Saturday, September 30, 2006

Banned Books Week 2006

It's that time of year again, when the American Library Association stands up to the religious right and announces which books have been "challenged" the most -- in other words, which books parents or ministers want to have removed for not "comporting with family values."

The top ten list for this year:

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier
3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
4. "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck
5. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
6. "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers
7. "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris
8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
10. "Forever" by Judy Blume

Not on the Top Ten list but also frequently cited is another Blume tome, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" -- a wrenching book about child abuse, as Angelou's "Caged" is; as well as "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, about a black man who is framed for raping a white woman who in fact was abused by her own father. I guess most of the parents who try to get it pulled are abusing their kids or support chid abuse; and the rest want to make sure their kids blame themselves when it happens to them.

It's no worse here in Canada, where Mockingbird and Merchant of Venice have been banned from the cirriculuum of high schools. Also not seen in many high schools is W.O. Mitchell's
"Who Has Seen the Wind," redacted for its racial overtones. So the hypocrisy exists on both the left and the right.

For what it's worth, Joanne K Rowling, the author of the Potter series, said yesterday she considers being targeted like that a badge of honour. The other authors, I'm sure, would too ... because it ensures people will read those books and even buy them. The free flow of ideas is essential to democracy, and it just makes me mad that parents' groups oppose the very reason why there is a First Amendment (or the equivalent in democratic countries other than the US). So the next time I drive by a book burning session, I'm going to dump the Bible in there too just to give them a taste of their own medicine -- after all, the Scriptures also mentions rapes, child abuse, ritualistic killings, and making bets with Satan.

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