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Holy Crap, Is It Almost Monday Again? Wrapping Up Banned Book Week

October 3, 2010

Banned Book Week ended yesterday. I didn’t do any of the reading I’d planned for banned book week. However I did read several frequently banned or challenged books.

I posted some thoughts about banning books here.

I discussed Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson here. It’s been in the spotlight lately since a Midwestern minister recently called for it to be removed from high school English curricula in his district.

An organization called Parents Against Bad Books lists Speak on their website, with a long list of “offensive” passages in book. Their concerns included:

  • Passages describing a sexual assault and the aftermath, which caused a young woman to suffer depression throughout the following school year. In my opinion, the description of the incident was very understated.
  • References to condoms and to teens checking out each others’ boobs and rear ends. In my opinion condoms should be mentioned to teens. As often as possible.
  • A reference to promiscuity and abortions. It was thoroughly tongue-in-cheek. Humor and irony seem to be lost on many people.
  • A smattering of swear words, including “bitch” and “asshole.”

Weigh all this against the fact that this novel seems to have comforted and encouraged many teens who have been raped and has been the impetus for some sexual abuse victims to finally speak up about what they suffered. It has also raised awareness of this issue. This is obviously sorely needed, since the author, Laurie Halse Anderson, has received letters from adolescent boys asking “why was Melinda so upset about being raped?”

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig — My younger daughter and I recently read this delightful, gentle picture book. In 1977, the Illinois Police Association urged librarians to remove the book, which portrays its characters as animals, and presents the police as pigs. The American Library Association reported similar complaints in 11 other states. My husband is a police officer, and I agree that the “pig” stereotype is offensive and rude. But is this worth depriving children of a long-beloved classic?

I read and reviewed The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. In 1997, the author was summoned to India’s Supreme Court to defend herself against a claim that this award winning novel’s brief, occasional sex scenes, involving a Christian woman and a low-caste Hindu servant, corrupted public morals. The fact that this topic, which invokes centuries of prejudice, so enraged Indians shows clearly that Roy’s story desperately needs to be told. And our society needs to hear the message just as badly.

I read and reviewed Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters All you have to do is say the word “gay” or “lesbian” and the controversy starts brewing. I look forward to the day when our country, which has made so much progress in matters of personal freedom and civil rights in the past 50 years, finally moves past this issue. Until it does, authors like Julie Anne Peters are a lifeline for GLBT teens and open a healthy discussion for everyone else. It has to be a bit harder to be prejudiced after reading a novel like this. After all, falling in love is such a profound and universal experience. It’s familiar to all of us, regardless of the mix of genders involved.

I am on the fence about what to read next. I have a stack of library books:

Bad mother : A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman
Legend of a Suicide by David Van
Manhood for Amateurs : The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafรณn
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontรซ

I also have a bunch of Sookie Stackhouse books I borrowed from a friend. Any suggestions??

34 Comments leave one →
  1. She permalink
    October 3, 2010 11:26 pm

    Wow! You seem to have done a lot for it. I need to get on the ball next year and actively read some of those banned books.

    It seems like you have a lot of good library books to read– I’ve been wanting to read The Shadow of the Wind for a while. Hope it’s a good one!

    • October 4, 2010 12:46 am

      I’ve been wanting to read Zafon’s books, since I hope to travel to Spain next year.

  2. givingreadingachance permalink
    October 3, 2010 11:42 pm

    Wow, I could not read any books. I am glad you read so many books, I did not know God of Small Things created issues! I know police can’t be called pigs… that would be awful.

    • October 4, 2010 12:47 am

      I hope you’re able to get back into reading soon. When you have a baby, being able to read can be a precious commodity. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. October 4, 2010 12:01 am

    Manhood for Amateurs is a wonderful book so I can sincerely recommend that! I would also like to say though that if you decide to read one of the Zafon books, let me know. I have both of them on my TBR pile!

    • October 4, 2010 12:48 am

      Manhood for Amateurs looks good, an I am crazy about the title. And I am excited about the Zafon books, as I hope to visit Spain in a year.

  4. October 4, 2010 1:50 am

    I soooo need to read Speak! I’ve got that one hopefully coming in the mail for me soon!

    Here’s my Monday: Coffee and a Book Chick — Mailbox Monday…

  5. October 4, 2010 1:51 am

    My boss absolutely loved The Shadow of the Wind. She said I’d probably like it because it is a book about books. I’ve downloaded it on audio, but it is long so I’m looking for the right opportunity.

    • October 5, 2010 12:48 am

      I just started it, and so far I am really liking it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course a book about bibliophiles is an easy sell with me.

