Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Banned Book Week”

Flip Side of Freedom to Read: BB Week #7

image: Flicker

As Banned Book Week closes I am prompted to open up what is either a tempest or a tornado depending upon your cup of tea.  The above reflection captures my dichotomy of thought when it comes to banning, censoring, or challenging intellectual expression.  It all comes down to which hat I am wearing. The following is based on real life examples seen in three different perspectives.

Librarian Hat
Figuratively speaking this hat involves closing mouth and opening brain.  Please don’t come up to my desk and say, “I can’t believe you have The Joy of Sex on the library shelves.  First of all, I didn’t buy the book.  That decision wasn’t mine, and the book occupied the shelves long before I came on staff.  Secondly, the library is funded with public taxpayer money and if enough people requested it then the book is bought.  Thirdly, if the book offends you I suggest you don’t check it out.  And please don’t take our books into the bathroom.  Yes, that’s why we have the security gate before you go into the hallway with the restrooms. We have seen the soggy results of indiscriminate censoring.

Parent Hat
If I wanted my children to learn about the birds and bees I will tell them, on my own terms and in my own way, sans the graphic illustrations.  I can’t believe the library allows a fourteen year old to check out The Joy of Sex.  She isn’t even dating yet!  Why have something available that she isn’t ready to understand?  How did I know she checked it out?  When I moved her backpack into her room I noticed the cover.  Good grief! Was I shocked!  It’s almost pornography!  My tax dollars buys this kind of stuff!

Teacher Hat
“Here is a note from my dad.” I read it and discover I am to assign something else for his daughter to read during the next quarter unit book study.  The book? Lord of the Flies.  Furthermore, she was not to be present in the classroom during the unit.  He found the aspect of children killing children too strong for his daughter. I respected his request, and did so because I believe in his parental right of choice.  I also have to because our school practices an “op-out” policy, which means if a parent is opposed to the text assigned another is given in its place.  It happens.  And it’s okay. It’s inconvenient, but it’s okay.

Informed Citizen Hat
We live in a land where we are allowed the freedom of choice when it comes to expressing our creative endeavors.  We don’t have to worry about the secret and not-so-secret police storming into our households because we have told a joke that mocks the current leader, or because the bible we received as a gift from a visiting missionary is against my country’s religion, or because  I’m watching a movie that offends a segment of the population. As an American I have that protected freedom.  I am thankful.

Now on the flip side, my personal, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual beliefs may not line up with the person next to me.  I know inherently what is best practice for me in terms of reading and viewing, yet I can’t make that decision for you.  Yes, I might express my opinion–I’m entitled to do so, and you might not like it. You see,  I’m conservative in most of my views.  I’m a bit a puritan, I suppose.  But I have a difficult time faulting your right to make an informed choice. I do not want to end up in a society like the one Ray Bradbury created in Fahrenheit 451, where the government didn’t stop the reading of books–people did, for fear of offending one another.

And while I do believe in intellectual choice, with all these hats I wear, my concerns and allegiances to what is best practice gets a bit muddled.

I say it’s professional discretion when it comes to not selecting certain AP books off the suggested read list.  Is this censoring? No. I’ve listened to my students and sensed they were not ready for Brave New World or 1984.  Am I saying they shouldn’t read it?  Not at all.  I’m saying I won’t be teaching it at this time, especially when there are so many other books to choose from.

I say it’s my parental obligation to protect my child from that which might be harmful to my child’s well-being.  Is this censoring?Certainly not. Every family, every parent has the right to choose best for what is best for them and their family.  Society can influence, yet families shape the future. I’m not banning; I’m protecting.

We are all gate-keepers in our own way.  We allow how wide the gate will swing open. Banned Book Week is officially over for another year. Or is it?  We are challenged daily when it comes to making decisions of discernment.  To ban, to censor, to act out of discernment–now, that, dear reader, is quite the question.

Banned Books Week Banner

Banned Books Week Banner (Photo credit: DML East Branch)

Continium of Encouragement to Read: BB Week #6

As a librarian at heart and an English teacher for career, with a side of writer squeezed in, I positively adore books. My blog is primarily about books and I keep a running list of unabashed Book Boosters.  Here is a slew of posters, banners, and stickers that encourage reading.  BtW: celebrate Banned Book Week with a good read, or maybe a bad read–it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

BB Week Hits the Big Three-Oh: BB Week #5

ALA Seal

ALA Seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is something about hitting 30 that makes one sit up and say, “Okay, let’s get serious about this.”  Birthdays, marriages, and events take on that seriously, folks, tone.  And so it is with Banned Books Week.  This year marks its thirtieth and with that triple decade mark here are three commemorative aspects of BB Week.

