Wednesday, January 25, 2006

GRENDEL Being Challenged In New York

A New York teacher blogs about how she's fighting a challenge to GRENDEL by John Gardner. She writes (superbly):
The parents who are challenging our decision to teach the book are deeply committed to the belief that there is already enough "evil" in the world and their children should be reading only "uplifting" materials.

I disagree. The world is made up of both good and evil and for students to decide where they stand, they must first explore the nature of good and evil, argue about it, change their minds a few times, and then come to a decision. Frankly, I think this frightens some parents because many would like their children to simply believe what they believe and value what they value—but this simply cannot be. It is human nature to question.

Despite its graphic imagery and language and the presence of evil, I believe that Grendel is an excellent book to teach on many levels. It lends itself to deep character analysis as well as literary devices such as motif, tone, and imagery.

GEOGRAPHY CLUB Banned Again, For Not Being "Gay" Enough!

Relax. It's satire.

But I wrote it, so I think it's pretty funny.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Censorship? T'was Ever Thus!

This morning's Today in Literature had another great quote I thought appropriate to As If! --

The critics of Brontë's novel accused her of doing more than provoking high, useless emotion in her impressionable readers. They censured her for moral corruption, complaining that her abusive, alcoholic, womanizing villain was portrayed all too forcefully and realistically in her novel. The outcry was so great that, in a preface to the second edition, Brontë felt moved to defend her style and aims:

"To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light, is doubtless the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest? Is it better to reveal the snares and pitfalls of life to the young and thoughtless traveller, or to cover them with branches and flowers? O Reader! if there were less of this delicate concealment of facts–this whispering 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace, there would be less of sin and misery to the young of both sexes who are left to wring their bitter knowledge from experience."

Isn't that great?! Clearly, this battle has e'er been fought....


Elizabeth Bluemle
Flying Pig Bookstore

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

An Email From Carolyn Macker

Hey everyone-

I'm trying to finish a novel this month so I'm not *supposed* to be online, but I'm sneaking onto my email to send out the latest about The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things and the Baltimore banning. Check out the front page of today's Baltimore Sun:,1,7642619.story?coll=bal-home-headlines

I got a call from the reporter yesterday evening telling me that the Superintendent is returning EARTH to the high schools (!!) but still banning it from the junior highs. Yay, sort of.

Thanks, all, for your tremendous encouragement and support.

Best wishes,


Librarians in Texas have dropped their challenge to a policy that requires parental permission for middle grade students who want to read Catherine Atkins' WHEN JEFF COMES HOME.

"After we did all of our research, we just decided it was better for right now to withdraw the appeal," said Heather Lamb, de Zavala Middle School library media specialist. "We're still going to fight for First Amendment rights, just not this battle."

Yes, that makes sense. After all, we don't need First Amendment rights in every instance. Like, say, when parents complain. We don't really need them on Wednesdays either. Or Fridays. Or Mondays. Oh, hell, how about if we just have them in theory?

Monday, January 09, 2006

"Friends of AS IF!"

Want to help AS IF! in our efforts to support intellectual freedom and fight the censorship of teen books? Then why not join our yahoo group?

You'll receive a weekly update on our work, and also the opportunity to debate censorship issues with authors and other like-minded folks.

But wait! There's more! You'll also these Ginsu knives!

Not really. But the group itself is important:

ASIF! Friends

Norwood High School Students Honored at Colorado Association of Libraries Annual Conference

Denver, Colorado – High school students receive intellectual freedom award for protesting book ban at their school.

On Saturday, November 12, the Norwood High School students, who protested the removal of the book “Bless Me Ultima” from their school’s curriculum, were added to the Julie J. Boucher Community Honor Roll. This honor is awarded by the Colorado Association of Libraries Intellectual Freedom Committee and recognizes an individual or group in Colorado that promotes intellectual freedom, but is not directly affiliated with libraries.

Representing their fellow students were Sarah Setzer, Skyler Hollinbeck, and Stephanie Adams, who traveled over 370 miles from Norwood in southwest Colorado to Denver to accept the award. The incident that garnered all this attention happened in February 2005, when approximately 20 Norwood students organized a peaceful sit-in at their high school gym – reading from the banned book and discussing its removal. According to the three students “Bless Me Ultima” is still not back in the school's curriculum and has not received the promised review. Also at the awards ceremony were Carrie Andrews, librarian at Norwood High School, and Barbara Youngblood, director of the San Miguel Library District #2, Norwood Public Library.

During the presentation, Nicolle Steffen, chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee, said the students’ “act of civil disobedience demonstrated courage and maturity beyond their years, as well as knowledge about censorship, First Amendment Rights, and academic freedom.”

According to Steffen the affects of the students’ actions went far beyond their rural community, “Judging from the number email and phone messages I received, these students were an inspiration to many in our profession [librarianship].”

The awards ceremony was part of the Julie J. Boucher Memorial Lecture on Intellectual Freedom. This year’s speaker was former Colorado Congresswoman and current president of the Association of American Publishers, Patricia Schroeder, who expressed her admiration for the students, adding “We need to let everyone know about what these students did to protest the removal of the book from their school. They’re remarkable.”

In a similar incident in October, students at Arapahoe and Heritage High Schools in Littleton held a sit-in protesting the removal of “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison from their district’s libraries and curriculum.

James LaRue
Spokesperson, Colorado Association of Libraries
Phone: (303) 688-7656
Colorado Association of Libraries:
Intellectual Freedom Award:

Friday, January 06, 2006


The award-winning THE SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER is under attack by a radio talk-show host in Alabama, who thinks it should be pulled from schools. Part of the issue is the use of the word "nigger."

This is one criticism that I just can't wrap my mind around. I think it goes back to the idea that the author agrees with and endorses absolutely everything that every character does in a book...which is, of course, utterly ridiculous. ROMEO AND JULIET, anyone? KING LEAR?

Sometimes characters in books say or do bad, evil things. For teachers, such actions can be perfect "teaching moments." But even if they aren't, authors simply must have the freedom to write about darker elements of life, otherwise what we're writing isn't literature, but greeting cards.

Fortunately, I'm sure this book and the issue of censorship will be debated thoughtfully and deliberately in Alabama, because, you know, that's what radio talk-shows are known for.

An Author Self-Censors

We here at AS IF! have been debating an interesting case of self-censorship: An author wrote a book for adults that was being used in high schools, and it was repeatedly challenged and banned. So when the rights reverted to him, he took out the "offensive" parts and published a "new" edition.

Censorship? Well, yes, but clearly this case is more complicated than that, because it's the author making the choice.

Here at AS IF!, we strongly believe in an author's right to control his or her own work. But we can't help but think that responding to individual criticisms like this is a fool's game, because the folks who want to ban and censor books will just find other criticisms...which is exactly what happened in this case.

Still, it's a fascinating story.