"Art was supposed to make you feel things."
September 18, 2013 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Earlier this year, Rainbow Rowell's second novel Eleanor and Park was published to great acclaim. Unfortunately, some parents in the Anoka-Hennepin School District do not share the high opinions of the book.

After selecting the book for a summer read-a-long, the Minnesota Reads program cancelled an appearance scheduled with the writer due to parental complaints. Rowell spoke with Mallory Ortberg of The Toast about the book's censure.
posted by pxe2000 (79 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
That report is a piece of work. As a former Minnesotan and a Catholic, I don't believe anyone still does stuff like complaining about denigration of the Christian faith. Get a job, people.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:13 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, I've never heard of this book, but the reviews you posted convinced ME to read it. So thanks.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:14 PM on September 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can just imagine the jollies that some hysterical parents got listing EVERY dirty word and scene in that book in their report. Kids don't even need to read the damn book now (and possibly get some actual value out of it), because their parents were kind enough to put the "good parts" right out on the internet.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:15 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a former bookseller I always believed that if I ever wrote a book I would try my best to see it banned. The free advertising is staggering.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:16 PM on September 18, 2013 [24 favorites]


The book is BRILLIANT. Be ye forewarned that it has a three-hankie ending.
posted by pxe2000 at 1:18 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anoka HS - 8 Copies
Andover HS - 4 Copies
Blaine HS - 33 Copies
Champlin Park HS - 18 Copies
Coon Rapids HS - 8 Copies
Anoka Middle School for the Arts (AMSA Fred Moore Campus) - 1 Copy


I'm going to fire up Amazon and send an extra copy to the Anoka Middle School for the Arts. They only have one copy.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:19 PM on September 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


And then the children of these wonderful parents grew up, got jobs, married, had children, grew old and passed away without ever hearing bad words.

THE END
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:20 PM on September 18, 2013 [29 favorites]


What kills me about these books is the parents are in total denial if they think their kids aren't smoking, swearing, drinking, having sex, and experimenting with drugs. Kids are bullied and abused and marginalized. Heaven forbid you have an accurate portrayal of teenagers.

Unless this is a chapter book aimed at children I don't see the problem. I read Anaïs Nin and Lolita when I was 12 (mostly skipping to the good parts) and I turned out fine (mostly).
posted by cjorgensen at 1:44 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


One of my English teachers in high school fielded some question like "Is it ok if we use the word 'fuck' in our paper?"

She told us we could use whatever words we wanted to. That she was old enough not to shrink from cursing, and that her job, ultimately, was to make us masters of the language, warts and fuck and shit and all. But if we did use those words, she cautioned, be sure to not use them out of boredom or inability. Rather, use them because they are the right words. If a character is crying out "fuck no!" over a tragedy, make sure you put her in that same position where she would want to cry out the same way. Use any word you can think of, just use it well.
posted by boo_radley at 1:45 PM on September 18, 2013 [35 favorites]


Sigh. =/

I don't understand how someone could read the book as described and want to censor it, or call it obscene.
posted by kavasa at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2013


She added that the book “really more to me seemed to address high school and inner city.”
Wow. Our sheltered suburban youth would be permanently scarred by even reading the same book as a poor person. Way to go.
posted by miyabo at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


Will the movie be reviewed by the CAPALERT guy?
posted by ocschwar at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2013


As a former Minnesotan and a Catholic, I don't believe anyone still does stuff like complaining about denigration of the Christian faith.

Don't worry, Christians are doing a bang-up job of denigrating the Christian faith already.
posted by xedrik at 1:48 PM on September 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have a beloved relative in that burg*. She is very Christian, but doesn't look to force it on people. Even when her kids were in school, my relative steered well clear of this sort of stuff.

I wish folks who get so het up over these things would remember that the Bible says to let people seek out their own soul's salvation. That includes their kids. Those kids may have to hear some bad words, or be in situations the parents think are sinful or go through some real crap that would be shocking to their parents to get to that salvation. It's not the parents' call, because it's not the parents' path. I get that the parents believe that they're protecting their kids. But they aren't really, and then it just shows that it's about control. The control aspect of these sorts of panics just bugs me. Kids don't "belong" to parents, they belong to life. At some point the parents have to get out of the way and let their kids experience that life, even if it includes reading books of which the parents don't approve.

Can you tell I was raised by a fundy Pentecostal?

