Archive for the ‘Banned books’ Category

Pushing back against intellectual vises

Twenty years ago, I was a reporter for a small weekly newspaper in upstate New York. One fascinating story we covered that year was a high school student challenging his teacher’s use of “The Great Santini” by Pat Conroy, claiming it had inappropriate themes. The student lost.

Ever since, I’ve paid closer attention to how often books are challenged in schools and public libraries.

Sometimes, you can understand parents’ discomfort with books and topics – racy language, sexuality, violence – their children face. (The problem is when a few parents try to decide what’s right for an entire school or community and take away everyone else’s access to the material.)

Other times, the challenges are outlandish. “Where’s Waldo?” had a topless woman on the beach, lying face down. The dictionary contains bad words. The availability of both has been challenged.

Anna Quindlen spoofed the mind-purity movement nicely in a column: “The Cat in the Hat is nude except for the gloves, the tie and, yep, the hat. Winnie the Pooh does not wear pants. Just a warning.”

Shortly after my newspaper in New York covered that book challenge, I found out about Banned Books Week, an American Library Association project that numerous organizations now support.

I went to the New York State Museum for a public reading of banned books. People signed up to read aloud from their favorites on the list of banned or challenged books.

This year’s Banned Books Week starts on Sept. 22. Check the website for events near you. There also is a chance to do a “Virtual Read-Out.” Send tweets using the hashtag #bannedbooksweek.

The American Library Association says there were 464 challenges reported to its Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012 and the group thinks many other challenges were not reported. Here are lists of recently challenged books.

This is a natural cause for journalists to support: the freedom to read.




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