I Read Banned Books


What do the following titles have in common:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young GirlSnow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins,  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman

They’ve all been challenged, moved to the “restricted section” or out and out banned from schools and public libraries. Notice some of the newer titles listed above? Yeah, that’s because censorship happens today, right in your own community.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 348 in 2010; the ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.”

This directly from the ALA website:

Over the past ten years, American libraries were faced with 4,660 challenges.

1,536 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material;

1,231 challenges due to “offensive language”;977 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”;

553 challenges due to “violence”

370 challenges due to “homosexuality”; and

Further, 121 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 304 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”

1,720 of these challenges (approximately 37%) were in classrooms; 30% (or1,432) were in school libraries; 24% (or 1,119) took place in public libraries.There were 32 challenges to college classes; and 106 to academic libraries.  There are isolated cases of challenges to materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and student groups.  The majority of challenges were initiated by parents (almost exactly 48%), while patrons and administrators followed behind (10% each).

Obviously, I wouldn’t read Catcher in the Rye to my 6 year old, but I sure wouldn’t keep you from having access to that book at your public library. Today is the beginning of banned books week, Sept. 24- Oct. 1. Jump on the official website at http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/ for lots of information. You can even participate in the Virtual Read Out, where you can upload up to a two minute video of you reading from one of your favorite banned books.




I bought my first e-book. So why do I feel so guilty?

Because I succumbed to the pleasure of immediacy instead of getting off my duff, getting dressed, getting in my car—putting gas in my car—driving to the local B&N, finding a place to park, searching through the shelves for what I wanted, standing in line, paying for my purchase, and driving back home.

The thing is, I love paper. I believe a tree’s greatest accomplishment in life is to become a book, next to sheltering the woodland creatures and producing oxygen of course. There’s nothing like being the first to crack the spine of a good book. And rows and rows of them at the library or in a bookstore? Be still my heart. Besides, think of all the good folks who keep their jobs when you buy a book from the bookstore. Economic stimulus!

But man I’ve got an I-Pad now and it is too cool for words and you can get virtually (pun intended) any book you want downloaded from Amazon in 30, count them 30 seconds and I don’t even have to pay for shipping and handling thank you very much.

Yep, my feelings of remorse were short-lived.

So what e-book did I get? The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which is somewhat ironic don’t you think? In his postapocalyptic (try saying that word 5x fast without spitting) future there’s no electricity or battery power left to run the equipment to read the books. You want to read? You have to find the remnants of a paper past. Gives you pause doesn’t it?

The big question is, will I do it again? Yes. I’m sorry. I will. But if it’s any consolation, I regard my E-books as a test drive only.

If I don’t love it, I have 30 seconds of buyer’s remorse before I obliterate those electrons with a keystroke. This is true liberation since I cannot bring myself to destroy real books, can’t even throw them into the recycle bin. Even if I hated reading them, I’ll give them away instead.

If I love it, I’m sure to buy the real thing and add it to my collection. You know that collection, the one that sits on shelves, makes stacks on the desk and collects dust-bunnies under the bed.

Photo credit Iqoncept

Of Comedy, Puke and Commas

Like the title? I’ve been spending some time on developing titles that catch reader interest. Thanks for allowing me to experiment on you.

Last week some of the kids at my kid’s school put on a play which was a composite parody of several high profile movies and TV shows including Star Wars. Written, directed and performed by kids, it was smart and– wait for it– funny! Yes, ha, ha funny. I genuinely laughed out loud, especially when Darth Radiator did battle against Puke and Yogurt with Life Savers ™. Maybe it’s the eight-year-old in me.

It didn’t stop there though. Those kids also amused the grammarian in me. Take this scene for example:

Storm troopers arrive and start firing their weapons.

Yogurt yells: “Puke, on the floor!”

Puke pantomimes vomiting with plenty of sound effects.

The scene continues with Yogurt giving a lecture to Puke about comma usage. Since she put the comma after Puke, she explains that she was addressing him before commanding him to the floor, not commanding him to “Puke on the floor.”

The scene reminded me of one of my favorite books about commas. What? You don’t have a favorite book about commas? Then you should check out EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES by Lynne Truss. It comes in two versions, the 240 page adult version and the picture book edition (even more fun: grammar with visual aids). The links will take you out to Amazon FYI.

In hindsight, I would probably have said, “Puke! Duck!” but then who knows what would have happened next. . .