Friday, May 18, 2007

Judy Blume in Newsweek

The godmother of anti-censorship, Judy Blume, is interviewed in Newsweek about her landmark novel, Forever.

I thought this was particularly interesting (mostly because I've been saying the same thing for years!):
There is so much sex on TV and on billboards today—seemingly more than when “Forever” first came out—why do you think the book continues to be so controversial?

Because it's a book. Some adults, for whatever reason, have a desperate need to control everything in their children's lives. They can't control what's on television or on a billboard, but many think they can control what their children read. These individuals believe if their kids don't read about it, they won't know about it, and if they don't know about it, they'll never do it. They think they can have a book banned if they don't want their children to read it. They'll go into school waving a book, demanding that it be removed. There are a lot of would-be censors out there. Not only do they want to make the decision for their children but for all children. How much better it would it be if the parents could read the book, too, and then talk about it with their teens.


Blogger Lisa Yee said...

So true!

3:24 PM  
Blogger SafeLibraries® said...

Hasn't she gone a little too far though? I mean forget what I think. Just look at the SCOTUS case from 1982 called Board of Educuation v. Pico. In that case pervasively vulgar books were obviously to be kept out of children's hands, at so far as public schools were concerned. Both sides stipulated to this and the Court agreed. Clearly, certain books are inappropriate for children in the eyes of SCOTUS. Would you all not agree?

8:07 PM  
Blogger Jordan Sonnenblick said...

Safe, the PICO argument is extremely disingenuous. Advocates of school censorship always tout PICO as a victory, while in reality, PICO is anything BUT a victory for censorship.

NONE of the books written by Judy Blume, and NONE of the books we've ever discussed at AS IF, have ever come close to being "pervasively vulgar". That's why Judy Blume is in the right 100%.

"Pervasively vulgar" sets a very high threshold: a book would have to have obscene sex acts on nearly every page, and NO redeeming literary value, in order to meet the "pervasively vulgar" test. And then, of course, AS IF wouldn't want that book used in schools.

6:30 AM  
Blogger SafeLibraries® said...

I agree, Jordan. I was not saying Judy Blume's books were pervasively vulgar. All I was saying is that saying removing ANY book is censorship was going a little too far. I think we agree on this. Actually, based on what you said, we agree 100%. We are just so used to being on different sides that when we are on the same side, it's hard to see that we are. In this case, we are.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Majin Yojimbo said...

Judy Blume, obviously can't tell the difference between 'banning' a book and 'removing' it from required reading. There is a difference. A HUGE difference. So just because they deem a book inappropriate for a variety of young, impressionable kids, what makes you think certain kids won't grow up and discover the book in their maturity, presumably when they are more capable of understanding the material? And how in the world does this affect a writer's intellectual and creative freedom? It has absolutely nothing to do with them! Now banning something alltogether where it can't be read or viewed by anyone of any age (ie Song of the South) needs to be addressed, but Judy is complaining that certain book aren't being REQUIRED, not being banned.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Librarina said...

gb2k wrote: Now banning something alltogether where it can't be read or viewed by anyone of any age (ie Song of the South) needs to be addressed, but Judy is complaining that certain book aren't being REQUIRED, not being banned.

I think you are misreading the quote. She said, "They think they can have a book banned ... demanding that it be removed." As in, removed from the library. That is the very definition of censorship.

While I am sure Judy Blume, or any other author, would love her books to be on required reading lists, I am certain that this is NOT her complaint.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gb2k, I used to think like you did, that there was no difference between physically removing a list from a library and "just" removing it from a reading list. But I've revised my opinion considerably.

What's the common element? When the decision is made for political reasons: because someone doesn't like the "message" of a book and then, opposing the professional opinion of the teachers and/or librarians who chose that book in the first place, and depriving all students of the benefit of that teacher's educational expertise. It speaks directly intellectual and educational independence.

And it's not just about the book in question. Such "removals" create a very chilling environment, both for teachers and for writers. I didn't used to believe it, but I've since seen it too many times. Education is politicized and homogenized.

It's easy to minimize these "removals" by saying, "Well, there are LOTS of other books!" But these removals have a profound effect.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Geena said...

It's Judy Blume's attitude and tone I find offensive. She attacks parents who care enough to be involved with what influences their children. Children without parental supervision and control, grow up like flowers amidst alpine snows. Blume is entitled to an opinion just as we all are. She needs to chill and not take literary criticism to heart.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Jordan Sonnenblick said...


You wrote, "She needs to chill and not take literary criticism to heart." No offense, but what you're talking about isn't "literary criticism." Literary criticism is discussion of the intellectual and stylistic qualities of a book, especially as they interact with literary theory. That's a far cry from "Get this book out of every library! My kid will NOT be exposed to such filth!"

9:08 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Also, Judy Blume was not claiming that parents should not be involved in what their own kids are reading; rather, she is saying that some parents want to make those decisions for ALL kids by having a book banned. "Not only do they want to make the decision for their children but for all children." There's a huge difference between telling you own child that they may not read a book, and attempting to completely cut off access to the book for everyone who uses that library.

1:27 PM  
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8:44 PM  

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