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Registered Members => Book Talk => Topic started by: angela on February 16, 2007, 05:22 AM

Title: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: angela on February 16, 2007, 05:22 AM
Just saw this on PW Children's Bookshelf today:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6416737.html?nid=2788

-Angela
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: AlmaFullerton on February 16, 2007, 06:10 AM
I've been following this. Isn't it absolutely sick. I can't believe it actually. It's not a swear word or anything - it's part of life. I can think of so many other words she could have used. Please people I'd rather have my kids KNOW the real terms.


Alma
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Wordbender on February 16, 2007, 06:32 AM
I've been following this. Isn't it absolutely sick. I can't believe it actually. It's not a swear word or anything - it's part of life. I can think of so many other words she could have used. Please people I'd rather have my kids KNOW the real terms.


Alma


EXACTLY! 
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Athena529 on February 16, 2007, 06:40 AM
This really baffles me. When did the correct term for a body part become the same thing as a swear word?
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: C.K. on February 16, 2007, 06:40 AM
My mom is a nurse so from a very young young age my brother and I heard the proper terminology for genitals, bodily functions etc. I don't understand what there is to fear from that.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: ghostgirl on February 16, 2007, 06:42 AM
Absolutely!  Come on, people!  My kids know the right terms and don't blush when they hear them.  There is nothing disparaging in this reference and nothing crass or irreverent.  But there are plenty of YA books with actually swearing in them...
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: kabarson on February 16, 2007, 06:57 AM
All it means to me is that Susan Patron is in good company. The best books on the planet are controversial. Isn't that why we write--to invoke emotion? If I were her, I'd be cheering. Newbery means she's going to sell a ton; controversy just adds to the bottom line. It's ridiculous, but it's nothing new. Some people just don't know what to do with themselves if they don't have something to complain about or fight over.
Kelly
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: hairaplenty on February 16, 2007, 07:04 AM
I'm more concerned with the fact that this issue was raised by a teacher/librarian.  Not some angry, ignorant parent who hasn't read a MG or YA in ten or twenty years, but a librarian who recomends books for young children.  So she is doing her own personal censorship.  That's the part that really scares me!     :sb
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: ShirleyH on February 16, 2007, 07:05 AM
It is the proper medical word. It is not profanity.

I am amazed and sad that a good book would be censored because of this.

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: AooH on February 16, 2007, 07:11 AM
*She additionally voiced concern about the school librarian as censor, limiting reading choices for children, a practice that should be reserved for parents.*

YES!  I love that.

I haven't read the book, I don't know the context of how the word was used, so I can't really argue it one way or the other.  However, I think it's obvious it wasn't used in a nasty way, or it likely wouldn't have been Newbery material. 
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Natalie on February 16, 2007, 07:12 AM
It's ridiculous...scrotum isn't a cuss word... it's a legitimate term for a part of the body. Why is this bad? Although I haven't read the book, I did read Fuse #8's blog entry on this here http://fusenumber8.blogspot.com/ (scroll down to the "Oh, Doggone it" entry)...it sounds like it was not gratuitous, but language that fit with the mc and the plot.  And for librarians to refuse to order the book???? Come on. Please. Scrotum, scrotum, scrotum.

Natalie
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: GreenBeans on February 16, 2007, 07:39 AM

Natalie, you crack me up.

It would be interesting to know in what context the word was used. It's not a word that just comes up in everyday conversation, unless the curious MC came across the word and asked what it meant. My daughter used to do that all the time, and I'd just give her the straight-up, dictionary version. (Their questions become different as they get older. Now, at 14, she recently asked me what the 'mile-high club' meant. But I digress)

But yeah, librarians of all people. Give me a break. That's scary. But, like someone said, controversy sells more books, (not to mention the Newbery.)

GB
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: andracill on February 16, 2007, 07:40 AM
It's amazing what lengths people will go to in order to get a little attention...it's just hard for me to believe that any thinking person in today's world would do this for any other reason!

ETA:  P.S.  I believe Brent from 'As If' blogged on this (well, one them did) -- and he included the quote from the book...it's completely harmless -- something the mc heard all her life because of an incident involving, I believe, a dog (who was bit in the offending area)...and finally she asked someone what it meant.  Now, I haven't read the book, so I don't know if I'm relaying this with 100% accuracy...but still!

and again:  it was Lisa Yee :)  And her blog is very humorous and informative on the subject (livejournal -- lisayee)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Larry on February 16, 2007, 07:59 AM
 :sb  Okay, I'm an elementary school principal, wannabe author, husband and father of 3 young girls. If the worst thing I had to deal with was the use of the word scrotum in a book I'd be doing this all day  :dancing:

If scrotum gets you censored I'm in a lot of trouble! Suggestion for those who find it offensive: check out another book  :horse
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: DanetteFromOrlando on February 16, 2007, 08:01 AM
Gosh, you couldn't ask for better publicity!
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: almarrone on February 16, 2007, 08:03 AM
Natalie, you crack me up.

It would be interesting to know in what context the word was used. GB

I have the book right here--"Sammy told of the day when he had drunk a gallon of rum listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his parked '62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car when he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum."

Sammy is at an AA meeting retelling the day that made him get clean and sober. Later the mc wonders what a scrotum might be--pretty tame stuff if you ask me.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: CJRay on February 16, 2007, 08:36 AM
So...it was the dog's scrotum. Well now, that changes everything.

I think this is a bunch of hooha over nothing. The character is retelling an event, a dog got bit on his scrotum.

The question I have is did Ol' Roy live?  :eh:

CJ
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: almarrone on February 16, 2007, 08:41 AM
So...it was the dog's scrotum. Well now, that changes everything.

I think this is a bunch of hooha over nothing. The character is retelling an event, a dog got bit on his scrotum.

The question I have is did Ol' Roy live?  :eh:

CJ

****Spoiler***********


yes--Roy lives.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: kellyr on February 16, 2007, 08:48 AM
Funny that CJ used the word "hoohah", which was recently substituted for the clinically correct term "vagina" in ads for The Vagina Monologues in Atlantic Beach, Florida.

I find the idea of librarians limiting access to the book disturbing, because they are usually the defenders of free speech and the 1st Amendment, and not so much the ones in favor of book banning.  Particularly when the word is in no way profane.  Awkward in some settings? Maybe, but not profane.  And my guess is that if that weren't on the first page of the book, there'd be no issue at all.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: GreenBeans on February 16, 2007, 08:51 AM

I'm glad the dog lived. Maybe he didn't need to be neutered after being bitten.

Sorry, I just find this whole thing funny.  :laugh:

GB
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sam Hranac on February 16, 2007, 08:54 AM
As E.B. White writes, "Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason." In my mind, Susan Patron used the "stomach" word. She used the correct word for scrotum. Had she gone for a "tummy" word (I'll refrain from posting examples of such words), I can see how she would have gotten in trouble.

But, people are twitchy and you can't please everyone. My guess is you don't win Newbery Awards without standing up for using the right word now and then.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: CJRay on February 16, 2007, 08:58 AM
Funny that CJ used the word "hoohah", which was recently substituted for the clinically correct term "vagina" in ads for The Vagina Monologues in Atlantic Beach, Florida.

Purely coincidental, I assure you.  ::)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: dave r on February 16, 2007, 08:58 AM
Allow me to stir the pot:  I wonder. Should all of us go back to the thread on HarperCollins printing O.J. Simpson's book and take the roll call from there?  How many said, "GOOD FOR THEM."  Anybody cry "Censorship!"?  

If you say "That's different." No it isn't.  

Can't have it both ways, folks. If accuse those people who are not purchasing this book of being narrow minded and puritanical, then you're also condemning those who opposed the publication of O.J.'s book of the same thing.

Remember, when you point a finger, three .....

keep writing,
dave r

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: thunderchikin on February 16, 2007, 09:00 AM
Scrotum means pouch.  Some rodents have a scrotum in their mouths.

Like others, I'm disturbed most by the library acting as censor, as well as the other librarians who supported her actions.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Vijaya on February 16, 2007, 09:04 AM
I think the bigger issue at hand is that a librarian wouldn't put this wonderful book on the shelves because of one word.  I know that librarians cannot buy every single book, but people, this one won a major award.  Censorship belongs to the parents.  I am the gatekeeper for my child, not the librarian.

Lucky is an excellent book and the questionable word is used correctly and IS part of the story.  She does wonder what scrotum means and eventually finds out.  Very innocent, very funny.  We use correct terms for our body parts in our home and there's nothing at all offensive in the way it was used.  My seven-yr-old has read the book and enjoyed it.

Vijaya
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sam Hranac on February 16, 2007, 09:14 AM
Allow me to stir the pot:  I wonder. Should all of us go back to the thread on HarperCollins printing O.J. Simpson's book and take the roll call from there?  How many said, "GOOD FOR THEM."  Anybody cry "Censorship!"? 

If you say "That's different." No it isn't. 

Can't have it both ways, folks. If accuse those people who are not purchasing this book of being narrow minded and puritanical, then you're also condemning those who opposed the publication of O.J.'s book of the same thing.

Remember, when you point a finger, three .....

keep writing,
dave r

The difference between using one anatomical word and an entire book that fans the flames of hate and violence seems big to me. But to block either one is censorship, I agree. It's not just black and white (if I can use that here.)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: dave r on February 16, 2007, 09:24 AM
Vijaya,
  You are correct. Parents ARE the gatekeepers. I truly believe parents should have a say in what their children are reading, but why should a librarian waste money on purchasing a book that the gatekeepers in his/her community will have removed (usually because the principal is afraid to fight the parents or doesn't want the negative press)? I'm speaking specifically of a school library situation, public librarians have a different mission.
  There probably are librarians and teachers out there who are offended by the word, and who won't buy the book because of this. But I'd venture to say there are more who making business decision, just like they decide not purchase books that are not Accelerated Reader. A book that sits on the shelf unread or is removed from the shelf is a waste of money.
Dave
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 16, 2007, 09:32 AM
I don't know about you guys, but I object to the use of the word "Cadillac" in that excerpt.


Okay, this is only slightly a little tiny bit off the topic:
Somewhere on this board is a discussion about whether actual "bad" words (not "scrotum") belong in books for Middle Grade readers.  Whether their use should be limited, doesn't matter, makes a book "realistic," sets a "bad example."  Etc.  I believe I argued at that time (this was a few years back) that, "realistic" or not, I felt that including them in MG books was largely unnecessary and perhaps even wrong.  Not that I EVER would ban a book and I don't care for censorship!  I was just speaking to what I felt, in the abstract, was right or wrong for MG.

