Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Showcasing Your Banned Book Reviews (plus some controversy)

Reviews of Banned and/or Challenged Books
... submitted by my readers ...
... and some controversy to discuss (at the very end) ...


Thank you to everyone who submitted a review for this post! If I missed yours, or if you have more, feel free to post links in the comment section.

And now, on to your reviews ...

  1. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - reviewed by Maw Books,
  2. A Separate Peace - reviewed by Care's Online Book Club,
  3. Ask Alice - reviewed by Maw Books,
  4. Beloved - reviewed by Things Mean A Lot,
  5. Bridge to Terabithia - reviewed by Things Mean A Lot,
  6. The Catcher in the Rye - reviewed by It's All About Books,
  7. The Chocolate War - reviewed by Just a (Reading) Fool,
  8. The Color Purple - reviewed by Things Mean A Lot,
  9. Fahrenheit 451 - reviewed by Things Mean A Lot,
  10. The Giver - reviewed by Maw Books, Things Mean A Lot, Books Worth Reading, Just a (Reading) Fool,
  11. The Grapes of Wrath - reviewed by Devourer of Books,
  12. The Handmaids Tale - reviewed by It's All About Books, Things Mean A Lot, Devourer of Books,
  13. In Cold Blood - reviewed by Devourer of Books,
  14. James and the Giant Peach - reviewed by Maw Books,
  15. Just Listen - reviewed by Out of the Blue,
  16. Kaffir Boy - reviewed by Devourer of Books,
  17. Lolita - reviewed by Things Me A Lot,
  18. Looking for Alaska - reviewed by Out of the Blue,
  19. Lord of the Flies - reviewed by Devourer of Books,
  20. The Lovely Bones - reviewed by Out of the Blue,
  21. Of Mice and Men - reviewed by Maw Books,
  22. Native Son - reviewed by Devourer of Books,
  23. The Outsiders - reviewed by Just a (Reading) Fool,
  24. Night In The Kitchen - reviewed by Books Worth Reading, Just A (Reading) Fool,
  25. Slaughterhouse 5 - reviewed by Just a (Reading) Fool, Things Mean A Lot,
  26. To Kill A Mockingbird - reviewed by Maw Books, Things Mean A Lot, Devourer of Books,
  27. What My Mother Doesn't Know - reviewed by Out of the Blue,
  28. A Wrinkle In Time - reviewed by Things Mean A Lot, Devourer of Books,

Of the above list, I read the following books in the pre-blog days:

  • The Catcher In the Rye (hated it in high school)
  • Are You There God? It's Me Margaret (honestly, I can't remember what I thought of it)
  • Bridge to Terabithia (great story, hated the ending in middle school)
  • A Wrinkle In Time (one of my childhood favorites)
  • The Outsiders (loved, loved, loved this in high school)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (the part with the old man still sticks in my head)
  • Lord of the Flies (this book has stayed with me as well)
  • Native Son (I remember disliking this one very much)

Regardless of what I thought of these books I'm grateful for the privilege of reading each one!

Currently on my TBR list are:

  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • The Giver
  • Of Mice and Men
  • To Kill A Mockingbird (this is hubby's favorite book)
  • The Color Purple

Are any of the books in this post on your TBR list? Please share!


And now for the controversy ...

I came across this post and it definitely got my attention. Regardless of whether or not I agree with the authors personal/religious/social/etc. views, I have to admit (and I think you will to) that she does raise a valid point: librarians by necessity have to choose which books of the millions available will appear in their libraries.

The reason so many of us support Banned Books Week is that we cherish our freedom to decide for ourselves (and our own children) what to read. I don't know the criteria for any library's selection process, but I certainly hope that it is a fair one.

I make it a point NOT to be political on this blog and I plan to continue that way. I know this could end up as a very controversial post merely based on the content of the post I linked to. My hope is that my readers will share their honest opinions (kindly!) - I really do want to hear what you have to say after reading and considering that post.


Ana S. said...

