Sunday, February 25, 2007

Don't Like a Book in a Library? Steal It

Ahhh, another one of the many tactics used by the opponents of free speech and freedom to read: if they don't like or approve of something in a library book, they simply check it out and never return it. The cost to the thief is question is merely the cost of the book. And if the library doesn't replace the book (as if often the case), the cost to the community is a little less access to ideas, and a little less freedom to decide for themselves which books they want to read.

This story out of Miami gives a little insight into the mindset of the folks who play this game:
A group of parents in Miami-Dade have come up with a unique way to get books they considered controversial off the shelves at their children’s schools libraries. They check them out, but never return them.

Dalila Rodriguez admits she checked out “Discovering Cultures, Cuba” from the library at her son’s school Norma Butler Bossard Elementary at 15950 SW 144th St. earlier this month, and doesn’t plan to return it. Rodriguez said this book, like another controversial book she’s checked out “Vamos a Cuba,” contains false information about Cuba.

Rodriguez said, “If you take it out and don't return it, no kid can read it. It's not censoring; it's protecting our children from lies."
Uh, right. Well, I guess it's not "censorship" per se, in that it's not the government doing the censoring. It's just people like Rodriguez being complete and total jerks (and I, uh, censored myself a little there on what I was really thinking!).

Sadly, according to the article, a survey of school district library records show of the 48 copies of “Vamos a Cuba” they have on hand, 17 are lost or overdue.

Friday, February 23, 2007

ALA Speaks Out About LUCKY

The ALA released this statement about the Scrotum factor in THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. I love the line, "Libraries are about inclusion rather than exclusion."

For Immediate Release
February 22, 2007

Statement regarding the true value of "Higher Power of Lucky"

CHICAGO - The following is a joint statement released by Kathleen T. Horning, president, Association for Library Service to Children, and Cyndi Phillip, president, American Association of School Librarians, regarding the "Higher Power of Lucky."

"Recent media coverage failed to discuss the true value of the 'Higher Power of Lucky,' by Susan Patron. The author’s use of one word should not prevent children from having free access to this remarkable piece of children’s literature. Children and their families should be given the opportunity to read this book and develop their opinions.

"The 'Higher Power of Lucky' is a perfectly nuanced blend of adventure and survival, both emotional and physical. It is a gently humorous character study, as well as a blueprint for a self-examined life. The book serves as a reminder that children support one another just as adults do.

"Libraries are about inclusion rather than exclusion. The freedom to read, speak, think and express ourselves is core to our American values. Part of living in a democracy means respecting each other’s differences and the right of all people to choose for themselves what they and their families read.

"Fortunately, most libraries do offer a full spectrum of resources and ideas from which our patrons can choose. Librarians understand that children mature at different rates and have different interests, reading abilities and life experiences. Decisions about what materials are suitable for particular children should be made by the people who know them best - their parents or guardians.

"We believe that every family should have the opportunity to read the 'Higher Power of Lucky' and that every public and school library should consider adding the book to their collections."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New York Times Editorializes "Scrotum"

Recently, THE NEW YORK TIMES ran this editorial, a follow-up of sorts, to their February 18th article about "scrotum" and THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY.

The editorial is well written, well thought out, and rings true.

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.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Scrotum. It's right there on the first page of Susan Patron's newly minted Newbery Award-winning novel, THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. Scrotum. It's not that uncommon, in fact half the people I know have them. Scrotum. Apparently this is a scary word.

Because the book includes the word "scrotum," some people do not want the book in their schools and libraries. Blogs and listservs, teachers, librarians, readers, reviewers, have been debating "scrotum."

In the novel, Ray gets bit on the scrotum by a rattlesnake. (Ray is a dog.) Never mind that there are hundreds and hundreds of wonderful words in this small gem of a story. Or that using the "scrotum" is entirely in keeping with the smart, observant protagonist, Lucky. This one word is a lightening rod.

This is a Newbery book, singled out for its literary merit, and honored by the American Library Association. It was written by a librarian. To not carry it in a library infringes upon one's intellectual freedom. It denies the reader the opportunity to choose, or not choose, to read the book.