Now here I am with my second MG manuscript complete and --yikes--where did those choice words come from in the mouth of that one character (not the MC)?  Three or four instances!  What did I do?  I stare at the ms. and one minute decide to take them out and imply them or substitute something else...  The next minute I think Hey, that's the way he talks and he's not a character kids are supposed to admire, so leave them there.

I have to say, all the hoopla over "scrotum" makes me knee-jerk toward the self-censorship route.  If "scrotum" is causing libraries to not shelve the Newbery winner, heaven only knows what their reaction would be to one of the kids in my book using a real "bad" word or two.  It's not like I'm writing YA.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: C.K. on February 16, 2007, 09:35 AM
Quote
There probably are librarians and teachers out there who are offended by the word, and who won't buy the book because of this.


Really? I mean, really? I have a hard time believing this. That's like people being offended by the word esophagus.

I'm with Sam. I don't think you can equate those two situations, Dave. That's a big simplification.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Joni on February 16, 2007, 09:59 AM
This issue is absurd, of course, but reminds me of my screenwriting days. Had an option and was doing some rewrites on a "family with children gets mixed up with the mob" story based on a true story. But the production company was thinking movie-of-the-week, which was prime time, and we had to change all the (very) bad guys' cuss words in dialogue to things like "drat" and "scumbag." Ludicrous, of course. How many people point a gun at your head and say things like, "Get your backside into that car!"? It was a creativity challenge, I suppose, but...

Hearing about things like this just makes me WANT to put more edgy language in my books because, for crying out loud, have people like this librarian spent even 10 minutes outside of the library with the people she's trying to hand books to? I feel we need to introduce our adult audiences to the real world of tweens and teens.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: GreenBeans on February 16, 2007, 10:45 AM

I agree with Jaina. In this case the word scrotum was used in correct context and in a reasonable way. It wasn't just throwing "bad" words around to cause a reaction.

If Jaina's character uses bad words and it demonstrates his character, (or lack thereof) then it belongs in the book.

What I object to is Hollywood adding &%$* or %$#* every other word just to get an R rating, or for shock value when its totally not necessary.

This is much ado about nothing, IMHO. Good grief, don't people have more important things to worry about than the word scrotum?

I have to agree with Sam here. OJ Simpson is another matter entirely.

GB
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: wyomachinook on February 16, 2007, 10:48 AM
Appendix. Cartilage. Intestine.
Somebody stop me!!!

:)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: dave r on February 16, 2007, 10:51 AM
Not really, CK. No one read O.J's book.  The condemnation and rejoicing of its removal was based on four words: If I Did It and a verbal description. Granted, none of those words were scrotum, but the book was pulled based on the outcry of thousands of people who had never read the book. When a book is challenged in schools, the first question asked of the challenger is "Have you read the book?"

If it's not black and white, then who gets to be the moral compass? Either it is or isn't censorship. If you believe in intellectual freedom, then you have to believe in and defend all intellectual freedom, not just the thoughts you agree with.

But I don't really see either case as censorship. I see them as business decisions. Publishing is about making money. Anyone who has ever received a letter from an editor stating they loved the work but didn't think it had a broad enough market, knows this.

Editors don't purchase every manuscript they read. Why? Because they don't like the words in many of them, or at least how the words are put together.  Is this censorship?

Bookstores don't purchase every book that's ever been published. Why? Because they know it won't sell in their community or it doesn't fit the mission of the store.  Is this censorship?

Libraries can't purchase every book either. If they choose a book because it isn't AR or is too long, is that censorship?

See, I think this is a selection issue, not a  censorship issue.  We may or may not agree with the selection policy or criteria, but it's not censorship.

Now, if the school says, the children may not read this book no matter where they got it from (purchased it, got it from the public library), then there's a problem.

I have read the book -- twice. Personally I didn't find it all that wonderful, given the other books that were eligible. I wasn't particularly offended by the word scrotum, but I knew it would raise red flags. Personally, I was much more offended by the cavalier eavesdropping of a child on a 12 Step program with no consequences.  And I wonder why no one has taken issue with that?  I wonder if we live in such voyuristic society that easvesdropping on a highly personal and private session isn't seen as inappropriate for young children to be doing.

keep writing and reading,
dave r
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sam Hranac on February 16, 2007, 11:04 AM
I disagree with pulling the OJ book - I agree it was censorship. I'm just saying the issue is completely different. I don't think the two situations compare. One is based on a juvenile fear of the word "scrotum" (EEEK! I must go wash my hands for having typed that!) and the other is trying to make money off of a tragedy and a crime.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Paulahy on February 16, 2007, 11:09 AM
 Censorship belongs to the parents.  I am the gatekeeper for my child, not the librarian.


Amen to this.  I feel this way about a lot of issues (music, tv etc...) and if more people felt that way I think the world would run a little smoother.

And Joni, I agree with your statement "I feel we need to introduce our adult audiences to the real world of tweens and teens."

I used a word in So Not The Drama that made me cringe when I wrote it.  But it felt like the word the character would utter even in all of its political incorrectness.   After all, teens are rarely politically correct.

-P
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: kabarson on February 16, 2007, 11:12 AM
That's like people being offended by the word esophagus.

Appendix. Cartilage. Intestine.

I am offended by all of these things. Could you refrain from using the names of body parts please? I have body image issues. Don't make me report you to the mods.

Kelly
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: CJRay on February 16, 2007, 11:27 AM
Could you refrain from using the names of body parts please? I have body image issues. Don't make me report you to the mods.
Kelly
:dr   





Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Vijaya on February 16, 2007, 12:13 PM
See, I think this is a selection issue, not a  censorship issue.  We may or may not agree with the selection policy or criteria, but it's not censorship.

Agreed.  And I realize that librarians, esp. school librarians have a limited budget to work with.  So, I would choose some of the best books and Lucky definitely counts.

Vijaya

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: lydap on February 16, 2007, 12:48 PM
I blogged about this today, link below if you're interested. Now that I see the context, I was prescient re: dogs.  :evil:

mucus, tibia, tympanic membrane
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Larry on February 16, 2007, 12:53 PM
I talked with our librarian and we've only had a few "challenges" by parents recently. Of course, Harry P. still makes some people cringe (That quiditch game must be very rough on the scrotum ;D) and one of Sonya Sones books. The latter was pretty graphic as far as content goes and wasn't really appropriate for elementary school kids. Raised quite a fuss, though. I wouldn't have read the O.J. confession anyway, but that's my choice. I'm sure a lot of copies would've been bought by the curious. I thinks it's a shame that the editor (?) or someone closely associated with acquiring that book lost her job. That stinks! :smoke
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: C.K. on February 16, 2007, 12:55 PM
Comparing a library to a publishing house or bookstore isn't working for me either, I'm afraid. I believe a library serves a different function than either of these: to educate and enlighten. This is a Newberry Award winning book we're talking about and now people that don't have the money to buy a copy won't be able to read it.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: chickennoodle on February 16, 2007, 01:05 PM
Gosh. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I'd like to thank the librarians in question. I'm finding all this heated discussion about scrotums, censorship, and tympanic membranes rather titillating.   :o

Yo! Self-censoring librarians! Thanks for the hot tip!

Now I'm off to buy the book! And on my way I plan to touch my uvula.

Leslie

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Stef on February 16, 2007, 01:24 PM
This topic begs the question: would one word make you read/buy a book?   
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: kabarson on February 16, 2007, 01:41 PM
mucus, tibia, tympanic membrane

titillating.   I plan to touch my uvula.

I warned you.

Amishka... Looky at this wanton use of anatomical terminology  :spaz   :spaz   :spaz
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Laura Manivong on February 16, 2007, 01:52 PM
I in no way have a problem with scrotums  ;), but I do second DaveR's notion that this is a selection issue, not censorship. When budgets are so tight, and there are tons of wonderful books that didn't win the newbery, maybe the librarian didn't want to deal with "nutso parents" raising a stink about nothing. Her time would be better spent doing something other than answering nasty e-mails and phonecalls. And the public library will have this book, so if a kid doesn't have money, they will still have access to it. Parents who cherish good literature will find it for their kids. And think how much more attention it's getting now!!!

Happy Scrotuming!
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: kabarson on February 16, 2007, 01:55 PM
Happy Scrotuming!

 :dr   :dr   :dr   :dr   :dr   :dr

It's a verb now? What the heck does that mean? (No, wait, maybe I don't want to know.)

 
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sam Hranac on February 16, 2007, 01:56 PM
Then again, if my local libraries started caving in to a minority just because they were vocal, I would have to get vocal for the other side. So she's damned either way. She might as well just make a policy out of stocking winners of major awards and tell everyone to go look up the words they don't understand.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Laura Manivong on February 16, 2007, 01:58 PM
"She's damned either way."

Agreed. Not a fun position to be in.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: amyo on February 16, 2007, 02:09 PM
Funny that CJ used the word "hoohah", which was recently substituted for the clinically correct term "vagina" in ads for The Vagina Monologues in Atlantic Beach, Florida.


I'm sorry - The HOOHAH Monologues???

I'm speechless.

Yes.  Truly.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: chickennoodle on February 16, 2007, 02:25 PM
This is an interesting thread. Just stirring the pot again...

I think the argument brought to light by PW and others was that individual librarians/teachers who, because of their personal objection to the word "scrotum," made the decision for their library patrons/student bodies not to stock the Newbery winner. Is this a selection issue or censorship? If a librarian makes the decision not buy Harry Potter books based only on his/her personal opinion that the books condone witchcraft, what would we call that? Personally, I don't want anyone to decide for me what my child can or cannot read simply because they themselves have personal gripe with the author's choice of vocabulary or subject matter.

Scrotumly,

Leslie
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: dave r on February 16, 2007, 02:30 PM
And I'd be standing right beside you, Sam -- if it were a public library.

I've been tapped as an "expert" to speak at four challenge hearings and to mediate one. Parents in challenge situations can develop a mob mentality. I've seen picketing, vegetables thrown, and hate mail. One teacher had to move out of town because after the school board ruled in favor of the parents, the threats, property damage, and  late night phone calls kept coming. When her dog was stolen, she quit and left. I was kept informed of this, and even I was a little weary because I'd spoken on her behalf (and I lived across town). The book? The Giver.

I've seen careers destroyed over this, and good librarians who have inspired hundreds of kids suddenly became shells of human beings. Many times the principal and/or the school board will not back the librarian. There are sometimes legal fees involved. It is very, very ugly. As LRM calls them, nutso, is sometimes the best kind of parent you encounter in these situations.

Librarians know about these stories. None of them want to go through something like this.

