Banned Book Week - 09/25/2010 to 10/02/2010 // Ban THIS! 9/1/2010 to 10/2/2010 AND Speak LOUDLY

9/22/2010 11:04:00 PM

When I saw Lit Bites post on "Ban This!" (you really need to head over to her blog and read some of her stuff -  she's hilarious), I said to me, "Julie, this sounds like good fun".  But then I realized that I had NO Internet access at home, and a HUGE pile of review books to get through, so I couldn't fully participate.

THEN .. I read THIS and THIS and THIS ... and more ... about a "guy" (since I really don't like to personally insult people, I'll leave out what I FIRST thought of) with some sort of doctorate writing an article condemning three books as unsuitable for the schools in his district.

One of these books is "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson - a book described by the good "doctor" as soft porn - which tells the story of a junior high student who is raped and her refusal to speak out about it.  Soft porn - a RAPE?!!?  R U KIDding me?  Maybe the good doctor feels turned on by that, but the rest of us normal folk DON'T.  Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ocklin (which is on Not-So-Bebe Girl Autumn's Christmas books list) and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut are the others he classifies this way.

The other two books were already on my wishlist (Slaughterhouse Five is on my mental "I must read before I die" list), but I had never heard of Speak (I know ... I'm probably the most 'not with it' book blogger out there).

The book bloggin' world is up in arms about it, and we're telling all of our friends and neighbors to stop letting other people tell YOU what to think.

I'm a parent; I try to raise my children with good Christian values - values such as moral character, empathy, decency and kindness to others.  I DO screen watch they watch and what they read ... however, I don't presume that my opinion is the same as someone else's and I don't try to foist my opinion off as the only truth.

The truth is, some books and movies are OK for certain kids of an age, and some AREN'T good for other children of the same age.  It depends on the mindset of the children.

A book that encourages young girls to speak out about bad things that happen to them, including rape, is NOT a book that I'd censor for my girls.  I WANT my girls to know that sometimes bad things happen, even if I pray that those things never happen to them.  I DON'T want them to be ashamed and blame themselves if something DOES happen.

So, of course, I'm buying "Speak" .. it will be part of my Ban This! and The ALA Banned Books Week.  "Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States."

Here is a list of the other books that we currently have in our possession (or that are on the way) that we will be reading and/or re-reading through the week:

Banned in 2004-2005:..AND 2005-2006 AND 2006-2007
The Giver by Lois Lowry. 

2004-2005 - Challenged as a suggested reading for eighth-grade students in Blue Springs, Mo. (2003). Parents called the book “lewd” and “twisted” and pleaded for it to be tossed out of the district. The book was reviewed by two committees and recommended for retention, but the controversy continued in 2005.

2005-2006 - Challenged, but retained at the Seaman,
Kans. Unified School District 345 elementary school library 

2006-2007 - Challenged, but retained at the Seaman, KS Unified School District 345 Elementary School library.

What the Hades?  Ask ANY of my three girls what their favorite book of all time is...It WON'T be "Twilight" (although they liked THAT one just fine, thank you!)  THIS is the one!  I loved the discussions it provoked, AND it cemented their love of reading!

Banned in 2004-2005 AND 2006-2007 AND 2007-2008 AND 2008-2009
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain, [Samuel L. Clemens].

2004-2005 - Challenged in the Normal, Ill. Community High School sophomore literature class (2004) as being degrading to African Americans. The Chosen was offered as an alternative to Twain’s novel. Pulled from the reading lists at the three Renton, Wash. high schools (2004) after an African American student said the book degraded her and her culture. The novel, which is not required reading in Renton schools but is on a supplemental list of approved books, was eventually retained for classroom usage.

2006-2007 - Pulled from classes in Taylor, MI schools because of complaints about its liberal use of racial slurs.  Challenged as required reading at Cactus High in Peoria, AZ (2006)  The student and mother have threatened to file a civil-rights complaint because of alleged racial treatment, the segregation of the student, and the use of a racial slur in the classroom.  Challenged in the Lakeville, MN High School (2007)  and St. Louis Park High School in Minneapolis, MN (2007) as required reading for sophomores.

2007-2008 - Challenged, but retained in the Lakeville, Minn. High School (2007) and St. Louis Park High School in Minneapolis, Minn. (2007) as required reading for sophomores. The district will conduct staff training about race issues and revise the way it weighs requests for curriculum changes. The district will also let its staff offer alternative assignments on racially sensitive issues in ways which “students do not feel ostracized because they have opted out of the assignment." Challenged at Richland High School in North Richland Hills, Tex. (2007) because of racial epithets. Challenged at the Manchester, Conn. High School (2007) "because the 'N' word is used in the book 212 times."

2008-2009 - Retained in the Manchester, Conn. School District (2008) with the requirement that teachers attend seminars on how to deal with issues of race before teaching the book in their classrooms.

Well, if THAT isn't impetus for Bebe Boy James and I to FINALLY get around to reading this together, I don't know what is!  I can explain to him that in the "old" days, before people figured things out, they used to call us bad names and think that we weren't as smart as everyone else, but NOW we all know better, right?

Banned in 2008-2009
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt 

Banned for just four days from the Beulah, N.Dak. High School library (2008). Two school employees followed school policy to request removing the book after their son brought it home from an accelerated‑reading program, in which students pick from a couple of hundred titles. The parents said the 1994 runaway nonfiction best seller was too pornographic and at odds with student behavior promoted in the school handbook. The board reversed its decision at the encouragement of the board president, who said the board moved too fast and unleashed a possible court case it would never win. He said there might be more palatable alternatives, like creating a list of restricted books that parents have to approve before their children can check them out. A decision to review school policies and investigate less‑restrictive means to control library books was approved by the school board

I'm just reading it because I wanted to read it anyway and it's on the list!   

