Monday, September 27, 2010

does everybody know what WEEK it is?!

September 25-October 2, 2010 is Banned Book Week, which draws attention to banned and challenged books in our culture and raises awareness about the right to make informed decisions about what to read for yourself.

The sky is also blue.
Reptiles are cold-blooded.
Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.
And for my last 'duh' statement, Disneyland is outrageously expensive.

I was looking at the 10 Most Challenged books, according to the American Library Association. To be honest, some of the books did not surprise me, but some of them did:

- To Kill a Mockingbird. Reasons include: racism, offensive language, unsuitable to age group.
Now, I get the racism thing, but...that's kind of what the book is about (dealing with racism in 1930s Alabama) so...hmm. How can you write about the flaws present in a heavily racist and prejudicial society without including the issue itself? Very strange.

- Catcher in the Rye. Reasons include: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
Catcher in the Rye is sexually explicit? Really? I must have read a different book. I don't recall any 'explicit' content in this novel, and not going to lie, I'm not a big fan of sexually explicit stuff in books. I'm also not a big fan of zucchini, but I don't think it should be banned, just to clarify :)
And what in the world - religious viewpoint? HUH? I seriously don't remember that at all.

Twilight: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group.
*shakes head* Poor Stephenie Meyer! The gal just can't win: people are either accusing the book of being sexually explicit (which, let me say, it is NOT) or they're on the other end of the spectrum accusing it of being religiously...whatever. I don't know. Sexually explicit? It could be argued that the book advocates abstinence, for pooh's sake. People will complain about anything!

As I went down the list, the two categories that seemed the most predominant were 'sexually explicit' and 'unsuited to age group.' The problem with both of these categories is that they are rather subjective and don't always convey the whole truth, and I would guess that's the reason why book-banning has gone from being a big issue in our culture to being a gargantuan issue.
The bottom line is, continues to be, and always will be, the right to read and digest whatever material you see fit. That is a decision no one should make for you (except, sorry kids/teens - the job of parents permits them to have an interest in the stuff you're putting into your mind).

I will go a step further, though, and say that the right to read/digest whatever material you see fit is a 2-way street, much like a lot of other issues in our world. (Mind my grammar and pronouns here) Just as someone shouldn't have the authority to prohibit you from access to books, neither should they have the right to force you to read something you don't want to... SCHOOLS! TEACHERS! Alternate assignments and the reading choice of many books is always a good thing, to ensure that your (the teacher/the school's) values do not become mandatory values for everyone else. That is intellectual protection. Ohh, and this is interesting:
Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA's basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

- I actually didn't think that the 1st Amendment applied to minors, but apparently it does! Too bad I wasn't aware of that when I was in high school :)

So what was the purpose of this post? Really, I just wanted to take a look at the Top 10 Most Challenged Books, see if I'd read any of them, and look at the reasons why. And the 'reasons why' seem pretty far-fetched, to be honest, and don't tell the whole story. The inclusion of some books on that list does not surprise me at all, but the inclusion of others did. It is absolutely unbelievable to me that after all these years, To Kill a Mockingbird would still be challenged. And Twilight - ? Oh my gosh, banners, really?! You all know it's about vampires. You all know it's a love story. If you don't like it, don't read it!

"The lust to suppress can come from any direction."
- Nat Hentoff, Free Speech for Me But Not Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other

7 shout-outs!:

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

YAY for BBW!!!! I am reviewing a banned book a day this week..... love your post!

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

Bloody are you supposed to write a book about racism and prejudice if you can't even mention it without being accused of being so? I digress...pardon me haha I'm rather surprised to see Twilight on the list. Though I'm not a fan, the books are actually very chaste and promote abstinence, don't they? Strange...

Anyhoo, great post as usual, Amelia! :)

Anonymous said...

as usual...great post, amelia. i'd love it if you read my group blog's post

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Amelia! :) I completely agree with all your points ... especially about Twilight, which is one of the least sexually explicit YA books I've ever read, lol ... plus, Edward? he's practically the Poster Boy for abstinence! :P for religion - huh? I must have missed the part where Stephenie Meyer told everyone to go out and suck someone else's blood ... if the problem is that it's anti-Christian, well, it's rather totalitarian to expect everyone to read nothing but books that don't offend *your* religion. Anyway, like you said, everyone knows that Twilight is a vampire romance ... if you've got a problem with it, nobody's forcing it down your throat!

As for To Kill a Mockingbird (Huckleberry Finn, too), seriously, how exactly can someone tackle such difficult issues without actually mentioning them?! If anyone's answer is not to write about them at all, there's one huge problem in their logic right there.

Lastly, the worst problem with the "unsuited to age group" category is that it's so freaking VAGUE! It seems as though anyone can stick *anything* they, personally, find offensive in there.

P.S. Telling people what they can and cannot read is uncool (unless, ofc, you're a parent - in which case I still don't think you should, but it's not my decision to make) ... zucchini, however, need to be banned :o

Dazzling Mage said...

Totally agree that people shouldn't force others to NOT read books, but also to READ books- but seriously, if my teacher didn't put To Kill A Mockingjay into out curriculum, I wouldn't have read it (I also didn't know it was banned). I loved this book, and Catcher in the Rye (this, I wished I studied in school).

It's not also that books "talk" about issues such as racism, but it also portrays that it existed during those times. You can't ban a book that talks about an issue that existed during that period of time. It's not the author's fault.

Anyway, great post.

Unavailable said...

I did a project over Catcher in the Rye in high school and I have no idea how it is offensive. If there is religious controversy in the book it must have been way over my head because I didn't catch it. Then again, I WAS having to be thorough and cover ALL major themes, and so I think someone just has a prejudice against the book. I agree, it's ridiculous and I don't understand why people want to shove how they feel down everyone else's throat. You are entitled to your opinion, but keep it at that. Stop trying to dictate how everyone else is supposed to feel. There- I've ranted. This topic just gets me flustered.

Amazing post Amelia!

The Critic said...

Not gonna lie. This makes me so angry I want to beat the hell out of something and scream until my lungs can't take it anymore. I mean, ALA doesn't follow it's own Constitution? Have we reached an all new low or what?

What really depresses me, is that harmless books like Speak (who made such a huge impact on the people getting raped) and The Diary of Anne Frank (Because it was DEPRESSING!!! I mean, that's borderline anti-semetic) are getting banned and yet Porn and much more graphic books aren't?? (Not that anything should be banned I mean there IS the First Ammendment after all) What kind of a society do we live in? Do parents really believe that just because of ONE freakin sex scene it boosts our self esteem to go and HAVE sex?

What also really depresses me is the fact that all these so-called 'sexually explicit' books or any other book for that matter has been called "Pornography." (Yes that does include Speak which is about rape,has two rape scenes that aren't even that bad...? Doesn't make much sense to me.) Anyway, long rant short, all we hear out of the mouths of book banners are "Evil...Pornography...Immoral" Yes book Banners, The First Ammendment is there for a reason. It's not by any means a holiday decoration that doesn't mean anything.
Sorry, long rant is over! :)

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