  6. October 4, 2010 2:17 am

    Fantastic week – I went banned book crazy too so this is refreshing to read and I see a couple titles I want to read from your pics and descriptions here. One question…. if the police in the book are pigs… as I look at the book cover I have to wonder – who is the jack ass? ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. October 4, 2010 2:38 am

    Sometimes it’s so hard to choose what to read next. I keep meaning to bring Shadow of the Wind home from the library but haven’t as yet.

    Happy reading!

  8. October 4, 2010 3:53 am

    I need to go back to Bad Mother, I was enjoying it but it isn’t a read straight through book for me.

    Keeping you a secret sounds good. I have Speak on my Wishlist, need to get to it.

    My post.

  9. October 4, 2010 4:20 am

    Good job on reading books for Banned Reading Week. I didn’t have open review schedule to read any banned books. I may note it for next year though.
    Have a good week this week, whatever you read.

  10. October 4, 2010 8:20 am

    I have no suggestions, but I do want to read The God of Small Things.

    Speak is on my to-read list, but haven’t made it there yet. Happy reading ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. October 4, 2010 9:16 am

    I read Speak last week and failed to see what the hoo hah was about, I totally agree with you that many of the issues under controversial discussion are definitely issues that should be spoken about loudly and as often as possible. It wasn’t as riveting as Wintergirls but I’m glad I bumped it to the top of my read pile ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’d go with a Sookie Stackhouse; good fun, like potato chips not particularly nourishing but you want more anyway! Happy reading whatever you choose!

    • October 5, 2010 12:54 am

      I agree about the Sookie books being like potato chips. Not nourishing, but a good way to spend an evening! I should definitely read Wintergirls.

  12. October 4, 2010 10:07 am

    Speak is going to have to go on my to read list.
    I’ve found banned books week really interesting. It just doesn’t seem to happen here in Australia, or if it does, it doesn’t get much publicity! There have been the usual calls from Christian groups to ban things like Harry Potter, but apart from that, not much. My initial thoughts with people who want to ban books is to question what they are really afraid of. Reading books like this may open the minds of the reader which makes them harder to “control.” That I believe is the real issue.

    Read about my Monday here

    • October 5, 2010 12:55 am

      “Reading books like this may open the minds of the reader which makes them harder to โ€œcontrol.โ€ That I believe is the real issue.” I think you hot the nail on the head, Kylie.

  13. October 4, 2010 11:58 am

    Great post, I loved your wrap-up. The Sookie books are quick and light reads, the others all sound good too!

  14. October 4, 2010 12:05 pm

    The question with a lot of those banned books is simply whether parents get to choose the viewpoints to which their children are exposed, or whether an outsider is better qualified to do so. I’m one of those old-fashioned Catholic Christians who firmly believes that sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and that homoerotic activity is wrong–a weakness to be dealt with rather than just a different way of loving/being loved. Would you be happy if your kids brought home a book where the hero/heroine started out believing that s/he was homosexual, and in the end, had a happy ending after realizing that even though s/he had those feelings, they were wrong, could not be exercised and that energy should be applied elsewhere–or went through therapy and lost those desires?

    • October 5, 2010 1:30 am

      You make a good point — as a homeschooling parent I am sensitive to the fact that, as parents, we shouldn’t let anyone convince us that they’re better qualified than we are to make decisions about our kids. And I appreciate your prompting me to think about how I’d feel if the shoe were on the other foot. I think that’s healthy. ๐Ÿ™‚

      If that happened, I hope I’d look at it as a good opportunity to discuss the issue and highlight my values about homosexuality. I’ve always tried to be open with my kids about the fact that people have different sexual orientations and we think it’s no big deal. But I’ve also tried to talk respectfully about the fact that others have different convictions, based on their religious beliefs. I definitely wouldn’t ask that the book be removed from the library.

      On the other hand, I might have a problem with my child being *required* to read something I was uncomfortable with. It can be a complicated issue. Thanks for stopping by and joining the discussion.

  15. October 4, 2010 4:45 pm

    The Shadow of the Wind is among my favourite books, it’s wonderful. I have to get around to The Angel’s Game soon. I’ve only read the first Sookie Stackhouse book, but I thought it was good (certainly good enough to make me hunt down the second book on BookMooch).

  16. October 4, 2010 8:31 pm

    I am also reading “The Shadow of the Wind” but right now “Gone with the Wind” has got me pretty occupied. I recommend “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”! I have not read the book, but I’ve seen the BBC production with Toby Stephens in one of the roles:) Have a good reading week!

    • October 5, 2010 1:32 am

      Thanks — I’ll have to look for that movie. ๐Ÿ™‚ And I hope you’re enjoying Shadow of the Wind; I’m really liking it so far. I’ve never read Gone With the Wind; I’ve only seen the movie.

  17. October 5, 2010 1:03 am

    Read Shadow of the Wind!!!!!

    • October 5, 2010 1:31 am

      Great minds think alike — I just started it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for recommending it in the first place, Stephanie.

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