Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Banning and My Thoughts on the Subject.

Below are some books that have been banned in various locations.  The descriptions and comments come from an article that ran in the Huffington Post.  I am following these with my own comments and thoughts in parenthesis.  Here we go!
1. THE DICTIONARY: Both the Merriam Webster and the American Heritage Dictionaries have been banned in various schools. The Merriam Webster was banned in a California elementary school in January 2010 for its definition of oral sex. "It's just not age appropriate," a district representative said.
 (Yes people the dictionary.  I mean really now?  The fact that an educator would follow through with the banning of the dictionary is just in and of itself absolutely moronic.  There are a lot of words in the dictionary that aren't age appropriate for various ages but do they realize that by banning a DICTIONARY, they are banning knowledge?  Do they not think in this day and time a kid can't google the words "oral sex" and get a heck of a lot more than a definition as a result?).
2.John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath: An immediate and huge bestseller, the classic depicting poverty and the struggles of migrant workers was and often still is banned for obscenity and for the negative light in which the country was painted.
 (I am pretty sure we know why they don't want this read.  The same things are still taking place today--poverty and struggles of both migrant workers and natural born citizens, obscenity??  Give me a break--put your television on even basic channels like NBC, CBS, and ABC these days and hear all kinds of words but Heaven forbid you read one in a book!  The negative light in which a country is painted?  Good grief look at our government and country today!  We are on our way to hell in a handbasket, banning a book that speaks on such subject matter isn't going to speed up the process for crying out loud!)
3. William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble: The Illinois Police Association, along with 11 other states, tried to get libraries to remove this book in 1977 because it portrays policemen as pigs.
(It is a children's story and children respond to character's that are animals.  Richard Scarry also portrayed different professions using animals as well.  SO WHAT???  I mean do we really think a chicken walked around screaming the sky is falling?  Of course not so are children really going to think of police as pigs?  A book isn't the only place they will hear that reference.  If their parents are educating them about history and various counter culture movements they'll see it there as well.  What are we going to do ban any reference to the Hippie movement, civil rights movement, and protests? Heck I probably just gave some idiot an idea!)
4/5. Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye AND Beloved: The winner of the Nobel Prize in literature has had her books banned for obscene language and gratuitous violence in many parts of the country. The battle isn't over.
(Okay I happen to absolutely love both of these books and many others by Toni Morrison.  She is a literary genius.  She writes from the perspective often times of an African-American woman in the south, in poverty, in REALITY.  She uses language that is said--not sugarcoated.  Again, put a television on any channel, watch a video game, you will see and hear the same things.  What do you want the world in a bubble?  She has won the Nobel Prize in Literature for crying out loud and they are going to ban her writing?  Keep on fighting Toni!)
6. Bill Martin, Jr's Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See? :This beloved children's book was banned in January 2010 by the Texas Board of Education because the author has the same name as an obscure Marxist theorist, and no one bothered to check if they were actually the same person.
(Okay if the explanation itself is not enough to show the pure ignorance that comes with book banning I don't know what does!  Just because of the author's name??? And what is Marxist theory that which shall not be spoken in Texas school systems?  The fact that a STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION did this without bothering to even do a google search and hit up old Wikipedia makes me really sad for the state of Texas and the children subjected to that ignorance in their school systems.  Those poor children.)
7/8. Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach and The Witches: "James" was banned for obscenity and violence, while "The Witches" was banned for sexism and devaluing the life of a child.
(James and the Giant Peach can't be read as a book, but can be viewed by millions of children as an animated full feature film????  Wonder how many of the schools that don't have it on the bookshelves of their library have allowed it to be shown on VHS or DVD in the classroom?  What is even more depressing is that children who see the movie are probably not even aware it was adapted from a book!)
9. Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl:Anne Frank's diary has been banned on multiple occasions. The most recent was in January 2010 when the book was pulled from a Virginia school for "sexually explicit" and "homosexual" themes.
(Yes let's pull a book that grips a reader's heart and hopefully teaches them to have empathy for fellow man as a young girl describes her ordeal as she tries to survive the Holacaust because we can't have anything sexual or homosexual related in our schools.  Granted this shouldn't be read by first or second graders, but by the time children get to middle and high school they are learning about the Holacaust--I would hope--and I'm sure they know what homosexuality is--whether they agree with it or not, so they are mature enough to handle this book.  Banning books like this and keeping those types of horrifying events from the hands of the future will only lead to something like it happening again.)
10. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women: Not easy to figure out why this one was banned, but it may have been that the strongest woman character marries a boring and much older man--counter to feminism.
(Little Women?  A threat?  To what?????  As someone who considers myself a feminist I would never support taking this book--or any book in case you haven't figured it out yet---from the shelves.  If anything you can use books such as this to help teach young women they don't have to depend on a man for survival, they can do anything and be anything they want by their own efforts.  Banning this book just baffles my mind).
11/12. Ernest Hemingway's A Farewll to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls: How times have changed. "A Farewell to Arms" was banned for sexual content and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" because it was seen as pro-communist.
(Oh good grief!  Again, I've read both of these books and these books are so mild when compared to just what happens around us and on the news.  When books like these are banned I have to think the person challenging them hasn't even read them!)
 13. Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic: Banned in 1993 at an elementary school in Florida because it "promotes disrespect, horror, and violence," soon became one of the most banned books of the 1990s.
(I admit I've not read this one, but I can promise you it is on my to buy list now!  A book does not promote disrespect, horror or violence--a homelife will, lack of parenting will, sitting a child in front of a television playing graphic video games full of zombies and demons will--reading a book won't).
14. Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time: Because it's a tale of the battle of good and evil, many were concerned it was making a religious argument they didn't want their children exposed to.
(Wait isn't the Bible full of stories about a battle between good and evil?  Do we not teach our children from the time they are babies about good vs. evil and we want to be good people and prevail on the good side?  I mean help me out here--would this not be a great and valuable tool to oh I don't know use to actually engage in a conversation with our children?  Am I just expecting too much from parents these days?)

So as you can tell I do not believe in book banning or censorship.  I may not always agree with the subject matter and I may not like what it says however I do not believe in one person or a group of people having the right to determine for me whether or not it should be available for myself or my child(ren).  Instead of removing the books from bookshelves use them to engage in conversation over why we don't find the subject matter appropriate and educate ourselves and our children.  Yes, this requires parents to actually "man up" and PARENT and take an active, participatory role in their child and the development of that child's education, ideals, morals, and view on the world.  I think maybe that is the problem--too many parents want to shirk the responsibility to someone else and let them determine what is right and wrong for their child.  Not me buddy.  I want my child to know there is a huge world out there full of differences and we should make ourselves aware of those differences.  To make one's self aware does not mean to embrace, it just means you are not ignorant to the world around you and despite the saying--ignorance is NOT bliss.  Ignorance is compliance and I will not comply or conform to someone else's ideals and philosophies just because someone says I should.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I was in a slightly melancholy mood this morning when I woke up and these first couple of lines came to me.  I haven't written a poem in quite some time, a couple of years I'd even venture to say.  But this is what I came up with today.  Enjoy.

My world of darkness
Soundless screams struggle
Against the muted mouth
Helpless hands fight
Against the restraints
Being pushed underneath
Drowning gasping for air
The blackness takes over
No more screams
No more struggle
It is over now
--copyright 2011