* I am sad to think that my beloved relative may have voted for Michelle Bachman, though.
posted by droplet at 1:51 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how someone could read the book as described and want to censor it, or call it obscene.

Well, it's a novel about bullying and there are plenty of people who have no problem with bullying, but do have a problem with people talking about it.

There are also quite a few people who just don't care about the context in which naughty words are used, just that they are used, or who object to any negativity in fiction.

The fascistic impulse is never far away.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:53 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


> The free advertising is staggering.

That's the best part. These people never learn. I mean, the only reason I've ever listened to a Judas Priest song all the way through is because I read about fundies losing their shit over them.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:55 PM on September 18, 2013


Look at these assholes.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:56 PM on September 18, 2013


I'm going to fire up Amazon and send an extra copy to the Anoka Middle School for the Arts. They only have one copy.

Lemme know where you're finding that data (the number of copies each book has and the school). I may wanna join you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:58 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Look at this awesome YA novel."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:59 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, uh, yeah, knowing the address would help too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on September 18, 2013


"Also look at these awesome Librarians!"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:00 PM on September 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jesus, just read the Rolling Stone link and I want to crawl under my desk and cry. Fuck Bachmann, fuck Barb Anderson, and everybody else in the so-called "Parents Action League". They have blood on their hands.
posted by kmz at 2:05 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


These parents are 43? That means they were 16 in 1986, just like the characters in Eleanor and Park.

As a member of their generation, I can vouch for the fact that a lot of us were swearing and making out at the age of 16. So their claims of never having seen anything "so profane" are rather specious, to say the least.

I mean, c'mon. We grew up reading Judy Blume.

I'm a Christian, and a writer, and I cannot wait to read this book. And I hope Rainbow Rowell doesn't have to deal with much more of this BS.
posted by xenophile at 2:06 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Gonna add this to my library hold list right now, because an attempted ban and a glowing review from John Green are two of the highest honors a book can have in my eyes.
posted by ActionPopulated at 2:09 PM on September 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


I guess these parents got their fill of swearing in 1986 and don't want to promote the unhealthy swearing lifestyle among their young, vulnerable children. To lead by example, they are taking a principled stand and burying their heads in the sand until better outcomes result.
posted by Nomyte at 2:11 PM on September 18, 2013


Would someone kindly tell me where the report is? It takes me less time to ask here than to search through all the mystery links.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 2:13 PM on September 18, 2013


Rich Smorgasbord, if you hit "parental complaints", that link has a link that says READ THE WHOLE REPORT HERE.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:15 PM on September 18, 2013


I have the book in my list, because I just read her newer book and it was so charming. This story has helped bubble it higher.

Also I want everyone to notice that Mallory Ortberg quoted 10 Things I Hate About You in her review because for some reason that movie (which is awesome) has been All Over the internet this week.
posted by jeather at 2:15 PM on September 18, 2013


Unsurprised, still disappointed. Back when I worked for People For the American's Way's school censorship project - 1991/2, so...more than 20 years ago! - we got a ton of calls and reports from this particular school district. School librarians and principals and parents would call us up to ask for help because [tiny group of parents] was freaking out about [pick a book, any book]. They didn't just want their own kid to not have to read it, they didn't want any kid to read it.
posted by rtha at 2:20 PM on September 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Minnesota Reads program cancelled"

Just to be clear, Minnesota Reads is a web site of author appearances in Minnesota.

The cancellation of one appearance was by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board, and the other by the Anoka Library Board. These are not small towns, Anoka County has over 300,000 residents. It's kind of an exurban area with subdivisions of McMansions interspersed with actual still-operating farms.

The state of Minnesota actually has a pretty large pool of grant money to spend on author appearances through something called the Arts & Culture Legacy Amendment. Most states don't have any central/organized funding for that kind of thing. So that may be why we keep having boneheaded government officials complaining about tax money going to specific authors.
posted by miyabo at 2:21 PM on September 18, 2013


Holy Fuck, it is hard, hard to read that Rolling Stones article.
posted by MoxieProxy at 2:32 PM on September 18, 2013


I'm genuinely curious: what harm, exactly, do these parents imagine will befall their kids if they're exposed to the words in this devil book? Where does this weird aversion *come* from? It makes no sense to me.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:34 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


And from the other end of the Twin Cities, in Washington County (also in Bachmann's district, to give you an idea) , towns are wanting to opt out of the county library system. What this means in practice is no access to the awesome interlibrary loan system in Minnesota and to a wider county collection, so teens (and others) are hostage to whatever their tiny faux-"small town" library deems necessary to buy. Which is probably not books like Eleanor and Park, or LGBTQ content, or non-Christian religious content, or anything politically "risky."
posted by Electric Elf at 2:40 PM on September 18, 2013


Eleanor and Park is a wonderful book.