Banned in 2006-2007 AND 2009-2010
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs 

2006-2007 - Challenged in the Howell, MI High School (2007) because of the book's strong sexual content.  In response to a request from the president of the Livingston Organization for Value in Education (LOVE), the county's top law enforcement official reviewed the books to see whether laws against distributing sexually explicit materials to minors  had been broken.  "After reading the books in question, it is clear that the explicit passages illustrated a larger literary, artistic, or political message and were not included solely to appeal to the prurient interests of minors," the county prosecutor wrote.  "Whether these materials are appropriate for minors is a decision to be made by the school board, but I find that they are not in violation of criminal laws"

2009-2010 - Challenged as a suggested reading in a class where juniors and seniors earn college credit in Hillsborough County, Fla. (2010). Four high
schools — Plant, Middleton, Hillsborough, and Bloomingdale — voted to keep the book and place a “Mature Reader” label on the front cover. Three high schools — Sickles, Robinson, and Lennard — will require parental consent. Gaither High School and Riverview High School voted to ban the book. The book was banned at Riverview because, “This book has extremely inappropriate content for a high school media center collection. The book contained explicit homosexual and heterosexual situations, profanity, underage drinking and smoking, extreme
moral shortcomings, child molesters, graphic pedophile situations and total lack of negative consequences throughout the book.”

OK; I get why some wouldn't want their children reading this book; I wouldn't want a younger teen reading it either - it IS graphic and DOES depict some scenes that, in my opinion, should not be read by younger teens.  HowEVER, once again, it is not up to ME to decide what is suitable for OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN.

(This is another one that I'm reading just because I've wanted to read it and it's on the list!)

Banned in 2009-2010
The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle

Challenged on the Santa Rosa, Calif. High School reading list (2010). A review committee approved the continued use of the book with the following guidelines: “The teacher must appropriately prepare students for parts of the book that may be considered provocative; limit the book to juniors and seniors; should a parent object to the book, board policy is currently in place that allows a student to be excused from the book assignment, and provides for an alternative assignment without penalty to the student.” 

This one has been on my TBR list, so now I can have a solid reason to read it!

These books are on the short list, but I may not be able to get to them:

Banned in 2005-2006 AND 2006-2007

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood;

2005-2006/2006-2007 The Judson, Tex. school district board overruled (2006) Superintendent Ed Lyman’s ban of the novel from an advanced placement English curriculum. Lyman had banned the book after a parent complained it was sexually explicit and offensive to Christians. In doing so, he overruled the recommendation of a committee of teachers, students, and parents. The committee appealed the decision to the school board.

Banned in 2008-2009
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Removed from a Cleburne, Tex. summer reading list (2009) for a dual credit, high school English class because the novel contains a rape scene and passages of explicit sex.

Honorable mention must go to two of the most ridiculously challenged/banned books of 2009/2010 (No, I'm not re-reading or reading either of them - I just find it almost laughable that they are on the list)

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting
by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich 

Challenged at the Easton, Penn. School District
(2010), but retained despite a parent’s claim the
book promotes “economic fallacies” and socialist
ideas, as well as advocating the use of illegal drugs
and belittling Christians.

This book chronicles a period of time when the author decided to see how it would be to attempt to make a living on minimum wage.  It ain't easy, and she tells you all about her adventures as a maid, a waitress, and a Wal-Mart worker.  It's pretty interesting, especially if you've never had to truly struggle to get by .. or if it's been so long since you were struggling that you've lost track of what it feels like - I'd recommend it as an eye opener.

I shared a dais with Ms. Ehrenreich for a minimum wage workshop when individual states were pushing for minimum wage legislation of their own in 2006.  She is a fine, upstanding woman, who, like me, doesn't believe that someone should work 40 hours a week, every day ... and still be poor.  That's not socialism; that's plain human decency - a decent wage for a hard day's work - and isn't that the principle of the "American Dream"?  If you are willing to work hard, you should be able to do more than barely eke out an existence.  Off my soapbox now. 

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary; Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff

Pulled from the Menifee, Calif. Union School District (2010) because a parent complained when a child came across the term “oral sex.” Officials said the district is forming a committee to consider a permanent classroom ban of the dictionary.

Seriously?  Wow, for once I'm almost speechless....

Visit the sites above and sign up for your own challenge.  Check the lists at the ALA website; I guarantee that there are some books on your shelves or TBR lists that you can read to celebrate intellectual freedom and our intellectual rights.

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  1. I can not believe how people can think of banning books due to conflicting ideologies on a global front. It's inane that in today's society we have to constantly protect our rights to read freely without fear of being punished to THINK outside the box.

    Protecting not only our rights but the author's notable creativity to stir the public with his /her words. Silencing or burning books is wrong and unjustified means of censorship.

    It is an unfailing right to choose, and not have that taken from us by bans.

    Great piece Julie and I stand firmly on your side on this one.
    Censorship leads to ignorance and in life one has to be equipped with the empowerment of knowledge.

  2. Great post for the mini-challenge, Julie. Sorry I've taken so long to stop was a busy week! I still can't believe that The Pillars of the Earth has ever been challenged/banned. I think it's one of the best historical novels ever written. And how about that dictionary challenge? How ridiculous that someone would challenge a dictionary...please!


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