Welcome back to another edition of Tell Me Something Tuesday. A weekly meme hosted here at Rainy Day Ramblings. It is a chance to discuss a range of topics from books, to blogging and everything in between. It is also a good way to get to know your fellow bloggers. You can participate as often as you like. Just grab the question, post the answer on your blog and link up. If you have any questions you would like to see answered on a future TMST email them to me or leave them in the comments.
This week's question:
Let's talk banned books. How do you feel about book banning? What are some of the banned books you have read?
I know that many people feel very strongly about this issue, and I am not an expert on all the ins and outs of banned books, so I decided to ask a librarian and fellow blogger to help me out today. I invited Rummanah@Books in the Spotlight to blog about her thoughts on book banning.
Rummanah hosts a feature on her blog called Forbidden Reads where she reviews a banned book, lists the reasons why the book was challenged and her thoughts on the so called reasons for banning the book.
Rummanah wrote up a fabulous post that will help us all to understand this issue. Here is Rummanah:
Thanks for having me on the blog today to talk about banned books, Heidi. As a librarian, I feel that I have the responsibility to uphold one’s freedom to choose or to express one's opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular to my own. I believe it is vital for people see all viewpoints of books they wish to read. Book challenges and banned books restrict these freedoms.
Book challenges and book banning are not synonymous though at first glance they appear to be. A book challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the actual removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Therefore challenges are dangerous because they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.
Unfortunately, book challenges are not a thing of the past. They occur even in the 21st century. Just this week I’ve read challenges for Alan Moore’s Kill the Joker and Susane Colasanti’s When It Happens. Who challenges books? Well, according to the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom parents are the most common challengers. Surprised? Many of the challenges are made with the best intentions to protect children, from difficult ideas and information but instead of regulating to a specific child it broads to include every child. The top three reasons books are challenged are because they:
- Are considered to be "sexually explicit"
- Contain "offensive language"
- Are "unsuited to any age group"
Censorship when it comes to children and parents is very dicey. Taking care of children is a commendable job and as a librarian I believe that parents have the sole right the responsibility to restrict the access of their children and only their children to library resources because only parents know their children’s limitations. The issue of freedom arises when one parent attempts to prevent others to access the material. It is not surprising to find out that the challenger hasn’t’ a) even read the book and b) takes the “offensive” material out of context.
Why spend all this energy in reading book challenges and banned books? I have always been taught to think and read critically. I’m also very curious to see why certain books ignite conflicts. For the past two years, I have participated in reading banned books and book that have been challenged. In addition to posting a review on my blog, I’ve also listed why and who opposed these books. I have been amazed with the response that I’ve received from my blog readers, many of them shocked about the news. I’ve read books that are challenged for stupid reasons (see my review of the children’s picture book Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake to the most outrageous (see my post about the ridiculous claim that Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is considered soft porn for one professor.
In order to increase awareness and to fight censorship, I’ve been inspired by Banned Books Week to create my own feature called Forbidden Reads. For this feature, I hope to highlight a book that someone forbids me to read. For this feature, I hope to fight back against censorship and start a dialogue about books. My first book in this feature is Robert Cormier’s suspenseful novel Tenderness.
I hope you stop by my blog to discuss the book and celebrate your freedom to read.
Image from: Albany Poets
- Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
- Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
- Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
- And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
- Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
- The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison
I’ve read 5 of them. How many have you read?
Thanks so much Rummanah for putting together such a thoughtful and informative post.