Recently, Publishers Weekly ran an article about this uproar . . . It includes our stance on the issue, as well as comments from Susan Patron.

What do you think about this?

(Posted by Lisa Yee)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia's Katherine Paterson on Censorship

Multiple-Newbery winner and honoree Katherine Paterson (who I had dinner with last year and is delightful) discusses censorship in a recent interview in Christianity Today. The subject is her classic book, Bridge to Terabithia, which is now a major motion picture:
Terabithia and Gilly Hopkins were on the American Library Association's list of the most frequently challenged books of the 1990s.

Paterson: Yeah, well. (laughs) People say, "Aren't you proud," and I say, "No, because it means every time it's challenged, some teacher or librarian is in trouble because of me, and I can't enjoy that." But the sad thing is, I think it's because people don't understand what a story is.

What is a story?

Paterson: A story is open-ended. A story invites you into it to make your own meaning. If you look at Jesus' parables, I think the Parable of the Sower is about the only one in which his disciples demand that the meaning be spelled out, but most of the stories Jesus tells are very open-ended. I mean, even with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, you get to the ending and you think, Well, did the big brother come in or not? Jesus leaves it open deliberately, for you to answer that. And that's what a story does. It's inviting you to identify yourself as a part of a story, and to come into it from where you are—and if you hear the same story over a period of years, you'll be in a different place, and the meaning is going to be different.

There's a trend lately to provide books and films for Christian audiences that are "safe for the whole family." Perhaps your books have been challenged because they're not necessarily "safe" for children. What do you make of the idea that children's books should be "safe"?

Paterson: Well, don't give them the Bible, then, because it's certainly not a safe book. Safety and faith are different things. If you want everything to be safe, then you can probably just totally do without the imagination. If you're so afraid of your imagination that you stifle it, how are you going to know God? How can you imagine heaven?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

SHUT UP AND SING: What the Dixie Chicks Have Taught Me About Free Speech

Two nights ago, I watched an advance copy of Shut Up And Sing, an excellent new documentary about the Dixie Chicks and the huge controversy that erupted when lead singer Natalie Maines said something critical of President Bush from stage in the run-up to the Iraq War (the film is released on DVD this week).

Then last night, the Dixie Chicks won an unexpected five Grammies for Taking the Long Way Home, their pointed, unapologetic, and musically stunning CD response to their many right-wing critics.

It's all gotten me thinking a lot about the initial incident, its aftermath, and what it says to me about freedom of speech.

Frankly, the movie reminded me just how mild Natalie Maine's original criticism was ("Some of us are ashamed that President Bush is from Texas"), and how furious, overblown, and carefully orchestrated the response to the Chicks was: the band was subject to boycotts, death threats, endless jeremiads on talk radio and cable television, and was literally banned from the country's network of radio stations, despite the fact that the Chicks had a number one single at the time, and were the bestselling female country band of all time.

People who defended and still defend the bannings and boycotts of the Dixie Chicks argue that those actions were simply the consequence of the Dixie Chicks' expressing of their opinions: that those individuals who opposed them were freely expressing their own opinions in response. It was, the argument goes, a case of free speech being met with more free speech.

But was it? Did the folks who opposed the Dixie Chicks have the right to do the things they did? Well, at least in the case of the radio stations, it's possible that they didn't--that the decision by 200 country radio stations to "independently" and simultanously to ban the Chicks' music wasn't independent at all, but was, instead, a corporate decision made to curry favor with the Bush administration and bolster their right-wing corporate agenda.

But even if it was legal, was it right? What this whole brouhaha really just a case of two opposing cases of free expression?

Again, I don't think so. The response to the Dixie Chicks wasn't organic, but was instead just one small part of a sophisticated and carefully orchestrated campaign by the Bush White House and a conservative media network to specifically silence dissent. They wanted to stop the debate over the Iraq War, to stop questions from being asked, and they succeeded. The Dixie Chicks were the sacrificial lambs offered up as an example to other would-be critics.

