Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top 5 most challenged books of 2012 (US)

"One man's vulgarity is another's lyric."
- John Marshall Harlan, Supreme Court justice, 1971

I am endlessly fascinated by the American Library Association's frequently challenged book lists. In fact, I was casting my eye over the 2012 list just this morning (hence this post). It's one of those love/hate things with me. I love that people are thinking about wider issues when it comes to books. I adore that these are being discussed on such a big scale. I heart that a lot of the books that are listed are ones that I've read (and sometimes even enjoyed). I hate (and I really do try not to use that word at all) that people feel they can think for me, that they better know what I should find offensive or questionable or inappropriate. This doesn't sit well with me. I feel like I should be the only one who can make that judgement on my own behalf. (Or, you know, The Office of Film and Literature Classification).

Where I come a cropper is in acknowledging that I'm not a parent, and 4 out of the 5 books listed below are kids/teen books.

I happen to think my parents did a good job at raising me. Admittedly, that's bias talking because, naturally enough, I happen to think I'm awesomeness personified. Or pretty darn close to it. I'm not a parent. Mostly because the idea of having children fills me with fear. The thought of being responsible for another person that isn't myself, and putting their care and well being ahead of my own, is just plain scary. I don't want to do it. I'm not sure I could do it. (In fact, I'd prefer to be a tan Peter Pan forever, please and thank you). I'd like to think that I'd be the epitome of grace under fire as a parent, however I'm not about to test that theory any time soon.

So where am I going with this? As a child, my parents let me read as widely as they could. I had read Plato's Republic by the time I was 9 because dad said I'd enjoy it. (I didn't, but I appreciated the thought). Robert Ludlum's espionage stories were my go-to-comfort-reads around that time as well (OH! The feels I got from The Parsifal Mosaic). Louis L'Amour instilled in me a lifelong love of cowboys and First Peoples' history in the US. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina infuriated me beyond my imaginings (more so than War and Peace) because WHERE WAS MY HAPPY ENDING, DARN IT? Kafka's The Trial became a story I never forgot. (And one that one of my lecturers would refer to constantly throughout my three years as a tertiary student umpteen years ago). My parents never told me what I could or couldn't read. They never set those limits. If anything, they would take note of what I was reading, and find more just like it. I think that is, in large part, why I am who I am today. It never occurred to them to stop me - or my friends, or other school mates/fellow library users of my age - from reading whatever we wanted to. I asked my mum about that once when I was in high school. Her response was "You're my concern - not anybody else. As for other kids, let their parent be the parent." And that's kind of my attitude, too.

Perhaps this is why I've never fully understood why anybody would want to ban or challenge a books. I understand people wanting to object. I understand people wanting to raise awareness, or wanting to correct misinformation in a book. (Or a film, or anything else for that matter). I most definitely understand why some people would protest about certain books over others. I wouldn't go so far as to say that censorship offends me. Certainly, though, it scares me. The idea that someone believes that they can think for me, that they better know what I should object to, is somewhat unpalatable to me. I have to say, I'm not likely to ever want to challenge or ban a book. What other people choose to read or watch is none of my business. I've got enough to worry about juggling my own neverending pile of THINGS and STUFF in the way of books/music/films, thanks. Doesn't anybody else?

(Note: Wow. This post intro ran away from me and ended up being somewhat disgruntled/ranty sounding).

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
At New York City's Central Park Zoo, two male penguins fall in love and start a family by taking turns sitting on an abandoned egg until it hatches. Ages 4-8

Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group.

 Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James

When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time. Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever. Book 1 in the Fifty Shades trilogy.

Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit.

 Th1rteen r3asons why / by Jay Asher
When high school student Clay Jenkins receives a box in the mail containing thirteen cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah, who committed suicide, he spends a bewildering and heartbreaking night crisscrossing their town, listening to Hannah's voice recounting the events leading up to her death. Ages 14+

Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.

 The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian / by Sherman Alexie ; art by Ellen Forney
Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.

 Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
Fourth-grade class clowns George Beard and Harold Hutchins have created the greatest superhero in the history of their elementary school -- and now they're going to bring him to life. Meet Captain Underpants! His true identity is SO secret, even HE doesn't know who he is.

Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group.

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