Monday, September 25, 2017

Banned Books Week 2017: Monday

As Banned Books Week continues, today (read: yesterday - I am posting this one day late) I will go in depth to the top ten most common reasons for banning and challenging books. Some of these are reasonable, others less so, so here they are:

1. Offensive language, profanity, and/or swearing.
Example: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
Gone Girl was challenged during its time as the #1 NY Times Bestseller due to its use of "****", "****", and "****". Thousands of other books have gotten in trouble for this - even children's books, such as the 1978 classic Bridge to Terabithia, which has been challenged and banned for its use of "Oh my Lord". (As well as its "unhappy ending". You read that right.)

2. Sex and sexually explicit content.
Example: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.
This one got challenged recently by a public library on the grounds that "we are concerned that the book's readers may want to try it out." I know what they mean by "it".

3. Violence.
Example: Nine/Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin.
This recent juvenile chapter book is one of many that has been ruled just too violent for public schools. But the violence described in this book really happened. I don't understand why people think that the way to protect children from violence is to deny it exists.

4. Being unsuitable for the age group it is targeted at.
Example: Where Willy Went by I forget whom.
Who's Willy, the protagonist of this children's book? Why, a sperm, of course! This one is not a school staple, because it was written for youngsters who, by common consent, aren't old enough to know what a sperm even is.

5. Racism and racial stereotypes.
Example: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Yes, the great American anti-racism novel from 1960 has been challenged for containing the very racism it is speaking out against. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, too, has been challenged for over 200 mentions of a certain six-letter racial epithet. Couldn't these books be used to teach children about racism?

6. LGBT characters and/or LGBT stereotypes.
Example: I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.
This is a new picture book that explains the concept of transgender. In fact, it's how I learned what transgender is. But it's gotten a lot of hate, in particular from a certain anti-LGBT Christian minister that I don't like to talk about. There's another one about some gay penguins (yes, you read that correctly) that I'll go into more detail in on a later post.

7. Containing words or contextual orientations that may offend some students. In other words, not being PC. 
Example: Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.
You probably already know this one's gotten into some tight spots for its graphic depictions of puberty, but in more recent years it's been getting removed for a different reason. To paraphrase one challenge letter, "we have concerns that the use of the word "God" in the title of the book will offend students who do not recognize God." As mentioned in the previous post, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is also widely challenged and banned due to concerns that it will offend students who do not observe Christmas.

8. Allegations that the book is or can be taken as propaganda for one side of a hotly debated issue.
Example: Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss.
Just scroll down to read my previous post, and you'll find out that this classic has been accused of being pro-life propaganda. I go into more detail on my earlier post.

9. Sexism and/or gender stereotypes.
Example: In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd.
This book is best known as the book that partially inspired the movie A Christmas Story, and it was banned in one Ohio school district for degrading women. Of course, women stereotypically stayed in the kitchen all day back then, when this book was set. These books cannot be banned - they are valuable teaching tools.

10. The old "magic is bad, Jesus is good" thing.
Example: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
If my parents were diehard conservative evangelistic Christians, maybe we wouldn't have a Harry Potter Clue game in our house. I'm glad they're not. But you've probably learned from these entries that all kinds of people are banning books - from the "Jesus is good for schools" crowd to the "Jesus is bad for schools" crowd.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, in which...I don't know yet what I'll do.

How about the most ridiculous reasons to challenge? Okay, I'll do that.









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