How do I know? Well, it's partly how ridiculously overblown the response was to the Dixie Chicks' comments. But it's also that we've since learned that this is how the Bush White House deals with all critics and all manner of dissent: inflame and polarize both sides so no one listens to anyone else, then brand opponents as traitors, terrorist or terrorist sympathizers, and people who hate both "the troops" and America.

It is, in a word, shameless. And honestly, is that really what free speech and freedom of expression is all about?

Sure, these are all "opinions," but these opinions were designed to intimidate and to shut down debate. They're stinkbombs in the marketplace of ideas and, like all stinkbombs, the point is to clear as large an area as possible for as long as possible. The point is definitely not to illuminate.

This is, of course, the price and the risk of free speech. But was the country served by this silencing of the Dixie Chicks, and by all dissent during the run-up to the Iraq War? Were the voices of dissent who have turned out to be so eerily prescient given due consideration in the media and in the halls of Congress? I can't imagine any intellectually honest person saying that they were. But imagine the resources, and more importantly the lives, that might have been saved if they had been.

In any event, the Dixie Chicks have finally been completely vindicated; despite all that was thrown at them, all that they endured, they're back on top of the world, more successful than ever. Meanwhile, the architects of the Iraq War are disgraced and discredited. I can't think of a better case of karma in action.

In other words, the truth won out. It took a while, but free speech worked. The debate could not be silenced forever. I find this incredibly inspiring. And now I find myself examining my own life, looking for ways that I haven't lived up to my own ideals, that I've stayed silent or compromised out of some fear or cowardice.

It's an examination worth having, just like Shut Up and Sing is a movie very much worth watching.

(Again, it's worth emphasizing that these are entirely my own opinions and do not represent the views of the AS IF! membership.)

WIZARDOLOGY Under Attack in Connecticut

The book, Wizardology: The Secrets of Merlin, has some parents upset in Connective, because it presents an "alternative religion."

What I most appreciate is the response by some members of the community:
Others aren't bothered a bit and say this kind of attention is a black eye to an otherwise outstanding school.

"Things like this put a bad name to the school where it's a school where teachers work hard, the assistants work hard, the principal works hard," said Rosemary Russo of West Haven.

"I looked at it, you know, I guess everybody's different, there are some items that could be taken the wrong way," said Molloy principal Steve Lopes.

Lopes says Wizardology was ordered through Scholastic Magazine and is a part of a series that did go through a selection process. It has now been pulled off the shelf and will be reviewed.
First, here we go again with a book being pulled off the shelves while it's being reviewed. Unless the library only has one copy, I don't see why a mere complaint gets a book pulled from circulation. Shouldn't library books, like people, be innocent until proven guilty?

Second, as a long-time Dungeon & Dragons player, my hackles are immediately raised by anyone who equates "magic" and "wizardry" with "evil" and "Satanism." And my eyes roll way back into my head whenever I encounter a person who doesn't seem to understand that these books are, um, fiction.

Friday, February 09, 2007

CEDAR back on shelves in Canada

Good news, Snow Falling on Cedars is back on the shelves!


PRESS RELEASE: Classic Novels Challenged in Michigan

For further information, contact:
Chris Finan, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, (212) 587-4025, ext. 15
Joan Bertin, National Coalition Against Censorship, (212) 807-6222, ext. 15

For Immediate Release

Free Speech Groups Defend Novels by Morrison, Wright, Vonnegut

NEW YORK, NY, February 8, 2007 -- The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) today joined other free speech advocates in opposing the removal of novels by Toni Morrison, Richard Wright and Kurt Vonnegut from the public high school in Howell, Michigan. In a letter, the groups urged the Howell Board of Education to reject calls to ban Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Wright’s Black Boy, and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. “It is wrong to restrict what students can read based on the complaints of a few individuals,” said ABFFE President Chris Finan. “Curriculum choices should be made by teachers and educational professionals. In this case, they have selected three books that are highly acclaimed and widely used in high school classrooms around the country.” A copy of the letter is online at

The novels have been attacked by some parents and community members who consider them “smut” because they contain sexual themes and profanity. The books’ chief challengers are members of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE). Last year, LOVE failed in an effort to prevent students from reading Erin Gruwell’s The Freedom Writers Diary, the book that inspired the current film starring Hilary Swank.