I think there is a difference between following this or that criteria when selecting books for a library and withdrawing books that are already available because someone decides that their content is questionable. But I have to be honest, Heather: a sentence like "homosexuality is a life-shortening road down which no responsible adult should point any child" infuriates me enough that I'm no longer able to be fair or to take anything that is said in that article seriously.

But please don't take this personally. I think you're awesome for putting this post together, and for not shying away from controversy and trying to encourage a respectful discussion.

Lisa said...

I will grant you the point that yes, librarians do choose what will and won't appear on the shelves initially. It makes my blood boil though, to read things like: "Library selection committees are systematically purging libraries of any conservative or serious Christian viewpoints and instead, loading the shelves with left-wing propaganda and pornography."

No matter what your personal views are, I can't believe that people want to remove all positive mention of things they disagree with from the library. There WILL be young adults/teens who are questioning their sexuality, or that of a friend, and if you take away everything positive you end up with a hate filled society. Why would you only want to teach your kids that they or their friends were evil and immoral? Judgey Judgertons make the world go round!

I am ok with parents pre-reading some books, or reviewing what their kid checks out, but I think the books should be available. It seems that a book that does not conform to their personal beliefs should be a starting point for a conversation with their child, not a starting point for a conversation with the library board.

Amanda said...

It's interesting how this varies (possibly depending on geography?). I did a quick search using the same search terms as the author of the other post and found that it was fairly balanced (i.e. the number of titles for conservative vs. liberal books was approximately the same).

The libraries in most places where I've lived allow you to request books for the library to purchase and (mostly) I've found the books on the shelves a few months later. (And I grew up in The South. Not exactly a bastion of liberal ideology.) I wonder if the author tried that. Or maybe there isn't a market for it in that person's area?

There is only a limited space on shelves, so librarians (by necessity) must pick and choose what they purchase. However, I doubt that they're trying to promote one ideology over another. It's, honestly, much more likely that they are gearing their purchases towards what people come in asking about or what the patrons are checking out (eg. teenagers checking out books about sexual orientation or parent's asking for children's books to explain their particular family situation).

Sorry this is so long and ramble-y. This is a really interesting topic!

Anonymous said...

I also read/reviewed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as part of Banned Books Week.

Amy said...

That article was written for people who already agree with her viewpoint and certainly not written to promote discussion! I do think that there is a growing loud and hateful intolerance to anyone's viewpoints who are different than your own. I think it's tearing this nation apart and I think it's found in every corner of the political spectrum.

I do think it's important to represent a wide range of views in library books, but I don't think opposing viewpoints to homosexuality will be tolerated much longer and will be viewed like racist material, which I might be fine with banning.

Anonymous said...

I found that article you linked to be highly suspect. It didn't cite any evidence other than anecdotal and clearly had an agenda to promote.

I'm sure that librarians do have to pick and choose what books they provide, but I would be very surprised to find any librarian pursuing a political agenda. I believe they must weigh many factors, including the needs of their patrons, representative and important works, a broad spectrum of choices, etc. Making these decisions is, I'm sure, part of the library science curriculum.

People who go looking for the boogey monster will find him, even in the local library.

Anonymous said...

"I do think it's important to represent a wide range of views in library books, but I don't think opposing viewpoints to homosexuality will be tolerated much longer and will be viewed like racist material, which I might be fine with banning."

Scary thought that. So I suppose that means intellectual freedom is only for a select few.

Banning is always wrong no matter what.

Becky said...

I disagree with most (90% at least) of what the article had to say. But there were a few teeny-tiny grains of truth in what she had to say.

It is TRUE that it is almost impossible to find within YA books a positive portrayal of Christianity. And it is also TRUE that most books in the YA market portray Christians and conservatives as the villains in the plot. The representations are often stereotypical. The representations are often false. They do Christianity a great disservice. They use the label "Christian" and then portray un-Christian, ungodly, unacceptable behavior. Within the spectrum, you've got both extremes covered. The liberal-unitarian-universalist perspective that may claim to believe in "God" but doesn't believe in sin, heaven, or hell. Or believe that the Bible is the word of God. And the fundamentalist perspective which is always angry, wrathful, and prone to violence and hate. These would be the vilest humans ever portrayed within the covers of a book. And authors label them "Christian." But the thing is, Christians would read the book (if they could stomach it that is) and cringe.

