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    Community Host Alissa_Sal's Avatar
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    Default Banned Books?

    In honor of Banned Book Week a general banned book debate.

    7 Reasons Your Favorite Books Were Banned

    Risqu?-averse readers, cover your ears. Sunday marked the beginning of this year's National Banned Books Week, for which libraries and bookstores across the country will promote and celebrate commonly censored titles. The organization calls its cause a "celebration of the freedom to read."

    According to BannedBooksWeek.com, 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, when the event was launched. What constitutes a "banned" book, as opposed to a "challenged" book? The American Library Association explains:
    A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.
    Last year's most frequently challenged or banned titles included a mix of Young Adult books, literary classics and romance novels, such as "Gossip Girl," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Fifty Shades of Grey."

    This year's list includes a few stalwarts, such as Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," and Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed," and a few titles that have recent or forthcoming film adaptations, such as Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" and Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

    So why are these stories, many of which are venerated award-winners, being scorned, and in some cases, pulled from shelves? Here are some of the reasons that have been cited:

    Offensive language

    "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" is one of the most frequently challenged books as of late, and the commonly aired complaint that Alexie uses profanity, including the "F-word" and "N-word." You know who else used those words? Henry Miller and Mark Twain, respectively. Yes, vulgar language popping up in an academic setting can be jarring. But when a writer is discussing weighty topics, like the troubling state of schools on Indian reservations, jarring is a suitable approach.

    Sexually explicit

    According to the ALA, this is the No. 1 reason for banning books in the past decade. Margaret Atwood's "A Handmaid's Tale" was challenged by a North Carolina high school for being "sexually explicit," because clearly high school students are mature enough for sex ed, but not for feminist literature. Ironically, the book discusses the issues with censorship.

    Homosexuality

    "And Tango Makes Three" is an illustrated children's book in which a zookeeper witnesses two male penguins performing mating rituals and gives the pair an egg to hatch. The result is Tango, a female chick. Sadly, this story has ranked among the top 10 most frequently challenged books for the last few years. Last year, it was marked for removal in a Davis, Utah, school district because "parents might find it objectionable."

    Violence

    Books deemed "violent" are challenged about a third as often as books described as "sexually explicit," but so-called violent stories have been spotlighted recently. Nixing gratuitous fighting is understandable, but many of the flagged books use violence as an allegory for, well, nonviolence. Richard Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game" features two big game hunters who grow tired of their animal targets, eventually turning their aggression toward each other, but a Colorado school claimed it "only serves to promote school violence."

    Religious viewpoint

    The Harry Potter books and the Twilight series aren't the only ones targeted for their "ungodly" content, though they certainly are attacked often). Lauren Myracle's YA book, "ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r," and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's "Dangerously Alice" are challenged for the same reason. Oddly enough, even Aldous Huxley's dystopian critique of modern society, "Brave New World," has been banned for its religious viewpoint.

    Drugs

    Books advocating the use of drugs are, of course, frequently censored titles; But even books that serve as warning signs against the dangers of drugs have been removed from school libraries. A prime example is "Go Ask Alice," by Anonymous. Written in the '70s, it's been banned in schools from Texas to Michigan. But the protagonist and her friends do not make drug use look fun. On the contrary, their partying ruins their grades, and their lives, in almost propagandistic, "Reefer Madness"-style prose.

    Nudity

    Descriptions of nudity is cited as a separate reason from sexually explicit content, because apparently teens can attend an art museum or read a biology book, but not experience fictional naked bodies. Last year, Dori Hillestad Butler's "My Mom's Having A Baby!: A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide" was one of the most banned books. Although the book is an instructional guide to what happens when a woman is pregnant, it has been challenged for including nudity.
    If you're interested in doing your part to promote non-restrictive reading, head over to the ALA's site. The New York Times also has a nifty list of creative ways to celebrate.

    Banned Books Week | Celebrating the Freedom to Read: Sept. 22 - 28, 2013

    According to the American Library Association, there were 464 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012, and many more go unreported. The 10 most challenged titles of 2012 were:
    1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
      Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group

    2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
      Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

    3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
      Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

    4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
      Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

    5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
      Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

    6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
      Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

    7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
      Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

    8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
      Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

    9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
      Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

    10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
      Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence
    So, do you think that books should be banned from public libraries and schools? Are you worried your kids are reading?
    -Alissa, mom to Tristan (5) and Reid (the baby!)

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    Community Host Alissa_Sal's Avatar
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    I was laughing this morning when I read that Captain Underpants is the number 1 challenged book. DH has read the entire series to my five year old and they both laugh their heads off when reading it. It's not exactly high brow literature (from what I can tell it's a bunch of bathroom jokes) but I can't imagine being so offended by potty jokes that you want them BANNED.

