Banned Books 2010: My New Hobby

To give myself a hobby besides complaining about the irrelevance of grad school, I’ve decided to read every book (well, almost every book) on the ALA’s bibliography of banned and challenged books from May 2009-May 2010. This list, which they’re showcasing for Banned Books Week, is slightly arbitrary, in that it only includes titles written up within the year in Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, but any banned books list is going to be somewhat arbitrary, as it will only discuss reported instances. I’m going to concentrate on the ones which were challenged in public libraries, since that’s my area of interest, and because I find the morality of most school-challengings somewhat murkier. If someone (usually a parent) wants to restrict all children who may or may not share their own beliefs from access to information, I can listen to their objections, go through the process, and generally fight censorship like the idealistic librarian I am. It’s when students are forced to read certain titles in class that I am slightly more uncomfortable. I personally can’t picture myself ever getting uppity over a required text, but I can understand the motivations of people who do. They just want what they think is best for their kids–as opposed to the public library cases, where they just want what they think is best for everyone’s kids. Natch I also don’t agree with helicopter parents constantly overriding teachers’ authority and judgement, and I’m happy to see that in a lot of instances discussed on this year’s list, everyone was content after alternative titles were made available if students decided to choose them instead.

A few titles on the list were challenged because parents thought that they were too easy for minors to get their hands on them on the library shelves. These include:

Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort
Sex for Busy People: the Art of the Quickie for Lovers on the Go by Emily Dubberly
Lesbian Karma Sutra by Kat Harding
Mastering Multiple Position Sex by Eric Garrison
The Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein

In most of these cases, the library involved decided to implement special library cards for minors which would only allow children to check out restricted titles with parents’ permission rather than remove the books from their catalog. I’m sorry to report that I will not be reading these titles as part of the challenge, partially because my library owns only Joy of Sex for whatever reason, partially because of the massive Check Out Embarrassment Factor (no, librarians are not immune), and also because I am way more interested in the children’s/YA titles on the list. Also, I will not be looking at:

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, which was “pulled from the Menifee, California Union School District [this year] because a parent complained when a child came across the term ‘oral sex’. Officials said the district is forming a committee to consider a permanent classroom ban of the dictionary.”

Maybe it’s been awhile since these people were kids, because I’m shocked that they can’t remember that looking up dirty words is practically what the dictionary is for until you start studying for the SATs and need to know what adjuration means.

Anyway, I’m sure I will think up other credible excuses why I can’t read things as this project progresses. Each review will include a brief summary, why it was challenged, if I think it really should have been, and a mostly fabricated list of other reasons why I think the book might offend you (including awful cover art). I will try to include quotes of the juicy parts so you don’t even have to read it for yourself to find them!

3 responses to “Banned Books 2010: My New Hobby”

  1. I am always up for more Patricia Ladd Reviews! This sounds like a fun and informative project and I look forward to future cultural enrichment and/or jokes about sex.

    Also seriously? SERIOUSLY? I cannot pretend to understand the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary complaint. I honestly feel bad for whoever that parent’s kid is.

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  3. Bova says:

    I totally remember looking up all he bad words I could think of and body parts in the dictionary! lol My mom had the book Joy of Sex on her bookshelf when I was growing up. I was scared of it…have you seen the illustrations?! Super hairy!

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