Banned Books Week

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What would you do if you went to the library in search of "The Adventures of Captain Underpants" for your child, or to re-read Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Beloved" only to find that the book had been pulled from the shelves because another patron objected to its content?

It happens in the United States more often than many realize. At least 464 formal complaints were filed in 2012 seeking to remove books from libraries or schools, according to the American Library Association, a sponsor of Banned Books Week, which runs September 22-28. Its mission is to celebrate the freedom to read and highlight the pitfalls of censorship.

The annual event started in 1982, the same year the Supreme Court ruled that students' First Amendment rights were violated when Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and eight other books were removed from school libraries. Despite the legal precedent, schools and libraries still receive formal challenges to remove books from library shelves or nix them from reading lists to protect children from material some see as inappropriate.

Just this month, a North Carolina school board voted to ban Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" based on complaints from the parent of an 11th-grader. The board is reportedly scheduled to reconsider its decision.

Written By: Emanuella Grinberg
continue to source article at cnn.com

24 COMMENTS

  1. Books should not be pulled. They might get a sticker warning that other patrons thought the books were unsuitable or misleading.

    I borrowed a cartoon featuring Christopher Plummer from the public library. I was quite shocked to discover it had explicit scenes of bestiality. At first glance, it looked like something intended for family viewing. I tried to report this to the library, but they insisted I fill out some huge form, most of which was irrelevant. I felt I had told them all they needed to know. I don’t think the DVD should be pulled, just have a warning sticker to avoid someone having an awkward experience explaining it to his kids.

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      Books should not be pulled. They might get a sticker warning that other patrons thought the books were unsuitable or misleading.

      Reminds me of Tipper Gore at the forefront of the “parental advisory label” hearings. It was way cool that Frank Zappa (and m/others) testified against it. Alas, Gore et.al. won. I don’t know what effect, if any, the advisories had; did it make records / CDs the delicious forbidden fruit? Concerned parents can only do so much, once a genie is out of the bottle.

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      Books should not be pulled. They might get a sticker warning that other patrons thought the books were unsuitable or misleading.

      Actually, libraries frown upon that. It’s up to the individual to decide what is appropriate for oneself to read, not an institution that’s supposed to be intellectually neutral.

      • In reply to #10 by InYourFaceNewYorker:

        Actually, libraries frown upon that. It’s up to the individual to decide what is appropriate for oneself to read, not an institution that’s supposed to be intellectually neutral.

        When I was in charge of ordering books for a school library, I was never “intellectually neutral”.
        I operated a “strictly no garbage policy”, to optimise the use of the budget!

        • In reply to #12 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #10 by InYourFaceNewYorker:

          Actually, libraries frown upon that. It’s up to the individual to decide what is appropriate for oneself to read, not an institution that’s supposed to be intellectually neutral.
          When I was in charge of ordering books for a school library, I was never “intel…

          That’s a school library. I’m talking about public libraries.

          • In reply to #14 by InYourFaceNewYorker:

            That’s a school library. I’m talking about public libraries.

            I agree with you up to a point, but if you look at the proportions of quackology to science in many book shops, I would hope librarians use some discrimination and discretion in selecting their reference materials.

          • In reply to #15 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #14 by InYourFaceNewYorker:

            That’s a school library. I’m talking about public libraries.

            I agree with you up to a point, but if you look at the proportions of quackology to science in many book shops, I would hope librarians use some discrimination and discretion in selecting their ref…

            I’ve read about this. You have to present all points of view, even bullshit points of view. If nothing else, it’s important to know what the nutty other side is saying!

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      Books should not be pulled. They might get a sticker warning that other patrons thought the books were unsuitable or misleading.

      I borrowed a cartoon featuring Christopher Plummer from the public library. I was quite shocked to discover it had explicit scenes of bestiality. At first glance, it loo…

      Was it in the kids’ section?

  2. It happens in the United States more often than many realize. At least 464 formal complaints were filed in 2012.

    with a population of 300,000,000 – 464 is a great deal less than I would have imagined. It doesn’t take much if the fundies are focused.

    In my mind this says more about how little that type of person goes to a library. If all you care about is the bible and everything else is from the pit of hell…

  3. As Roedy says in comment 1, a sticker will suffice.

    Wonder if these parents exercise the same rigour in checking out their kid’s computers and cellphones.
    Come to think of it,the Bible should be banned as well.The goings on in that most holy of books is enough to make a person’s hair curl.It’s not for children’s consumption.

