Archive for the ‘censorship’ Category

…and they’ll offend you and you and YOU!   Well, if I’m doing my job right they will.  There are books in the library that offend everyone because there are books FOR everyone.   It’s like going down the rabbit hole — follow me around that circular logic, my friends.  Wheee!

Just in time for Banned Books Week, a coworker sent me an email about this crazy-crazy happening that took place over the weekend.   I didn’t hear about until now because my computer has died and it just sits there, taunting me, like a big, silver paperweight….holding my music hostage!! *sniffle*  Anyway…

SPEAK up for SPEAK!!!

An associate professor of management at Missouri State University, Wesley Scroggins, has written a diatribe about how Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson is basically soft porn and should be removed from the school libraries in the district where he lives. 

Yes, he’s talking about THAT Speak, which ten years on is still an extremely popular young adult novel.  I’ve mentioned it in this blog before: briefly in a review and as a book that’s been made into a film – incidentally, the film stars Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame). 

So, here is Ms. Anderson’s response. 

…and please, oh please, play the video of her reading her poem “Listen”, which she created based on reader response to Speak.

Now, I took a sharp left turn when I could have been a teacher, so I’m going to go to an expert on this one.  

Here is an extremely well-reasoned and literary rebuttal to Mr. Scroggins’ “willful misreading” (I like that, that says it so well) by Philip Nel, Professor of English and Director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature. 

This story has been all over the interwebs and Twitter has kinda exploded (Follow the thread #SpeakLoudly) and Ms. Anderson and Sarah Ockler, whose book Twenty Boy Summer is also being challenged have just done interviews with the paper that printed the initial opinion piece.  (he’s also going after Slaughterhouse Five, but Kurt Vonnegut can’t fight back…)  So anyway, keep an eye out for that article.

Here Ms. Ockler explains a bit more about the situation (who the challenge/opinion piece writer is, why this is a bigger deal than just the removal of one or two books from a school district’s library, and how you can get involved if you want to do something more).  Apparently this is the same area where another school board recently removed Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.

I just have to say…this reminds me so much of the craziness that happened with Sarah Dessen’s book, Just Listen.  In Florida, an upset parent stood up in front of school board members and began reading portions of the date-rape scene, which by necessity is horrific

Yet instead of saying that yes, that particular scene was unsavory but necessary and that there is more to the book than just that scene, the parent and the school board member running the meeting painted the whole book with the same brush, disregarded the fact that the book was important for so many reasons, and that perhaps, by describing that situation, other teenage girls might recognize that a situation they’d been subjected to was non-consensual…or they might recognize a situation getting bad and get themselves out of it before they are hurt. 

*okay…deep breath*  Go here for Ms. Dessen’s response at the time.

Earlier today I set up the Banned Books Display for the teens in my library.  Every year someone will inevitably say, “…but no one really bans books anymore, right?”  Um, no.  …and people still hold book burnings, too (that Qu’ran incident is only the latest and greatest), though they’re mostly symbolic and feel-good events, “Throw another Harry Potter on the barbie!”  Perfectly fine, yay First Amendment rights and all that…they can burn them as long as they bought them…no worries.

What I worry about is when somebody other than a child or teenager’s parents comes in and takes books away from those teens.  The theme for this year’s Banned Books Week is particularly apt, “Think for yourself and let others do the same.”  

Putting up big walls around teenagers will not keep them safe, for someday they must go out into that world.   Refusing to let them see the reality of choices, even bad choices (for example, what can happen to you when you’re addicted to methamphetamines like the main character in Ellen Hopkin’s book Crank), leaves them vulnerable.

Hopkins, who you may or may not have heard was dis-invited from a book festival earlier this year, says it so well in her Manifesto: “Ignorance is no armor.”  Please read the whole Manifesto.

So, I’ve gone on a bit, but please, share with me and those people who read this blog…have you read Speak, or Just Listen, or any one of the top hundred books banned this decade? 

Please, #SpeakLoudly.  The next book facing a challenge might be one you need to read.

Some folks around the blogosphere who are Speaking out for Speak:

YA author Jo Knowles


YA author Cecil Castellucci





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Congratulations to the winners of the Cumberland County Public Library &Information Center’s Big Read 2008 teen and adult essay contests mentioned in an earlier post.


The winning entries:


A World Without Words
By Julia Evans
R. Max Abbott Middle School


“Between the Covers”
Maegen Rogers
Creek High School


The Demise of the Bookworm?
By Caroline Tung Richmond


Essay by Sarah LaComa


…and thank you to everyone who participated in the Big Read essay contests and attended library programs in celebration of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.