There are always a few exceptions. There might be 1 out of 100 where that isn't the case. But still, most of the so-called "Christians" in YA fiction are NOT Christians.

This is NOT the case in "j" fiction. You can find good books for the under twelve crowd that do accurately portray Christianity as positive.

I do think that Christianity is one of the few groups or communities where it is socially acceptable to slander and bash. I think if there were books where Jews or Muslims were always (almost always) being presented as the villains, then people would get offended. If other religions were being treated so stereotypically and hypocritically...Then people might care. But any one can say anything about Christians, and it's not "bad" or "offensive" at all.

Does this side-rant have anything at all to do with book banning? Yes and no. Mostly no. I think the problem IS NOT what librarians choose to order. I think it is what publishers choose to publish. And what authors choose to write.

I don't think librarians are out to steal children and teens out from under their parents' authority and training.

I don't think librarians have an agenda or vendetta.

I don't think librarians are out to brainwash anyone.

She made librarians sound like the bad guys...and they're so not.

So while almost everything the author of the article writes about is just wrong on so many levels. I do see a topic that most people are afraid to address.

Becky said...

One more note to add.

I am EXTREMELY OPPOSED to book banning. I may not like what a book has to say. But I would never ever in a million years say that it shouldn't be available on the shelves of a public library.

Book banning is always wrong. Always. But there's a huge misconception out that it is only conservatives or only Christians that want books removed from shelves. That's just not true. At all. Liberals and the left-wing are just as likely as any one else to think a book is offensive and want it gone.

Amy said...

I see your point. And part of why I am against banning books is that I don't think that any one person or small group of persons can make the decision or know where to draw the line.

But I do think I'm right that it won't be tolerated much longer. :) After all, hate speech is certainly not tolerated at least by society if not govt. despite a freedom of speech idea we cling to.

