Saturday, February 17, 2007

You Won’t Find Men’s Genitalia in Quality Literature

Nor will you find it in the Newbery Award winning novel, The Higher Power of Lucky. And yet, a New York Times article on the "controversy" over the word scrotum in that book ends with that pithy, but wrong (in several ways) quote from a librarian in Colorado. This librarian also compares Susan Patron to Howard Stern for her use of the word.

The article also contains this curious statement, apparently from the reporter, as it is unattributed:
Authors of children’s books sometimes sneak in a single touchy word or paragraph, leaving librarians to choose whether to ban an entire book over one offending phrase.
Yes. That's exactly how it happens. We sit there at our computers, looking for places to sneak in those touchy words, just so we can shock shock! unsuspecting librarians.

Elsewhere in the article, another librarian offers his belief that the flap is a “case of an author not realizing her audience.” If by audience he means prudish, censorious adults who are afraid of uttering the accurate, non-sexualized term for a part of a male dog’s anatomy in front of nine- and ten-year-old children, half of whom share this anatomical feature with the canine in question, then I suppose he has a point.

18 Comments:

Blogger Lisa Yee said...

I would comment right now, but I'm too busy sneaking snarky words into my manuscript.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous bmad said...

i was about to get really annoyed about the New York Times article, and then i remembered that the NY Times has become totally irrelevant in the last few years. Does anyone take that paper seriously anymore? Between Judith Miller, Jayson Blair, Maureen Dowd, and even Kakutani, along with articles like this, I think it's pretty clear that the paper of record has absolutely no authority whatsoever. I'm just waiting for them to give Marilyn Vos Savant (world's smartest woman) a spot on the op-ed page. caveat: if they put my book in the book review, i will obviously change my mind about all of the above.

12:58 PM  
Blogger SafeLibraries.org said...

Folks, you know how I feel about the ALA giving children's book awards to books containing sexualized material not for children. While I have not read the latest award winner, from what I hear, mere use of one word as described does not even tweak my proximity alarms. I agree with all of you that this is a silly nonissue.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Rosemary Graham said...

Thanks, Safelibraries. I appreciate hearing from you on this.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Miss Bristol County 2000 said...

I think the kerfluffle over this word comes from people's fear of having to explain what a "scrotum" is to the youngster reading the book. Cries of "won't someone think of the children" are pretenses for "won't someone save me the embarassment of having to use real words for body parts". Just look at the "HooHaa Monologues" travesty in Florida.
http://www.boingboing.net/2007/02/08/the_hoohah_monologue.html
I'm a librarian and weep for intellectual freedom when a simple word causes grown people with advanced degrees to start yanking books from shelves.

2:15 PM  
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