We don't know the community, situation, or background of any of the librarians who said they were not going to buy the book because of the word scrotum.  And there's no doubt about it that some are self-censoring based strictly on a personal aversion to the word. However, I'd bet that for the majority of them, it's not about self-censoring but about self-preservation.

keep writing and reading,
dave

BTW if you really want to read a great book with tons of male genitalia references (both scientific and slang), pick up Laurie Halse Anderson's TWISTED. I just finished the ARC.  It comes out next month.  Fantastic book.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sam Hranac on February 16, 2007, 02:41 PM
And I'd be standing right beside you, Sam -- if it were a public library.

Public - that's the key. Private collectors can stock nothing but Cajun cook books, as far as I care.

And I wasn't censoring your reply - I was offended by the violence so I chose to leave it off. 8-) KIDDING! You made a very good point about how a few crazy people take things too far, particularly in violent America. It takes a great deal of courage to hold what should be quiet jobs in this country, sometimes.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: dave r on February 16, 2007, 02:56 PM
Funny, Sam.
On the serious side, you know the people I feel most sorry for? First, Susan Patron. At a time that she should be on cloud nine, she's taking a beating -- trying to walk that fine line between author and librarian and justifiying her book. Regardless of how I feel about the book, as a writer I think it must be awful for her.
I also feel for the three honor book winners. (I've read them too). With all the attention on Higher Power, Rules, Hattie Big Sky, and Penny from Heaven aren't getting much notice.

Now for the good news. With all this great discussion (and I do mean that), I've posted so much that I'll soon have 3 stars next to my name!

keep writing,
dave r
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: chickennoodle on February 16, 2007, 03:03 PM
Thanks, Dave, for sharing your experiences. Depressing stuff. It's a sorry state of affairs in this country when self-preservation keeps award-winning books off our library shelves.

I'm in total agreement with the fact that librarians and teachers have to deal with kooky jaded parents. One of my best friends is a school librarian and I hear her harrowing tales all the time. But when "selection" vs "censorship" was brought up, I simply had to play devil's advocate.

Again, this is a great thread, garnering lots of interesting (and hilarious) opinions!

Leslie
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: dave r on February 16, 2007, 03:34 PM
That's what I like abou this board. We can debate, disagree, and still be civil. I've been on other boards and you know some of them can be such ... well, never mind.

And to answer the post question: Yes, I think the word HOOHA (you know what word I mean) on the cover would definitely stop me from buying/reading a book! (lol)

keep writing,
dave r
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: wyomachinook on February 16, 2007, 03:49 PM

Scrotumly,

Leslie
:dr
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 16, 2007, 03:57 PM
You guys are nuts. 

Did I just say that?  In this thread?

I meant . . . you guys are some kind of crazy!
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Joni on February 16, 2007, 04:23 PM
Wow, interesting experiences, Dave R. But I would maintain that if that is indeed the state of reality, then we need to use it as wake-up calls and motivation for those like us (who all surveys say are in the majority) to rally more support for librarians, etc., who are put into those self-preservation positions by weak-kneed administrations etc. -- rather than allowing "self-preservation" become a justification for caving to a minority when making decisions about how our (majority) tax dollars are spent, and rather than allowing what amounts to a lack of law enforcement to drive people from their careers and/or homes.

On the bright side for writers, this kind of controversy virtually always increases sales and readership, so it's ironic that those who would make censorship, or even "selection" decisions, actually harm their own cause in the bigger picture.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Paulahy on February 16, 2007, 06:26 PM
You guys are nuts. 


No, no, you mean we're scrotums.  :dr

Honestly, I can't think of one word that would make me walk away from a book.  One word without context means very little.

Scrotumly,

P

(I love how writers can turn any word into a verb!!!)

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Melissa on February 16, 2007, 07:16 PM
This issue and dave r's examples are more proof that it's tough to be a YA or Children's Librarian.  Some librarians are ready to battle for their readers' rights. A couple months ago I went to see a teen librarian at a public library.  I didn't tell the girl at the desk why I was there (she didn't ask).  My kids were with me though, so when she paged the librarian she said, "There's a mother here."  When the librarian saw me, she said, "Oh, good, I thought it was another outraged parent going to throw a fit over something their kids checked out."  But she still carries those books.  She does a teen reader group & an anime group.  She's very cool.  (And, no, she's not a 'young hip librarian,' but her teen reader group seems to think she's as hip as anyone 'young'--which is even better.)

OTOH, there's the quietly censoring ones. I don't know if it's because it IS tough/they don't want the fight, or if they believe that their taste is the benchmark, or if it's about the possible consequences.  I do know that the stealth censors frighten me. Last year I tried to donate some YA books to a local school.  One book, a brand new hardcover of a bestseller, was rejected by the librarian because "the parents here might not approve." There was no discussion. There was no chance that the "questionable" book would end up in the kids' hands.  In truth, I don't think librarians quietly censoring is uncommon.

I"m not good with any censoring (even OJ), but at least this case is getting attention and sparking conversations.  If a case is getting discussion, it's possible to thwart the censors.  It's the times when books are silently refused or not stocked that scare me. 
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: WG on February 16, 2007, 08:16 PM
dave r, If you don't mind sharing, where exactly do you live that book challenges have led to kidnapped dogs, ruined careers and destruction of property? It's difficult for me to believe. Censorship, ugly words & the drudgery of dealing with irate, controlling parents--I'm sure that occurs all-too-frequently. But actual violence?! Would you mind providing more detail?
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 16, 2007, 09:11 PM
I had tried to post earlier, but it never went through. My browser spazzed.

Anyway, I understand where dave r is coming from.

I tried to post something similiar.

I've worked (as a teacher not a librarian) in very political school systems. I too have had to make decisions that went against how I felt simply because I had to pay the rent.  If you are somewhere where the administration and board won't support you during a parent controversy, you just don't stir up controversy.

And although it's a different situation, in one school we had to get a restraining order because of threats of violence from a parent...the issue...a question about his child's homework.

I've seen veteran teachers, twenty or thirty plus years, forced to quit over some small parent squabble. So yeah, I very much believe what dave r is saying.

When the majority of a community is of a like mind, and there is not a lot of diversity of views, these things happen.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: ChristinefromCorona on February 16, 2007, 09:26 PM
My first reaction when reading that sentence was:   "Isn't that an awfully LONG sentence?"    ??? 
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sam Hranac on February 16, 2007, 11:00 PM
When the majority of a community is of a like mind, and there is not a lot of diversity of views, these things happen.
I think this happens quite often because of a vocal minority. It's a shame the teachers and librarieans get caught in the middle.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: dave r on February 17, 2007, 06:03 AM
WG, I'd rather not go into detail where I live and particulars about the school. This is a public board, and we don't know who is reading this. I don't wish to cause the school or people involved any more harm. But let's just say it is hard to believe -- until you experience. However, let me point out that "book burning" isn't an imaginary term.

Has anyone read the very timely piece in Writers Digest this month about the YA author basically accusing Borders of censorship for not carrying her book in-store? Although Borders has made no comment as to why they chose not to carry the book (it is available online from them), she assumes it's because of the topic (losing one's virginity).

Any comments on this one?

keep writing and reading,
dave r
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: ohmylorelei on February 17, 2007, 06:42 AM
I was thinking about this thread, and wasn't sure if I should post this, but heck!

For myself, there's no word that would keep me from a book.  Because I'm a grownup capable of critical thought and analysis.

For my child, there's only one word that would keep me from buying a book:  Jesus (and words relating to Jesus)

I'm Jewish and I live in a Christian world, so carving out a non-Christian place for my kids to understand their religion is important to me.  For more so than protecting them from naughty words they'll hear and we'll be able to explain as BAD words.  I can't explain to a five year old that Jesus is BAD (since obviously that's not true).  There's no way a kid will understand fully the  complexities of why something that isn't BAD is not for him.

So there no go. No Jesus chez Moi. Or Christ. Or Christian.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 17, 2007, 06:47 AM
I wanted to clarify my earlier post..that I didn't mean "political" in a red/blue/left/right way. More of the "good ol' boy," I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine mentality.

Most of the incidents I was thinking about during that post had roots in racial tension. Or it was just you didn't make the powerful families in the community mad.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: wyomachinook on February 17, 2007, 07:02 AM
Pickles - I hear you. Small town areas do have the layer of "Ole Boys Network" that steers local society. Where I live it's not racial tension at all -- it's family-based, and gender-based. (Shouldn't a purty little girl like you be cooking dinner for your man instead of swinging a hammer kind of stuff) LOL! But this kind of thing is definitely out there.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: whbeck on February 17, 2007, 07:49 AM
Quote
Libraries can't purchase every book either. If they choose a book because it isn't AR or is too long, is that censorship?

See, I think this is a selection issue, not a  censorship issue.  We may or may not agree with the selection policy or criteria, but it's not censorship.

Now, if the school says, the children may not read this book no matter where they got it from (purchased it, got it from the public library), then there's a problem.

As an elementary school librarian, I agree whole-heartedly with dave_r's stance on this issue. I think the key factor in this controversy is that it's in school libraries, not public ones. I would be truly shocked and appalled if public libraries did not have this Newbery-winning book. But school libraries are different--they have a different mission and a different, "captive" audience. So, although I ordered it for my library, I can understand the hesitation. In fact, I just blogged about it here: http://rhwojahn.livejournal.com/72596.html (http://rhwojahn.livejournal.com/72596.html). (Too bad, I'm not as eloquent--or succinct--as dave_r and others!)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: andracill on February 17, 2007, 08:28 AM
I need to read more carefully -- i didn't realize it was a school library...that definitely changes things.  As a teacher with my own school, I was in charge of the library, as well.  I paid my own money, of course, so I wasn't going to buy books that I knew parents would object to - -except that sometimes I did just because I'm stubborn like that ;)  But I didn't have to worry about community response -- the school was small and private, and if people didn't like it, they didn't have to send their kids.  A public school is a whole other being...and while working in the public schools (third grade teacher), I was threatened by a father (physically) because I suggested his son might have dyslexia....
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Joni on February 17, 2007, 09:08 AM
Okay, I need somebody to explain to me WHY it's different if it's a school library and not a public library -- at least in the case where it's a public school and not a private, tuition-based school (whose supporters can do any darn thing they want, as far as I'm concerned).