    I know people who only read Christian literature and only listen to Christian music.Their worldview,as you can guess,is pretty bigotted.

    When I was little my only pleasure was going to the library.I used to run all the way there and read on the way back.The library was the most magical place.We can’t have the library filled with books that only the narrow-minded approve of.I shudder at the thought.

  4. Although the Index no longer exists, the RCC has had its fair share of book banning.

    RCC Index

    Indeed my dad fell out with the RCC because he was reading The Three Musketeers by Dumas. Lucky for me ! I wouldn’t be here if that hadn’t happened, along with a load of other things !

    • In reply to #7 by Mr DArcy:

      Although the Index no longer exists, the RCC has had its fair share of book banning.

      Heh… I remember when I was in high school in Evanston, Illinois, the kids who went to the local cat-lick church told the English teacher they weren’t allowed by the priest to read “Catcher in the Rye”. I don’t remember what they substituted, but I do remember there was general hooting about it among the other students. And several of the catholic kids said privately that they read it anyway.

      Steve

  5. One of the worst examples of books that people complain about is Huck Finn. It’s one of my favorite novels partly because it’s such a powerful indictment of racism and religious hypocrisy. There’s a great scene toward the end where Huck is debating if he should do the “right” thing (as defined by the white Christian culture) and turn in runaway slave Jim. His final decision is that he’s just no good, “all right then I’ll go to hell” he decides and helps Jim stay free. It amazes me that people want to ban that book on the grounds that it uses the “N word”. In fact to not use that word would be to sugar coat the history.

  6. We really need to understand the psychology behind the strange obsession to censor.

    Capt. Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets – how can any book live up to such a great title?

  7. Dear RDFR’s. An NHS staff-nurse – and ‘Skeptics’ organiser – was summoned one day to his UK hospital managers office to be ‘reprimanded’. What was his crime? A few fellow nurses put in an official complaint about the ‘inappropriate and offensive’ book he was reading. How dare he ‘expose’ them to, “The God Delusion” during their lunch break! Apparently his manager smiled and said, “No probs, don’t worry about them xtians” :) m

  8. Not perhaps part of the present discussion, but there is one famous book for children which needs a rewrite or a BIG sticker. That’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.

    The caterpillar eats vigorously (no doubt helps parents persuade Junior to eat up those greens!) and eventually he spins a cocoon, from which he finally emerges – as a beautiful butterfly! Very edifying, but butterflies don’t spin cocoons, do they.?
    I’m surprised there has been no comment from David Attenborough or maybe Professor Dawkins. The book is a best seller, so the inaccuracy surely matters.

  9. In reply to 22 by InYourFace New Yorker

    Your remark about cats’ claws prompts me to veer even further off-topic. Why do books, even serious scientific ones, always refer to cats’ claws as retractile? They aren’t. Retracted is the default position, and they are EXTENDIBLE. On a hard surface you can hear a dog walking because its non-retractile claws click on the floor. That wouldn’t do for a cat hunting sharp-eared little prey.

    To get back on-topic, I think it’s a bit too easy for educated and intelligent parents, with similarly equipped kids, to condemn censorship of library books. They take an interest in what the children read, and can discuss it with them, if necessary explaining how attitudes like racism were endemic when a book was written, and allowance can be made for this fact without agreeing with the outdated mindset. The Dr Dolittle books that Richard Dawkins loved as a child, were pulled from a London library near me on account of the stereotyping of black characters, though my hypothetical parents could help their kids to enjoy the stories while rejecting the racism. Sadly, many parents, possibly a majority, don’t care what their kids are reading if it keeps them quiet – and in many cases might share the outdated attitudes themselves.

    Roedy, if you’d expressed religious outrage about that cartoon, the library might have been more cooperative!

    • In reply to #23 by CEVA34:

      In reply to 22 by InYourFace New Yorker
      Sadly, many parents, possibly a majority, don’t care what their kids are reading if it keeps them quiet – and in many cases might share the outdated attitudes themselves.

      I would imagine that these parents with the outdated attitudes are, if anything, more likely to want to censor books. FSM forbid they should learn that gay people exist, or that people have sex before they’re married, and so forth.

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