I feel very strongly about book banning, and it angers and saddens me to think that people are trying to impose their ideals upon others and take away the right of free speech. As a parent of a four year old and two year old, I can say that,of course, there are many books out there with content that I may not feel is appropriate for them to read at certain ages, but I would by no means try to challenge or ban a book. Parenting is a very opinionated and personal job. What one parents deems acceptable for their child may be totally inappropriate for another. We know that we are not all going to agree on parenting styles, because children are all different and what works for some doesn't work for others. I feel the same goes for books. I am very open minded when it comes to books and freedom of speech, just because I am incredibly grateful to live in a country where we do have the right to express ourselves. I may not agree with everything that is written or printed, but that is the beauty of living somewhere with free speech. To each their own. No one should have the right to tell another what books they can and cannot read. If you don't approve of a certain book then it is your responsibility as a parent to sit down and discuss with your child why you don't want them to read a book. Keep in mind, sometimes when you tell a kid not to read something, it will likely fuel their curiosity and make them want to read it more. So in a sense banning books usually has the opposite effect. I can assure you that I will continue to fight against book banning as I want to make sure we all have the freedom to read or write what we want. If I don't like it, I won't read it. Let me know your thoughts on this touchy topic!
Finally to close out the meme, I decided to read a book that caused a whole lot of controversy while I was growing up. The book is Judy Blume's Are You There God It's Me Margaret. Here are my thoughts on the book and how I feel about the reasons given for wanting to ban the book.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Margaret Simon, almost twelve, has just moved from New York City to the suburbs, and she's anxious to fit in with her new friends. When she's asked to join a secret club she jumps at the chance. But when the girls start talking about boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret starts to wonder if she's normal. There are some things about growing up that are hard for her to talk about, even with her friends. Lucky for Margaret, she's got someone else to confide in... someone who always listens. Hardcover, 149 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books (first published 1970)
Margaret Ann is almost twelve years old. Her parents decided to move from the city to the suburbs of New Jersey. Margaret is desperate to fit in as she is maturing and coming to terms with her ever changing body. Being twelve is a tumultuous time in any child's life without adding in the stress of a new school and new friends. Margaret is not only suffering through the typical growing pains, but she also has the added pressure of religion. Margaret's mother was a Christian and her father was Jewish. Her parents after experiencing incredible pressure and opposition with their relationship decided that they would let Margaret choose her own religious affiliation when she is ready. Thus at twelve, Margaret is grappling with adolescence and finding her own religious identity. Will God listen to a lost girl without a religion?
What I Liked:
- Even though this book was written in 1970, it is still fresh and relevant for young girls today as it discusses the same issues that girls for generations have struggled with: maturing body, wanting to fit in, hormones and being comfortable in your own skin. Like any preteen, Margaret is worried about her changing body, menstruation, boys and being normal. This book chronicles Margaret's anxiety about getting her period and breasts and her struggle to find a religion. I am sure that many girls and women can relate as they take this journey with Margaret. It certainly brought a lot of that time back to me, and I can say I am grateful that I am well beyond those difficult years. I think this is a great book for young girls to read as they experience all the troubles that this time brings. This is a reminder that everyone is different, and everyone feels awkward at some point in their life.
- I appreciated the discussion about religion. Religion is a very personal issue and I liked how well Ms. Blume handled this touchy topic. Margaret does not have a religious affiliation since one parent is Christian and the other is Jewish. Instead of forcing one religion upon her, Margaret's parents decided to let her choose for herself when the time is right. Throughout the book, Margaret explores different religions and tries to develop her own personal relationship with God. I liked that Ms. Blume made sure to reinforce the idea that religion is a personal choice and everyone has the right to decide.
- I liked that this book is all about the ups and downs of puberty. I think this is an excellent book for girls to read especially while they are struggling with all the changes going on in their lives. I think this book does an excellent job in showing that you are not alone, and everyone goes through this trying period. It is also a good way to open a line of communication with a girl in this age range.
And The Not So Much:
- There were a couple of story threads that I would have liked to see developed more. For instance, Margaret's new friend, Nancy, tells her some gossip and falsehoods that Margaret takes to be truths. Margaret shuns another girl who has breasts and is well developed for her young age because Nancy tells her this girl has a reputation. Later, Margaret has an encounter with the girl and learns the real truth. At this point, I was hoping to see a bit more growth with Margaret. I would have loved to see her talk further with the girl and form a friendship, but instead the storyline just ends. Margaret also learns at the end of the book from a boy that she likes that Nancy told her another untruth. I loved that Ms. Blume makes it clear that we should not buy into gossip and rumors, but I wished that she had made this point more pronounced.