At a meeting in late January, the Howell Board of Education decided to delay a vote on removing the Morrison, Wright, and Vonnegut novels from the 11th grade English curriculum because two board members were absent. The board will meet again on February 12.

The letter from NCAC and ABFFE was joined by the Association of American Publishers, People for the American Way, Aria Booksellers of Howell, the Great Lakes Booksellers Association, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation,, PEN American Center, Feminists for Free Expression, and the Youth Advisory Board of the Youth Free Expression Network.

Founded in 1974, NCAC is an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations, including literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups. ABFFE is the bookseller's voice in the fight against censorship. It was founded in 1990 by the American Booksellers Association.
UPDATE: The school board has voted to retain the books!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Maurice Sendak Book "Obscene"?

Three things disturb me about the Tennesse challenge of this book illustrated, in part, by Maurice Sendak: (1) that the mother sees these simple drawings of the human body as "obscene," (2) that she went immediately to the media, not bothering to discuss the issue with the library, and (3) that the book has only been checked out twice in ten years (what is that about?) .

One final comment. A library is literally about choices. When you limit the choices, you literally limit the definition of that library. So when it comes to banning or pulling books, the bar has to be set very, very high. The question asked can't merely be "Will someone else be offended by this book?" The question to be asked is, "Will someone else want this book for themselves or their child?" If the answer is yes, the answer to whether a book should be pulled is, in my opinion, almost always "no."

Those of you who want to ban books from public libraries? Please try to keep that in mind.
Jackie Taylor says she's appalled that a poetry book her 9-year-old daughter checked out at Cedar Grove Elementary School features what she considers "obscene" images.

Pointing out caricatures of a naked young boy and a nursing mother and her carnivorous baby, Taylor believes the book, "I Saw Esau, The Schoolchild's Pocket Book," is not appropriate for her daughter, Bethany.I understand that it is a book of poetry, but there is a fine line between poetry art and porn and this book's illustrations are absolutely offensive in every way," Taylor said. "They are inappropriate for a third-grader, and the fact that she had access to this book frightens me for what else she has access to."

The book, by Iona Opie, is a collection of schoolyard jokes, riddles, insults and jump-rope rhymes. Watercolor, colored pencil and ink illustrations accompany the text. It was published in 1992.

Bethany checked out the book as part of a class assignment. The book was not mandatory reading, her mother said.

Elizabeth Hicks, the school's librarian, said Taylor did not contact her about her concerns, but officials would have addressed the issue in a timely fashion.

"It saddens me that she did not attempt to contact us — myself personally or the administration — about her concerns. If a parent has a concern, we want to share that with them," Hicks said.


Huckleberry Finn: What to do About the N-Word

I admit I have absolutely no patience for the views expressed in this article from St. Paul:

The "n-word" appears one too many times in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" for Mark Lewis.

Make that at least 200 times in the Mark Twain classic.

Lakeville high school sophomores were required for years to read "Huck Finn," but that may change this year after some parents questioned the use of the book. Parents who disagree with a district's curriculum requirements have the ability to challenge the rules — and sometimes win.

Lewis first became concerned about "Huck Finn" when his daughter was required to read the book in her English class several years ago.

During discussion of the book, Lewis' daughter said she was uncomfortable with views she said students expressed — that blacks should go to hell and interracial marriage was immoral, for instance.

Um, if these "views" really were expressed in a classroom setting during a discussion of Huck Finn, this school has a much bigger problem than the presence of a book in a curriculum.

The reality, of course, is that this book didn't cause those views and, in fact, an appropriate classroom discussion of Huck Finn would actually counteract them.

I do understand the impulse behind highlighting and trying to completely ban words like the N-word (for blacks) and the F-word (for gays like myself); these words are hurtful reminders of our country's bigoted past, and sometimes still-bigoted present. And because racisim and homophobia are often intangible and maddenly subjective, some folks want to point to something solid, force society to take a stand and state, as a group, that we all agree that something is "wrong."