Anyway thanks for the input, though I wish you weren't annon, so I could really dialogue with you!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

~~~ A Quick Note From Heather ~~~

Frist of all, thank you all for keeping this conversation open-minded and kind. I truly appreciate that.

Second, I want to point out that the article I linked to is from a site I'd never been to before. (I found it by following a link posted on another blogger's site.) It's not a site I will likely visit again either.

Third, as I (should have) mentioned in my post, I completely agree that the article IS inflammatory and NOT written to promote discussion.

Fourth, I only linked to it because I thought it had ONE important point that people don't consider - that not all books end up in the library, and that there is some sort of selection process for those that do.

Thank you all again for keeping the comments civil. I really did intend only to open a discussion about the one point I mentioned above.

Anonymous said...

Heather, great discussion on an important topic. I think a crucial factor is parental involvement. When parents care about what their children read, and are thoughtful about helping them choose books, government involvement (or censorship) is beside the point. I've read a number of the banned books, including several in high school (Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace), and because they were discussed openly, I saw them as an open exchange of ideas, rather than a roadmap for my life.

Beth A. said...

Speaking as a librarian, I can say that in library school, they teach us that the goals of building a collection are to 1) reflect the needs and desires of the community and 2) reflect a balance of opinion. Most librarians I know are very concerned with providing a balance of views within the collection and take pains to select books despite their personal tastes (I personally have cataloged many an Ann Coulter book which I would just as soon dropped in the trash). Which is not to say that anybody is immune to personal bias, but librarians range across the entire spectrum of political and religious beliefs, just like everybody else. The one belief that most of us have in common is freedom of speech, and that it applies to all viewpoints.

One thing I should say in particular is that the single thing that determines whether a book stays in the library and whether we buy more books like it is if it's being read. I have serious doubts about the actual content of the Upper Arlington Public Library (for one thing, the author has such a clear agenda I doubt she looked too hard lest she find facts that mess up her beliefs; also, in fairness, I went to that catalog and its search function is one of the lousiest I've seen, which is really saying something, so not being able to find something in it doesn't necessarily mean anything (although I was able to find 10 books against homosexuality in a quick search)), but if it has a large number of books that are positive towards homosexuality, it is almost certainly because they're being read and frequently. I suppose it could be that the liberal conspiracy is succeeding in its brainwashing, but more likely, the some of people of Upper Arlington just want to read those books.

Honestly, the decision of whether to give over limited shelf space to a book has a great deal more to do with its position on the bestseller list and whether it's the sort of book the library patrons would be likely to read than whether it fits a particular political agenda.

Ana S. said...

Heather, I just wanted to clarify that I know that the fact that you linked to that article doesn't mean you were endorsing what it says. Now that I'm no longer as annoyed at the author, I can elaborate my point: other than the homophobia, what really annoyed me was the fact that she titled it "Banned Books Week: smoke screen of hypocrisy" when this issue has nothing whatsoever to do with book banning. Even if a particular librarian was slightly biased in their book selection (and as Beth was saying, they are only human) in no way would that make them a hypocrite for fighting against book banning.

I agree that a library should have books from both ends of the political spectrum. But somehow I have the impression that the author is only settling for that because she doesn't have the power to ban the books that represent opinions other than her own. She pretty much says so herself in the last paragraph. Which makes her, and not those who celebrate Banned Books Week, the hypocrite.

This was an interesting discussion, and I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments.

Anonymous said...

I think the person who wrote that article is disgusting.
"That homosexuality is a life-shortening road down which no responsible adult should point any child?"

Excuse me!? Why do i sometimes feel like we're still living in the dark ages? For goodness sake!
I think banning books is the most horrible thing in the universe. If it starts with one book, then it will most likely go even further. Back in the day, people shunned important scientists because what they said seemed blasphemous. And wow! Look where we are today, they were damn right and don't the church feel pretty bad huh?
I'm so tired of ignorant idiots. Linda Harvey is an ignorant idiot. People like her are the scum of the earth. I don't apologize to anyone who is offended by what I'm saying because I don't care. If everyone were more open, there wouldn't be so much of the shit that's going on today.
People need to be more tolerant, and banning books? That's closed minded.
This clearly made me extremely angry.
We all need to be more open minded, more tolerant and more caring towards everyone and I'm sorry I feel like some people use religion to mask their disgusting behavior and feelings. Religion allows people to be intolerant because they can hide behind its mask. They can manipulate the bible and the word of God to work for them.
I'm knocking religion a bit here. I don't think that being religious is bad. I respect people's choices. But I just don't agree with people using religion in that way. Being religious is personal.
I don't know... I'm just angry.

Anonymous said...

I also think it's much more harmful for a child to read trash like 'Gossip Girl' which has so much inappropriate content and is marketed towards the completely wrong age group and trash like 'Twilight' in which the relationship between girl and boy is borderline abusive.
Really? Seriously?
I work in a bookstore and I see parents buy that trash for their kids all the time without caring. But hey a book about homosexuality that's crazy shit!

Angryfying-ness but... still, I feel it's important to spark controversy!

Anonymous said...

I am glad I have stumbled upon your blog. You posted the controversial article that I once read but have completely forgotten where it was published.

As to the issue of library censorship, Linda Harvey seems to be using the Banned Book Week as a pretext to retaliate titles that she think would be detrimental to the children and society. Her article doesn't leave any room for debate because she is speaking from the viewpoint of defending traditional marriages. So she thinks she does all of us a favor by encouraging readers to dabble on some of the taboo, sensitive subjects during Banned Books Week. I mean, what kind of crap is that? This is worst than Communism.

Why should certain people think they are our moral guardian to privately censor books to be acquired in the library. The only criterion that determines whether a book should stay or to be removed from the library is the circulation of the books. I can understand, for a niche of market and for gain, that a bookstore should sell one book and not another. But a library should be a place that promotes reading, regardless of the nature of the subject.

This reminds me of a controversial children book called And Tango Makes Three that some conservative watchdog organization (like the one Ms Harvey works for) requested to be removed from all public libraries because the gay penguins will brainwash and contaminate the young minds.

This is America which claims to be a nation of freedom.

Anonymous said...

For the reviews:

A Separate Peace

The Handmaid's Tale

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