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

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WG

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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?
#61 - February 16, 2007, 08:16 PM

Pickles

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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.
#62 - February 16, 2007, 09:11 PM

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My first reaction when reading that sentence was:   "Isn't that an awfully LONG sentence?"    ??? 
#63 - February 16, 2007, 09:26 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.
#64 - February 16, 2007, 11:00 PM
Bazooka Joe says, I have the ability to become outstanding in literature.
http://samhranac.blogspot.com/

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
#65 - February 17, 2007, 06:03 AM
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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.
#66 - February 17, 2007, 06:42 AM

Pickles

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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.
#67 - February 17, 2007, 06:47 AM

wyomachinook

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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.
#68 - February 17, 2007, 07:02 AM

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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. (Too bad, I'm not as eloquent--or succinct--as dave_r and others!)
#69 - February 17, 2007, 07:49 AM
« Last Edit: February 17, 2007, 08:56 AM by rhw »
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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....
#70 - February 17, 2007, 08:28 AM
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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?
#71 - February 17, 2007, 09:08 AM
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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!
#72 - February 17, 2007, 09:20 AM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

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
#73 - February 17, 2007, 09:34 AM
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Thanks, Dave R, I will! It looks interesting (and frightening and sad).

#74 - February 17, 2007, 09:47 AM
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WG

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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.     
#75 - February 17, 2007, 09:53 AM

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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
#77 - February 17, 2007, 12:46 PM

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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
#78 - February 17, 2007, 01:27 PM

GreenBeans

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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
#79 - February 17, 2007, 02:07 PM

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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:
#80 - February 17, 2007, 03:08 PM

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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."




 

#81 - February 17, 2007, 03:19 PM
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wyomachinook

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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!
#82 - February 17, 2007, 03:22 PM

Jaina

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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.
#83 - February 17, 2007, 04:02 PM

chickennoodle

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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

 


#84 - February 17, 2007, 04:17 PM
« Last Edit: February 17, 2007, 04:19 PM by lesmuir »

Sarah Miller

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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/

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?
#85 - February 17, 2007, 04:22 PM

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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.
#86 - February 17, 2007, 04:51 PM
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Z-cat

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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"
#87 - February 17, 2007, 05:49 PM

Sarah Miller

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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, 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.

#88 - February 17, 2007, 06:00 PM

Barbara Eveleth

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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.
#89 - February 18, 2007, 05:07 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
#90 - February 18, 2007, 05:58 AM

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