Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mapping banned books

From the Maps listserv, here's a Google Maps plotting of banned books ( as compiled from the ALA's "Books Banned and Challenged 2007-2008," and "Books Banned and Challenged 2008-2009," and the "Kids' Right to Read Project Report"). How does your neighborhood compare?

I notice that not every item on the source lists seems to be plotted, so maybe Utah isn't as clean as it looks. Still ... didn't you think there'd be a few markers there? Maybe I should give more credit where credit is due.

Despite a certain incompleteness, someone has made the map pretty informative. As you mouse over the markers, it pops open some copied-and-pasted text that describes the incident behind the listing. Some of the usual suspects are there, including Philip Pullman and JK Rowling; also, someone considered Craig Thompson's Blankets too sexy and had it moved from a young adults section. Someone else thinks Of Mice and Men is an offensive load of crap and shouldn't be read. In general, bad books are those that mention sex, contain swear words, and don't flatter Christianity.

Of course, I'm not always completely on-board with the banned books lists, as they tend to lump every type of "challenge" together in a single category. Some parents question whether a books is age-appropriate, not whether it has any value. I might disagree, but it's a fair question.

I'm also slightly open to complaining when books are assigned reading. I'm not really opposed to children being forced required to read things they might not otherwise encounter, but even a schoolteacher doesn't have complete authority to override parental wishes. I think it's a bad impulse to complain - giving a child a book is not an effective brainwashing technique, but shielding them from any message but your own is. So I disapprove , but the parents aren't necessarily outside their rights.

Then there are the demands that books be removed from library shelves. That's entirely wrong, period. You don't have the right to demand that no one else's child be allowed to read a book.


James Hanley said...

"someone considered Craig Thompson's Blankets too sexy and had it moved from a young adults section."

Yeah, I don't consider that banning. Age appropriateness is a reasonable thing to discuss. I support the overall goal of those who oppose book banning (obviously), but I think they harm their credibility when they get worked up about not moving Catcher in the Rye from the elementary to the middle school library.

Scott Hanley said...

Although I'm sorry to see someone object to Blankets. If you haven't read it, it tells about the author's first love affair, which culminates in a wonderful first sexual encounter, but ultimately fizzles due to distance and (perhaps) the author's own clinginess.

I'd much rather see adolescents reading stories like that, which provides a glimpse of how wonderful and intense romance will be, but also includes a realistic warning that it's complicated and not at all guaranteed to succeed. It seems healthier than the Twilight novels which (reportedly - I know them only through reputation) dwell on the utter perfection of the beloved.*

Of course, Blankets also discusses the author's loss of faith, so some people will heartily object to that, too.

* Of course, all the great romance literature makes false promises of how perfect love will be. Nothing new here.