Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hey, you! You OTHER Book! Yeah, YOU--the SMUTTY one! Get OUT of the library!!

I just learned of another book banning, this one earning a young defender of morality a BOY SCOUT MERIT BADGE!

Gail Giles' SHATTERING GLASS banned
You'll have to scroll down a little on Gail's livejournal, because the same book, Shattering Glass, earned her the California Young Readers Award, and her later blog entries are about that.

Kudos for our illustrious scout and his mom, who, armed with a photocopier and a highlighter, made one library a more moral place! And in addition to the patch for his uniform sash, sources close to the troop say the scout was also given possession of the offending books (safely wrapped in brown paper) so that he could burn them on his next campout!!!! (this photo is NOT authenticated)

You might have seen my earlier blog, or read lots of others about the banning of Maureen Johnson's Bermudez Triangle. The outrageous thing about that incident, most people said, was that there was nothing "inappropriate" about the novel. The only thing the girls do is kiss, and the only thing that the enemies of free speech seemed to object to was that the girls are kissing each other, which some people seem to think is unnatural.
Intellectual Freedom=Good.
And I totally agree with these equations. The damage inflicted by self-righteous haters on countless excellent people who happen to be gay, lesbian, bi, or transgendered--some of whom are my friends and neighbors--what can I say? It's horrible.

But something about the argument that there is nothing wrong with Burmudez Triangle bothers me.

What I'm wondering is, what about the books that have more "objectionable" content? It is easy to defend books that are pretty much innocent. What about the poem, "Have You Ever Faked an Orgasm" that appears along with the other Best of the Best American Poetry in a certain middle school library? What about the adult novel that sneaked into the same library--by a well-known YA writer--containing much that is beyond the ken of 11, 12, 13, and 14-year-old experience? What about Robert Cormier's Fade that a couple of my 8th graders stopped short in reading because of the protagonist's attraction for his aunt? Should these books be purged?

My earlier blog on MJ's book mentioned that I'm a pretty protective parent, but I also think that libraries should be dangerous places. When she was in 5th grade, my daughter read Fahrenheit 451. It was in the classroom library--clearly not part of the vetted curriculum approval process--and though the book terrified her, I did not insist that the book be removed. There are plenty of 5th graders in this "gifted and talented" class who would benefit from the book. If my daughter was not mature enough to read it, the fault for letting her read it belongs to her parents. Maybe I should have paid more attention, but maybe it was okay. She was tested against her own limits and learned that she wasn't ready for that sort of thing. I can't see that any harm was done--no lasting scars from the fires of 451. Not like she when she saw Beauty and the Beast when she was five and became terrified of wolves, woods, and every aspect of nature that isn't equine.

So. Shouldn't libraries be dangerous places where wolves lurk? And while kids need a librarian to come out from behind the desk, a teacher to lead them through the stacks, and parents to read to them long past the age when they can read by themselves, shouldn't older kids, teens and even tweens, negotiate their own way? Shouldn't we trust them more and more as they get older? I'm not saying that middle school libraries should stock Naked Lunch, but I don't see what purpose is served by sanitized literary environments devoid of strong language, procreative desires, and complex moral situations. In other words, where people don't say fuck, where people don't fuck, and where people don't get fucked.

I'm nowhere near ready to let my kid read whatever she wants. I'm not even sure I'm going to let her read MY book! But put me on the committee if somebody wants to start taking books out of her library.


Emma said...

In my opinion, kids are always going to learn about sex and stuff, so isn't it better they learn it from good literature than the local big-mouthed kid on the playground?

Zach said...

That quote at the end about libraries not being sanitized environments is incredibly well said. I think a major problem in the country today is people not taking responsibility for themselves or raising their children to be open minded, yet properly discriminative about the limits of their maturity, so they rely on governing bodies to protect themselves from everything that could potentially offend them.

Carissa said...

I'm buying that scout and his mother tickets to Equus.

Brian Mandabach said...

Emma: I think, dear, that we'd rather they never heard about it at all! ;-)

Zach: thanks!

Carissa: Right on!