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On November 3rd, KidLit TV was invited to the National Coalition Against Censorship to interview NCAC board members, artists, authors, and experts about up and coming books that celebrate diversity and free speech advocacy. NCAC’s mission is to promote freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression and oppose censorship in all its forms.
NCAC celebrated another year of free speech advocacy and saluted Lois Lowry, Larry Siems, Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole as 2015 Free Speech Defenders. The evening raised funds from generous sponsors, led by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to support NCAC’s mission, and featured performances from Fun Home, a tribute by Alison Bechdel, and inspiring words from each of our honorees. A special thanks to comedian Jena Friedman, who kept the audience laughing through the night as our master of ceremonies.
Comic books have long purveyed action, action, and still more action. Their plot lines do not simply progress, they are raging torrents of emotion, violence, and drama. They were a part of the mass commercialization of leisure during the twentieth century.
A Texas school district has changed its policy on selecting books taught in schools after a months long battle over David K. Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America.
The Highland Park school district has revised its policy how both how books are chosen, as well as how parent concerns are addressed. The Dallas Morning Newshas more:
Under the revised policy, staff members are required to ensure that books \"are evaluated as a whole and selected for their strengths rather than rejected for their weaknesses.\" Selections \"shall not contain excessive or gratuitous explicit sexuality, excessive or gratuitous profanity, or excessive or gratuitous graphic violence.\"
The new policy also limits how parent complaints are handled. The district will now consolidate complaints about the same work into one review. In addition, once a complaint is reviewed, the same book cannot be challenged for another three years.
“I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”
Besides various PEN executives and trustees, several high profile writers have also signed this note. Some of the participants include PEN president emeritus Salman Rushdie, novelist Neil Gaiman, children’s books illustrator Jules Feiffer, poet John Ashbery, and playwright Tony Kushner. Here’s an excerpt:
“PEN is appalled at the intrusive, criminal and profoundly menacing reprisals and threats that Sony Pictures has endured as a result of producing and planning to distribute The Interview. PEN has long stood with writers and creators who have suffered assaults aimed to suppress the dissemination of their ideas. We believe firmly that violence is never justified as a reaction to speech, no matter how offensive that speech may be to some.”
The hackers behind the Interview incident have elicited both anger and fear from American moviegoers. A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin (pictured, via) has publicly expressed great fury towards Sony for pulling the film from theaters.
Here’s an excerpt from Martin’s blog post: “I haven’t seen The Interview. I have no idea how good or bad a film it is…That’s not the point, though. Whether it’s the next Citizen Kane or the next Plan 9 From Outer Space, it astonishes me that a major Hollywood film could be killed before release by threats from a foreign power and anonymous hackers.”
Should The Interview ever become available, Martin has offered to showcase it at his own independent theater. Martin owns the Jean Cocteau Cinema which is based in Santa Fe, NM. What do you think? (via comicbook.com)
A government ban on which prohibited prisoners in England and Wales from having family and friends send them books, has been ruled unlawful.
BBC News has more: “Mr Justice Collins said he could see “no good reason” to restrict access to books for prisoners.The Prison Service said it was a surprising judgement, and would look at how it would deal with the ruling. The legal challenge was brought by inmate Barbara Gordon-Jones, who is serving part of her life sentence at Send prison near Woking in Surrey.”
The ban began last November. Supporters of the law argued that prisoners can earn the right to buy books through the prison’s book selling program through a new ”incentives and earned privileges” regime. Authors spoke out against the ban calling it “loathsome,” and launching a Change.org petition to overturn the ban.
The town council of Tuszyn, Poland have banned Winnie-the-Pooh from a local playground. The politicians who made this censorious decree first examined A.A. Milne’sfamous bear when they were trying to appoint a famous character as the face of this public space.
This group found Pooh’s lack of pants and questionable gender to be offensive and “wholly inappropriate for children.” All four Winnie-the-Pooh short story collections feature illustrations by artist E. H. Shepard; Shepard’s artwork consistently depicts Pooh not wearing pants.