I read a lot of YA books, and it takes a special talent to write about dark things like family abuse while still writing in a way that's uplifting, that puts the spotlight on love and courage and compassion and being good to each other rather than the darkness. And it's not as if every YA book should be uplifting and hopeful -- all respect to Robert Cormier, genius of the downer ending -- but it's good when some of them are. And it's really good when they can do that while being sensitive and not Pollyanna-ish.

There are a lot of books that are vulgar and violent, and some of them earn it and some of them don't. There are a lot of books written by people who think cursing makes them edgy and cool, and some of them are great and some of them aren't. You can't tell anything about Eleanor and Park just by counting swears.
posted by Jeanne at 2:44 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm genuinely curious: what harm, exactly, do these parents imagine will befall their kids if they're exposed to the words in this devil book?

I doubt it will change any minds here, but if you're genuinely curious, here's Meghan Cox Gurdon's take on current YA literature.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:53 PM on September 18, 2013


I don't have many good things to say about my high school, but when this one (1) family wanted Timothy Findley's The Wars removed from the school because it offended their sensibilities, the school's official reply was basically a very polite "No fucking way."
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:54 PM on September 18, 2013


Unsurprised, still disappointed. Back when I worked for People For the American's Way's school censorship project - 1991/2, so...more than 20 years ago! - we got a ton of calls and reports from this particular school district. School librarians and principals and parents would call us up to ask for help because [tiny group of parents] was freaking out about [pick a book, any book]. They didn't just want their own kid to not have to read it, they didn't want any kid to read it.

I am not at all surprised to learn this. I love Minnesota, but this particular school district has a hard-core of nutjob haters. It is Michelle Bachmann country (literally, this is in her congressional district.) I understand the parents are claiming they object to the cursing and "vulgarity," but I wonder if the anti-bullying theme also drew their ire.
posted by Area Man at 2:54 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


A parent complained when Sherman's Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was assigned to her child's middle school/early high school class, because it talks about masturbation and sex; he swore he didn't pay her to do so, no matter how much it helped his sales.

Also, all those poor disapointed kids: great book, but I don't remember any sexy bits. Just awkward teen moments.

Add me to the list of people who hadn't heard of this book, but will probably read it now.
posted by jb at 2:57 PM on September 18, 2013


Fuck those people.

Anyway, I'd not heard of this book, being a bit older than the target audience. However, I have three daughters, 16, 14, and 12. Based on what I read in the NPR article, they'll really get something out of this book. It'll be here on Friday.
posted by Ickster at 3:04 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Lemme know where you're finding that data (the number of copies each book has and the school). I may wanna join you.

And, uh, yeah, knowing the address would help too.


Ironically I got the numbers from the Anoka-Hennepin School District link in the post. That whole site is a piece of work.

I got the school address by googling the school name and "contact." Here you go.

I can get you the address of any of them.

Be aware though this is mostly a protest thing on my part. A librarian can speak up about directed donations and such. Someone in k-12 can speak about the rules of donating money or books to schools. I don't much care. I did it for the lulz and because I hate this sort of thing. I did the same thing for the library that banned the Allan Moore book. (Previously.)
posted by cjorgensen at 3:20 PM on September 18, 2013


If you check out the FAQ section of the Parents Action League, which is behind this protest, you'll see that it's an anti-gay hate group that was originally formed to block an anti-bullying policy from being implemented in the schools. The Anoka-Hennepin school district has been the site of a series of suicides by gay kids.
posted by bcarter3 at 3:20 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


We chose to live where we do because the school district is both progressive and well-regarded. Our kids got a great education and we never, ever had to worry about them censoring books. I feel sorry for those living in a district like Anoka-Hennepin (unless of course they're the ones shouting "obscenity") and hope they enjoy the 19th century.
posted by tommasz at 3:22 PM on September 18, 2013


