One of this years top challenged/banned books stands out as being a bit different from the others that typically make it onto the list — it was challenged not due to the content itself, but because of the author.
The Little Bill series of books, a children’s series written by Bill Cosby and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood (which was also an Emmy Award-winning cartoon that ran for 10 years) was challenged because of the criminal sexual allegations against Bill Cosby.
James LaRue, the Director of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, notes that “I think it’s our fascination with celebrity. If we love the person we love everything about him. If we hate the person we hate everything about him. We don’t seem to be able to separate the message from the messenger.” (Citation)
This appears to be the first time a book is challenged due to the author, rather than story content itself. Though the question surrounding the seperation of artist and their artwork is certainly nothing new. As the ALA blog notes, “there are other authors who are criticized for their behaviors and beliefs. Among the classic authors – revered for their writing but despised for their bigotry – are T.S. Eliot, Roald Dahl, Edith Wharton and Dr. Seuss.” (Citation)
I’ve always been fascinated by the question of if you can separate the work from the artist. What do you think?