Showing posts with label banned books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label banned books. Show all posts

Monday, October 1, 2012

Links for the new month

"For a book publisher, a novella is too small to charge full price for, even though the costs of setting up a production run aren’t that much less. The wise choice, especially among the mass-market publishers, was to print something a little bit longer that you could charge full price for."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Censorship, youth, and a few pretentious comments

I think I've mentioned before that I don't like banning books. I don't really thing anyone who claims to truly love the written word can. I don't like the idea of censorship in high schools, and I don't like the idea of hiding bad things. So I should really hate this story, right? (via Guys Lit Wire)
Apparently, a middle school librarian saw my name on the roster and decided my presence would somehow negatively affect her students. I’m not sure how that is possible. Maybe she thinks I sweat “edgy and dark.” (Are those things catching?) Anyway, she went to a couple of parents with her concerns. I’m guessing she knew the exact ones who would raise a stink, and they did. They went to the school board, and the superintendent, Guy Sconzo, decided to uninvite me. (He says I was never invited, but I was!)

Then Mr. Sconzo went on to say that there are so many authors they could never have them all at their Teen Lit Fests. Like I’m just another author. (Oh, except one that apparently gets under people’s skin.) I am not just another author. I’m an author who is a voice for a generation that faces real problems every day. An author who tries to dissect those problems, look for reasons, suggest solutions, show outcomes to choices through characters who walk off the page. I’m an author who cares about her readership in a very real way. I am thoughtful, respectful of my readers, and not afraid to tell the truth.
A few things. First, Ellen Hopkins is an author I've never read. Not for lack of awareness - I have long seen her fat, indeed "edgy" looking books perched on library shelves - but simply because her style did not appeal to me and I'd heard that the books were a little in-your-face, not something I typically like. Even so, all I have to do is read Hopkins' post to realize the foolishness in this situation.

But I want to focus on something else entirely that bothered. Censorship is obviously problematic and complex, but this story rubbed off me the wrong way mostly because of something Hopkins wrote. To highlight the quote that set me off: "I’m an author who is a voice for a generation that faces real problems every day."

Hold on a sec. Again, I've never read anything by Hopkins, but for an author to say something like this is taking popularity and annoyance at an injustice a little too far. Hopkins was essentially rejected by a middle school librarian, one who presumably turned to parents of middle school students, parents of children who really should not be reading Hopkins' books. Yes, the School Library Journal recommends Crank for 8th grade and up, but there's a clear distinction in what a 13-14 year old can read and what a 11-12 year old should have access to. The transition into 8th grade and a true teen mentality is surprising, even as these ages appear close to each other. Problematic, then, that 7th and 8th graders share a library. So yes, the librarian was absolutely wrong for proposing to uninvite Hopkins, but Hopkins is wrong to assume that her books are geared for that audience. And to dub yourself "the voice of a generation" is a little full of yourself.

For an interesting view on the actual matter (not my disappointment in one author's self-love), I hand the stage over to Pete Hautman, an author I quite like and admire. The matter of censorship in this case is complex and confusing, and while I don't always agree with what Hautman and Hopkins say on the matter, I think their takes are important.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bookmarking 1 - Banned

The bookmarking feature starts out with a free addition to the bookmark collection, courtesy of the ALA:

I picked these up for free this year during Banned Books Week, liking the variety in the colors and style. And what a good bookish motto: Speak. Know. Read.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Banned Books Week statistics

I'm a little late to Banned Books Week but it's definitely something that deserves mention. I've been going through various lists of banned/challenged books and I'm amazed again and again by the reasons books are banned, which books are banned, and how often. But lists never capture the pure essence of these stats as much as the stats themselves, so with a respectful tip of my hat to the ALA, these are the charts and graphs (originally here).

As we can see from the Challenges by Year bar graph above, the trend is overall a downward one but the spike every other year is slightly disconcerting. Numbers in their raw form and they don't tell a happy tale.

In the Challenges by Reason chart, the chunk that perhaps frustrates me most is the "Unsuited to Age", which is surprisingly large. How exactly does one go about defining what is suited to what ages, particularly when the age in question is high school ages (14-18)? There's a lot more to complain about this specific slice of the chart, which will be dealt with another time.
The funniest sliver has to be that of "nudity". I have to wonder what types of books these were to be banned for... nudity, which is typically something one sees, not something one reads. Or do some people find the words "naked" and "nude" to be offensive? Not fully clear on this one. And the most singularly curious piece of the pie is the "inaccurate" one. A lot to ponder over with that one...

The Challenges by Institution chart is perhaps the least interesting to me - going over the lists makes it quite obvious that the vast majority of challenged books are from libraries, school or otherwise. It's a disappointing list, obviously (seeing as libraries are meant to house knowledge), but not particularly insightful or surprising. Still, it's interesting to see how small the "Prison" slice is. I guess even museums are more likely to ban books than prisons. I wonder why that is...

The final chart, that of Challenges by Initiator, is perhaps the most interesting one of the four. First of all, the immediate stat is obvious - about 60% of all challenged books come from parents. Now, I obviously don't know the circumstances surrounding all the challenges but I've read through a number of these lists and the pattern that emerges is that parents dislike the messages certain books send to their kids. Sometimes these are ideas based in religion but not always. Refer again to the first pie chart - it seems that parents complained quite a bit about "appropriateness", language, explicit books (and how does one define this? More questions for a later time) and then, in smaller slivers, a number of questionable themes. Parents, it would appear, want to keep their children (their high school aged "children") away from themes often relevant to their age group.

Another important and interesting aspect to this final chart is that the teacher chunk isn't as thin as one might expect. I'll have to read through the lists more carefully to spot these cases, but I just can't understand what might lead a teacher to challenge a book. All the lists and statistics require a lot more time and mulling over than one single post can give so I recommend everyone head over to the ALA's Banned Books Week page and read up a little. There's a lot more to be said on the matter but for now, let the stats speak for themselves.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Challenged books in 2008

Who knew this still existed?
Some objections led to the removal of ["The Kite Runner"] from library shelves, while others saw it replaced with bowdlerised versions minus the offending scenes, according to the American Library Association, which compiles an annual list of the most challenged titles in the country.

The ALA recorded 513 challenges in 2008, up from 420 in 2007. The ALA defines a challenge as "a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed or restricted because of content or appropriateness". It estimates that as few as one in five challenges are actually reported. "We believe this is just the tip of the iceberg," said Caldwell-Stone. Seventy-four books were actually removed from shelves following challenges last year, the ALA said.

The books may change from year to year but sadly, each year books are challenged and banned. It's interesting to view lists of banned/challenged books. And a little disappointing. That a children's' book like "The Lorax" would be challenged because it puts the foresting industry in a bad light is fairly sad. So is the fact that a small powerful book titled "Of Mice and Men" should be banned time and time again. Why? "Vulgar language", "violence", and "obscenities". There are many lists of challenged books, some more detailed than others. And even though it isn't banned books week quite yet, there's something troubling to the fact that people are still trying to remove books from public shelves.