But it's an illusion. The N-word and the F-word are just mere words, assortments of letters. Any meaning they have, any power they wield, is meaning and power that we give them, and that power comes entirely from their context. Simply banning all use of these words outright, without discussion, is, I'm sorry to say, exactly the kind of thinking that gets books banned in the first place: a refusal to consider context, the idea that an idea, however noxious, is more than an idea, that it's somehow literally toxic or evil, that it must literally be destroyed.

But ideas are just ideas. Like words are arrangements of letters, ideas are arrangements of words; they're not literally toxic, and they're not literally evil. And they're defeated not by banning them, but by discussing them, by challenging them, and by exposing them as wrong.

To think otherwise is simple-minded, it's counter-productive, and it's stupid.

Needless to say, these are entirely my own opinions, and do not reflect the consensus of all AS IF! members.

Snow Falling on Cedars/Falling off School Shelves in Canada

PEN Canada critical of school board’s decision to pull award-winning novel from library shelves
By: Press Release - PEN Canada

The bestseller has been removed from school library shelves and English class reading lists by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board after a single parental complaint about the book's sexually explicit content. The Board is said to be setting up a committee to review the book and determine whether to put it back into circulation.

“While the School Board stresses that this is not a ban but rather a temporary removal of the novel, the fact of the matter is that this action is tantamount to censorship,” said PEN Canada’s National Affairs Chair Christopher Waddell. “It disturbs us to see this rash and unnecessary action taken on the basis of a single complaint from the community.”

Waddell added that pulling Snow Falling on Cedars on the basis of that complaint is the equivalent of being considered guilty until proven innocent. If someone objects to a book then the Board can set up its committee, he said; however, it should remain on the shelves until the Board rules otherwise. That could take months; and, during that time, the book is out of circulation based on that one complaint.

Snow Falling on Cedars was the winner of several literary awards, including the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award, the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award and the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association Award. Waddell therefore wondered why one complaint carried more weight with a school board than the various expert panels of judges who deemed the novel an exceptional piece of work.

The action by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board is reminiscent of the decision taken in March 2006 by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) decision to restrict access for younger children to Deborah Ellis’s award-wining book, Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak. The Board, in reaction to a protest by the Canadian Jewish Congress, decided to remove the book from school libraries serving children below grade seven.

Commenting then on the TDSB’s move, PEN Canada president Constance Rooke called it a “dangerous precedent” that “might well encourage future protests against a wide-variety of books whose subject matter is objectionable to one group or another.”

About PEN Canada:
PEN Canada is a centre of International PEN that campaigns on behalf of writers around the world persecuted or exiled for the expression of their thoughts. In Canada, it supports the right to free expression as enshrined in Section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For more information, please contact David Cozac, 416-703-8448 x24 or
Web site:

Friday, February 02, 2007

Do Teen Novels Glorify Bad Behavior?

The wonderful Leila Roy over at Bookshelves of Doom is posting an interesting essay by a Philadelphia high school teacher who argues, basically, that today's teen books glorify anti-social behavior.
Recently, I was in the teen section of a large bookstore skimming books for my 10th-grade English class when I came across the young-adult novel Beautiful Disaster by Kylie Adams. Captivated by its provocative cover - a dripping wet, bikini-clad blonde relaxing on the side of a swimming pool - I opened the book and began reading.

Within a dozen pages I was introduced to a cast of characters so unscrupulous and trashy that I thought I was reading a romance novel by Danielle Steel. The only difference, of course, is that all the characters in Beautiful Disaster were minors. Their ages ranged from 15 to 17, but this didn't keep them from binge drinking, swearing, using illegal drugs, and engaging in promiscuous sex; one of the characters, a 15-year-old girl named Shoshanna, actually had breast implants.

As if the book's content wasn't shocking enough, I then stumbled upon Gossip Girl, the first book in a scandalous series by Cecily von Ziegesar. Like the characters in Beautiful Disaster, the teens in Gossip Girl have a passion for sex, lies, and expensive booze. The excerpt on the book's back cover best summed-up their lack of decency: "Welcome to New York City's Upper East Side, where my friends and I live, go to school, play and sleep - sometimes with each other."