1.  Did your state participate?  The American Library Association‘s Office for Intellectual Freedom coordinated a “50 State Salute.”  Check out the video and the following details to see how your state participated. For more information:

Banned Books Week Video Map: Click on a state to view the BB video

2.  Take a good look at the of the last thirty years to see what books were challenged, banned, or censored and for what reason.

BB Timeline

3.  For the second year in a row readers who know the value of being free to read [I call them Book Boosters (see the masthead link to sign up)] can promote the importance of reading by posting a two-minute video of yourself reading. These videos will be featured on a special  Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out YouTube channel. For details on how to create your reading video, click here.

Banned Books Week: The Need to Read–it’s about choice and having the right to make it

Bookmans, a bookstore in Arizona makes this clear in their BB Week video:

The Naughty List: BB Week #4

Cover of "The Great Gatsby"

Cover of The Great Gatsby

Banned Book Week is around the corner: define your mind with censored or challenged literary lines. As you decide on additions for your next TBR you can make like Santa by checking your list to see who’s been naughty or nice.


  • Cover of "Their Eyes Were Watching God"
  • Cover of Their Eyes Were Watching God

 Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son, by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin

  •  All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
  •  The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
  •  Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
  • A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  • In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
  • The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
  • Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
  • Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
  • Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
  • Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
  • Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

    Cover of "Lord of the Flies, Educational ...

    Cover of Lord of the Flies, Educational Edition

  • Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
  • The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
  • Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
  •  An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
  • Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

What’s Read, Black, and Blue? :BB Week #3

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

As a former librarian (who am I kidding-I’m forever a librarian at heart), I embrace books. Reading them, writing them, discussing them, critiquing them, promoting them, yet being beaten up, imprisoned, or possibly dying for them is as they say, “I don’ t remember this being in the job description.”
The following is a reblog which originally came to my attention by way of my fab librarian cohort in all things bookish (shout out to ET). Although Banned Book Week is focused on books, it is important to remember librarians are the ones who put the books on the shelves so we can get them in our hands, hearts, and minds. I salute those brave Cuban librarians, as well as all librarians who face adversity while trying to protect intellectual freedom.

Here is a partial of the Cuban librarian post and you can click on the link to read more:

Kindle Users Arrested

HAVANA, Aug. 24, 2012 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez/Hablemos Press) – On Friday the Cuban secret police pursued and arrested librarians who had attended a technology workshop at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

[Note by the Friends of Cuban Libraries: the Obama administration recently enacted a program to donate hi-tech equipment such as Kindle e-book readers to Cuba’s independent librarians and other activists. This move greatly expands Cubans’ access to banned materials and evades the occasional seizure of bulky printed materials carried in the luggage of volunteers arriving at Cuban airports.]

The arrests occurred in the streets adjacent to the Interests Section when the librarians, about 20 in number, were returning to their homes.

“The workshop in which we were participating was on how to use an Amazon Kindle,” commented Lázara Mijan, who was able to escape the police roundup, together with Magaly Norvis Otero and Julio Beltrán.

Among the detainees are Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, Julio Rojas Portal and Mario Echevarría Driggs. Two Kindles were confiscated from each of the latter two persons, in addition to cameras, personal documents and user manuals for the Kindle DX….

“The police operation was big, very big. Many State Security agents were scattered in Ladas [Soviet-era cars] and motorcycles everywhere in the streets near the Interests Section; it was a miracle that some of the librarians were able to evade arrest,” said Driggs, after he was released from custody….

The Cuban regime classifies the independent librarians and dissidents as counterrevolutionaries at the service of the U.S. government. In 2003, more than 20 librarians were arrested and sentenced to prison terms of between 5 and 20 years, and their library collections were confiscated and burned.

Reblogged from PC Sweeney’s Blog:

Related articles

When Chick Lit Goes Bad: BB Week #2 entry

Cover of "The Awakening: And Other Storie...

Cover via Amazon

While Lady Chatterly’s Lover made the Banned list, Kate Chopin‘s The Awakening did not.  Both miffed, shocked, and outraged many a reader upon its respective appearance; but only Lady Chatterly’s wanderings provoked the censors to add D.H. Lawrence’s offering on venturing outside the lines of socially acceptable behavior of women of the 19th century.  Here’s Lady Cha Cha’s rap sheet according to

Banned by U.S. Customs (1929). Banned in Ireland (1932), Poland (1932), Australia (1959), Japan (1959), India (1959). Banned in Canada (1960) until 1962. Dissemination of Lawrence’s novel has been stopped in China (1987) because the book “will corrupt the minds of young people and is also against the Chinese tradition.”

