Banned Books Week 2010: Still Time to Celebrate

View Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2010 in a larger map

Some people want to burn books that contain, represent or express ideas they hate; in America, a number of people (the same ones, most likely) try very hard every year to have certain books banned. They want them removed from American libraries, schools, anywhere they can try to get a book erased. (Good thing there is actually no such thing as “unpublishing” don’t you think?)

The American Library Association fights these demands for book removals. Every year. And so every year they celebrate Banned Books Week (September 25−October 2, 2010). This is to draw attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States and stress the essentialness of intellectual freedom. The ALA published this .PDF of books that were targeted for banning 2010. While sickened to see Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings on the 2010 list, I wanted to note the sex books on this year’s list. The reasons are usually “Nudity, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint.”

Deal with It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a gURL Esther Drill (one of my favorite sex ed books, BTW)
Joy of Sex Alex Comfort
Sex for Busy People: The Art of the Quickie for Lovers on the Go Emily Dubberly
Lesbian Kama Sutra Kat Harding
Mastering Multiple Position Sex Eric Marlowe Garrison
Vampire Academy series Richelle Mead
The Joy of Gay Sex Silverstein, Charles, and Felice Picano
Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (Pulled in CA school system for containing “oral sex” and still under consideration)

I was shocked to see Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block on the list, at the very least for the backstory:

Four Wisconsin men belonging to the Christian Civil Liberties Union (CCLU) sought $30,000 apiece for emotional distress they suffered from the West Bend, Wis. Community Memorial Library (2009) for displaying a copy of the book. The claim states that, “specific words used in the book are derogatory and slanderous to all males” and “the words can permeate violence and put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.” The CCLU called for the public burning of this title. Four months later, the library board unanimously voted 9–0 to maintain, “without removing, relocating, labeling, or otherwise restricting access,” this and other books challenged in the young adult section at the West Bend Community Memorial Library.

We need an ALA for Facebook. (This week, the personal Facebook profiles of all Bizarre Magazine staff were deleted.)

I’d be remiss not to note that one of my books (just released in its new second edition) was on the ALA’s targeted list in 2004-5. Thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the American library community, my book was retained in American library collections. Thank you, ALA.

UPDATE: Also check out this great post, Reading Banned Books on the Kindle. DC writes me saying,

“Saturday is the last day of “Banned Books Week,” the annual celebration of the right to read which publicizes struggles against book censorship. The American Library Association released their new list of the most-frequently challenged books, including the sexy young-adult novel “ttyl,” the first novel structured entirely as a series of text messages. But ironically, today 7 of the 10 most-frequently challenged books aren’t available on the Kindle anyways, simply because publishers and Amazon haven’t agreed on acceptable distribution terms.

And yet at least two sexy books on the list are available only in Amazon’s Kindle store: Amazon is touting the special 50th Anniversary edition of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov as one of “many digital books exclusive to Kindle” (along with Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie).”

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  1. Thanks for the article link! That was a very well argued counterpoint; something I honestly did not expect.

    You’re right, it’s not the concept of digital books that is the problem, it’s the DRM. If I was able to download a file, and be 100% assured that nobody would be updating it or deleting it without my permission, and that this file could be read on any of a number of e-book reader devices out there… then yeah, I’d have no complaints about the e-book system. And maybe we’re getting to that point; I don’t know. I’m woefully not up to date on the topic right now.

    (And no fair derailing my train of thought with talk of tin-foil bikinis. ^_^)

  2. I just had to comment again. After downloading the pdf I saw Anne Frank’s Diary there, WTF! Also a dictionary, because a kid looked up rude words! Now, didn’t we all do that at some point in our lives? The BBC comedy ‘Blackadder the Third’ even made a joke about the prince regent looking up rude word in Dr. Johnson first dictionary. I mean what the hell is going on in some peoples minds?

  3. I saddens me to know this kind of thing goes on still. Although as a parent of a girl who is begin to ask questions on reproduction I have to say that this list has brought to my attention the very kind of book I’ve been looking for in ‘Deal with It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain, and Life as a gURL’ I’ve just had a look inside on amazon and it look perfect, so thanks for the list, in a perverse way, for helping me find this book.

  4. While I greatly appreciate the convenience of instant downloads from anywhere (not to mention saving my spine for better uses by not lifting three tons of printed material every time I move), this is why I can’t fully get behind e-books; the potential for censorship and “unpublishing” is just too great. Amazon proved that last year with their all-too-apt forced deletion of Orwell’s 1984 off of peoples’ Kindles.

    What happens when one of the Texas BOA or Kansas BOA kooks makes her way through the system to a position of national importance? Does anybody really believe Amazon will spend time, money, or political clout fighting to resist government demands that gay-penguin books be recalled? Or what about that book recently published by the former soldier about the Afghanistan conflict; the one that the Air Force had to buy up and burn every existing copy of, because it was potentially embarrassing? How much more often will things like that happen when all they have to do is send a subpoena and push a button on a computer?

    My justified paranoia makes me sad. I really do wish I could put my entire library on a hard-drive; then I’d have a whole extra bedroom to spare for other purposes (dedicated dungeon, maybe?)

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