Over the last five years, teen fiction has taken a nosedive right into the toilet. MTV Books, a joint venture between MTV and Pocket Books, seems to be on the forefront of the downward spiral. MTV Books has no qualms about using sex and violence to win over the attention spans of children. Although some of my colleagues feel this is an even trade-off because it keeps 16-year-old students interested in reading, I feel it is completely irresponsible.
In other words, it's yet another trashing-of-the-Gossip-Girls-genre. I like Leila's take:
I'm not going to get all revved about this because, honestly, if this is the first time that this guy, this teacher, has run into the Gossip Girl book, well... then he's probably not all that up on YA lit. Judging from his tenth-grade English II syllabus, he sticks to the classics. (Not that there's anything wrong with that or that it means he doesn't read YA lit in his spare time. Obviously I don't know that. But like I said, if this is the first time he's run across Gossip Girl, it's unlikely. They've been around since, what? 2002?)

I think I've made it pretty clear in the past that I'm not a huge fan of the Gossip Girl/ Gossip Girl readalikes*. But I don't find them quite as worrisome as Christopher Paslay does. I don't think that they'll cause "sexual frustration in hormone-laden young readers", leading to an "over-eager boy stalking a female classmate by making unwanted sexual advances, or sending her obscene text-messages". I just... think that's maybe going a little overboard.
Anyway. I don't even really care about the Gossip Girl books. We already went over all that when Naomi Wolf freaked out. My concern is this quote:

"Over the last five years, teen fiction has taken a nosedive right into the toilet."

Um, no. Gossip Girl et al -- that's just a fraction of what's out there.
I agree with Leila, but this is an interesting discussion because there is a ton of misunderstanding about the "teen" genre right now. People will read a few of today's most provocative teen books, compare them to the books they read as kids (say, Jacob Have I Loved or Anne of Green Gables or Island of the Blue Dolphin), and immediate freak out, thinking the whole genre has gone to hell.

What they don't understand is that the teen genre barely even existed thirty years ago. What existed then was middle grade fiction and a few--very few--teen titles, which didn't sell particularly well. If you think teenagers don't read teen fiction now, they really didn't read teen fiction in the 1970s: they went straight from middle grade to adult (often to very racy adult fiction, like Flowers in the Attic and Harold Robbins, which, for the record, is what folks should really be comparing Gossip Girls to, not Anne of Green Gables).

But all that changed in 1980s (due to school budget cuts, etc.). What resulted is a new genre that is, frankly, one of the richest and most diverse in the publishing industry--maybe even the most rich and most diverse. Authors of teen fiction are allowed to take big chances; we're given almost free reign. Fiction in verse? Sure! Cross-genre? Why not? A book told all in email? Well, why the hell not?

For the record? Writers of adult books don't get nearly this much freedom. And as a result, adult books are much less diverse, and the whole genre is a lot less vibrant.

That said, along with all the other stuff, is there also some racy YA, especially in the "upper" age limits? You bet. But is there more conservative stuff too? Absolutely. Do both kinds of books win rave reviews and awards? They definitely do.

Why do all these kinds of teen books exist, why the wild diversity? Because unlike in the 1970s, teen fiction is now market-driven, and there are markets for all these kinds of books. That upsets some people, but what's forgotten is that the richness, the diversity, extends in all directions.

When people say things like "Teen fiction has taken a nosedive right into the toilet," they seem to me to exposing their ignorance. They don't know the genre. When other folks advocate banning books, and challenging books based not on context, but on "naughty" words and lists of "innappropriate behavior," they're creating the conditions where this rich, wonderful, diverse genre just might go away.

Teen lit is in the middle of a genuine Renaissance, folks. But have you studied the Renaissance? The conditions that created it were so fragile, and the movement itself was so transitory. It ended, and it ended badly. Likewise, this teen lit Renaissance will not last forever. And when it goes, it will be the fault of the literal-minded Puritans so determined to "protect" children, people who see literature not as a breathing, changing organism, but as a collection of stuffy, unchanging museum pieces.

Today's teen lit is a fragile flame, folks. Protect it. Make it last.