Admittedly, it did have some naughty language, even for today’s standards, and some rather risqué scenes, which explains its appearance in a 1959 obscenity trial.  The book went on to fame and fortune, appearing in various forms, even a BBC 1993 mini-series with Sean Bean and Joley Richardson. Bad girls don’t go away, they continue to spice up literary history,

However, a point to consider is that D.H. Lawrence wrote the book from a man’s point of view.  Perhaps he should have borrowed the POV Gun from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Lawrence is a writer of merit and his works have lasted the fickleness of time and reader tastes, so I can’t fault him for his chick lit bad girl book.  But honestly how can a man know what a woman’s feelings are?

Enter Kate Chopin.  She wrote The Awakening with a woman’s point of view in mind.  Like they say, “It takes one to know one.”  If not familiar with her 1899 novel, here is the micro precis:

Edna Pontellier awakens out of her expected role of wife and mother and goes against the tide of conventionality and is last seen swimming somewhat unhappily ever after into the sunset.

If Chopin had put in the naughtiness, her novel certainly would have made the BB list.  Instead it was censored for its open depiction of a female protagonist exploring her wild side.  This chafed against expected 1899 norms of decent behavior.

Reactions to her novel ranged from hostile condemnation (“We are well-satisfied when [Edna Pontellier] drowns herself,” “Poison”) to critical lambasting (“It was not necessary for a writer of so great refinement and poetic grace to enter the over-worked field of sex-fiction,” (Chicago Times Herald), to lukewarm chastisement (“”next time I hope that Miss Chopin will devote that flexible, iridescent style of hers to a better cause.”–Willa Cather).

Some compared The Awakening to Flaubert’s 1856 Madame Bovary (another BB list member).

So even though Chopin did not include the naughty stuff, she still received censure for writing about how a woman had become dissatisfied and wanted to flap her wings a bit.  That was considered bad form.

The moral is here that Chopin never wrote another novel.  In fact, she didn’t publish much after The Awakening‘s disappointing reception.  The irony is that Chopin ushered the advent of many a literary foray into a woman’s point of view, including Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, Henry James, and Tennessee Williams.

After recently finished Chopin’s novel I am saddened to not have the ability to continue reading more of her work.  The critics too well censored her without ever lifting their pen to add her name and novel to their list.

Enjoy a good book this week, even if others deem it bad–it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

English: First ed title pg

English: First ed title pg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burn and Turn: Censored and Challenged Books/BB Week #1

What have To Kill A Mockingbird, The Awakening, Huckleberry Finn, and The Hunger Games all have in common?  Easy. Besides making the bestsellers list, they have also made the banned books list. And let’s pause this opening for a bit of clarification. Banned Book Week is actually misleading, since books aren’t technically banned anymore–they are challenged, since we all have, at least in the US of A, the ability to procure what we want to read.

Banned Book Week is the annual emphasis that occurs during the last week of September, and serves as a reminder how society, during given points and times in history, get tweaked about what is available to read.  However, it is not only in the United States that books have created ire in the powers of say so.  Read Tweak happens around the world.  For instance:

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:  Used to be banned in the province of Hunan, China, beginning in 1931 for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings. The censor General Ho Chien believed that attributing human language to animals was an insult to humans. He feared that the book would teach children to regard humans and animals on the same level, which would be “disastrous.”

Then again sometimes banning is not good enough–let’s just burn the bugger and totally purge society’s ability for intellectual discernment.  Burned books would include:

  • Ulysses, by James Joyce–Burned in the U.S. (1918)
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John SteinbeckBurned by the East St. Louis, IL Public Library (1939)
  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway–Burned in Nazi bonfires in Germany (1933)
  • Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut–Burned in Drake, ND (1973)

Although there haven’t been any recent burnings, Ray Bradbury (rest in peace, Ray, you are missed) foresaw a day when all books would be burned. Not because of poisoned opinion, offended sensibilities, or societal outrage–no, Ray thought books would be burned due to lack of interest.  Intellectual thought via the printed page would be overridden by the quest of Jello entertainment(that ubiquitous substance which has form but no true nutrition and is quite similar to most television programming). In the near future Bradbury believed it would be illegal to own or read books so the government created a mockery out the fireman and had him burn books instead of saving that which would burn.  The paradox is stunningly brilliant, which is why Bradbury and his insights will be missed.

The book I refer to is, of course, Fahrenheit 451. The delicious and sad irony is that F451 was censored for its language in order for school districts to allow it on reading lists.

This week I will be posting views, trivia, and insights about banning, censoring, and challenging intellectual matter, because it does matter.

Banned Book Week.  Read a book and challenge your brain.

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: