Sunday, April 27, 2014

Banned Book Victories!

Whenever I hear news of yet another case of a book being challenged in a school or library, it really gets my hackles up (as I'm sure many of you know!) It truly boggles my mind when this happens because most of the "offending" books are well-respected and oftentimes have won literary honors. More often than not, when a book is challenged, people are missing the big picture and instead focus on small snippets of a book that portray something they don't like -- curse words, sexual references, etc. -- that are just one small part of a much larger whole. So you can imagine how happy I was to hear these three stories:


Victory #1: When I heard the reading list for a proposed YA elective course in a Colorado high school was challenged, it inspired me to write this post. Some of John Green's books were in the curriculum and he called on readers to support the teacher and protest the challenge. Well, according to an update on John Green's original post, the school board voted 3-2 to approve the book list for the class which will be offered as planned. In my opinion, any course that might get kids more interested in reading is a good thing and I think this class will do just that.


Victory #2: After The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was banned from the 10th grade curriculum of an Idaho school, two women organized a fundraiser so they could buy 350 copies of the book for the students who protested the ban. The books were given out during World Book Night and someone even called the police, afraid that the kids were being given the book without their parent's permission. Seriously? Seriously?! Calling the cops to report a party with underage drinking I get, but reporting the distribution of award-winning literature? Goodness gracious, I don't even know what to say about that. As expected, the police found nothing wrong with the event and left after asking a few questions.

For the record, Alexie's book won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature as well as the ALA's 2009 Odyssey Award for best new audiobook for youth. Clearly, this is very dangerous stuff. According to several of the articles I read, after hearing about the grassroots effort to protest the ban, the publisher donated another 350 copies of the book. The incredible response to this incident by ordinary people as well as the publisher most definitely restores my faith in humanity.


Victory #3: A complaint was filed by a parent regarding the inclusion of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan in a Virginia high school's library. A panel was convened, testimony was given, and after deliberating, the panel voted unanimously to keep the book in the library's collection. The fact that the vote was unanimous makes this victory even sweeter. The commentary in the article is really interesting and worth a read if you're interested. I've been meaning to read this book since it came out and this just makes me want to read it more!

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If you've joined my 2014 Banned Books Challenge and have already read any of these books this year, make sure to link-up your review. If you'd still like to join, it's not too late! And check back later this week for some additional banned book resources, lists, and reading suggestions I've been compiling.

26 comments:

  1. I really don't get trying to get books removed from school libraries. The people who have a problem with a book's being included in a curriculum... I may not agree with them, but I can at least see where they're coming from.

    But when the book is just in the library? No one's even saying, "your child needs to read this for class." It's just... there. Just like it's there in a public library or a bookstore or anywhere else your kid could have access to it.

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    1. I don't get it either -- if you ask me, it mostly stems from fear -- parents are afraid anything they disagree with might influence their kids and they are trying to shelter them from potential exposure. But there are influences around us everywhere, everyday both good and bad. Trying to take a non-required book off the shelf so other people cannot have access to it is just wrong on so many levels. Kids need to learn to think independently and "good morals" which parents so often talk about when challenging a book, are not developed in a vacuum -- excessively shielding kids from the world does not help make them better or more moral people, if you ask me.

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  2. Yippee! I think it really means that people are finally opening their eyes and realizing that sheltering only makes more judgmental people!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

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    1. Glad to see other people happy about this too! I do think over-sheltering can lead to more judgement and ignorance. It's hard to learn compassion or understanding of differences if you are not exposed to different things, if you ask me.

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  3. How exciting! I'll also keep the thing about John Green opposing the banning of books in mind while complaining about him not speaking out about the lack of women in publishing. While I still think he should weigh in on the BookCon thing, I'm glad he does sometimes use his publicity for good :)

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    1. I've never read John Green and I don't really follow his activities, but I definitely commend him for speaking out on this :)

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  4. I have actually read 2 of these 3 books. I think banning books from students makes them want to read them that much more. If my mom said I could not read a book that made me want to read it more and I would still read it she just wouldn't know about. Banned books are the same way. Just let students read it isn't going to hurt them. Some might even teach them a lesson or two.

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    1. I completely agree -- I wish people would stop making books the enemy and magnifying the importance of a few passages and words. There is SO much more to most of these books -- they are not manuals about cursing or sex, but sometimes I think that's what people make them out to be! There are a lot of great lessons to be learned in most of these books that people challenge

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  5. You must read Two Boys Kissing! Great post! Thanks for the update and it's always nice to see books that don't end up getting banned. :)

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    1. I just cheated a bit on my book-buying rules and ordered Two Boys Kissing! This incident has really made me want to read it even more. I do love sharing these kinds of things and I'm glad to know others have an interest in it too :)

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  6. I admire your passion when it comes to banned books! It's great to see that some silly ideas just don't get to be. :)

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    1. Thanks Riv! I try not to overload the blog with it, but it is a very big interest of mine and I like to do updates sometimes for anyone in the Banned Books Challenge. I love hearing these success stories.

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  7. This has just brightened my day! Wonderful post and I love your enthusiasm :)

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    1. Thanks Ellie! When I read these kinds of things, it gets me excited about reading Banned Books all over again. Makes me want to read more for my own challenge, too :)

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  8. "I'd like to report a crime. Some underage children are...READING."

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    1. LOVE this comment so much! It's perfect :)

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  9. Loved this post, here's to many more victories!

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  10. The attempt to ban the Alexie just ended up being funny. Glad to read about the Levithan. It's not as though people have to read every book in a library and it's good to have a variety and the option for people who might enjoy it and find it helpful.

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    1. EXACTLY -- the idea that a book's very presence in a library feels like a threat to some people baffles me. I think my library book club is going to read the Alexie book in a few months, so I'm excited to have an additional "excuse" to bump it to the top of my list :)

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  11. Yeah, I really can't stand when people try to parent other people's children! Book banning just boils down to the assumption that THEY know what's best for everyone else. It also stems from insecurity in their own beliefs. As I wrote on my blog in Sept. 2013: "All I can say to folks like that is this: exposure to many different ideas doesn’t brainwash people. It’s the exposure to only one idea or belief system that does. If the mere exposure to new ideas is enough for those old beliefs to crumble, then its proponents should stop to consider why their beliefs aren’t more persuasive. In my opinion, an idea that can’t withstand a fair debate isn’t an idea worth passing onto the next generation."

    Thanks for this post--I hadn't heard of a few of these victories before.

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    1. Very well said! I've always struggled to understand why some people are so afraid of what their kids might find in books if it is not exactly in line with their beliefs, and I think you make some excellent points. Exposure to all different ideas and cultures and ways of life is essential, if you ask me -- and the mere portrayal of a thing does not necessarily teach or condone that particular thing. To ban a book because it contains racism? Most of those books are about teaching empathy and why racism is a terrible thing. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and think the world will just go away. Knowledge really is power.

      Thanks for the follow :)

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    2. I agree! My only concern about books that address or contain racism is whether it's age appropriate. For example, with Little Black Sambo (which is now sanitized to be The Boy and The Tigers and The Story of Little Babaji), I wouldn't want my children exposed to it until they were old enough to understand why it is controversial (a conversation we would have with them). I don't want to normalize certain racially charged words by introducing those books too early. I wouldn't ban those books, but there are fine lines between delaying access to books with certain themes, cleansing books of controversial material, and actually removing them from the shelves.

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    3. Age-appropriateness is definitely important, but as we've been saying, that should be up to each parent to decide. If one parent tries to get the book taken off the shelf, they are trying to decide for everyone else as well (which we've also been saying!) Sure you could still buy the book elsewhere, but not everyone has the means to do so which is one of the reasons why there are public libraries in the first place.

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I'd love to hear what you think :)