I understand the "selection vs. censorship" bit. But I pay taxes that support my local public school, even though I don't have kids to send there, because as a society we, and as an individual, I have deemed that the intelligence of future generations is something that's important. Part of the purpose of the Newbery is to provide a selection criterion (agreed quality) for decision-makers like public -- and public school -- librarians. As a "funder" of my local school system, I would like to feel that the librarians making selections for its books are using commonly accepted, peer-based, quality-related criteria -- like the Newbery and other awards -- not their own personal preferences. It's exactly the same as if a librarian said, "I don't like horse books, I don't think kids should be exposed to gratuitious horses, I'm not ordering a single horse book for this school library." WTF? How is personal opinion a selection criterion, particularly when it flies in the face of peer-based accolades?

A public school IS a public institution. The children's literature that's in it admittedly must go through a selection process based on some criteria because they don't have all the money in the world. But I don't understand why that selection criteria would be any different than it would for a public library. (And "nasty parents" should not be an acceptable answer, the same as "nasty patrons" shouldn't be an acceptable answer for the local public library, unless said nasties are in the majority, I guess, and the ACLU doesn't want the case. Both are community institutions.)

Can one of you school folks enlighten me?
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: andracill on February 17, 2007, 09:20 AM
From my limited understanding, Joni, it shouldn't be any different between public library and public school library...but the reality of it is that angry (or possibly angry) parents are much more difficult to deal with than angry patrons.  Besides, around here most patrons aren't going to complain if there are books in the public library they don't like...but parents will complain and make a lot of trouble for librarians/teachers/principals if they feel there are books in the schools that they don't agree with -- and like dave r and pickles said, sometimes it's just better for everyone if the librarians head it off before they have to deal with reprecussions that can be nasty.

It's a sad state of affairs, but for many districts a realistic one!
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: dave r on February 17, 2007, 09:34 AM
Read NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH by Avi.  (a Newbery). You will see how an innocent decision can ruin lives.  It's one of the scariest books I've ever read as a teacher. It should be required reading in all teaching colleges.

keep writing and reading,
dave r
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Joni on February 17, 2007, 09:47 AM
Thanks, Dave R, I will! It looks interesting (and frightening and sad).

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: WG on February 17, 2007, 09:53 AM
dave r, I'm aware that book burning isn't just a metaphor. But I also know that the media, looking for titillating headlines and pictures, is not always accurate, and can (through carelessness) mislead readers/viewers into thinking that these incidents occur with greater frequency than they actually do.   In short, human interest stories often seek to confirm our worst expectations. I can think of two examples, unrelated to books. The first is from the 1970s, when multiple media outlets reported that feminists burned their bras while protesting the Miss America pageant. Apparently it never happened. And yet "bra burning" and "bra-burners" became an accepted part of our lexicon and cultural imagination. My second example was a from a writer/journalist I heard interviewed on the radio the other day. He is a straight man who attended a gay rodeo in Oklahoma. He went in drag. All the other attendees were dressed in jeans and western wear, like what you might find at any other rodeo. But Oklahoma newspapers ran the writer's photo with a caption about the gay rodeo, and never once identified him as a straight journalist.

None of this this is intended to diminish the real problem of censorship and hostile work environments.     
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / NYT article
Post by: ShirleyH on February 17, 2007, 12:01 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/books/18newb.html?ex=1172379600&en=d2aecc89e2c748de&ei=5070&emc=eta1

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Paulahy on February 17, 2007, 12:46 PM
Hmm....this part of the article has me thinking:

Ms. Patron, who is a public librarian in Los Angeles, said the book was written for children 9 to 12 years old. But some librarians countered that since the heroine of “The Higher Power of Lucky” is 10, children older than that would not be interested in reading it.

“I think it’s a good case of an author not realizing her audience,” said Frederick Muller, a librarian at Halsted Middle School in Newton, N.J. “If I were a third- or fourth-grade teacher, I wouldn’t want to have to explain that.”


I realize it's hard to break this issue down and verbalize on each of them individually.  But this feels like a valid point.  One of the ongoing challenges with children's lit is how to define the audience for a particular book.

Unfortunately there's no science.  When people ask me about my book I say 11+.  But then parents of 10 year olds ask "well could my child read it?  Does it have anything racy in it?"  I have no idea how to answer that.

I wrote the book using a 14 year old protag hoping that girls between 11 and 14 could either relate or learn from her. Well, the truth is, older readers can enjoy it if this book is their kind of thing.  But probably a 9 year old is not ready to absorb the issues I cover.  And if they are, they're still best absorbed with a parent to help guide them through.

Knowing that publishing has this unofficial measuring tool of protag's age to reader's age, it makes  for an interesting case with Lucky.  Because, despite knowing this isn't a concrete rule, I naievly follow the standard that states the reader of a book is usually 2-3 years younger than the book's protag.

If that's true in a majority of cases, then Lucky would be for readers 10,9 and 8 not necesarily middle school aged. 

Doesn't mean an older reader wouldn't enjoy the book - but are they the majority?

I don't agree with the overall issue of censoring the book. 

But in the context of the statement above, I can certainly understand why a teacher may be hesitant to go into a lesson on what a scrotum is.  It never occured to me that this would be read aloud to a classroom full of kids who, being curious like they are ask  - Miss Smith, what's a scrotum?

I'm definitely looking at this issue from a different angle, now.


-P
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jude on February 17, 2007, 01:27 PM
While I personally look forward to reading it, and sharing it with my kids, I don't think I could ever blame a teacher/school librarian for opting out on a work of fiction that they fear some parents might object to -- especially elementary school parents. They have enough battles over set curriculum.

I can also understand a teacher feeling uncomfortable defining "scrotum" to a classroom full of fourth graders.

Sinscrotumly yours,

Judy
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: GreenBeans on February 17, 2007, 02:07 PM

dave r, don't parents have the right to "opt out" of letting their child check out a book they feel is offensive? Much as parents can have their children excluded from the sex ed part of health without repercussions. I think if I felt that strongly about a particular book, I'd simply write a letter to the school and/or librarian stating my wishes that my child not be allowed to check this book out. Since it's at school and not the public library, the parent censor would probably not be there.

Or am I being too naive and simplistic here? Are angry and hostile people not likely to seek a reasonable approach to head off a conflict?

GreenBeans
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: sbk(linda) on February 17, 2007, 03:08 PM
Why should a teacher be hesitant to explain the word scrotum to a 4th grade class? In fact, that's where my son learned it in grade 4. It's no different than esophagus, or intestines, or heart, or arteries... just a part of the body.

It's official. I'm going to go revise my MG with the ambition of naming at least one body part per page.

Page 1 - penis
Page 2 - nose
Page 3 - leg
Page 4 - armpit
Page 5 - vagina
...  :eek5:
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: ShirleyH on February 17, 2007, 03:19 PM
From the article:

"Authors of children’s books sometimes sneak in a single touchy word or paragraph, leaving librarians to choose whether to ban an entire book over one offending phrase."




 

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: wyomachinook on February 17, 2007, 03:22 PM
From the article:

"Authors of children’s books sometimes sneak in a single touchy word or paragraph, leaving librarians to choose whether to ban an entire book over one offending phrase."




 



....bunch of sneaks, out there devising evil plans to slip a breast or buttock in your work.....LOL!
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 17, 2007, 04:02 PM
I keep thinking about The Watsons Go To Birmingham--1963, which I love.  When Kenny says to his big brother Byron--"So, By, how about you and me do a little cussing?" it just cracks me up.  Ah, well.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: chickennoodle on February 17, 2007, 04:17 PM
From the article:

"Authors of children’s books sometimes sneak in a single touchy word or paragraph, leaving librarians to choose whether to ban an entire book over one offending phrase."
Quote

The hairs on my neck just did the wave.

Leslie

 


Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 17, 2007, 04:22 PM
Has anyone been keeping up with HornBook editor Roger Sutton's thoughts on the matter? Here's a link to his blog:
http://www.hbook.com/blog/ (http://www.hbook.com/blog/)

He takes an interesting stance: "Just because parents have the legal right to control their children’s reading does not mean that we should encourage them to do so."

Thoughts?
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Joni on February 17, 2007, 04:51 PM
Okay, call me a radical, but I totally agree with Roger. I think most kids would, too. So often they do not get credit for having any brains at all. And I would bet everything I own that every eight-year-old in the country, male or female, already knows at least one slang term for the body part known as a scrotum -- so how can it possibly hurt if they know the official name??

I think the roots of problems like this are in the, I think naive, assumption that parents CAN control what their kids are exposed to, as well as the assumption that it is must be a good thing to do. Age of the child has some bearing, of course, but to equate control of access to reading material with, for instance, control of access to poisons or deadly weapons is to see words and knowledge as altogether too dangerous. (Oh, if only they WERE that powerful!)

I'm put in mind of past news stories in my area in which Christian Science parents refuse their kids vaccinations or, in one case, the setting of a broken bone. Lots of people think this is taking parental control too far. Child abuse is, we all pretty much agree, taking parental control too far. Where do you draw the line? What criteria do you use? I think a rational argument could be made that repression of information commonly accepted by society might be taking parental control too far, and I suspect that's where Roger is headed.

And last but not least, I'd tend to feel that any schoolteacher who doesn't feel he/she could define the official name of any body part to a student, even in a group, might want to reconsider the definition of teaching. If such a circumstance would be uncomfortable -- and sure, in this society, I can see where it might be -- it's exactly BECAUSE of this sort of puritanical reaction to words and body parts. It's not a derogatory word, it's not a value-judgement word, it's not a behavior-condoning word, it's not a hate word - it's an official, medically recognized, in-the-dictionary name.

Okay, I'll shut up now.  :-X But I've really enjoyed this thread; it's thought-provoking.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Z-cat on February 17, 2007, 05:49 PM
My child is still a toddler, so we have a few years before he gets to school, and school libraries, but when he does, I want him to have access books. Lots of books. Maybe some questionalble books. A parent has the right to supervise what their child reads or views, but someone imposing their will by removing a book or simply not stocking it is also making a choice for ME and my child. And that is not up to them.  Those few loud, obnoxious bullies do not have the right to place blanket controls on their entire community. When did this mentality emerge that no one should ever have to see or hear or be exposed to anything they dissapprove of?

I once heard the former PM of Canada say ,"If you are not occasionally offended, you do not live in a free society"
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 17, 2007, 06:00 PM
Selection I can handle, but self-censorship really bugs me. It's one thing to pass a book up because it's unlikely to find an audience in your area. It's completely another to pass a perfectly good book because you're not willing to deal with potential controversy.

