October 30, 2008

Censor Me

The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books 1990-2007 (American Library Association)

The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books 2000-2007 (ALA)

Somehow I ended up looking at these lists today. It's sad that many of what are usually considered staples of children's literature frequently receive ban attempts. If the people who find these books inappropriate in some way all succeeded, what would be left? Nothing but (some) alphabet books and those sickening YA novels that go along the lines of: Once upon a time there was a girl named Cassie who was blond and skinny and smart and good at sports and had tons of friends and was a good, observant Christian*..... ARRAGH!

I've read a little more than half of the books on the two lists combined. Many of them are, or have been, favorites at some point. I understand how some would cause parents and teachers to be concerned, for example Bridge to Terabithia (#9 1990-2000, #20 2000-2007) is intense- an eleven-year-old girl dies, and this might traumatize some less mature kids, because, as we all know, death of a loved one is a terrifying prospect. But, it's not graphic; the protagonist never even sees the corpse of the girl. By age 10 or 11, only the most naive haven't encountered death in some form. I imagine that this book also received some negative criticism for the young protagonist having a crush on one of his teachers, but hey, that happens too, and it's not as if the relationship goes anywhere. Bridge to Terabithia was one of those books I hated right after I read it, but I've come to appreciate it over the years.

Sometimes I wonder if people realize that they're trying to censor life. Drugs happen. Sex happens. There are non-major religions. God fucking knows profanity occurs. Homosexuality is not something made up for literature-land (and why people see it as a problem in literature in the first place mystifies me. You might as well ban heterosexual couples.) In the award-winning Speak (#65 2000-2007), a young teenager deals with the aftermath of being raped, and Cut, a YA novel about self-injury, is ranked #86 on the 2000-2007 list. Some people even try to remove books from libraries because the characters don't use correct grammar (Junie B. Jones, #74 2000-2007). And for the life of me I can't figure out why Where's Waldo? made the 1990-2000 list at #88. What's offending in a search-and-find picture book? (Hm. Just looked at the Wikipedia page. Apparently one page has a woman sunbathing topless.)

As I see it, the reason so many extremely well-written books make the list is because they make people think. If a work of literature doesn't get people talking, then the author hasn't done his or her part. It's just frustrating that some people don't realize that talking about books is not a bad thing and that if the subject is something you'd be horrified at your own daughter doing the book should not be banned. And to be honest, I don't understand why everyone's perfectly OK with teaching Romeo and Juliet to fourteen-year-olds in English class but when a contemporary novel with a similar theme comes up they howl.

As far as I am able to tell, I should not be allowed to talk to other teenagers. No, my life is inappropriate. If someone were to write my story and call it fiction, I'd probably skyrocket to the top of the list. But the thing is, and this is what bothers me, all this happened. So why must we pretend that it couldn't have? I thankfully exist as a breathing person and not as a literary character, so this isn't an issue. But why do people think other teenagers need to be sheltered so? I'm not the only one who has had crap happen in her life.

*I've nothing against Christians, or blonds either for that matter- actually, Eva was both. It's just that it seems that Christians seem to be the ones making the fuss a good percentage of the time (*cough* Harry Potter) and for some strange unknown reason it seems as if almost all the girls at my school dye their hair blond... so they must think it's better somehow.

Also, I've finally gotten around to making a more decent banner. Yay? Nay?


  1. Hey
    Like the new banner and yes those censor lists are ridiculous.

  2. I agree. It's outrageous how so many people want to get these books off the shelves, when I remember reading nearly three quarters of them when I was growing up. And if they want to ban sexual books, they should toss the whole set of Shakespeare's plays. They are nothing but one reference after the next, and most include sex scenes. I just think it's ridiculous. And books like Bridge to Terabithia, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, and Go Ask Alice, were stuff that I read growing up and I remember crying at the end of Go Ask Alice, and Bridge to Terabithia. Sure they are sad books, and are lewd at some points and make you think, but isn't that what life is? Life is lewd, crude, sad, and it makes you think. Just only if you want to.

  3. I agree completely; hence the Romeo and Juliet comment in the post. In my area, all fourteen and fifteen-year-olds are required to read it in school.

    Stuff that is "inappropriate"
    - suicide
    - murder
    - teenage sex (definately without protection)
    - homosexuality
    - anti-family message
    - endless references to prostitution, STDs

  4. As a former Catholic-school girl, I speak from experience. Some Christians believe that unless you believe that Jesus was the son of God, and you worship him, then you are going to hell. They try to take control of other peoples' lives in order to cement this idea in society.

    I also think that many Christians fear new ideas or different kinds of people because it threatens their view of the world. To hear anything different from what they believe scares them...because, truly, who knows what life is all about and where we go when it's over? No one knows this. People can claim to know it. But if you have some belief in place, it makes you feel safe...and anything that threatens that is evil and wrong.

    I consider this being blind and ignorant. I believe that contimplating life and life's questions helps us to grow. It's just too bad some people are trying to control everyone else's intellectual development.