Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banned Books Week: A Few Surprises From the Lists

We've all heard that Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Huck Finn have been banned.   But I was surprised to see these books recently challenged:

Nickeled and Dimed:  On Not Getting By In America, by Barbara Ehrenriech.  Challenged but retained on the reading list for a high school AP English class in Pennsylvania, 2012, on the grounds that it was "faddish" and "obscene."  Really?  I'm scratching my head on this one.  My book club read it, but I'd actually come across it long before that.  Ehrenriech goes undercover, attempting to live for several months each on her salary as a Wal-Mart employee, waitress in a diner, and bookstore restocker.  It's an eye-opening look at an underrepresented part of our society, and I struggle to find it faddish, let alone obscene.  Some AP English students absolutely need to read this one.

The Family Book, by Todd Parr.  Banned from an Illinois elementary school library in 2012 because it contained the line, "some families have two moms or two dads."  A brightly illustrated book by an award-winning author/illustrator aimed at preschoolers to grades 2, it also points out that some families have only one parent, some have stepparents, and some children are adopted.  Oh, the horrors!  Of course, some families do have two moms or two dads--let's make those kids feel alienated, shall we?

A Child Called It, by Dave Pelzer.  Challenge still ongoing at a Washington State middle school, on the grounds that it graphically depicts child abuse (physical, not sexual).  When I ran a small library at a girls' group home this was the number one most popular book.  Pelzer overcame a horrific childhood; I think his book gave the girls hope.

The Dirty Cowboy, by Amy Timberlake.  Banned from a Pennsylvania school library in 2012 because it depicts a cartoon cowboy taking his annual bath (his privates are always kept covered).  Cartoons, people. 

It's Perfectly Normal:  A Book About Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, by Robie Harris.  Stolen from a public library in Maine (2012) because the thief, an adult patron, found it offensive.  This is the book I used when I had the "sex talk" with my children--it's illustrated with cheerful cartoons showing all types of human bodies, and is anatomically frank without being overwhelming.

The Book of Bunny Suicides:  Little Fluffy Rabbits That Just Don't Want to Live Anymore.   Challenged but retained at a high school library in Oregon, 2009.  It's a cartoon book showing bunnies impaling themselves on Darth Vader's light saber, etc.  I've read it; it's hilarious.

The Land, by Mildred Taylor.  Banned from an elementary school in Florida, in 2009, because it contains a "racial epithet."  I'm guessing that's the word "nigger."  This book won the 2002 Coretta Scott King award for the best children's book written by an African-American.  It's a sweeping story of growing up in the South in the early 1900s.  I love Mildred Taylor, and this is my favorite of all of her books.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.  Challenged in the public schools of Culpeper, Virginia, in 2010 on the grounds that it contains sexual material and homosexual themes.  For the life of me, I can't think of a homosexual theme in this book, and the only "sexual" material at all comes when Anne and Peter kiss.  This book had an extraordinary impact on me:  when I came across it, in fifth or sixth grade, I didn't realize it was non-fiction.  I thought it was a novel, and I expected it to end happily.  The words, "Anne's diary ends here" still send a chill through me.