I read that article by Meghan Cox Gurdon and it strikes me as absurd. While 12-18 year old kids can be dumb in the way kids are, they're not mindless automatons who accept any notion found in a book as normal. I didn't read, say, Carrie in middle school and suddenly think telepathy was real, or that a reasonable response to bullying is murder. I wonder if part of the problem might be that these parents actually want their kids to blindly accept the contents of certain books as Gospel (which book is left as an exercise) but are then left with the Catch-22 of worrying that other books will poison their little robot's mind. Luckily that's claptrap and the kids will presumably think for themselves as kids always have, regardless of the wishes of their devout parents.
posted by axiom at 3:34 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not that Carrie presents her response as reasonable so much, but... well, she had some motive.
posted by axiom at 3:39 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


That would be the Michelle Bachmann that was just ranked as one of the most corrupt members of congress by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, right?

I suspect the people of Anoka are not particulary competent judges of character, let alone literature.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:41 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


> What kills me about these books is the parents are in total denial if they think their kids aren't smoking,
> swearing, drinking, having sex, and experimenting with drugs.

Is there any evidence that any of the objecting parents do think this? Rather than just thinking "Of course adolescents do risky, self-destructive shit but why should we be required by law to subsidize it?"

N.b. I did read the linked parentsactionleague.org page (without finding any such evidence) but I grant I did not download the .pdf, so it's still possible you didn't just pull this out of your a**.
posted by jfuller at 3:50 PM on September 18, 2013


Is there any evidence that any of the objecting parents do think this? Rather than just thinking "Of course adolescents do risky, self-destructive shit but why should we be required by law to subsidize it?"

I remember quite a few parents/teachers/authority figures who did indeed think this. Or, possibly more accurately, they desperately want to believe that this is all it will take to stop their kids from doing this.

Some parents hang on to the concept of their own childrens' innocence like grim death.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:57 PM on September 18, 2013


Since when was subsidizing books about doing something the same thing as subsidizing doing that thing? Unless you want to argue that anytime a teacher assigns Hamlet the school is subsidizing murder.
posted by kmz at 4:00 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


A few years back, we had a school chaplain who was an Evangelical (one of the nicest and funniest person I've ever worked with, for what its worth, despite the fact that our political voting records annually canceled each other out).

During one of his chapels, he addressed why music, books, movies, etc with obscene content should be avoided by not just all young people but by everyone. He likened the things we read, watch and listen to to the things we eat. When you eat something healthy, it is better for your body. When you eat something unhealthy, it is bad for you. When you ear something poisonous, it makes you sick.

Similarly, if you only encounter wholesome art, your mind remains wholesome. The minute you start putting toxic art into your brain, you start to degrade your mind. It effects the way you think and behave and makes staying on the Christian path much, much harder.

To whit, ignorance is bliss. The less you know of Tool or Judy Blume or Picasso, the more innocent you will be, the closer you will be to the pure state you were in when God created you.

Now, our chaplain didn't go so far as to try to get certain books banned from our library, but he was very clear about what titles were bad for you and what titles were good for you. For example, I was in a conversation with him and several other teachers and mentioned how much my nephews enjoyed Harry Potter. He practically flinched and very gently expressed concern for their immortal souls (though not with that exact praise).

Anyhow, I never had the heart to tell him about all of the toxic music I've put into my brain over the years. I didn't want him to be worried for me.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:55 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Similarly, if you only encounter wholesome art, your mind remains wholesome. The minute you start putting toxic art into your brain, you start to degrade your mind.

This kind of simplistic jackassery chased me out of church years ago. I've always been grateful for that fact.
posted by metagnathous at 5:05 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Since when was subsidizing books about doing something the same thing as subsidizing doing
> that thing? Unless you want to argue that anytime a teacher assigns Hamlet the school is subsidizing
> murder.

Heh. I am somewhat less than totally sucked in by the notion that Rainbow Rowell--no matter how well written or right-thinking Eleanor and Park may be--is as essential and educationally unavoidable as Shakespeare, so I do perceive a bit more wiggle room here than your analogy has to have or else it does.not.work.

