Category Archives: Books and Reading!

Book Reviews, Reflections on Reading, all things reader/book related!

Banned Books Week: Eleanor and Park

I may be a little late with this one – but one final Banned Books week post!

eleanorparkThis is another book that has been challenged because it’s “Unsuited for age-level,” and it has been removed from a few locations (including one removal that was reconsidered when it was realized the objections were actually about fan art, and not the book itself).

The reasons vary – the one cited on the ALA list is because of its language, and you can’t deny that swearing is scattered about, like, a lot. The author, Rainbow Rowell addresses this point very nicely, and I have to agree with her assessment. The use of swearing was, first of all, very real. And second, helped to create the atmosphere that these kids were living in. It became a part of the stage setting.

I really liked the book – for a number of reasons but one of them was the unique approach to the point-of-view of the story. The narration switches between Eleanor and Park, sometimes for as short as a few sentences, other times a few pages. We see the world through both of their eyes, and to me it helped to draw me closer to the characters. And in some ways, my own self. As Eleanor sat hating certain things about herself, Park would ponder on the ways those same things drew him in. I wonder what it would have meant to me to read something like that when I was younger, to see the ways that the things I hold as my greatest flaws – the things I like least about myself – might be things that someone else would love.

There are so many articles about the banning of this book, challenges made to it, and responses.  Personally I find the idea of banning it from shelves due to the language to be ridiculous (what teenagers aren’t at least hearing swear words?), and if it was challenged due to harsh content – like topic of abuse – I feel it’s equally ridiculous. These are topics that teenagers DEAL with in their lives, how does pretending it doesn’t exist help anyone?

What are your thoughts?

 

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Banned Books Week: George

George, by Alex Gino

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“Be who you are. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.” (Goodreads)

This book has been awarded a Stonewall Award and a Lambda Literary award.  It tells about George, a fourth grade student who everyone thinks is a boy, but who knows she is a girl.  Told in a close perspective from George’s point of view, using female pronouns throughout the book, it follows George through a portion of her school year – a very small portion really.  But an important one, as she begins to actually share with her family and closest friends her true self.

This book has been banned and challenged because of the main character – a transgender child – and “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”

I loved this book, and I can imagine that it could be powerful for a kid to read it. For kids struggling to be able to express their true selves, regardless of what challenge may be getting in the way of that. And I can’t even begin to imagine how powerful it could be for a child who is struggling with being identified by the gender they were assigned at birth, when they know in their heart that they are not that gender, to be able to read a story about a kid like them.

I came across just a few articles about this book – one from NPR with a talk to Alex Gino, who speaks about the story, how they related to it, and how they would have named it differently now.

“If I were going to name [the book] now, I would not have done that,” Gino says. “Because it is the assigned name, not her chosen name. When I started the book in 2003, the name of the book was Girl George — which was clearly an homage to Boy George. And then when Scholastic got it, one of the first things they did was, they cut off ‘Girl’ because they wanted to open up the audience. And I didn’t even notice, in all of the things that happened, that I have effectively dead-named my main character.”

Office of Intellectual Freedom (American Library Association) Blog article on George.

Article from Christian Today talking about the reason behind one of the Challenges to George.

Banned Books Week – Looking Local

I decided to explore a little bit some of the censorship that happens right in my own backyard.  The Oregon Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse (OIFC) has some great resources, including a list of all library material challenges in Oregon going back to 1988 (the current list runs to June 30, 2017).

In the 2016-2017 academic calendar (July through June) there were 20 reported challenges in Oregon, from six different public libraries.  The challenges were to books, videos, magazines, and sound recordings.

“Included among the challenges are seven videos that a patron removed from a library’s shelves and hid inside the library. Library staff found some of the videos and purchased replacements for others, according to their Collection Development Policy. The videos all had LGBT+ characters featured in the cover art. The Library Director identified the patron and learned that they were hiding the videos in an attempt to restrict other patrons’ access to LGBT+ films and prevent “potential harm” to children. The Library Director explained the library’s collection development policy, responsibility to represent diversity, and non-endorsement of materials/ideas in the collection to the patron. According to the library’s Code of Conduct, the patron was trespassed for six months.” (OIFC Annual Report)

What’s interesting to look at with some of these challenges is that the challenges come from many different viewpoints.  For example, the movie “2 Days in Paris” was challenged by a patron due to “anti-gay content.” While the movie “Beautiful Things” was included in the incident mentioned above, where a patron objected to the LGBT content.

The books that made it onto the challenged list in Oregon this year?

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, by Clair Legrand
Objection: Violence (Patron asked it to be moved from the juvenile section to the teen section due to the content and themes).
Outcome: Retained.

George, by Alex Gino
Objection: Sexual (unsuited to age)
Outcome: Retained

Pretty Little Liars: Ali’s Pretty Little Lies. By Sara Shepard
Objection: Values (offensive language)
Outcome: Retained

Curious George by H.A. Rey
Objection: 1: Values (Racism) 2: Other (Unsuited to age).
Outcome: Retained

 

 

Banned Book Week: Little Bill

 

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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?

Top Ten Banned and Challenged Books of 2016

This year there were 323 challenges recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom in 2016 – but it’s noted that 82-97% of book challenges are unreported and receive no media. And did you know that five of the top 10 titles this year were removed from the shelves?  Approximately 10% of challenges result in the removal of the challenged book.

pyramid of transparency_updated

This year saw some of the same books making it onto the list as in previous years, but also there were some new ones.

I am Jazz and Two Boys Kissing were both ones I looked at last year, this year I’m aiming to read George and Eleanor & Park (but I’m getting a late start on them, so we’ll see how it goes!)

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The Top 10 list, according to the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom:

  1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes
  2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
  3. George written by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
  4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
  5. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
    Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
  6. Looking for Alaska written by John Green
    Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
    Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
    Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
  9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
    Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
  10. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
    Reason: challenged for offensive language