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Would one word stop you from reading / buying a book?

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chickennoodle

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Ditto, Sarah. TOTALLY.


Leslie
#121 - February 18, 2007, 05:28 PM

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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."  
#122 - February 18, 2007, 05:30 PM

Sarah Miller

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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!)
#123 - February 18, 2007, 05:41 PM

Sarah Miller

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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.
#124 - February 18, 2007, 05:59 PM

Jaina

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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.
#125 - February 18, 2007, 06:04 PM

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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!   :)
#126 - February 18, 2007, 06:24 PM

Jaina

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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.
#127 - February 18, 2007, 06:30 PM

Sarah Miller

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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.
#128 - February 18, 2007, 06:49 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.
#129 - February 18, 2007, 07:09 PM
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Sarah Miller

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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."

#130 - February 18, 2007, 07:42 PM
« Last Edit: February 18, 2007, 07:58 PM by Sarah Miller »

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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?
#131 - February 18, 2007, 09:21 PM

graywolf

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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...
#132 - February 19, 2007, 04:57 AM

Paulahy

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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
#133 - February 19, 2007, 08:51 AM

Pickles

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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
#134 - February 19, 2007, 08:56 AM

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 :dr

Sigh.
#135 - February 19, 2007, 08:57 AM
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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.

#136 - February 19, 2007, 09:08 AM
« Last Edit: February 19, 2007, 09:13 AM by Cassandra »

Kelsey

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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
#137 - February 19, 2007, 09:26 AM

Jaina

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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."
#138 - February 19, 2007, 09:29 AM

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Pickles, I think you consistently get my LOL award! ;D
#139 - February 19, 2007, 09:30 AM
The Farwalker Trilogy
The Humming of Numbers
Reality Leak

www.jonisensel.com

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)
#140 - February 19, 2007, 09:55 AM
ESCAPING THE TIGER, Bank Street's "Best Books of the Year"
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Pickles

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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.
#141 - February 19, 2007, 01:41 PM

Sarah Miller

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Laurie Halse Anderson's blog for the day 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. ;)
#142 - February 19, 2007, 01:55 PM

Pickles

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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.......
#143 - February 19, 2007, 02:38 PM

Pickles

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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.
#144 - February 19, 2007, 02:47 PM

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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.
#145 - February 20, 2007, 12:32 PM
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There's a FABULOUS letter on the YALSA listserv (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.
#146 - February 21, 2007, 04:46 AM
« Last Edit: February 21, 2007, 04:55 AM by Melissa »

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
#147 - February 21, 2007, 05:42 AM
"If you don't get it right the first time, just get it written." ~J. Thurber
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Sarah Miller

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There's a FABULOUS letter on the YALSA listserv (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....
#148 - February 21, 2007, 06:02 AM

chickennoodle

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There's a FABULOUS letter on the YALSA listserv (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
#149 - February 21, 2007, 06:28 AM

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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
#150 - February 21, 2007, 07:49 AM

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