29 September 2011

In honor of "Banned Book Week"

I've not read this book, but it sounds like it has an interesting plot (reminiscent of Never Let Me Go).  And an interesting reception by the public:
In 2009 the American Library Association (ALA) and the office for Intellectual Freedom named My Sister's Keeper the seventh most frequently challenged book in the US. Schools and Libraries attempted to ban the book for the following reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexual Explicity, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuitability to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence.
Via Libraryland.


  1. I have never been one to support censorship and believe that all books should be available. But one of the issues that concerns me as a parent is the fact that I have no clue what books are available to my children at school, and what they are checking out and reading. It's not that I wouldn't WANT my daughter reading a "banned" book, but there may be issues, adult issues, that as parents we need to discuss with our children involving what they were reading. I remember as a fourteen year old stumbling across Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar". My mother CERTAINLY didn't know I was reading it. Dickey's "Deliverance" also had me in a state at one particularly banjo-esque scene. School libraries DO NEED to be censured for this very reason. Either that, or parents need to be informed of what their kids are reading.

  2. Library Lady here...
    Brian, I think that you raise some valid points. When librarians choose books for the collection, whether it be for public or school libraries, we do stick to something nebulous called the "community standard". Some books don't belong in schools, some belong in schools and should be rationed out to appropriate age groups and reading levels. But this is different from censoring, and from banning. When I think of banning, I think of people pressuring the school board to remove a book because it's anti-christian (Harry Potter), or because it doesn't declare that all gay people are going to hell. School libraries should certainly have standards, but I don't think that means they should cave to the pressures of small but vocal minorities, who are almost always wanting books out of the stacks because the themes clash with religion. Now for public libraries, there are (and should be) different standards.

  3. I'm not sure that one belongs in a school library, but that's only because it's exactly the sort of diabolus ex machina Newbery-bait twaddle we've already got too much of. It's no wonder most kids don't like reading.

    Skip that one and buy something whose summary wouldn't include the line "...they die in the end."

  4. My parents never forbade me to read anything. They were also open and available to discuss any and every question I brought to them. I tried to be the same with my children, and they continue the tradition. Far from discouraging me, my children, or their children to read, we are all devoted to reading and suggest books to one another all the time. Unsurprisingly, my sons-in-law are devoted readers as well.

  5. I have made a point of never censoring any book my daughter wanted to read. She knows this, as we had discussions as early as elementary school about friends who "weren't allowed" to read some books. We have had many frank discussions about topics that might otherwise be hard to bring up and discuss with an adolescent. I read many of the books, too, so we can discuss them. she understands that simply reading about something doesn't mean you will do those things. When she brought home "go ask alice" in 6th grade, we got to talk about drugs; the book doesn't glorify them, after all. I think we underestimate the abilities of our kids to learn to think critically on their own when we don't allow them to read because of our own biases.

    Brian Kern, talk to your kid and ask what they're reading. Read it too, and have discussions about the "controversial" topics. You will instill your own values in a child much more by exposing them to other ideas and being able to talk with them about the controversial topics/ideas. Just saying "no" just makes it that much more alluring.

  6. @Edselpdx - Talk to my 16 year old daughter about what she's reading? Seriously? I think I'll go wrestle a pit bull for a t-bone. It would be easier! That said I think you missed the point of my commentary. I'm not against banning books, especially in public libraries, I'm just concerned about what might be at a SCHOOL Library, because I don't get a report about what my child is checking out. I have to go to great lengths to find out.

    @ Paula - LOVED Harry Potter! LOL

  7. 'Kids should be able to fearlessly ask any question' and I suppose that also means that they should be allowed to open any book...
    If we don't help with the answers then we become an obstruction and they will circumvent and perhaps fall prey to disinformation. FWIW,well over 20 years ago when I was still a kid, I used my dial up BBS to find 'The Tropic of Cancer' and I read it purely on the mention by some teacher that it was banned by Congress. Did it ruin me? No, but it sure was a waste of my time. What kind of prudes banned this book? Was it the C word(s) that did it? It was one of my first, 'the gov't does dumb things' epiphanies. Ban Zoot suits, too? What country IS this?


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