“Ideas Are Incombustible”: Banned Books Week 2009

27 09 2009

This year, the event features work by Ellen Hopkins, a young adult author who was recently banned from speaking at an Oklahoma middle school when a parent complained about her novels. . .her “Manifesto” for Banned Books Week 2009:

To you zealots and bigots and false
patriots who live in fear of discourse.
You screamers and banners and burners
who would force books
off shelves in your brand name
of greater good.

You say you’re afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption
by perversion or sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones do break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.

You say you’re afraid for America,
the red, white and blue corroded
by terrorists, socialists, the sexually
confused. But we are a vast quilt
of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered
identities. You cannot speak for those
whose ancestors braved
different seas.

You say you’re afraid for God,
the living word eroded by Muhammed
and Darwin and Magdalene.
But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven
and earth designed intelligence.
Surely you dare not speak
for the father, who opens
his arms to all.

A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.

Snook and Favorite Daughter celebrate Banned Books Week every year, and this year has the added excitement of being the first since Favorite Daughter declared her intention to become a professional librarian. For never-banned classics here, try:

It’s Banned Books Week, Read Something Shocking!

Banned Books Week, Be Afraid, Very Afraid!

Banned Books Week Needs More Than Celebration This Year

Ban the Burn-Burning Book for Banned Books Week

What Banned Books Are You Reading This Week?

Playing to the Puritans by Marc Acito

Harry Potter Wins Another Round in Censorship Arena

So We Were Saying Censorship Is a Bad Thing

Family and Politics: Ann’s Patchett

Ignorance Makes the N-Word Even Scarier Unspoken

And point of personal privilege, let’s include Sarah Palin’s “actual responsibilities” for book-banning as mayor . . .

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”
—Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas



6 responses

27 09 2009

One of her young adult books, written in experimental verse and still banned in some places, is “Burned” — which wikipedia explains this way:

Praise and controversy

The book has garnered mixed responses. It received literary praise, being nominated for the ALA Best Books for Young Adults award, a 2006 National Book Award nominee, and a New York Times Bestseller. However, it was also roundly criticized for its apocalyptic finale and for its portrayal of Mormonism as a stern, abusive and misogynistic faith.

Jeff Gottesfeld, a Jewish novelist for teens and stage/film/television writer, characterized the book in an op-ed piece as “literary group character assassination” of Mormonism, and that the church is “unrelentingly bashed” in the novel.

In response, Hopkins—who is a Lutheran—has stated that “The references to the Mormon religion are accurate” and that “every religion can be home to extremists.”

28 09 2009

Are you and/or your kids reading a banned book this week?

I’ll go first — Young Son at age 14 happens to have started Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 a couple of weeks ago, not because it was suspect but just because he considers himself a military history buff (especially aviation) and appreciates political satire. Also he had just finished Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and really liked it, so FavD and I suggested Catch-22 as having a similar sensibility that might appeal to him.

Here’s the American Library Association’s wonderfully detailed list of public challenges against the top 100 novels of the 20th century.

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Banned in Strongsville, Ohio (1972), but the school board’s action was overturned in 1976 by a U.S. District Court in Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District. Challenged at the Dallas, Tex. Independent School District high school libraries (1974); in Snoqualmie, Wash. (1979) because of its several references to “whores.” 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide, Robert P. Doyle.

Turns out that Cuckoo’s Nest has its own torch-carrying villagers after it:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

Challenged in the Greenley, Colorado public school district (1971) as a non-required American Culture reading. In 1974, five residents of Strongsville, Ohio, sued the board of education to remove the novel. Labeling it “pornographic,” they charged the novel “glofiries criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination.” Removed from public school libraries in Randolph, NY, and Alton, OK (1975). Removed from the required reading list in Westport, MA (1977). Banned from the St. Anthony, Idaho Freemont High School classrooms (1978) and the instructor fired¾Fogarty v. Atchley. Challenged at the Merrimack, N.H. High School (1982). Challenged as part of the curriculum in an Aberdeen, Washington High School honors English class (1986) because the book promotes “secular humanism.” The school board voted to retain the title. Challenged at the Placentia-Yorba Linda, California Unified School District (2000) after complaints by parents stated that teachers “can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again.” Source: 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide, by Robert P. Doyle.

Favorite Daughter has read just about the whole list already and she’s deep into her university reading but I see a few I could start this week, maybe Salman Rushdie who I’ve been itching to read:

Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie

Banned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Quatar, Indonesia, South Africa, and India because of its criticism of Islam. Burned in West Yorkshire, England (1989) and temporarily withdrawn from two bookstores on the advice of police who took threats to staff and property seriously. In Pakistan five people died in riots against the book. Another man died a day later in Kashmir. Ayatollah Khomeni issued a fatwa or religions edict, stating, “I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses, which is against Islam, the prophet, and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, have been sentenced to death.”

Challenged at the Wichita, Ks. Public Library (1989) because the book is “blasphemous to the prophet Mohammed.” In Venezuela, owning or reading it was declared a crime under penalty of 15 months’ imprisonment. In Japan, the sale of the English-language edition was banned under the threat of fines. The governments of Bulgaria and Poland also restricted its distribution. In 1991, in separare inceidents, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator, was stabbed to death and its Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was seriously wounded. In 1993 William Nygaard, its Norwegian publisher, was shot and seriously wounded. Source: 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.

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