Here's a personal example of what I consider selection, rather than censorship:

I work at an independent children's book shop in a tolerably conservative neck of the woods. This summer, I ordered a middle grade novel called The Manny Files (http://www.amazon.com/Manny-Files-Christian-Burch/dp/141690039X/sr=8-1/qid=1171761949/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-6734246-9303141?ie=UTF8&s=books), by Christian Burch after reading about 2/3 of the ARC. It's about a kid whose family hires a male nanny (get it -- a manny?).  The story is funny, contemporary, and realistic -- three things we're rather short of lately. The characters are really charming, particularly the boy protagonist and the manny, who is best described as a caring goofball. It's chock-full of silly antics and creative escapades, and has nicely presented themes of dealing with bullying and being yourself. As the story moves along, grown-up readers will notice that the manny and the main character's uncle are developing a relationship in the background. It's sweet and fairly subtle, and I was appreciative of the author including gay characters without drawing attention to the relationship or turning it into an issue. It seemed to me that Keats, the protagonist, might very well grow up to be gay himself, and I liked knowing that he'd have great role models and an accepting family.

But then...
In the final scene, which takes place at Thanksgiving dinner, the kid's uncle says he's thankful that Matthew (the manny) has come into his life. This is all still fine and dandy as far as I'm concerned. Even choked me up a little. But then, on the last page --the very last line, mind you -- the manny and the uncle kiss.

I can't tell you how disappointed I was. I'd had such a great time with this story, and to have it end this way frankly irritated me. The reader's attention completely shifts from the protagonist to what's going on between Uncle Max and the manny. Their relationship, which had been so nicely incorporated into the background of the story, suddenly overtakes the reader's final impression of the book. As one Amazon reviewer said, "What could have been an extremely important and vital book -- about growing up, about self-discovery, about remaining true to one's impulses -- becomes clouded in what appears to be a shallow and self-indulgent intent." I couldn't agree more.

As a bookseller, I found myself in an awkward position, and I resented being put there. On the one hand, I'm a liberal person, and I'm all in favor of gay characters appearing in children's literature. But on the other, we're a full-disclosure kind of shop. Our customers have come to expect us to be knowledgable and honest about our books' content, so I would feel compelled to tell a prospective buyer about the kiss at the end. And in my neighborhood, I can almost guarantee that information would kill the sale. As another reviewer on Amazon noted, "I was, however, suprised that there is no mention of the manny being homosexual until you are well into the book. I wasnt prepared to explain that to my young children." I think that's a perfectly reasonable complaint, and it's precisely what turned me off in the end. It strikes me as just plain unfair to spring something like that at the very last minute.

So, I'm sad to report that The Manny Files is slated to be sent back to Simon & Schuster with this season's overstock returns. I'd gladly special order it for anyone open to this sort of story, but in a store as small as ours, it's just not worth the shelf space. And that's the key difference between selection and censorship for me -- even though I don't stock The Manny Files, I'm still willing and able to provide access to anyone who'd like to read the book.

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Barbara Eveleth on February 18, 2007, 05:07 AM
It is sick. This country is so puritanical is so many ways. Sometimes I wanna go back to Amsterdam.

You know that song "My Shirrona (sp?)"...well that is not what we sang.

I am definitely getting this book if not for that one word.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: buglady5 on February 18, 2007, 05:58 AM
Just chiming in here as a former 9th grade English teacher in a small town school.  I was once verbally attacked by a parent because I sent home vocabulary homework with the word "circumscribe" on it.  His complaint?  It LOOKED too much like the word "circumcise."  The literature it came from:  Edgar Allen Poe's The Cask of Amontillado.  This was long after I had already read Romeo and Juliet with his son.  Fortunately, R&J was too far over this parent's head for him to "get" all the racy stuff Shakespeare had in there.  But, after this one "incident," the parent had it in for me.  Eventually, the student was put on independent study, and removed from my class altogether.  That was my first year of teaching.  What a learning experience.

Why do we have such a fear of words?  Because words are incredibly powerful.

And that, I believe, is why we all write.

buglady, whose Snow Day butterfly has a black PROBOSCIS   ;D
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 18, 2007, 06:32 AM
You know you're big news when you're the top story on the AOL Welcome screen.

This morning I signed on to be greeted by a stock photo of a librarian-looking silhouette by a stack of books.  The headline is

Single Word Ignites Battle

and under that

Children's Book Wins Award
Why Are Librarians Banning It?

You couldn't ask for better publicity than that!  Here's the link to the story:  http://news.aol.com/topnews/articles/_a/childrens-book-stirs-battle-with-single/20070217193109990001?ncid=NWS00010000000001
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Anne Marie on February 18, 2007, 06:50 AM
The scariest part of that article is the comments section following it.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 18, 2007, 06:52 AM
Good heavens, AM!  I try not to look at the AOL member comments on stories because they always make me want to go play in traffic.  You're almost tempting me here, but . . . no.  I'll stay away, thanks!
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 18, 2007, 06:55 AM
What stunned me most about that article was the very end, where the librarian is quoted by saying something about quality literature not including men's genitalia.

IT'S ABOUT A DOG PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!

Dog genitalia...not a grown man's genitalia...

It's not dirty in and of itself...adults are putting the sexual spin on it...in context it isn't there...

I mean dog genitalia is ummm..pretty prominent if it hasn't been removed.

I haven't read the book, but doesn't the same paragraph mention the consumption of alcohol..and they aren't hollering about this?
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 18, 2007, 07:04 AM
So my husband worked for several years in a B&N in my fairly small hometown.  I mean, it had a university, but you still had a kind of . . . countrified population surrounding.  And one day this guy came in looking for a book.  Did they have a book that tells you how to neuter your dog at home?

That poor dog.

No, they didn't have a book like that.  But if they did, I'm going to take a wild guess at one word that might appear in it.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 18, 2007, 07:09 AM
On another note, I visited with an old college pal who is now a professional story teller, and was quite shocked and amused at the things he told me he has recieved complaints about.  It seems like some people don't want to think..they just don't want to hear about anything they don't want to hear about. And they put their own spin on things. One of the complaints was about an elderly female character washing dishes. The audience member thought it demeaning. I guess this person wasn't listening to the part about the elderly old lady having a medical degree. My friend is also learning that what's funny as heck in one part of the country is highly offensive in other parts, and it's funny to see how different people interpret different things.

Again, there is nothing offensive in the material itself, it's just in how other people interpret it. And I don't think there's anyway we can be sure there is absolutely NOTHING in our stories that offend someone. Being the mother of a severely dairy allergic son, I'm offended by the over abundance of ice cream and pizza in children's stories. But I don't complain. In my stories, the characters rarely drink a glass of milk or go out for ice cream.

I gave my friend a copy of my book for his young son, and I jokingly pointed out a few things that I thought might give me trouble in time. "Don't anticipate," he said. "You'd just be surprised what people will come up with."

And yeah, AM, that comments column is scary.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 18, 2007, 07:22 AM
I guess I should be more concerned.  ;) One of my wip's has a repeating image of a giant pair of woman's bloomers.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: andracill on February 18, 2007, 07:23 AM
I'm just stunned...really, this amazes me.  Not that someone wouldn't want to have to deal with parents' ire -- because I learned far too often that you just can't predict the way parents will react (and so often it's worse than you ever imagine) -- but that teachers would object because they don't want to have to explain what that word means... :faint:  Why can't they just draw a picture (of a dog, he-he) and use an arrow to point?

Sigh.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 18, 2007, 07:28 AM
Dang, I'm on a roll. I think we need to educate children about proper names for anatomy whether it be man or beast. Long ago in my teaching years I had a student write an essay about "The Day I Lost My Vagina." She meant virginity. When the co-teacher and I quit choking and got up off the floor we talked to the student.

I think we should be more concerend about what middle schoolers already know and are experiencing, rather than what is in a book.

The other thing that bothers me about this, is it appears people are jumping on the bandwagon without reading it. It reminds me of the flap that happened when one of the Carus mags had and Army issue. People were reacting to news reports and other people's opinions, but they hadn't actually read the thing that they were so sure offended them.

Ummm..that's enough out of me today.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 18, 2007, 07:41 AM
You know, I took a look at the stock photo AOL is using, and I think I was wrong.  It's the silhouette of a girl wearing her hair in a bun, reading a book by the library shelves.  She looks 10-12.  She's probably wondering what a scrotum is now.  Next thing you know, she'll hit the Judy Blume books and all *heck* will break loose.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Kelsey on February 18, 2007, 08:15 AM
At first I thought, “Yes.  There definitely IS a word that could stop me from reading a book.” 

But then I thought, "Wait.  It's all about 'context', isn't it?" 

I mean, from sexuality to politics to religion to racial slurs...  It's the words around the 'word' that makes the book or passage truly offensive...or not. 

And the only way to discover that…is by actually reading the text. 

So, that has to mean that my answer is, "No."

No ONE word could ever dissuade me from reading a book.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 18, 2007, 08:18 AM
Beautifully said, Kelsey. Right on the money.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Kelsey on February 18, 2007, 09:19 AM
Thanks, Kay!  :hug1:  (I made sure I drank my coffee before answering.  Hee, hee!)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: FacelessWords on February 18, 2007, 09:40 AM
First of all, my sons both knew the word "scrotum" from the time they could talk.  I've always used anatomically correct words with my children and I don't have a problem with them (unless they are being misused, of course, like the phrase "penis breath" from the movie E.T. -- ugh!!!).

Secondly, a lot of you are inadvertently misusing the word "censorship."  Censhorship is when a book is banned by a government and no longer can be sold or distributed by law.  A librarian choosing which books to include in her collection is not exhibiting "censorship;" she is using her right as librarian (her job description) to stock the shelves as she sees fit.  Each individual library will be, in a sense, a reflection of each individual librarian's personal taste in literature.  That's just human nature, it's not censorship.

I've recently discovered that our local library does not carry the WONDERFULLY written fantasy trilogy by Kate Constable.  That's not censorship, either; it's just stupidity.    :dr
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Alison on February 18, 2007, 09:44 AM
It's strange how books are often judged by different standards than movies. I was just remembering how, in the movie E.T., the kids in the movie call each other "penis breath" and "douchebag" as insults. (By the way, I wrote this BEFORE seeing FacelessWords' post about that, above mine! Too funny.) I found that mortifying when watching the movie with my kids...and would be reluctant to show them that movie again at home for a while, considering how my 6-year-old likes to repeat anything potentially provocative that he hears. But when E.T. came out, most kids in America saw it, & the parents left raving about the cute alien movie and making it a classic, instead of screaming about those words ruining it. Even though those words, in context, are MUCH more provocative and disturbing in my mind than "scrotum." I don't think even my 6-year-old would find "scrotum" particularly provocative.

(Actually, what bothered me more in the sentence from the book was the drinking of a gallon of rum! My kids aren't too familiar with alcohol so I might even have to explain what rum was...but the idea that someone could drink a gallon of it and live sounds like a more worrisome notion for my kids to have in their heads than the word scrotum.)

I guess one difference is that those movies & TV shows aren't normally shown to kids in school--parents decide whether to show them--but still, it seems like a double standard. I think this really is mainly an issue because the word is on the first page of the book, and kind of made a big deal of (with the character wondering about the meaning of the word), so it's unavoidable to teachers or parents, and I also think librarians and teachers would just find it personally embarrassing to read aloud. But that still seems like not enough reason to avoid purchasing a Newbery winner, of all things, which has always been considered a mandatory purchase for children's libraries.

I hope librarians in general don't get a bad rap for this...after all, it is librarians who choose the Newbery winner! I was stunned when I read about this, though, because in my experience librarians are some of the biggest proponents of intellectual freedom that I know of. Though my husband, who has a library degree, said school libraries have a little different situation because of all the pressure from parents and administrators.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Joni on February 18, 2007, 09:52 AM
I think we need to ban Kelsey from the board because her aka LOOKS too much like a nasty word. :n

 :hug1:
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: ShirleyH on February 18, 2007, 10:00 AM
A librarian choosing which books to include in her collection is not exhibiting "censorship;" she is using her right as librarian (her job description) to stock the shelves as she sees fit.  Each individual library will be, in a sense, a reflection of each individual librarian's personal taste in literature.  That's just human nature, it's not censorship.

I think that when the book is a Newbery winner, one person should not have the power to not stock it.  Let the board decide.

If a book that is deemed high literary value and wins the major award in child lit is not at the library I would want to know why. I would also not want one person making this decision on this book.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 18, 2007, 10:07 AM
Secondly, a lot of you are inadvertently misusing the word "censorship."  Censhorship is when a book is banned by a government and no longer can be sold or distributed by law.  A librarian choosing which books to include in her collection is not exhibiting "censorship;" she is using her right as librarian (her job description) to stock the shelves as she sees fit.  Each individual library will be, in a sense, a reflection of each individual librarian's personal taste in literature.  That's just human nature, it's not censorship.

I take a broader definition of censorship:
"...the removal of information from the public, or the prevention of circulation of information, where it is desired or felt best by some controlling group or body that others are not allowed to access the information which is being censored."


And I wonder if there would have been so much fuss if the offending word appeared on, say, page 72 instead of page 1?
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 18, 2007, 10:13 AM
And I wonder if there would have been so much fuss if the offending word appeared on, say, page 72 instead of page 1?

I would venture to say "Absolutely not!"  I'm going to guess we wouldn't be talking about it at all.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Janniel on February 18, 2007, 10:17 AM
Slightly OT, but not.  I've just finished reading Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fanny Flagg (originally titled Coming Attractions). Daisy Fay, at the age of 15, is being questioned about birth control:

"Daisy, do you have a diaphragm?"

"Yes, I do."

"Where did you get it?"

"I was born with it."

 ;D
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: ShirleyH on February 18, 2007, 10:19 AM
I take a broader definition of censorship:
"...the removal of information from the public, or the prevention of circulation of information, where it is desired or felt best by some controlling group or body that others are not allowed to access the information which is being censored."


Thank you.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: sbk(linda) on February 18, 2007, 10:44 AM
Aside from my stupid joke earlier on  in this thread, I've been staying out of this discussion for my own sanity. Also, when I get this 'worked up about something,' I am completely unable to express myself properly. But I can't stay away any longer.

Wow. Unblievable.

This has gone way too far and is nothing short of pathetic.

I'm going to stop there before I start ranting. You've already said exactly what's on my mind.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Kelsey on February 18, 2007, 02:19 PM
Joni!  :o  I'm shocked!  :stuckup:  Hee, hee!  :dr
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: FacelessWords on February 18, 2007, 03:07 PM
I think that when the book is a Newbery winner, one person should not have the power to not stock it.  Let the board decide.

That's a valid opinion, regardless of whether or not a book is a Newbery winner.  But it's still not "censorship."  If someone really wants the book, he can go to another library, borrow it from a friend, or purchase it on Amazon.com.  It's extremely easy to get one's hands on any book one wants, really.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: FacelessWords on February 18, 2007, 03:10 PM
It's strange how books are often judged by different standards than movies. I was just remembering how, in the movie E.T., the kids in the movie call each other "penis breath" and "douchebag" as insults. (By the way, I wrote this BEFORE seeing FacelessWords' post about that, above mine! Too funny.) I found that mortifying when watching the movie with my kids...


You know, Alison, I have a CLEAR memory of that "penis breath" line when I saw the movie in the theatre (way back in the DARK AGES!  :dr), and I remember being horrified!  And that one line is the reason I've never rented the movie for my own kids.  It's the last thing I want to hear my boys calling each other (yeah, I can see that happening...all too easily! :))
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Cassandra on February 18, 2007, 03:29 PM
Where I taught it was not easy for a 10-11 year old to get their hands on any book they wanted. First, they'd have to know the book existed in order to want it. Second, we didn't have a library within walking distance from our neighborhood. There was one bookstore on the other side of town, and my kids couldn't find enough money for lunch, let alone a book. Amazon was not an option for these kids. Their only sources for books were my classroom or our school library. It's probably a lot easier for those kids to get a cigarette  or liquor, than it is for them to get a book not stocked on our shelves.

I haven't read the LUCKY yet, so I can't speak to the use of scrotum. But the word "scrotum" was on the overhead that the district gave us to use for 5th and 6th grade sex education, so prior to this controversy, I'd never considered it to be a word that one wouldn't want used in the schools. It's not the kind of word that everyone is comfortable saying, but it's still a rather benign word. My guess is the adults are getting far more flustered by this than the kids will.

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Laurie on February 18, 2007, 03:40 PM
After reading today's NY Times, I feel the need for a primal scream!!!!!

 :smoke  :smoke  :smoke  :smoke  :smoke  :smoke  :smoke  :smoke

Feel free to join in.

Laurie
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Cassandra on February 18, 2007, 04:06 PM
I'm with you, Laurie.

From the second to last line in the article: “I don’t want to start an issue about censorship,” she said. “But you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.”

It's a dog!! It's a dog's scrotum. Oh, geez. We all see them. Dogs don't wear pants. It's not like it's some big secret. Give kids some credit, (and a new vocabulary word.)

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: rainchains on February 18, 2007, 04:50 PM
My 14 yr old pointed out to me that scrotum was in his health textbook in school when he was 11. So he says what's the big deal?

I explained that many in our country these days are returning to Victorianism. Soon you won't be able to order a bucket of breasts and thighs at Kentucky Fried Chicken without a lynch mob gathering. It's back to white and dark meat. So I suppose the snake bit the dog's 'dark meat' would be the proper terminology in acceptable literature.

rainchains  :horse
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 18, 2007, 05:15 PM
That's a valid opinion, regardless of whether or not a book is a Newbery winner.  But it's still not "censorship."  If someone really wants the book, he can go to another library, borrow it from a friend, or purchase it on Amazon.com.  It's extremely easy to get one's hands on any book one wants, really.
I disagree -- it is effectively censorship. Kids that age can't just jump in the car and drive to another library or bookstore. Depending on where they live, alternatives might not even be available. They also can't log onto Amazon and charge a copy to their Visa account. We can quibble about what term to assign to this phenomenon,  but the end result is the same whether the book is removed from the shelf or just not put there in the first place. Nobody, including librarians, has the right to dictate what someone else's kids are not allowed to read.

It's one thing for a librarian to say, "This doesn't fit my community and it's not going to circulate." It's another thing entirely to say, "I just don't want to deal with the fuss this is going to raise." I know censorship battles can get ugly - the woman who owns the shop where I work fought for TWO YEARS to keep Shabanu in the local school cirriculum - but they're worth it. The book-banners may be loud, but they're virtually always a minority. Hordes of otherwise quiet and unassuming folks will turn out in support of the right to read when a book is challenged.

I find it really sad when a librarian is cowed into taking a book off the shelf. But to my mind, it's worse when the perceived fear of public outcry is enough to pressure a librarian into turning a book with such high literary merit down.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: chickennoodle on February 18, 2007, 05:28 PM
Ditto, Sarah. TOTALLY.


Leslie
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: FacelessWords on February 18, 2007, 05:30 PM
I don't rely on librarians to find good literature for my kids; I do the research myself.  So to me, a librarian's opinion or actions wouldn't matter much.  I know not all parents are involved enough, but this just doesn't resonate with my life.  And the loss of one book doesn't constitute a literary vacuum.  Most libraries have a wide variety of choices, regardless of the weakness or strength of the librarian (though obviously she has an effect on that!).  

It's still not "censorship."  Maybe it's making a choice for a wrong reason, or making a choice that frustrates the choices of others, or maybe it's just downright stupid.  But it's not "censorship."  
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 18, 2007, 05:41 PM
From the second to last line in the article: “I don’t want to start an issue about censorship,” she said. “But you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.”

They've GOT to be kidding! I don't care if it's a dog or a dude, but that's an amazingly narrow definition of good literature. Does that mean Lois Lowry's Autumn Street is trash? Sheesh....  :fury

(Ok, so Lowry doesn't actually say "penis" but it's no secret what she's talking about. In comparison to Lucky, it's a pretty long passage about boy-parts -- and what they're capable of!)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 18, 2007, 05:59 PM
It's still not "censorship."  Maybe it's making a choice for a wrong reason, or making a choice that frustrates the choices of others, or maybe it's just downright stupid.  But it's not "censorship."  
I'm curious -- what is it about this sort of incident that prevents you from wanting to refer to it as censorship? Is it because the book never hits the shelf in the first place?

The term censorship is commonly used in situations involving book challenges. A Google search on the words "banned books censorship" brings up 1,250,000 hits.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 18, 2007, 06:04 PM
My desktop dictionary (Oxford American) says censorship is the act of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.

I know not every library can carry every book.  But generally the Newbery winners are considered cream of the crop for MG and are the first purchased for the shelves, right?  So if a librarian *who ordinarly agrees that Newbery winners are worthy of being carried* examines this one and finds the use of the word "scrotum" unacceptable, she can take a Sharpie to that word, or she can deem the whole book un-purchase-worthy.  Basically saying, "Newbery committee--you blew it, big time.  This book is NOT quality children's literature" (like the librarians in that AOL article).  You can call it "selection" to go against your accepted procedures and not buy a book on account of one body-part-word and the "fuss" it may cause.  Why does the word "selection" make me cringe?  Oh, yeah... selektion--that's the term the SS used when people got of the train at concentration camps.