Please check the library’s calendar of events for more teen programs.




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The Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center has already started to celebrate The Big Read 2008.  This year the selection is Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s vision of a civilization numbed by entertainment, medication, and apathy…a society stuffed “full of useless information.” (here’s the interview in LA Weekly).  Please check out this video from the author’s webpage to learn exactly what Bradbury had in mind when he put his words on such flammable paper.


Many readers have also found that the book serves as a sounding condemnation of censorship and a call to arms for those who value intellectual freedom.


There are still plenty of great programs and activities to get involved in at all the branches this month…for a full listing and the calendar of events, please visit our webpage…


For Teens


There’s still time to submit your entries to the essay contest:


Students should contact their English teachers for details about submitting essays through their respective schools. Homeschool students, and other teens entering The Big Read essay contest individually or whose school is not participating, may submit their entries electronically to bigreadcontest@cumberland.lib.nc.us on or before April 14.


The winning essay for the whole county will be published on the library’s web site and in The Fayetteville Observer. The winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to a local book store.


Please read the full description and rules carefully…




Talk about F-451: “Heated Discussions: Teens Take on Fahrenheit 451” (programs at the North Regional, Spring Lake, and Headquarters branches)


Listen to F-451: Join us for “The Big Read Read-A-Thon” at the Headquarters branch on Saturday, April 12, starting at 9 am.  Special guest readers include City Council members Val Applewhite, Charles Evans, Keith Bates, Darrel Haire, and Bobby Hurst; North Carolina State Representatives Rick Glazier and Margaret Dickson; Stephanie Durden from Foxy 99 and KISS 107 and more. We’ll start when the library opens and stop when we’ve read the last page.  It’s like listening to a LIVING AUDIOBOOK!  J


Watch F-451: Fahrenheit 451 (1966) starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie (showings still available at the North Regional, Bordeaux, and East Regional branches)


Craft programs to celebrate F-451: “We’ve Got It Covered: Handmade Books” (programs at the Bordeaux, Headquarters, North Regional, and Cliffdale branches), and “TV Turn-off Week: Games and Crafts” at Hope Mills.


Write the next F451: Take your inspiration from the best and then show the world what you’ve got!  The Cliffdale, North Regional, and Headquarters branches are hosting science fiction writing workshops for teens and adults.



Please check out the April 2008 calendar of events for dates and times.  Also, be aware that some programs require registration.


Thanks for helping us make The Big Read a big success!





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Books are made for reading…

…and learning…and cracking open our minds to the myriad possibilities in this world and the glorious variety of folks that live in it.  How’s that for a deep thought?  Jack Handey ought to be proud…or indifferent.  One or the other.  🙂

Now before anyone gets huffy, I know that officially, Banned Books Week only lasts, um…a week.  I, however, am of the opinion that every week is banned books week.  Challenges happen every day.  Today it’s a book, tomorrow it’s a song lyric, or a picture, or an idea.  Celebrate your freedom to read every single day…the books will be here for you!

That said, a few coworkers and I would like to share some favorites: 



Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. 

One of my favorite banned books is Speak, the story of Melinda Sordino, a young woman starting her freshman year of high school.  That first year is hard enough, but on top if it all, she is an outcast…a pariah…all because of what happened at the senior’s party that summer.  Yeah, she called the cops…yes, some people got arrested…and now her former friends hate her.  She is shunned by everyone at school.  When she tries to talk, even to teachers, her voice freezes up or she starts to stutter.  It’s easier to stay inside her head, silent – mute.  There’s nothing to say, anyway…at least not until she can say what really happened that night…. Melinda’s inner monologue narrates the novel as she struggles to accept what happened at the party and the aftermath. 

When I first started reading this book, I was curious how the author would tell the story without the main character speaking.  Anderson puts you in Melinda’s head and you can’t help but be drawn in.  It made me think of what I might have done in the same situation… 

Missy, Assistant Youth Services Coordinator, Headquarters Library 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. 2000 Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Often censored because it tells of a rape of the protagonist, Melinda Sordino, and she mentions self-harm. According to Anderson, in almost all the challenges she has heard about, the book remained in the curriculum. In two districts, it was taken out of the curriculum, but remained an option for independent reading.

Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden 

I’ve already reviewed this book here, and just wanted to share some of the challenges that the book has faced over the years. – Missy 

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden. 2003 Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner. Frequently attacked on the grounds that it promotes, idealizes, or encourages homosexuality, it disappeared from two high school libraries in San Ramon, California in 1991; it was discovered later that the vice principal took the books from the libraries to examine them. In 1994, in Chanute, Kansas, after a challenge, students had to have written parental permission as it was stored on a limited-access shelf. Currently, Annie on My Mind is one of the 55 books in Fayetteville, Arkansas, that parents in a group called Parents Protecting the Minds of Children are petitioning to have removed from the school libraries.


Wide Awake by David Levithan 

Wide Awake is set in the near future. A gay Jewish man has been elected President, and the governor of Kansas is not happy about it. He is doing everything in his power to get the election results changed, and 17-year-old Duncan, a gay Jewish man himself, decides to do something about it. He and his friends (some of whom call themselves “Jesus Freaks,”) embark on a road trip to Kansas to show support for the rightful candidate.  

I really liked this book because the characters are compassionate, thoughtful, and mature. They do what is needed to fight for their beliefs without hurting anyone in the process. They really grow as people.  

Vicki, librarian, Hope Mills Branch  


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 

A classic. Seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield ditches his prep school and heads for New York City. Many adventures ensue while he sorts out his life drama, including a meeting with a hooker.

Holden is possibly the coolest book character ever. The first sentence pretty much says it all: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” How can you not love that? 

Vicki, Librarian, Hope Mills Branch 

Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger. Published in 1951, this immediate best seller almost simultaneously became a popular target of censorship. Some reasons have included “centered around negative activity,” “blasphemous and undermines morality,” “unacceptable” and “obscene.” A 1991-92 study by the People for the American Way found that the novel was among those most likely to be censored based on the fact that it is “anti-Christian.” Challenged by Concerned Citizens of Florida who wanted the book removed from a high school library (1991) in Leesburg, Florida due to “profanity, reference to suicide, vulgarity, disrespect, and anti-Christian sentiments.” They were unsucessful: a review committee voted unanimously to retain the book.   Other documentation may be found here.












A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.


My favorite banned book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. My fifth grade teacher would read to us everyday after lunch and she read us this book. She ignited my love for literature. I loved reading so much that when every other basketball player was volunteering to work in the gym or the office I opted for the library so that I could read when I wanted. It is remarkable what people remember; of all the books Mrs. Covan read to us, I still remember A Wrinkle in Time.

Rita, Library Associate II, Hope Mills Branch 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. 1998 Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner. A parent filed a complaint in a Polk City, Florida, Elementary School, believing the story promoted witchcraft, crystal balls, and demons. Other complaints included listing the name Jesus Christ with names of great artists, philosophers, scientists and religious leaders. Another complaint was that it undermined religious beliefs.

Keep reading and keep thinking, folks.



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…visit your public library.

Banned Books Week, September 29 – October 6, is basically a chance for feisty librarians to bust out the chains, boxes, cages, and caution tape to make flashy and interesting displays featuring books that have been challenged or banned at one time or another in the United States.

Here is a really interesting list of books, 50 Banned Books for Teens, and some of the reasons they were challenged.

One of my favorite entries is Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: 


Public schools in Plant City, Florida in 1976 and Emporium, Pennsylvania in 1977 banned Flowers for Algernon because of references to sex. It was also banned from Glen Rose, Arkansas High School Library in 1981 and challenged at the Oberlin, Ohio High School in 1983 due to the protagonist engaging in a sexual encounter. Other reasons for challenges include “pornographic” and “explicit love scenes were distasteful.”   

To me, the story is engaging, touching, and tragic.  Charlie’s all-too-brief experience with clarity and self-sufficiency, his extraordinary achievements during that time, and then his excruciating circumstances afterward are wrenching and meaningful.  The sex is not a gratuitous subplot and is very much a part of who Charlie is and the man he becomes.   

I read this in high school, while living in Oberlin, Ohio, no less, and remember having a great discussion about the book in my psychology class.  We talked about intelligence and what it might be like for someone who was intellectually challenged or damaged to be so aware of their limitations.  The thought-provoking question at the time was this:  is it better to have an amazing, though brief, experience only to have that taken away – regardless of whether the memory of the experience remains, or would it have been better if Charlie had never known what he was capable of and continued to live his life without the disruption and false hopes of the experiment?  (See also: is it really better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all…?) 

I’ll post more banned or challenged teen book reviews in a bit…does anyone have any favorites? 



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