It seems to me entirely rational to think that lots of dirty language in a school library book that is not Shakespeare, or even Hemingway, implies an acceptance by the adult world of dirty language that just isn't there. And that an inexperienced kid may swallow. It's not unlike depicting heroines who habitually spit into office trash baskets or fart in elevators and suggesting that that won't hold them back in life. Yes indeed, that lesson could hurt any student who bought it worse than the finest YA novel ever written could possibly help. I'm not exercized enough about it to write letters to school boards but I can entirely understand why someone might think their taxes were being misspent to support a message that a) they don't believe, and b) isn't true.
posted by jfuller at 5:33 PM on September 18, 2013


I'm sick of my tax dollars subsidizing revenge murders and tragic hubris.
posted by jb at 5:49 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I'm cool with the cross-dressing, we'll keep those bits.
posted by jb at 5:50 PM on September 18, 2013


I am somewhat less than totally sucked in by the notion that Rainbow Rowell--no matter how well written or right-thinking Eleanor and Park may be--is as essential and educationally unavoidable as Shakespeare, so I do perceive a bit more wiggle room here than your analogy has to have or else it does.not.work.

Actually, it absolutely does work with lesser-known art, because the point isn't that Shakespeare is famous, the point is that talking about a thing isn't the same as doing it. Furthermore, the adult world absolutely accepts dirty language in the right circumstances. Not the boardroom, sure, but go down to the pub on a Friday and it's a different story. Catcher in the Rye contains dozens of uses of 'dirty language' but nobody is suggesting banning that book. We all use different modes of speaking when in different contexts, even teenagers, and you're kidding yourself if you think that books are the only vectors for this particular life lesson. If only we had never taught children to read, they'd remain angels!
posted by axiom at 5:55 PM on September 18, 2013


The adult world doesn't accept dirty language? Fuck.
posted by MetalFingerz at 5:55 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Catcher in the Rye contains dozens of uses of 'dirty language' but nobody is suggesting banning that book.

Wrong.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:59 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read this book in July (loved it). When I first read about this crap yesterday, I thought and thought about what bad words they were referring to. I realized they mostly mean the words that are used by a harasser towards Eleanor (written on her stuff and said out loud, I think) and maybe some of the "bad kids'" conversation. To me, wanting to ban the illustration of harassment and abuse is very suspect.

I live less than an hour away from Anoka, so I hope another local organization will be inviting Rowell to speak and I hope I can make it.
posted by soelo at 6:12 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


N.b. I did read the linked parentsactionleague.org page (without finding any such evidence) but I grant I did not download the .pdf, so it's still possible you didn't just pull this out of your a**.

Was that really necessary?

If downloading a PDF is too onerous, is it also too much to ask that you do a little googling before accusing someone of making shit up?

Wikipedia.

Local news report.

Another news article, with text from a PAL petition:

ALERT TO PARENTS/CITIZENS IN ANOKA-HENNEPIN SCHOOL DISTRICT #11!

Do you want your tax dollars used to promote a radical homosexual agenda in our public schools?

On February 9, 2009 the Anoka-Hennepin District #11 School Board passed the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy (Neutrality Policy). This policy makes it clear that “Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.”

This policy strengthens the authority and rights of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their own children—especially on sensitive topics such as sexual orientation. The Gay Equity Team and other radical homosexual activists in our school district are fighting to overturn this policy.

You can help!

Go to www.parentsactionleague.org and sign the online petition. Tell your friends and neighbors in District 11 to do the same. Show your support to the School Board. Let them know we want them to maintain the Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy so our classrooms stayed focused on core academics.

This advertisement was paid for by the Parents Action League.

posted by rtha at 6:50 PM on September 18, 2013


I made it a goal this year to read at least 100 books, a goal I reached this afternoon. Eleanor and Park was one of the books I was really, really excited to read, and it definitely held up to the expectations I had for it. If you're thinking about reading it, please do. It was easily the sweetest, most real book I've read in a very long time. If you're thinking about reading it, please do. I doubt you'll regret it.

Of course the Parents Action League hates this book. It has heart. It's about love. From what I can see, that's two things those craven assholes are deeply afraid of.
posted by palomar at 7:32 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Something no one has mentioned is that PAL wants the school librarians disciplined for having the books as the summer reading program choice and, apparently, for having the book on the shelves in the school libraries. This is vindictive--and chilling. Who's next?

Minnesota Reads is not just a list of author visits. It is a blog by a group of book-loving Minnesotans who write reviews on a wide range of books. I know several of the reviewers and regularly read the blog; I recommend it. As noted above, the visit was arranged by the Anoka-Hennepin school librarians and Anoka Co. Library. It was cancelled by the same.