Here’s more from the The Independent: “The meeting of officials was sneakily recorded a councillor and leaked to local press, according to The Croatian Times. One unnamed councillor can be heard discussing Pooh’s sexuality, arguing that ‘it doesn’t wear underpants because it doesn’t have a sex’ before another, Hanna Jachimska starts criticising Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne.” (via Jezebel)
The American Booksellers Association (ABA) will handle the operations of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE).
Here’s more from the press release: “As was the case when the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) voted to become part of ABA in 2010 as the ABC Children’s Group, ABFFE will become a distinct group within ABA, the American Booksellers for Free Expression Group at ABA (ABFE), beginning January 1. The ABFFE board will be reconstituted as the ABFE Advisory Council.”
According to this new agreement, ABFFE President Chris Finan will be appointed group director for the ABFE. The ABA has designated all of its members as official supporters of the ABFE. Every single indie bookstore with an ABA membership will receive a sticker advocating for free speech and a subscription to a new monthly newsletter called “Free Speech Report.”
According to the editor’s letter, an assortment of writers, scholars, and public figures have been brought on to examine “the list of books that are reportedly banned from GTMO—including their own—and tried to figure out why.” Some of the titles that can’t be accessed at this institution include The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass, and The Diary of a Young Girlby Anne Frank. The New Yorker staffer Ariel Levy looked into Frank’s famous Holocaust memoir; here’s an excerpt from her article:
“The starkest difference between the captivity of Anne Frank and those in Guantánamo Bay is that Anne Frank and her family were in hiding. It must be so surreal for those in Gitmo to know that the whole world knows they’re there. We all know and it doesn’t seem to matter. Anne and her family’s whole plight is to remain invisible, to remain secret. In that sense it’s confounding that the book is banned at Guantánamo—the family couldn’t be making any less trouble. What more could you want from a prisoner than invisibility and silence?”
John Green’sThe Fault in Our Stars has been banned in the middle schools within the Riverside Unified School District (based in California).
Vanity Fair reports that a parent named Karen Krueger raised a complaint against the popular young adult novel because she “felt the morbid plot, crude language, and sexual content was inappropriate for her children.” Krueger convinced a committee of educators and guardians put it to a vote which resulted in this act of censorship.
Green shared his reaction to this situation on Tumblr. He claims to feel both happy and sad; the sadness comes from a desire “to introduce the idea that human beings die to the children of Riverside, California and thereby crush their dreams of immortality.” What do you think?
Title: Rumble Written by: Ellen Hopkins Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books, Sept. 2014 Ages: 14+ Novel in verse Themes: bullying, gay teens, faith, religion, forgiveness, hypocrisy, ptsd, suicide, gun management Reviewed from an ARC. All opinions are my own. Opening … Continue reading →
Over the last few days, the #TeachBannedBooks hashtag has swept Twitter. In honor of Banned Books Week, The Huffington Post asked educators to explain why they introduce their students to certain banned books using the social media platform.
Some of the titles mentioned include The Hunger Games, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (embedded below), and The Giver. What do you think?
Judy Platt is celebrating her 35th anniversary at The Association of American Publishers. The organization honored Platt with a lunch in DC today. As Director, Free Expression Advocacy, Platt heads up the AAP’s Freedom to Read Committee and the AAP’s International Freedom to Publish Committee.
In her tenure with the group, Platt has led the AAP’s advocacy work against book censorship since before Banned Books Week started 32 years ago. She has been the AAP’s liaison with Banned Books Weeks since the movement began. During that time, Platt has seen book censorship movements evolve.
“I’d say that in my early years at AAP the majority of censorship was focused on sexually explicit materials, or ‘pornography’ and efforts were made to keep such materials away from adults as well as minors on the questionable assumption that access to such materials resulted in anti-social behavior,” she told GalleyCat via email. (more…)
It’s Banned Books Week! From The American Library Association’s website: “Each year, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools. The ALA condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information.” Based on 307 challenges, here are the top ten most challenged books of 2013.
Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Bone (series) by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence
Here’s how the Horn Book reviewed 2013′s most challenged children’s and young adult books.
The Adventures of Captain Underpants: An Epic Novel and sequels by Dav Pilkey; illus. by the author Intermediate Blue Sky 124 pp.