    I can see wanting age appropriate literature in schools. No, I wouldn't necessarily think that 50 Shades of Grey belongs in a school library because it's erotica, right? I haven't read it. So I'm down with no erotica in school libraries. But I don't think it needs to be banned from a general public library, even if that means that teens are checking it out. If the worst thing my teens ever do is read a book (even a dirty book) then I can live with that, although of course they'll probably need to sneak around to read it like a normal teenager. LOL Did anyone else read those awful VC Andrews books when they were a teen? Or how about the Clan of the Cavebear books? Those were essentially pre-historic porn.
    -Alissa, mom to Tristan (5) and Reid (the baby!)

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    Ah yes....VC Andrews.

    I agree with you Alissa. I support age appropriate books in a school library. That doesn't mean things without swearing or possible mention of a sexual situation. (thinking high school here not for littles) I do not support erotica in a school setting either.

    I don't support any ban on books in a public library. My tax dollars support the library and I should be able to borrow any book that they have purchased.
    Mom to Elizabeth (5) and Corinne (3)

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    Posting Addict GloriaInTX's Avatar
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    A school library should carry appropriate books. A public library has limited funds. They can't purchase every book out there. They should purchase books that appeal to a majority of those who will be using the library. I would say as a general rule offensive books probably don't appeal to the average person who checks out books from the library. If a very explicit book is in the library I think it should be in an adults only section and should only be allowed to be checked out by a minor with parental approval.
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    As a rule I do not think the answer is to ban books. That said, as a parent I would expect my child to tell me what they are reading and have my approval. My standards in a book are going to be different than another parents standards. It is the parents responsibility to keep track of their children, not the library's responsibility to ban books.

    I do agree with Gloria that budgets are an issue. If a book is so inappropriate that no one ever checks it out, than it is not a good use of money.

    ~Bonita~

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    Community Host Alissa_Sal's Avatar
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    Yeah but whose definition do we use for "very explicit?" They banned Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale for being "sexually explicit" and that is certainly not erotica - like the farthest thing from it. Some amazing books like Handmaid's Tale and Part-Time Indian are being taken off shelves because they offend someone's sensibilities, but if you actually read them they are a) amazing and b) not necessarily glorifying the behavior that they are being banned for. The sex in AHT is extremely unsexy. The racism in PTI is to show how bad racism is.

    My bottom line really is, if you are bothered by a certain book in the library, don't read it. You can even try to keep your kids from reading it (although telling them they can't is probably the quickest way to get them to read it, LOL.) But don't try to get it yanked from the public library just because you don't like it.
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    -Alissa, mom to Tristan (5) and Reid (the baby!)

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    Posting Addict GloriaInTX's Avatar
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    So if it is questionable put it in the adults section and require parental approval. That is not banning it. It's no different than requiring parental approval for an R rated movie for someone under 17.
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    Lots of books considered "inappropriate" by some are the most popular ones. The Glass Castle? Bestseller. Beloved? Bestseller.

    I agree that erotica doesn't belong in the school but is fine in the public library if that's what people want. I don't believe in banning books unless you think it's truly harmful, like instructions on how to commit crimes or something like that. But there are many great books that include sex (gay or straight), drug use, swearing, etc.....banning them is just silly.

    But I think "questionable" is hard to define. I don't know where you draw those lines and I don't want a ratings system on books!
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    I dont like banning books, but I do think parents should have some knowledge of what their kids are reading. I read all the books Dh puts in his "classroom library" and there was an award winner that was targeted towards 5th graders. I almost didnt read it because it was an award winner, but the first chapter of the book is about a girl have sexual feeling for her brother. I wouldnt want my 5th grader reading that.
    Lisa
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    Community Host Alissa_Sal's Avatar
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    I don't know. I wouldn't give my kids a book that I thought was dirty, but I'm not soooo concerned about them stumbling upon parts of books that deal with sex and sexuality once they are old enough to be reading that kind of book anyway. Like, I always read at way above grade level as a kid, but the first "adult" books I can remember reading were Steven King books when I was in fifth grade. Before that I wasn't interested in adult books. So that's like what, 11? Young maybe, but old enough to know girls who had started their period and needed a training bra, and to start wondering a little bit about kissing and boys and S-E-X. I kind of feel like books are a safe place to explore some of those thoughts without having to actually do those things. Again, I'm not saying that I'm going to buy VC Andrews for my boys! LOL But I also don't think I'm going to exert a really tight rein on what they read, like every potential book must be pre-approved by me. I'm hoping they will be readers like I was and maybe they'll run into stuff that shocks and scandalizes them like I did. I just don't think that's the end of the world.
    -Alissa, mom to Tristan (5) and Reid (the baby!)

    Got an opinion? We've got a board! Come join us for some lively debate on the Face Off! Debate Arena board.

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