You Can’t Read That!

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.

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Amusing Shutterstock find: “Man hand showing CENSORSHIP word phone with blur business man wearing plaid shirt”

YCRT! News Roundup

This is an interesting exchange:

Elementary school librarian to author:

It’s not that I don’t think heroin addiction is extremely important. Our community has faced its share of heartbreaking stories in regards to drug abuse but fourth and fifth graders are still so innocent to the sad drug world. Even two years from now when they’re in sixth grade this book will be a wonderful and important read but as a mother of a fourth grader, I would never give him a book about heroin because he doesn’t even know what that is. I just don’t think that at 10 years old he needs to worry about that on top of all of the other things he already worries about… For now, I just need the 10 and 11-year-olds biggest worry to be about friendships, summer camps, and maybe their first pimple or two.

Author to elementary school librarian:

We don’t serve only our own children. We don’t serve the children of 1950. We don’t serve the children of some imaginary land where they are protected from the headlines. We serve real children in the real world. A world where nine-year-olds are learning how to administer Naloxone in the hopes that they’ll be able to save a family member from dying of an overdose. And whether you teach in a poor inner city school or a wealthy suburb, that world includes families that are shattered by opioid addiction right now. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. It just makes those kids feel more alone.

Amazon doesn’t have a problem with selling erotic books. But they seem to have a problem with this one.

From the automotive censorship front: family-friendly feature or bluenose bug?

As goes the Texas Board of Education, so goes North Carolina:

For this English teacher, this nomination spells censorship and more governmental control over what is read by students in North Carolina. His track record screams that free thought, interaction with unknown ideas, and expressions of differing viewpoints should not be allowed in high schools.

Some parents want children’s and young adult books rated like movies. But rating, as some book stores are beginning to do, can lead to blanket book- and author-banning attempts, as this high school teacher has discovered.

The pleasures of forbidden reading. I suspect it’s a universal experience. I hope so, anyway.

Literary voyeurs, on your mark! Now you can see what Toronto library patrons are searching for in real time.

Conservatives love to turn the tables on progressives by citing instances of political correctness run amok. Sadly, colleges and universities are only too happy to oblige.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 7.51.57 AMThis is the poster for Banned Books Week 2016, September 25 to October 1. Last year’s BBW poster was deemed problematic: people said the original design was anti-Muslim, and the American Library Association changed it. I suspect the same people who are so busy enforcing speech codes and “safe spaces” on college campuses were behind the opposition to last year’s BBW poster. What will they find offensive this year? My guess: the superhero silhouettes, which clearly contribute to an oppressively judgmental atmosphere of body-shaming.

YCRT! Banned Book Review

During last week’s Democratic National Convention, I perked up when Chelsea Clinton described reading Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” with her mother. Of course I’m delighted whenever kids and parents read banned books together, and “A Wrinkle in Time” is just such a book, firmly placed on the American Library Association’s 2000-2009 top 100 list of banned and challenged books (as it was on the 1990-1999 list before that).

I did not read L’Engle’s book as a child. I read it in my 60s, motivated primarily by curiosity about why conservative and religious parents object to it as strongly as they do. And I wrote a short review, which I’ll repost here:

wrinkle in timeA Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L’Engle

As an adult, I often read books aimed at teenagers, and I looked forward to reading this one because it’s cataloged as science fiction and I’m a sci-fi geek. But “A Wrinkle in Time,” despite a head-nod to interstellar travel through wormholes, a well-worn sci-fi convention, is really magic, fantasy, and witchcraft, wrapped around a Christian, “Chronicles of Narnia”-like message.

So why is it that L’Engle’s book is so often challenged? Because, I suppose, a certain kind of Christian hates being reminded that Christ preached love over vengeance and hate. And then there’s the passage where L’Engle gives Ghandi equal billing with Jesus. Hell, I could have told her that was a non-starter!

Here is some additional commentary on “A Wrinkle in Time” and the reasons people try to ban it. First, from a 2010 article in The New Yorker, discussing plans to make a movie of the book:

Madeleine L’Engle did not shy away from complicated topics like quantum physics or, more controversially, religion. L’Engle, who for years was the librarian and writer in residence at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, on the Upper West Side, dotted her text with Biblical quotations, and foregrounded her belief in ecumenism—a particularly controversial passage in “A Wrinkle in Time” placed Jesus alongside Gandhi, the Buddha, and Einstein in the fight against evil. To be reductive, L’Engle’s life philosophy is the kind of happy religious pluralism in which Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and even scientists can live together in peace. Needless to say, conservative Christians were not thrilled about the easy conflation.

Second, from the Banned Book Awareness blog (unfortunately no longer on line, and I cannot find a current link to the quoted paragraph):

L’Engle was in fact a Christian, the official writer-in-residence at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Christian opponents of her book, however, point to the fact that she was an Episcopalian, and thus a liberal, and thus a commie. Other objections? Placing Ghandi on a plane with Jesus. … New age religion and magic. Strong female characters.

Strong female characters? If strength is what Hillary Clinton voters are looking for, they should be glad to know Hillary read “A Wrinkle in Time” with her daughter!

© 2016, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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