Banned Books Week 2014 : September 21 - 27
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Thanks Lorannen . . . No worries. There are uses for both a "favorite banned books" list (with voting) and a general list that just acknowledges which books have been banned.
Update: I added a link from my list to the LT "Favorite Banned Books" list for folks who want to vote.
The private choice not to read a book, or the words of an individual, is not the same thing as an attempt to prevent others from reading them. I'm doing the former here.
Personally, I think the ALA and a few librarians look like petrified (meaning here frozen in time) fools on this issue. Most books are not banned, a few are challenged – this is good, active, communal engagement. Libraries, particularly public libraries, should welcome the discussions. The use of the lists shouldn’t be used to imply that librarians are the self-appointed guardians of free speech or culture, but rather as an illustration that culture is malleable, ever-forming, and participatory.
The fact that many initially repulsive (to societal norms, tastes, and popular sentiment) works of art, literature, music, architecture… become beloved classics is because they have the power to move us, to bring us to new places and understanding.
I don’t see many libraries or librarians having this discussion. Rather I see the entire issue – a fascinating, complex, and compelling one – reduced to placard mentality, and the inevitable lame and stale displays.
(hmmm… maybe I’m the grump you blocked? I hope not!)
Because sometimes when you're on a book discussion site you don't want to have to deal with someone telling you you're a threat to all that is good in the world and that your (at the time, hypothetical, or I'd probably have left LT entirely rather than just the group) children should be taken away by the government. There are plenty of places I can go if I want to engage with that sort of thing. (I could start by walking down the road to the Capitol....)
When it appeared in 1977, my first novel was welcomed with considerable praise from The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Newsday, and many others. The American Library Association named HARD FEELINGS a Best Book of the Year for Young Adults. Partly on that account, the novel was purchased by high school librarians from Bangor to San Diego.
The book ran into trouble in those communities (like my own here in northern Vermont), where some parents raised objection to the frank, if humorous, treatment of adolescent sexuality and the exuberant proclivity among some teenagers for the use of profanity. HARD FEELINGS weathered those local tempests well for the most part, although the novel is still on some banned book lists here and there.
With the release of POLLY AND THE ONE AND ONLY WORLD just a week away, my publisher, Green Writers Press, and I anticipate the likelihood of similar challenges, though this time for different reasons. The story is set in a much-diminished America called the Christian Protectorates. The new government, formed in the wake of devastating cataclysms that are not explained, is a stifling theocracy. The story’s villains, then, are fundamentalists afflicted by the delusions that may often be inspired by biblical history and mythology. Involuntary servitude is legal, for example, while public libraries are not.
At the start of the novel, the Faith and Redemption Amendment has just become law. By its mandate “all the heretics, apostates, and followers of false creeds anywhere in the Protectorates had 90 days to register for assignment to a ReBirthing facility or apply for bondservant status. Anyone who failed to comply with the FRA, citizen or outlier, would face arrest and exile, consignment to a work camp, or death.” Polly, a witch by blood and practice, must either hide or seek safety in exile–or else face certain arrest and likely execution. Needless to say, some readers are bound to be offended by the depiction of Christians as hateful oppressors—and also of witches as heroic figures. So, if the book gets attention, I’m afraid we’re bound to meet with calls for banning, particularly in the schools.
Which raises the question posed a short while ago in the Atlantic: "Who Should Decide What High School Kids Are Allowed to Read?" It remains a question worth pondering.
"A book is a loaded gun in the house next door... Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?"
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
"If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change."
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
I spent BBW reading A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn . . . and really wish it had been part of History classes when I was growing up!
I have to strenuously disagree. Selecting one's own content is something we all do, all the time, for all sorts of reasons and in all sorts of ways. And yes, that includes "blocking", or "filtering", or simply moving on to other things. The uses of the words "block" and "filter" might make it seem similar, but the key distinction is information management for oneself -- versus for other people. It's a crucial part of how the human brain works, actually, to filter and distinguish between less relevant and more relevant information. We do this automatically, as well as consciously. Skim past comments that are lengthy or pointless or, yes, unpleasant in tone or content, or with which you disagree, or which you find boring. Do the same with newspaper articles. Or magazines in a doctor's office. Choosing one friend over another to go to a movie, because you want to hear one person's opinion but not the other's.
Selecting content for others -- and in particular making it harder for other people to find or access content -- is a completely different thing, and that's the essence of censorship: Using your power to make it harder for people to access information. Some people and entities have more power than others -- the government, major retailers -- and those are the ones that properly deserve scrutiny.
Please don't be confused by using technology to implement something we can do with our eyeballs and brains. The critical distinction is who you're trying to affect, and how much power you have to do it.