Best friends and fellow pranksters George and Harold create a comic book superhero, Captain Underpants, and hypnotize their school principal into assuming his identity. Clad in cape and jockey shorts, Principal Krupp foils bank robbers and a mad scientist until the boys “de-hypnotize” him. Written in a tongue-in-cheek style and illustrated with suitably cartoonish drawings, the story is consistently laugh-out-loud funny. PETER D. SIERUTA reviewed in the Spring 1998 Horn Book Guide
The line between dramatic monologue, verse novel, and standup comedy gets unequivocally — and hilariously and triumphantly — bent in this novel about coming of age on the rez. Urged on by a math teacher whose nose he has just broken, Junior, fourteen, decides to make the iffy commute from his Spokane Indian reservation to attend high school in Reardan, a small town twenty miles away. He’s tired of his impoverished circumstances (“Adam and Eve covered their privates with fig leaves; the first Indians covered their privates with their tiny hands”), but while he hopes his new school will offer him a better education, he knows the odds aren’t exactly with him: “What was I doing at Reardan, whose mascot was an Indian, thereby making me the only other Indian in town?” But he makes friends (most notably the class dork Gordy), gets a girlfriend, and even (though short, nearsighted, and slightly disabled from birth defects) lands a spot on the varsity basketball team, which inevitably leads to a showdown with his own home team, led by his former best friend Rowdy. Junior’s narration is intensely alive and rat-a-tat-tat with short paragraphs and one-liners (“If God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs”). The dominant mode of the novel is comic, even though there’s plenty of sadness, as when Junior’s sister manages to shake off depression long enough to elope — only to die, passed out from drinking, in a fire. Junior’s spirit, though, is unquenchable, and his style inimitable, not least in the take-no-prisoners cartoons he draws (as expertly depicted by comics artist Forney) from his bicultural experience. ROGER SUTTON reviewed in the September/October 2007 Horn Book Magazine
The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
Middle School, High School Scholastic 374 pp.
10/08 978-0-439-02348-1 $17.99
Survivor meets “The Lottery” as the author of the popular Underland Chronicles returns with what promises to be an even better series. The United States is no more, and the new Capitol, high in the Rocky Mountains, requires each district to send two teenagers, a boy and a girl, to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a reality show from which only one of the twenty-four participants will emerge victorious — and alive. When her younger sister is chosen by lottery to represent their district, Katniss volunteers to go in her stead, while Peeta, who secretly harbors a crush on Katniss, is the boy selected to join her. A fierce, resourceful competitor who wins the respect of the other participants and the viewing public, Katniss also displays great compassion and vulnerability through her first-person narration. The plot is front and center here — the twists and turns are addictive, particularly when the romantic subplot ups the ante — yet the Capitol’s oppression and exploitation of the districts always simmers just below the surface, waiting to be more fully explored in future volumes. Collins has written a compulsively readable blend of science fiction, survival story, unlikely romance, and social commentary. JONATHAN HUNT reviewed in the September/October 2008 Horn Book Magazine
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl
by Tanya Lee Stone
High School Lamb/Random 227 pp.
1/06 0-385-74702-0 $14.95 g
Library edition 0-385-90946-2 $16.99
“Stupid / humiliated / foolish / stung / heartbroken / pissed off / and a little / bit / wiser.” High school freshman Josie sums up how she feels after falling for an only-out-for-one-thing senior, and she isn’t alone. The three (very different) teen girl narrators in this candid free-verse novel form a chorus of varied perspectives on how a “bad boy” — the same boy for all three — causes them to lose control before they even realize what’s happening. Stone’s portrayal of the object of their (dis)affection is stereotyped, but the three girls are distinct characters, and she conveys the way the girls’ bodies and brains respond to the unnamed everyjerk in electrically charged (and sexually explicit) detail. Finally returning to her senses, Josie decides to post warnings about her ex in the back of the school library’s copy of Judy Blume’s Forever…because “every girl reads it eventually.” Others add their own caveats in a reassuring show of sisterhood. As this scribbled “support group” illustrates, even the most careful and self-aware among us sometimes gets bitten by the snake in the grass. CHRISTINE M. HEPPERMAN reviewed in the January/February 2006 issue of The Horn Book Magazine
Looking for Alaska
by John Green
High School Dutton 237 pp.
