Celebrating Banned Book Week Locally

September 29th, 2009 • Kate

Banned BooksAs I’m sure you’re heard, this week is Banned Books Week. I shared a crazy Wall Street Journal editorial on the subject the other day on Twitter, and Neil Gaiman linked to it today, as well as to a rebuttal (a “sane reply” in his words) at the Huffington Post. But of the many links being shared this week — and there are a ton, many well worth a read and/or your emotions — one of the best is, I think, this interactive map showing the last few years’ Book Bans and Challenges as per the ALA. Rexroth’s advice? “Don’t just read a banned book, read one banned in your area.”

So I clicked on Colorado to see what books have been challenged, and came across this impassioned and brilliant response to a library patron in Castle Rock who requested a book be removed because of homosexual content (a subject of particular interest, considering what Maureen Johnson has gone through with The Bermudez Triangle):

You say that the book is inappropriate, and I infer that your reason is the topic itself: gay marriage. I think a lot of adults imagine that what defines a children’s book is the subject. But that’s not the case. Children’s books deal with anything and everything. There are children’s books about death (even suicide), adult alcoholism, family violence, and more. Even the most common fairy tales have their grim side: the father and stepmother of Hansel and Gretel, facing hunger and poverty, take the children into the woods, and abandon them to die! Little Red Riding Hood (in the original version, anyhow) was eaten by the wolf along with granny. There’s a fascinating book about this, by the bye, called “The Uses of Enchantment: the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales,” by psychologist Bruno Bettelheim. His thesis is that both the purpose and power of children’s literature is to help young people begin to make sense of the world. There is a lot out there that is confusing, or faintly threatening, and even dangerous in the world. Stories help children name their fears, understand them, work out strategies for dealing with life. In Hansel and Gretel, children learn that cleverness and mutual support might help you to escape bad situations. In Little Red Riding Hood, they learn not to talk to big bad strangers. Of course, not all children’s books deal with “difficult issues,” maybe not even most of them. But it’s not unusual.

Check out the whole thing. As for me, I’m off to go reserve Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen to read to the little munchkin.

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4 Responses to “Celebrating Banned Book Week Locally”

  1. beth Says:

    Oh, what an excellent point. I never thought about how local areas were effected–I've just been looking at individual books in general.

  2. Sara Raasch Says:

    I read "The Uses of Enchantment" in a lit class two quarters ago, and it was absolutely brilliant. I never thought of Bettelheim's thesis being used in this situation, but it totally works. Just because you don't let your child read a book about gay marriage doesn't mean it doesn't exist. They WILL encounter it one day, so why shouldn't they at least be aware of it beforehand?

  3. Matthew Says:

    If you have the time you should really read the entire letter written by the librarian at Daphne's "this impassioned and brilliant response" link. It is a beautiful and thoughtful attempt to empathize and achieve understanding. Too bad it probably got the complaining parent really upset.

  4. Scott Says:

    Great post.

    My impression about the people wanting to ban books: they've probably never read the book in question, just heard about the 'content' and then went looking for pitchforks and torches!

    Oh well, if it weren't for the pitchfork and torches people, what would we write about on our blogs?

    There was an article in our local paper a few months back about a new librarian who found a box of books in a storeroom. She, being a go-getter and all that jazz, picked up the box and began putting the books back on the shelf where she thought they belonged. Well, horror or horrors, the head librarian realized what she was doing and told her to stop because those books were 'banned'. Oh, the horrors! The new librarian was pretty much shocked that any of the books in the box were banned. The article stirred up many letters to the editor for and against the banning of books.

    Farenheit 451 anyone?