Is it a librarian's job to stock his or her shelves with the best in children's books or with what will be popular in her community?

For the last six years or so, I lived in a small town where the library was housed in what used to be a convenience store.  There was no bookstore at all in town.  We'd sometimes take trips to my husband's aunt's house in the country, even more remote than our small town.  The library in her community was an outbuilding the size of the office I'm typing in now.  I used to joke that their library was open on Tuesdays from 10 to 10:15, unless someone had already checked out the book.

The population of this whole area was poor and pretty conservative.  If they librarian was serving the population with what they liked, I guess she would have just stocked books about . . . well, NASCAR and religion.

They did have most of the Newbery winners and honor books.  And lots of books for Battle of The Books.  Will they stock the wonderful story of the scrotum?  No idea.  I don't live there anymore.  My guess is that they will be among those who say "Not on our shelves!"

When a huge bookstore like Barnes and Noble moves into a new community, they definitely pick and choose their stock based on what the locals might like.  In a military community, for instance, you'll find the B&N has a huge collection of military books.  However, we all know that a bookstore is not the same as a public library.  They can carry whatever they like--the are a business and they cater to the majority--the book-buying majority, at least.

Not the same as a public library built and stocked with taxpayer dollars.

If the local taxpayers are all of a certain . . . ilk . . . they way the majority was in that small town I lived in, then they have a right to make sure their library reflects their views, I suppose.  And the kids who live there can grow up with the same worldview, or they can move elsewhere when they're old enough.  Right?  And they do.  That town I lived in had a serious case of Brain Drain--anyone with one left as soon as they could.

I'm just kicking ideas back and forth, here.  If I were a librarian and I served a community who disliked books for children that mention male body parts, I'd be pretty torn about what my duty to them was.  To Serve and Protect?  No, that's the police.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: FacelessWords on February 18, 2007, 06:24 PM
I'm curious -- what is it about this sort of incident that prevents you from wanting to refer to it as censorship? Is it because the book never hits the shelf in the first place?

The term censorship is commonly used in situations involving book challenges. A Google search on the words "banned books censorship" brings up 1,250,000 hits.

A valid question!  The truth is, the word "censorship" is widely misused, particularly in the media today.  If materials are truly "censored," then there is ultimately no way to get your hands on them, regardless of whether they were once on the shelves, or never made it there.  True censorship implies control at a level that literally prevents the material from being distributed.  I'm not surprised that your Google search brought up so many hits, simply because of the gross misuse of the word's meaning.

Many people don't like to hear it, but our freedom of speech includes the right to speak against -- or, in the case of a librarian, not to stock -- a book for whatever reason.  Now, that same librarian can't disallow people from obtaining the book through other means.  Big difference there.

There are different times in the history of different countries in which there were cases of true censorship:  A king who scoured his kingdom for any books that spoke negatively of him, for instance, and had them all confiscated and burned.  That was definitely censorship! 

It just seems like whenever a bookstore says they won't carry a book (e.g. O.J.'s before it was pulled), or a librarian doesn't want a certain book on her shelves, or a teacher is uncomfortable with a particular book on a predetermined reading list, right away there are cries of "Censorship!  Censorship!"  Except, it's not censorship.  It's freedom of speech.  It might make some people angry, or indignant, or frustrated, but it's still not censorship.

And I think I've babbled enough!   :)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 18, 2007, 06:30 PM
I've never seen an official definition of censorship that says that it's ONLY by a government.  If anybody finds one, let me know!  I've never heard that said, and though I'm not one to cry either "Censorship!" or "Free Speech!" I don't want to use either term incorrectly.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 18, 2007, 06:49 PM
A valid question!  The truth is, the word "censorship" is widely misused, particularly in the media today.  If materials are truly "censored," then there is ultimately no way to get your hands on them, regardless of whether they were once on the shelves, or never made it there.  True censorship implies control at a level that literally prevents the material from being distributed.  I'm not surprised that your Google search brought up so many hits, simply because of the gross misuse of the word's meaning.
That's reasonable, but I think the meaning of the word is shifting, for better or for worse. Language is by necessity fluid and adaptable. Maybe "surpression" is more appropriate in this case?

Quote
Many people don't like to hear it, but our freedom of speech includes the right to speak against -- or, in the case of a librarian, not to stock -- a book for whatever reason.  Now, that same librarian can't disallow people from obtaining the book through other means.  Big difference there.
This makes me think of that quote attributed to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." I don't have any trouble with people speaking out against a book -- it's perfectly within their right to do so. It's when they impose their own choices upon me, thereby limiting *my* choices, that I get cranky. Expressing yourself shouldn't interfere with others' rights. So I'm not entirely convinced that freedom of expression extends to a librarian stocking shelves in a public institution. I may very well be wrong, but I have a hard time believing that's what the founding fathers had in mind when they set up the First Amendment.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Laura Manivong on February 18, 2007, 07:09 PM
I certainly can see why a teacher or librarian wouldn't want to explain the word Scrotum to a class of nine-year-olds...because it's a class full of nine-year olds whose senses of humor center around body parts and body functions. Booger face. Farthead. Butthole. And from E.T., the infamous "Penis Breath." It can be pretty distruptive so I'm not willing to get out the tar and feathers just because a teacher selected not to read this book, or a librarian selected another wonderful book over the Newbery one, all for the sake of not wanting "Scrotum Head"  added to the list of oh-so-funny insults that won't die for months when it's hard enough to get thirty kids to pay attention. And if either grown-up tried to prevent a kid from saying "Scrotum Head" in class, the ACLU would be on her rectum for prohibiting free speech. Who needs that? Look at all the examples DaveR had about what poeple do when others disagree with them.

She selected a different book for that budgeted sixteen bucks. She's not trying to ban the book from the planet. She just picked another book. It's her job. Not everyone will agree. I don't, but I'm keeping my pitchfork in the barn.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 18, 2007, 07:42 PM
If our hypothetical librarian isn't comfortable reading the word "scrotum" aloud, that's fine and dandy. But reading a book aloud in a classroom setting is very different from simply allowing the book a place on the library shelf.  If she's passing up the book only because somebody *might* have a problem with that one word and she doesn't want to deal with it -- that's when I shake my head in frustration. It's not so much that I'm angry with the librarians -- I'm angry that librarians feel subjected to outside pressure, and that it's strong enough to guide their selections.



Edit: Maybe "angry" isn't the right word, either. I'm saddened by how often librarians say to themselves, "This book is really great, but I'm afraid of what other people will think of it."

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: sbk(linda) on February 18, 2007, 09:21 PM
i don't even care that she chose to pass it up. What bothers me so much is her need to make it public. Sure, make that choice for your own library, but don't expect everyone else to follow. Isn't that the bottom line?
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: graywolf on February 19, 2007, 04:57 AM
Two newscasters (one male, one female) on a New York city news channel this morning joked about who had to say "the word" when they did the story on this controversy.   The female newcaster said something like "You're saying it, not me!" and they both giggled.     On the other hand, my 13-year-old could NOT see the problem - "It's just part of the human body."    Maybe we should let kids rule the world and get it right for a change...
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Paulahy on February 19, 2007, 08:51 AM
Maybe we should let kids rule the world and get it right for a change...

Sounds like a good plan. 

This has been a great discussion. My thoughts continue to shift back and forth with each well articulated opinion.

But one thing I steadfastly disagree, the comment about not finding mention of genitalia in quality literature.  That's as stupid as saying people only use curse words because they're not intelligent enough to think of anything else to say.  Hey, some of us suffer from verbal sanitation dysfunction because it's better than smacking someone in the back of the head.  Potty mouth yes.  Violence no.  :girl

 :dr

-P
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 19, 2007, 08:56 AM
Cassandra noted that dogs do not wear pants, but perhaps they should. I have decided to make my fortune by designing a line of doggy pants, so the public will no longer be exposed to canine scrotums.

:P
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: andracill on February 19, 2007, 08:57 AM
 :dr

Sigh.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Cassandra on February 19, 2007, 09:08 AM
Leave it to you, K, to make some lemonade. Now that's fodder for a good story your boys can write someday.

"When the scrotum scandal hit these parts, our luck turned. Mom, always handy with a needle, designed and sold pants for pooches all over the county. No longer were the good God-fearing folks forced to see the offensive sacks hanging down from man's best friend...."


Modified to add: No offense intended with "God-fearing." It's fiction.

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Kelsey on February 19, 2007, 09:26 AM
Actually, I'm a bit prudish, and I wish I did not have to see my rat terrier's genitalia on parade--girl doggie or no--it's all right there, making me somewhat squeamish.  (But I'd still allow it in a book!)  ;D
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 19, 2007, 09:29 AM
Dear me.  Pooch pants.

Miss P, I confess--I was up late last night thinking... No male bits in quality literature!?  What about Ender's Game?  Is that not considered quality?  'Cause I'm afraid Uncle Orson did not ease up on the testicle talk and they didn't use nice words like "scrotum."  

Now I know Ender's isn't MG, but in the libraries I've been a part of, it's often shelved here there and everywhere.  They have a copy in adult, a copy in YA, and yeah--I've seen a copy in the MG before!  Probably because of that recent cover that made it look like a fun boy's adventure story, sort of a Young Jedi Knights thing.

Anywho, I remember finding the violence and frequent comments about male-y parts disconcerting, but I personally think it's "quality" and "literature."
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Joni on February 19, 2007, 09:30 AM
Pickles, I think you consistently get my LOL award! ;D
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Laura Manivong on February 19, 2007, 09:55 AM
as far as male parts go, what about the awesome...

THUNDERSTICK

from the fantabulous John Green's "An Abundance Of Katherines"

Hmm...quality literature?
Absolutely! (imo)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 19, 2007, 01:41 PM
Thank you Joni!

And that's a lovely example, Cassandra.

My ten year old is into the Cressida Cowell dragon books these days. And one of her characters is Big Boobied Bertha, and there are descriptions in there of how BBB kills with her bosoms.

I think horses need pants more than dogs do. And maybe bulls.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 19, 2007, 01:55 PM
Laurie Halse Anderson's blog for the day (http://halseanderson.livejournal.com/) has a nice long discusison of pooch pants, complete with links to where to buy them! I don't know who first came up with doggie britches as a solution to the Unfortunate Scrotum Incident, but it seems to have hit our collective consciousness all of a sudden.

IMO, this whole issue has been absurd from the beginning, so I think it's nice we're finally being open about it. ;)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 19, 2007, 02:38 PM
Oh well good, I don't have to go hunting for fabric now. Somebody has already done it. I know they make them for female dogs during heat.