3/05 0-525-47506-0 $15.99 g
A collector of famous last words, teenage Miles Halter uses Rabelais’s final quote (“I go to seek a Great Perhaps”) to explain why he’s chosen to leave public high school for Culver Creek Preparatory School in rural Alabama. In his case, the Great Perhaps includes challenging classes, a hard-drinking roommate, elaborate school-wide pranks, and Alaska Young, the enigmatic girl rooming five doors down. Moody, sexy, and even a bit mean, Alaska draws Miles into her schemes, defends him when there’s trouble, and never stops flirting with the clearly love-struck narrator. A drunken make-out session ends with Alaska’s whispered “To be continued?” but within hours she’s killed in a car accident. In the following weeks, Miles and his friends investigate Alaska’s crash, question the possibility that it could have been suicide, and acknowledge their own survivor guilt. The narrative concludes with an essay Miles writes about this event for his religion class — an unusually heavy-handed note in an otherwise mature novel, peopled with intelligent characters who talk smart, yet don’t always behave that way, and are thus notably complex and realistically portrayed teenagers. PETER D. SIERUTA reviewed in the March/April 2005 Horn Book Magazine
Bone: Out from Boneville and sequels
by Jeff Smith; illus. by Jeff Smith and Steve Hamaker
Intermediate Scholastic/Graphix 140 pp.
2/05 0-439-70623-8 $18.95
When greedy Phoney Bone is run out of town, his cousins, Fone and Smiley, join him. Fone makes friends with a country girl, her no-nonsense gran’ma, and a dragon; Phoney must contend with ferocious rat creatures who are led by a mysterious “hooded one” and who want Phoney’s soul. This graphic novel (originally published in comic-book form) is slow paced but nevertheless imaginative. MARK ADAM reviewed in the Fall 2005 Horn Book Guide
“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” –American Library Association
Here at Lee & Low Books, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite banned/challenged titles (in no particular order).
What is Dav Pilkey’s advice for expressing concern about a book? In the video embedded above, the creator of the Captain Underpants series live draws and explains that people should not impede others from accessing books regardless of whatever personal feelings they may have.
Pilkey hopes people will realize that widespread censorship is not the answer; the appropriate response is to remember this statement: “I don’t want my children to read this book.” What are your thoughts?
If it’s time for Banned Books Week it’s also time for my annual bucket ‘o scorn for ALA’s cynical exercise in spin. Like Bette Davis in Storm Center, “I’m tired. I’m tired and beaten. There’s no use pretending.” Now Davis, playing a beleaguered librarian trying to uphold the freedom to read in McCarthy’s America, was truly fighting the good fight (too bad she didn’t have a good script, though; the young boy driven mad by Red-baiters and setting fire to the library was a Bit Much). ALA, on the other hand, has simply set up its usual straw men in the form of its dramatic list of “top ten most frequently challenged books.” (The Association recorded 307 challenges in all but does not say how many challenges each book had.)
What bothers me most is the conflation of “banned” and “challenged.” Banned means the book has been removed from a library (or restricted therein), or–and less definitively to my mind–from a required or suggested reading list. Challenged means a citizen or group has ASKED a library in a “formal, written complaint” to restrict or remove a book from a library (or from a required or suggested reading list). There’s a big difference. Wouldn’t you like to know how many of these challenges resulted in banning? Beyond anecdotal evidence about some of them, ALA doesn’t tell us.
These “formal, written complaints” are generally done at the library’s behest on a form issued by that library as directed by its collection policy. Why do we get so bent out of shape when people actually use it? The answer is–and here’s the cynical part–that we don’t get bent out of shape at all, instead using these challenges to revel in our sense of cultural superiority and to raise a fund-raising alarum. No wonder ALA finds book banning something to “celebrate.”
“The worst part about my book being banned is that I hate to think of what would have happened if those Peanuts books that inspired me to become a cartoonist were taken away from me when I was a kid. I’m so grateful to have been inspired by those comics, and I’m so very lucky that I’ve had the chance to inspire other young people to try making comics of their own too.”
Children’s books author Josh Funk wants to celebrated Banned Books Week by speaking out against censorship. In the video embedded above, Funk (pictured, via) endorses both “band books” and “banned books.” What are your favorite books that have received either challenges or bannings?