Tag Archives: Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week Wrap-Up: Thoughts on Maus

So, I finished Maus before the end of last week. It was a fast read both because the graphic novel format and because it was an absolute page-turner.

I knew the book was autobiographical to some extent, but I didn’t realize how much the story of the author’s father during the Holocaust and the story of the author talking to his father about that story would be interwoven. It was very affecting, understated, and real. In fact, I’m hard pressed to make any comments on it that beat what’s on the back cover. I agree with all of them.

Ditto.

Also, last week was also when the documentary The U.S. and the Holocaust premiered and it seemed to make sense to watch it at the same time. That turned out to be a few too many Nazi atrocities to comprehend at once, even when I took a break for Space Nazis. Watching Moonfall proved to be the unrealistic palate cleanser I needed before I came back to watching the documentary (which was excellent). So, lesson learned: pace your horrors when you can.

Banning Books? Process Schmocess

In the video post from Monday, John Green briefly mentioned how one of the challenges to his book Looking for Alaska amounted to a person talked to a school official about a page in his book.

The problem is, this kind of scenario happens a lot for challenging books. A single person is bringing this to the attention of a single official and there’s no process in place to review requests, challenges, or concerns. And even when there is a process, many of the school districts or other governmental entities aren’t inclined to follow their own process, as was the case for the Waterloo, Iowa school district back in 2015.

There’s actually plenty of great orgs out there fighting the good fight, but I’ve always enjoyed the work of these folks.

Not only did only one person challenge the book (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), the school district pulled the book without following their own process for challenged books. And more often than not, many groups don’t want attention paid to any process (I guess it’s uncomfortable to admit you erroneously acquiesced to someone’s discomfort).

And lest you think that this was just some isolated case from seven years ago, would-be censors are still at it. And it’s not just a book being in someone’s course plan. It’s books in libraries and even books being sold in commercial book stores per this lawsuit filed in Virginia.

And if a decision has already been made to keep the books in libraries, well you can always have a re-do and remove those icky books from school libraries as they did in Keller, Texas recently. In fact, when the regular public library decided to let it be know that this week was, in fact, Banned Books Week, the city government thought that was very improper and had that social media announcement deleted. Adults or even kids might know books that made other people uncomfortable are available to read… at will!

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not about the kids. I mean, really: what’s going to happen to the kids if they read these books? Will they have nightmares for weeks, requiring medication or hospitalization? Will they need therapy for years and years from reading these books? Where is the documentation about these horrible, book-inflicted maladies that strain our medical infrastructure to the breaking point?

What’s that you say? There isn’t a health crisis from reading books? There might be (gasp) questions about the world?

Then we know what to say to censors, who stridently insist they’re protecting the children. Keep the disinfecting sunlight shining.

Video

If a Worldview can be Destroyed by a Novel, the Problem is not the Novel

You may wonder what authors think about when their books are banned, so why not frequent vlogger and author John Green who found his book, Looking for Alaska, in the crosshairs of censors. I should note this particular video is from 2016, referencing the top challenged books of 2015. There’s usually a lag time compiling the data: while it’s interesting, it’s not necessarily pressing.

However, the video is also under 3 and a half minutes and –assuming you’re not put off by the editing style that presents him as a hyperactive Q flitting to either side of the video frame– he covers a lot of philosophical ground in that time.

He notes one of the challenges to the book involved one person reading one page and raising high dudgeon on that basis alone. I’ll delve into the phenomenon of how flimsy many of these book challenges are later this week.

In the meantime, enjoy his thoughts on books, society, and what goes on in school superintendent offices.

For Banned Books Week this year: Maus

Next week is Banned Books Week, and as longtime readers may know, I always make a point of reading a banned or challenged book at this time of year. You can check out the most challenged books of 2021 or just do a bit of web searching to find historical lists and find something that might tickle your fancy in a way that scolds and censors feel your fancy should not be tickled.

The books I’ve read during the time of this blog have included The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Persepolis, Beyond Magenta, and It’s Perfectly Normal. This last one, a great follow-up to It’s Not the Stork, is a tremendously useful resource for kids and parents (often reading together to facilitate discussion).

And although I just linked to an online store (actually a coalition of independent bookstores), I found just about all of these at my local library, either in physical copy or electronically.

Having said that, this year I’m going to dive into a copy of Maus which I was inspired to order when a school board decided to ban it from their curriculum — and evidently, I was not alone. Like many of the books I listed above, Maus has been one of those works I’ve meant to read for years –I even recall reading sections of it in school way back when– but I’ve never sat down and read through the whole thing.

