Okay, so I’m a little late, but the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week was the week before Conference. They have a list of 10 most challenged books for 2006, another of 10 most challenged books of 2000-2005, and another of 100 most challenged between 1990 and 2000.
So which banned book is your favorite?
I’m partial to Allard and Marshall’s The Stupids series of picture books (for example, here’s The Stupids Die). The characters are so wonderfully stupid, laughing at them makes me feel better about my own stupidity. Plus, it’s fun how blatantly they violate taboo on the word stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. Isn’t it fun to say? Maybe I only think so because I have young sons.
Regarding the question of banning books, I can think of three different types of challenges to books (and I’m sure there are more):
1. We should make it illegal to publish this book.
2. I don’t want my tax dollars spent to buy this book for a public (or school) library.
3. I don’t want my child to read this book for school.
I can’t imagine a circumstance where I would be sympathetic to #1. I know this type of example is over-used, but if we start banning books based on what a majority of people don’t like, The Book of Mormon is going to be near the top of the list.
I can see the logic of #2. Certainly we all see our tax money being spent on wars or subsidies or social programs that we don’t like. But we don’t generally get to exercise such detailed control over government actions as to decide how some tiny bit of a library’s collection development budget is spent. Even at the local level, we usually don’t get to vote on specific expenditures, particularly not ones as small as for a single book (or even several copies of a single book). So while I can see the logic of this kind of challenge, I think it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to control public libraries’ collections in any detail. If collection developers consistently buy stuff we don’t like, we should try to get our city councils to hire new people to replace them, but I can’t see challenging single items.
I think #3 is the best case for challenging a book. If a parent just asks a teacher to provide an alternate for a book they (the parent) doesn’t want their child reading, this interferes little with other people reading it. (Of course, the unintended consequence is possibly that kids forbidden by their parents to read a particular book will be overcome with curiosity and find it somewhere else.) Still, I think I would have to object to a book’s contents pretty strongly before I asked a teacher to allow my kids to read something else for an assignment. I recall a BYU professor once saying in a class I was taking that he wouldn’t mind if his kids saw all kinds of objectionable content on TV, just so long as he could be sitting next to them to help them interpret it reasonably. I like that approach, and I’d like to imagine that I could so something similar for my kids if they were assigned to read a book I didn’t like. But then my oldest is only seven so I might feel differently if he’s older and he’s assigned to read something like Basic Instinct: A Novelization for a high school class.
I would be interested to hear what you think about different types of challenges to books.