I wrote this blog a few years and things seem to go from bad to worse– so this blog needs to be posted again. When I see people doing “book housecleaning” it really bothers me. It does not matter if it is spiritual or a classic; people have freedom of choice, and these people should not be allowed to decide what we read. This week is Banned Books Week in the United States and we have Freedom to Read Week in February in Canada. Here is a list of 20 books that are banned, and might surprise you in the United States and I have also included the challenged list in Canada
When my son Sky was in elementary school, all he wanted to do was be a mascot for Scholastic Books. He longed to wear a Clifford the Dog, or Franklin the Turtle costume for the annual book fair at Caldwell School. He loved to read, and I never censored anything, nor did the school boards. In fact, I never heard of many Canadian schools or libraries banning books.
I did some research, and found out that over the last twenty years in Canada just a little over one hundred books were challenged. In fact most of the “accused” were dismissed, and the books remained in the libraries. According to the American Library Association there were at least 460 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2009.
I myself was on a Canadian subversive literature list guilty of selling alternative music and fashion magazines in the late 80s when I had my store. In the early 90s rules softened, and you can find most everything now on Canadian book shelves. A controversial book tends to be quietly cut from reading lists–if they end up going that far with their decision.
One of my pet peeves is a children’s book that seems to be constantly on the banned book list.
“Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. It is based on a true story, and centers on gay penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. It has had the most ban requests of all books.
It seems really sad that some parents believe reading a story about two male penguins hatching an egg, and adopting a baby, is just plain wrong. This book is a story of love between two adults, and an adoptive baby penguin. The two penguins give that baby nothing but the utmost care, even though it is not their own biological creation. I wish people would remember that love is love, no matter what gender you associate it with.
Of course the reasons given by organizations and “Joe and Joanne Suburbia” to get it removed from public shelves include: “anti-family”, “homosexuality”, and “I do not like the colours they used in the illustrations”. Of course the last one is a joke, but so are the reasons for banning this book.
Yes, it was a true story, and in the end a fellow female penguin becomes the homewrecker, and the whole family heads for animal divorce court. Of course the divorce court did not happen in reality, but the home wrecking did.
Columnist Susan Reimer once said, “Prisons aren’t full of adults who read ‘Goosebumps’ in their childhod. They’re full of people who can’t read.”
Of course Sarah Palin, who seems to have her hand in every pot, has tried book banning. In Minnesota, Michele Bachmann is very fond of banning certain books from what I have read. I think that if either of these two has really read a book, that scares me more than anything. People like these ladies and others, live in a fantasy world. In their narrow world, everything seems to revolve around them.
Tom Sawyer is often avoided, and has at times been banned from schools, because of Twain’s use of the “N” word (which appears several times) and his derogatory portrayal of Native Americans in the form of the dangerous villain Injun Joe.
In the files of the ridiculous, someone even challenged a “Where’s Waldo?” book because one of the pages showed a naked person hidden among the cast of thousands.
How on earth did they find that one tiny nudist ?
I cannot even find Waldo! I failed “Where’s Waldo?”
I remember the books I read as a child. Would “Nancy Drew” and “The Hardy Boys” be banned for encouraging young people to solve non-supervised police activities? Would Jo of “Little Women” be accused of possibly being gay because of the way she looked? Did tomboy Trixie Belden grow up to have a wife? And what about that Cherry Ames? I knew student nurses, and they were no saints.
How about Tom Swift Jr.? Would his character now be considered a threat to national safety? Should Dick and Jane have been investigated by Christian family groups after all that rigid one sentence upbringing? What was really going on in that book, and were there hidden meanings?
Banned Book Week starts this week in the United States and I believe we should also celebrate our media and literary freedoms here. Why? Because it is a reminder to everyone not to take their freedom for granted.Thank goodness books are now available online so we can fight the bigots who try to ban them. Someone once said that burning books might be the one crime that deserves capitol punishment. Bring the marshmallows and make sure you bring those Harry Potter books with you. Not to burn, but to read and enjoy!
Some photos from the Carleton Place Public Library Facebook page
Images and words Linda Seccaspina 2011
List of Banned and/or Challenged Classic Books
List of Banned and/or Challenged Children’s Books