- I enjoyed Margaret's religious journey, and by the end, she is just conflicted. I was disappointed when she turned in her assignment to her teacher and she ran away, and this story line ends as well. I wanted to see her teacher talk to her about her paper on her religious views.
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is a book that was written over forty years ago, but surprisingly it still is pertinent for adolescents today. This book chronicles the rough journey we all experience as we go through development and social changes. It is not an easy journey, but we somehow get through it. This is a great book to get for your pre teen as it is nice way to open a line of discussion about this time period.
"My mother says God is a nice idea. He belongs to everybody."
"I must, I must, I must increase my bust"
I borrowed a copy of this book from the library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
Here are some of the reasons why people challenged the book:
"sexually offensive and amoral" "the book is built around two themes: sex and anti-Christian behavior" "profane, immoral and offensive" See the full details here.
As far as the reasons for wanting to ban this book, I am speechless. There is nothing sexual or amoral, profane or anti Christian. This book discusses in depth the changes that a young girl experiences as she matures. Yes, there is plenty of talk about growing breasts and periods, but the fact of the matter is at eleven and twelve a girl is dealing with these issues. At no point in the book is there anything that is perverse or inappropriate. It is a real and honest look at what a young girl experiences as she matures, from the fear, anxiety and wanting to fit in. As far as the religious aspects, again there is nothing inappropriate. Margaret is a girl who has not been raised in a religion and she is trying to find her own religious identity. At no point, are there any arguments as to why one religion is better than another. Margaret goes through the frustrations of trying to understand God and develop her own relationship. By the end of the book, she is no closer to finding a religion that works for her. However, the message of the book is that religion and God are personal for everyone and you can't let others influence your religious identity. Is that not one of the founding principles of this country? The right to practice and choose your own religion? I am aghast that anyone would want to ban this book because a young girl has the courage to try and find her own religion. I can honestly say after reading this book, I am shocked and saddened that people want to ban this book. It is a great coming of age book for young girls. I personally didn't find anything inappropriate for the target age group. That is the key to this book. Is is specifically written for girls in the ten to thirteen range. I think this book is a good one to share with your preteen daughter as it is a way to open a discussion about maturation. This book is best suited for girls in that age range. There is nothing inappropriate, no sex or anything like that but there is plenty of talk about menstruation. So be sure your young reader is ready for this material before she reads this book.
It obvious that anyone can try and make a case for banning a book for whatever reason, but once we start where does it stop?
Final note, While putting together this post, I decided to look through the reviews on Amazon. I ran across a one star rating with a review that just stated that you needed to be forewarned because there was masturbation in this book. Once again, I was irritated and shocked. There is absolutely no mention of masturbation in this book at all! Just goes to show that people need to read the book before they go on a crusade to get it banned!
Whew! A whole lot to take in! Thanks for sticking with me and for weighing in on book banning. I would love to hear your thoughts on this touchy topic! A huge thanks to Rummanah for her input on book banning. I hope you will all visit her blog and consider participating in her Forbidden Reads Feature, the more people who help spread the word against book banning, the better. Be sure to email Rummanah with any further questions you have about book banning and how you can help if you are interested. Watch for a monthly Forbidden Reads feature here on Rainy Day Ramblings. I hope you will all consider reading some banned books and discussing your thoughts on the reasons behind banning the book.
Be sure to link up!
For next week's Tell Me Something Tuesday, I won't have a question as I will be participating in Armchair BEA.
I plan to answer the questions posed by the Armchair BEA. It isn't too late to sign up. Head over and add your name and check out the schedule. TMST will return on June 4th and I will be discussing reviewing:
Have you changed as reviewer since you first starting blogging? Are you more harsh or lenient?