So why now? Because my kids have already asked me about evil in the world and how it can happen and what happens next and what one can do. Because they know the stork isn’t gonna bail them out. So I have a copy, ready and waiting for those sorts of discussions.

Because I’m thinking of the children.

May your reading selection send scores of scolds and censors to their fainting couches.

Prep for Banned Books Week 2022

Next week, September 18-24 is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of, depending on who you ask, the freedom to read, sticking it to The Man, both, or perhaps all of them and so much more.

Odds are I read challenged or banned books throughout the year, but for the life of this blog, I’ve tried to make sure to do so during the coming week. In part, the most challenged books of a given year are often new ones I haven’t had to check out (though I have gone to classics I somehow missed growing up like The Catcher in the Rye and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).

In case you’re wondering about what to read, the Banned Books website has some top challenged books, but if you want more options the folks in Collier County, Florida labeled a list of 115 books that have “… been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.”

Thanks, “Some Community Members.” Kids: your reading list awaits.

So Many Banned Books, So Little Time…

I’d previously pointed out that this week is the ALA’s annual Banned Book Week where you to can stick it to censors by reading books they feel would be better left unread or perhaps burnt to a cinder.

There’s so many books to choose from, you may wonder where to start, so I’d suggest checking out the ALA’s list of most challenged books that goes back over a decade.

You’re sure to find a book that tickles your fancy in a way that a censor finds most improper.

A screenshot of the American Library Association's website listing challenged books.

I’ve generally started with some of the books that seem to have been on school reading lists, but, for whatever reason, weren’t assigned books in my classes. So in past years, that’s led to me checking out The Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, (the book I read for last year’s week).

This year, I’ve been reading several memoirs and oral histories in general, so Beyond Magenta felt like a natural choice. I think one censor spontaneously combusted at the mere thought of it. This makes me happy.

Remember, you don’t need to worry about finishing a chosen banned book this week, but it’s a great week to start reading.

Get Ready for Banned Book Week 2021

As readers of this blog may recall, I always celebrate Banned Book Week usually by reading a frequently challenged or banned book — something I highly encourage all of you to try. It’s fun, It’s educational, and it it’s often deadly to per-conceived notions you didn’t even know you had.

The American Library Association has a great site where you can learn about some books to check out… and your local library just might have a display this week. There’s books for all ages that scolds and people-just-trying-to-keep-mumblemumble-safe don’t want you to read. Check ’em out!

Banned Book Week, 2020

Librarians, archivists, and bibliophiles are well represented in my family, so I’ve always enjoyed Banned Book Week.

Since many library systems are closed due to the pandemic, many of you probably can’t saunter over to your local library and see their cool “Banned Book” displays. The site does have plenty of resources to read and download — as well as the always interesting top 100 books challenged or banned.

That list also provides me with one of my annual activities: reading one of the books on the list that I haven’t read before. This year, it’s Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, one of those well-regarded books I’ve missed.

If you are looking for something insidious to do this week that will possibly expose you to some new perspectives and definitely piss off The Man, I highly recommend it.

But People Don’t Still Ban Books, Do They?

Continuing Banned Book Week, Ron Charles and his editor conspired to give Ron’s essay the incendiary title “Do we really still need Banned Books Week?

In fact, he even starts giving you umbrage fuel in the first paragraph, but then he talks to the people who and whaddya know?

Yup. People will be people and some people will always think that your dainty mind needs protection (see also, Monday’s post).

Image via EmilyQuotes.com

 

So Many Banned Books, So Little Time…

As friends know on social media, I’m a big fan of Banned Book Week that occurs every Fall. Given that people continue to challenge books and, really, are only looking out for you, whomever you might be, I find it a good tradition to continue. Several members of my family are or were librarians — and I well remember challenges to books growing up from parents who were worried our dainty minds would be perverted by various books.

I generally always try and read a banned or challenged book during this week. Last year, it was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, which is delightfully profane in the best possible way you want from a book. It left me thinking a lot about identity, masculinity, and race that I’m sure made many people concerned. I mean what if someone younger had asked the wrong question or came up with the wrong answer? More than that, conversations might have erupted, including two-way conversations. Very troublesome.

A lot of libraries have a display up this week to give you some ideas about a banned book to pick up, so do drop by. Ask a librarian for some recommendations. The equivalent of a Jane Austen villain will be entirely put out by you doing so, and isn’t that reward enough?