Every year Banned Book Week (September 26-October 3, 2009) rolled around during my high school experience, I remember my librarian dusting off a couple of posters and pulling out a copy of Huck Finn for us to stare at. That was it. And because there was so little attention paid to it, I didn't even consider it to be important. So what? We can all read Huck Finn now. So it doesn't matter anymore, does it?
Then, during my junior year, I watched my librarian take every Stephen King book we had off the shelf and put them in boxes. Then, the books were taken out of the school and we never saw them again.
I figured out, that day, that this kind of thing not only still happens, but it happens more at the middle school and high school level than in any other age group. See, someone else's mom or dad might one day decide you aren't allowed to read something. Let's use Twilight as an example.
Let's pretend that someone at your school takes Twilight home to read. And their parents pick it up and say, "That Robert Pattinson guy on the cover looks pretty awful." So they read the back. And then they say, "Vampires are evil. They're from the devil. No child should read this book."
They take the book away from their kid. Then they ask for the book to be taken out of the school.
I know, right? Who would want to ban Twilight? What a stupid example. Where do I get this stuff?
Oh, right. Here.
That's right, folks. Twilight. I didn't make it up. At least that library changed its mind.
The important thing is that it happened in the first place. But the Twilight example is the best-case scenario. It gets way worse.
Like in my Stephen King example, there are some books that just vanish. Let's take a look at another book...Vamos a Cuba by Alta Schreier.
Vamos A Cuba (or A Visit to Cuba) was removed from Florida's Miami-Dade school libraries because a parent claimed the book didn't "depict an accurate life in Cuba."
That's when the ACLU (The American Civil Liberties Union) of Florida filed a lawsuit to protest the decision to remove the book...and the 23 other titles in the same series. Oh, yes. See, when they took out the Cuba book, they couldn't leave the others in the series because that would have been too obvious. So they took 24 books out of each library even though 23 of them had nothing controversial in them at all.
Are you getting angry yet? You should be.
So Miami-Dade's school district lost the court case and the ACLU reigned victorious. The U.S. District Court said, "Hey, not only should you keep those books, you should buy more in the series!"
They were ordered to put the books back.
But then they appealed.
The Eleventh Circuit Court in Atlanta took on the case, said that the school board didn't breach the First Amendment, and on February 9, 2009 the schools were given the okay to take the books out. Again.
The reason for all of this? The little boy in the book was too happy. Apparently, people can't feel happy in Cuba. It's physically impossible.
The decision can still be appealed. And I'm sure it will be.
And it gets even worse--they're even banning people now.
Ellen Hopkins, the author of Crank, Burned, Glass, Identical, and the shiny new hardcover Tricks, was banned. See, she donated an author visit, complete with air travel, to a charity auction. The winning librarian was Karin Perry of Whittier Middle School in Norman, OK. Karin Perry was super-happy. And since this is the USA, she can feel happy. However, if she lived in Cuba...
I'll shut up about that now.
Hopkins bought her tickets, she packed, she was all ready to go and...
A parent went into the school with a copy of Glass. Then, the superintendent of the school called Hopkins up and cancelled the trip. Hopkins wrote about this on her blog on September 17. She was scheduled to speak on September 22.
Wow...that's a whole five (maybe six) days notice. Nice one. Real polite.
Perry, who paid for this thing, was upset. Which she can feel in Cuba, if she were to be there. Being in the USA, she might be allowed to feel it too. As long as Georgia's Eleventh Circuit Court doesn't hear about it.
So was Ellen Hopkins. Because not only were her books yanked from the shelves, she got banned too. This is what she had to say: "I've done hundreds of school visits...I've never corrupted a student. In fact, my talks inspire them. Arm them. Inform them. On the middle school level, I am totally sure I have stopped kids from ever considering drug use."
Karin Perry scheduled an off-campus event, at Hillsdale Baptist College in Moore OK. Hopkins came, she spoke, and 150 teens, parents, and librarians came to hear her.
I can understand parents freaking out a bit about Hopkins' books. But consider this: Crank and Glass are semi-autobiographical, as Hopkins' daughter struggled with methamphetamine addiction! So she gets it.
Read a banned book.
Read a bunch of them.
I've got a display with just a few of the long long list of titles on the short hardcover shelf in our YA section. You can also read Ellen Hopkins' poem "Manifesto" which I have displayed there.
Rosie Readers, our Legendary Repurposed Coffee Can is now on top of the tall hardcover shelf--Keep up the good work!
Why don't you read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian this week? That was completely banned from Crook County High School Prineville, Oregon.