The screed on that PAL web site is so overblown and hysterical, you'd think kids were being exposed to the rawest of raw, with pictures. I couldn't believe it was about Eleanor & Park. I loved the book. It is a charming story of how young love can help a couple of self-identified misfits manage school and life in the face of bullies and bad families. It has a hopeful ending. And, for those who haven't read it, it is not E & P doing the swearing; it is the adults and bullies around them. They react against the swearing, among other things.

The NPR Monkey See blog had a thoughtful discussion of the controversy True Love, Book Fights, And Why Ugly Stories Matter.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 7:48 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Be ye forewarned that it has a three-hankie ending.

All the main characters catch a bad cold ???

It is Michelle Bachmann country ...

Which should be stated right at the beginning of the post because it completely clarifies the situation.
posted by Twang at 8:11 PM on September 18, 2013


I'm reading this right now and it's murdering my heart. I keep getting stuck in the tub, reading it until I'm a prune.

What I like most is how frank it is about racism, especially internalized racism. Well, that and how perfectly it captures first love. Cannibalism and hand rape and all of that. I remember the intensity of those emotions so keenly.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:15 PM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Canabalism and hand rape?
posted by cjorgensen at 8:20 PM on September 18, 2013


Catcher in the Rye contains dozens of uses of 'dirty language' but nobody is suggesting banning that book.

What the....? Dude, Catcher In The Rye is, like, second on the list of most frequently-banned books maintained by the American Library Association. It was the most banned book in the 1960's, and most of the time it is entirely due to the vulgar language.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 PM on September 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was (until very recently) a bookseller. I got an advanced copy of this book and devoured it in 2 evenings. Not only is it an amazing book, the author is quite nice as well. She even sent me a little card for reaching out to her to tell her how much I loved the book.

In short, Rainbow Rowell rocks. Those other people can suck it.
posted by geekhorde at 10:06 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The swearing in the book is mostly either (1) by horrible bullies or (2) by an abusive stepparent or (3) far less frequently, part of frustrated internal thoughts by one of the two main characters, usually about desperate circumstances. There are exceptions, but the idea that this is a book that somehow elevates dirty language as something that's wonderful and cool to do is just absolutely counter to what's in the book. Absolutely. The opening scene is precisely about one of the kids feeling angry and isolated by other kids being gross and vulgar on the bus.

Just ... never mind. I can't; I'll get wound up all over again and I have work to do.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:26 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm genuinely curious: what harm, exactly, do these parents imagine will befall their kids if they're exposed to the words in this devil book? Where does this weird aversion *come* from? It makes no sense to me

I don't believe in book banning.

But I wouldn't let my twelve year old read this book. Even though I myself snuck "Clan of the Cave Bear" when I was about that age, I think this kind of stuff is actually more damaging in some ways. So yeah, in middle schools, I'd say this is probably not appropriate for the library. I wouldn't suggest it be banned, but I'd raise an eyebrow at the librarian who let it in.

I also don't have a problem with the sexytimes between Park and Eleanor. That seems actually very sweetly written. But if a book came into my house saying "I know you're a slut you smell like cum", I would be tempted to fucking burn it myself. Because even though it's drawing a difference between the protagonist and the tormentors, it is essentially saying "These are what the cool kids who make fun of other kids act like and say." Some people are going to take that as an instruction manual. And the ones who don't run the risk of feeling slut-shamed themselves.
posted by corb at 7:19 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is Michelle Bachmann country ...
Which should be stated right at the beginning of the post because it completely clarifies the situation.


Actually not. Someone above mentioned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I know of at least one instance of a decidedly liberal parent in a blue-as-metafilter voting district who read the book and then pointed out aspects of the novel to the selection committee, whose members apparently had not read it, at least, not until she pointed out what was in it. I’m told they went a bit pale faced. (As had the child who dutifully read the book, and found it more than a little skeevy. "Mom!")

So, no, it's not just a bunch of fly-over fundies who blanch when someone talks Sailor Talk. There are plenty of main-streamers who believe we are seeing the coarsening of American culture.

Just a thought experiment- Could Ms R. have written this book without the bits the Concerned Parents find objectionable? Could we see her try? Can she edit out the list of objections and still come up with an effective, affecting book? Call it the PG version, as is sometimes done for music videos and movies?