I'm thinking little colorful scrotum pouches...as sack for the sack...in cutesy prints and then tie it up around the tale somewhere like a male doggy bra or something...doggy cups?

Okay I should go now.......
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 19, 2007, 02:47 PM
I read Halse-Anderson's blog and followed the link to the Amazon excerpt. I'm still surprised they aren't hollering about the rum and AA stuff...well one Amazon reviewer did.

-k.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: CynJay on February 20, 2007, 12:32 PM
I have nothing of relevance to add here: I've been out of town with no internet and it's all been said.  I do have one word that would stop me, but if I say it I'll be ostracized so I'm going to keep it to myself.

One story I will tell is this: At our local zoo the camels are often quite amorous.  There is nothing like seeing a group of little kids staring into the camel den and asking their parents why the one camel is riding piggyback on the other one.  And why that one is yelling and drooling so much.  EVERY time, there is one guy who is videotaping the whole thing.  Really, who are you going to show the tape to?

I say ban zoos!  Too many animals there doing...what animals do with their scrotom contents.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Melissa on February 21, 2007, 04:46 AM
There's a FABULOUS letter on the YALSA listserv (http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/yalsa-bk (http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/yalsa-bk)) by Dr. Dresang.  She's sending it in to the NY Times with the request to " to investigate what [she considers] the 'slanted and sensational tone' of the  New York Times article, "With Single Word, a Children's Book Stirs a Battle" by reporter Julie Bosman."  It's an articulate & passionate response--while still utilizing argumentative tactics and logic.  I couldn't stop smiling when I read it, so I thought I'd point it out.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: ghostgirl on February 21, 2007, 05:42 AM
Hey all!  I was just over at Cheryl Klein's blog, and she has posted an excellent discussion of this topic:  http://chavelaque.blogspot.com (http://chavelaque.blogspot.com)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Sarah Miller on February 21, 2007, 06:02 AM
There's a FABULOUS letter on the YALSA listserv (http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/yalsa-bk (http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/yalsa-bk)) by Dr. Dresang.  She's sending it in to the NY Times with the request to " to investigate what [she considers] the 'slanted and sensational tone' of the  New York Times article, "With Single Word, a Children's Book Stirs a Battle" by reporter Julie Bosman."  It's an articulate & passionate response--while still utilizing argumentative tactics and logic.  I couldn't stop smiling when I read it, so I thought I'd point it out.

Yes, it really is super! I hadn't noticed prior to reading that letter just how biased the NYT story was. Gretchen Laskas wrote a nice response on Yalsa as well, but I'm not smart enough to figure out how to post a link....
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: chickennoodle on February 21, 2007, 06:28 AM
There's a FABULOUS letter on the YALSA listserv (http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/yalsa-bk (http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/yalsa-bk)) by Dr. Dresang.  She's sending it in to the NY Times with the request to " to investigate what [she considers] the 'slanted and sensational tone' of the  New York Times article, "With Single Word, a Children's Book Stirs a Battle" by reporter Julie Bosman."  It's an articulate & passionate response--while still utilizing argumentative tactics and logic.  I couldn't stop smiling when I read it, so I thought I'd point it out.


Touche'! Good for Dr. Dresang! Thanks for passing along, Melissa.

Leslie   ;D
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Buffy on February 21, 2007, 07:49 AM
Another editorial in the NY Times today about this, focusing on how words "lose their naughty aura through unembarrassed us," and how lucky kids are who get to read and hear these words:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/21/opinion/21wed4.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin
Title: From Jennifer Holm, Kirby Larson, and Me
Post by: Cindy on February 24, 2007, 04:37 AM
Newbery Honor recipients Jennifer Holm, Kirby Larson, and I made a joint statement about this.  You can read it here, if you'd like:

http://cynthialord.livejournal.com/300283.html

It's also going on the Random House website, the National Coalition against Censorship's website, and several other places.

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: anita on February 24, 2007, 02:44 PM

I have one question about the use of the word, and I haven't read the book.  How is the dog being bitten on the scrotum relevant to the story?  Does the dog have to be neutered after that?   Could the dog have been bitten on the tail and the story have been the same? 

I don't know, because I haven't read the book, as I said.  But, if the dog could have been bitten on the tail and the story wouldn't change, then it seems like the choice to use the word scrotum may have (and I say may have, because I don't know the author's thinking) been for sensationalism more than anything else, especially if this happened on the first page of the book.  (I have no idea where it occurs.)

To me if it was necessary for the dog to have been bitten on the scrotum for some reason it's no big deal to use the proper word.  However, if that word was used for the sensational aspect and the publicity it might bring (and it certainly has caused a fury),  I have a problem with that.  Too often objectionable language (objectionable depending on the person) is used for the shock value. 

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm okay with the occasional "objectionable" word (and objectionable means something different to everyone, I'm not saying scrotum is objectionable to me, although it may be to some) when it's necessary to the story.  I do have a problem with it when it's not necessary, just as I have a problem with having gratuitous sex in a book for no good reason, cursing, killing, etc.  If it's necessary to the story, moves it forward, etc, fine.  If it isn't necessary, then I have to wonder why the author put it in there. 

Frankly, I don't think I would have even thought twice if I'd seen the word scrotum in a book, but the author had to know that some people might object.

My question is, was the word necessary to the story?  And is on the first page, where it would attract more notice, or is it in the middle of the book somewhere? 

anita
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 24, 2007, 02:54 PM
I don't know this for sure, but I did read an interview with the author.  It sounded very much like the word is used precisely because it's unfamiliar to the girl MC and she is eavesdropping on the adult world, curious and trying to make sense of it all.  She hears this crazy tale about the snake, etc. and she wonders what the word "scrotum" means--it intrigues her because it's an "adult" word.

In that case, it would hardly do to use the dog's tail. 

I'm going to give most people who write children's books the benefit of the doubt in that they wouldn't put something in for sensationalism.  You'd think with all the gatekeepers in the biz, that sort of thing wouldn't go through.  Or if it did, it would not have won the Newbery.  I think the Newbery committee knows quality, even if I don't always love what they love.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: anita on February 24, 2007, 03:08 PM
I have to disagree that most children's authors don't do things for the sensationalism.  I've read a number of YA books that seem to be all about the sensationalism, and there's plenty more I haven't read.  Of course, YA is a whole different animal from most children's books. 

Granted, none have won the Newbery, but several are commercial successes, even if there doesn't seem to be much to the book beyond the sensational aspects.  In YA, at least, and I'm not speaking to the rest because I don't follow the picture book, easy reader, etc market, sometimes it's all about the sensational/edgy aspects. 

I'm not saying that's the case here.  But I always wonder, because that's so popular in YA.

anita
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 24, 2007, 04:12 PM
I wasn't really thinking of YA when I said "children's" but then, I don't read much YA! :)
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: anita on February 24, 2007, 04:16 PM
There is a huge difference.  If you don't read it, you'd probably be quite surprised.   :o
anita
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Jaina on February 24, 2007, 05:19 PM
At any rate, Lucky is MG and I still believe what I said in my post above.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 25, 2007, 05:33 AM
From my blog....

So why DID she have to use THAT word?

Because it was the right one. Because it brought depth and truth to Lucky's story.

Not everything is pretty, but in the ugly and the odd we often find what we are looking for.

Writing is art. And art is a reflection of life. And when you reflect life you have to show all the colors, even the mustards and the ochres and the umbers and the olives.

The same with music. My husband tells me he once was taught that music written in a minor key was ungodly. But I think my ears would ache for the lack of mellow, soulful notes. And later he was taught that notes and chords in and of themselves are merely notes and chords. It's what you do with them that counts, it's what's behind them.

There are those who think that children's literature is only to uplift and educate. It's all supposed to be written in primary colors and major chords.

But life doesn't come in bright only, and kids figure that out fairly early.  They deserve truth and honesty and depth and integrity in the things they read, not "soda pop" literature, canned and labeled.

Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Joni on February 25, 2007, 09:43 AM
Amen, Pickles. I have read quite a bit of YA (although I pass on the "teenage clique" books, so maybe that's what Anita means), and I have yet to read a single book that I thought used either subject matter or language gratuitously for the scandal-factor.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: anita on February 25, 2007, 09:48 AM
Try Pretty Little Liars.

anita
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Paulahy on February 26, 2007, 10:49 AM
Well said, Pickles!!

I don't doubt there are books out there where the subject matter or language used was a calculated effort to make the book stand out.  Thus the whole "edgy" genre.

Still, I don't totally agree those books were created just for shock.  I think someone thought - let's go out on the edge and do a sneak peek at this type of character. 

The Gossip Girls series falls into that vein IMO. 

And while they aren't my cuppa, I don't begrudge their existence.  I don't think they are a sign of the fall of literature because they portray teens in a materialistic, shallow light.  Because there are teens out there like that. 

A phrase I've been beating like a dead horse lately is "there's room at the Inn for all types of books."  Each one has their audience, so it's safe to assume, each one has its opposition.

In the case of Lucky, it doesn't sound like a sensationalist gimmick.  And speaking for myself, when the words flow they flow without thought.  I save strategy for my promotion and marketing.  When it comes to writing the books, it's all an unconcious stream as I translate the pictures in my head. 

I'd hate to be accused of contrived sensationalism simply because I felt one particular word conveyed the images in my mind.  Sure there may be different words to use, but the word chosen was the one that ended on the page.

It's not something you can battle since it's highly subjective.  No matter how much I say it wasn't contrived, there will be those who believe otherwise.  I'm sure those accusations sting Susan Patron - because I'm getting heated just thinking about someone saying it about my work.

-P
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Katiba on February 27, 2007, 10:11 AM
I try to be careful about saying an author wrote this or that just for sensationalism, or just to sell a book.  I think it's perfectly okay to say a book has gratuitous violence or sex or cursing (or whatever) because it means that for me, as a reader, the author didn't make that aspect of the book work.  But it's really impossible to know whether the author has a story-driven reason for using certain elements, just because they didn't get that across to a particular reader - or even any reader at all.  That doesn't mean they didn't have a goal in mind.

Saying that a particular story was bought by a publisher for market reasons is a little different, in my opinion.  That's a judgment call too, but it's not trying to get into someone's head and guess why they put a particular word or story element on the page.
Title: Re: Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?
Post by: Pickles on February 27, 2007, 10:15 AM
Thanks Paula.

I wonder why this is so "wrong" in ficiton, or pehaps it's because now the book will be expected to be read by children.

I just read a description of pipe fish sex in a non-fiction book geared toward the same age group that was waaaaaaaaaaaaay racier than "scrotum." And egads...it used the word "semen."