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

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Jaina

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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
#91 - February 18, 2007, 06:32 AM
« Last Edit: February 18, 2007, 06:34 AM by Jaina »

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The scariest part of that article is the comments section following it.
#92 - February 18, 2007, 06:50 AM
VAMPIRINA BALLERINA series (Disney-Hyperion)
SUNNY'S TOW TRUCK SAVES THE DAY (Abrams)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

Jaina

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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!
#93 - February 18, 2007, 06:52 AM

Pickles

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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?
#94 - February 18, 2007, 06:55 AM

Jaina

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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.
#95 - February 18, 2007, 07:04 AM

Pickles

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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.
#96 - February 18, 2007, 07:09 AM
« Last Edit: February 18, 2007, 07:18 AM by Pickles »

Pickles

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I guess I should be more concerned.  ;) One of my wip's has a repeating image of a giant pair of woman's bloomers.
#97 - February 18, 2007, 07:22 AM

Reader, reader, reader...
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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.
#98 - February 18, 2007, 07:23 AM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

Pickles

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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.
#99 - February 18, 2007, 07:28 AM

Jaina

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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.
#100 - February 18, 2007, 07:41 AM

Kelsey

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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.
#101 - February 18, 2007, 08:15 AM

Pickles

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Beautifully said, Kelsey. Right on the money.
#102 - February 18, 2007, 08:18 AM

Kelsey

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Thanks, Kay!  :hug1:  (I made sure I drank my coffee before answering.  Hee, hee!)
#103 - February 18, 2007, 09:19 AM

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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
#104 - February 18, 2007, 09:40 AM

Alison

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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.
#105 - February 18, 2007, 09:44 AM
« Last Edit: February 18, 2007, 09:49 AM by Alison »

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I think we need to ban Kelsey from the board because her aka LOOKS too much like a nasty word. :n

 :hug1:
#106 - February 18, 2007, 09:52 AM
The Farwalker Trilogy
The Humming of Numbers
Reality Leak

www.jonisensel.com

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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.
#107 - February 18, 2007, 10:00 AM
PAINLESS (Albert Whitman 2015)
BLOOD BROTHERS (Delacorte 2007)

Sarah Miller

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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?
#108 - February 18, 2007, 10:07 AM

Jaina

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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.
#109 - February 18, 2007, 10:13 AM

Janniel

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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
#110 - February 18, 2007, 10:17 AM

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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.
#111 - February 18, 2007, 10:19 AM
PAINLESS (Albert Whitman 2015)
BLOOD BROTHERS (Delacorte 2007)

Lollygagger
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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.
#112 - February 18, 2007, 10:44 AM
« Last Edit: February 18, 2007, 04:16 PM by sbk »

Kelsey

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Joni!  :o  I'm shocked!  :stuckup:  Hee, hee!  :dr
#113 - February 18, 2007, 02:19 PM

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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.
#114 - February 18, 2007, 03:07 PM

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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! :))
#115 - February 18, 2007, 03:10 PM

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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.

#116 - February 18, 2007, 03:29 PM

Laurie

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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
#117 - February 18, 2007, 03:40 PM

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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.)

#118 - February 18, 2007, 04:06 PM

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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
#119 - February 18, 2007, 04:50 PM

Sarah Miller

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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.
#120 - February 18, 2007, 05:15 PM
« Last Edit: February 18, 2007, 05:17 PM by Sarah Miller »

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