After all, Shakespeare managed his tale of young lust without a single fuck bomb.

Just a thought. (By the way, what was the first YA book to cross the Seven Words threshold?)
posted by IndigoJones at 7:21 AM on September 19, 2013


Because even though it's drawing a difference between the protagonist and the tormentors, it is essentially saying "These are what the cool kids who make fun of other kids act like and say."

Maybe you should actually read the book before you start declaring what it's "essentially" saying.
posted by palomar at 7:47 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are exceptions, but the idea that this is a book that somehow elevates dirty language as something that's wonderful and cool to do is just absolutely counter to what's in the book.

Well, yeah, but that's not what parents who think no kid should read the book think. I used to read the very boiler-platey complaints filed by parents who didn't just want their own kid from reading it, and part of the objection was always that the mere presence of swearing was bad. Context of the swearing was never taken into consideration.

And, to corb: sure, you can make sure of what your own kid reads or doesn't. My own mom did this in a very limited fashion. She didn't think it was her business to tell other people what their own kids shouldn't read, though. That's the difference here.
posted by rtha at 7:59 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


North Carolina school board bans Ralph Ellison’s 'Invisible Man'

Smell the freedom!
posted by tonycpsu at 8:03 AM on September 19, 2013


The board action was prompted by a complaint about the book from Kimiyutta Parson, mother of an RHS 11th-grader. She submitted a request for reconsideration of instructional media form, which detailed, in a 12-page supplemental document, her reasons for the book’s removal.

She stated, in part, “The narrator writes in the first person, emphasizing his individual experiences and his feelings about the events portrayed in his life. This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers. You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read, without their knowledge. This book is freely in your library for them to read.”


But not the school library. And screw the point of view of parents who do want their kids to be able to get it from the school library, I guess - that view certainly doesn't demand respect.
posted by rtha at 8:28 AM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


it is essentially saying "These are what the cool kids who make fun of other kids act like and say."

That's false. They are not presented as cool. Absolutely not true.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:00 AM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


And the ones who don't run the risk of feeling slut-shamed themselves.

No. They don't run that risk at all. Have you read the book?
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:06 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


it is essentially saying "These are what the cool kids who make fun of other kids act like and say."

Actually, parents making a fuss over them does far more to make taboo words seem "cool" than just going ahead and letting them read the book would.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on September 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


… The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. … they went a bit pale faced.

Erm.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 AM on September 19, 2013


Verisimilitude is a virtue. Authenticity is a virtue. They're not the only literary virtues, or the most important; but Eleanor and Park would have been a less real book, an a less authentic book, without the language.

The rest of the comment contains spoilers.



I think, for the book to work as well as it does, you have to have a gut feeling that what Eleanor's stepfather is doing to her is completely horrible; and that it provokes shame and avoidance in her, the kind of reaction that makes asking for help unthinkable.

For me, at least, the book led me on a path of "Oh, god, what a horrible thing to write to someone," and then "But it's weirdly personal for classmate bullying, and there's some stuff that doesn't quite add up, if it's not a classmate, who else would it be?" and then "Oh no no no, of course it's him, oh no." That wouldn't have worked like it did if the book had been less vulgar.

And, yeah, it's a pretty dark book. It's one of those books that's a great book for older YAs and not necessarily for younger YAs and that's fine. I can see the arguments for not including it in a middle school collection, but there are probably enough mature 8th-graders who would appreciate it that including it in a middle school collection might be a good choice. But it's a huge leap from "It's not appropriate for 12-year-olds" to "It shouldn't be in high school libraries, and the public library shouldn't invite the author as a speaker."
posted by Jeanne at 3:37 PM on September 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


(By the way, what was the first YA book to cross the Seven Words threshold?)
"Arid" in The Acorn People used some frank language to describe his colostomy bag. This was from '76 and was marketed towards middle grades...otherwise I'd guess The Catcher in the Rye, but that was pushed towards adults, I think?
posted by pxe2000 at 5:16 PM on September 19, 2013


What the....? Dude, Catcher In The Rye is, like, second on the list of most frequently-banned books maintained by the American Library Association. It was the most banned book in the 1960's, and most of the time it is entirely due to the vulgar language.

I meant in Anoka County. There're a number of copies in the local libraries, and as far as I can tall the Parents Idiot League is making no noise about it.
posted by axiom at 8:35 PM on September 19, 2013


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