have some professional credentials, blah, blah.

Libraries don't have to buy crazy shit from St*rmfr*nt to maintain some degree of balance: there are mainstream publishers putting out books on all reasonable sides of an issue by people who have some degree of expertise.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:26 AM on July 24, 2009


He left River City the library building
But he left all the books to her:
Chaucer
Rabelais
Balzac!

-"Pick A Little, Talk A Little" from The Music Man
posted by epj at 6:03 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know what would be cool? A Library of Banned Books, where all they would stock is books that have ever been asked to be banned or burned. That's one way to get kids into reading.


This.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 8:36 PM on July 24, 2009


You'd think so, but the history of banned books is rife with stuff [PDF] that was banned b/c of political or social concerns of the era - I've set up displays of banned books for Freedom to Read Week, and it's not exactly something that hops off the shelf.

A little history.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:13 PM on July 24, 2009


You know what would be cool? A Library of Banned Books, where all they would stock is books that have ever been asked to be banned or burned. That's one way to get kids into reading.

I had to do a project in grade 8 where I selected two books that had been banned somewhere in North America for any reason and then read them, compare and contrast their themes, and discuss similarities in the rationale used by the groups that tried to get them banned. Love you Canadian school system.
posted by tehloki at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2009


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