Thursday, July 20, 2006

Intellectual Suppression Round-Up!

No, we haven't fallen off the end of the earth -- just been very busy this summer.

What's going on the world of teen-related intellectual suppression? Alas, the "opposition" definitely isn't taking the summer off.

In California, a school board has passed strict new guidlines for books:
The Wilsona School District board has approved new library book-selection guidelines in the wake of trustees' controversial decision to remove 23 books including the latest "Harry Potter" from a list recommended for a school library. Books now cannot depict drinking alcohol, smoking, drugs, sex, including "negative sexuality," implied or explicit nudity, cursing, violent crime or weapons, gambling, foul humor and "dark content."

"In selected instances, an occasional inappropriate word may be deleted with white-out rather than rejecting the entire book," the policy said.
Words fail me -- which is probably a good thing, because it sounds like they'd be whited out anyway.

As an author, this offends me on such a deep level that it's hard to express. Whiting out words you find offensive? Banning books that depict any alcohol, smoking, drugs, sex, nudity, cursing, crime, gambling, "foul" humor, or "dark content?" What does that mean exactly?

These people literally hate literature, don't they? I hate to stereotype, but what's next -- torches and pitchforks in front of the library? All I know is that these individuals are doing their best to make sure their kids will have no interest in books whatsoever. Why would they? These people clearly want to return to the days of those preachy, ham-fisted, and humorless morality tales from the 19th century where the child is struck dead for being "naughty".

Meanwhile, it's not "teen" related, but in Atlanta, a group of conservative Christians has been regularly picketing a book store that sells gay-themed material. It's an interesting article, but I confess I'm biased, because I was interviewed by the writer:
Writer Brent Hartinger is concerned that people not look at this three-weekend protest as a single incident, but as part of a burgeoning effort by Christian activists to undermine gay rights and other progressive issues nationwide.

The 41-year-old author has personal experience with such protests. His books, Geography Club and Order of the Poison Oak, have been openly challenged or secretly banned in communities across the U.S. In these cases, Christian activists put enormous pressure on school boards, principals and libraries to weed out material they find objectionable...A group called plan2succeed has made a crusade out of trying to block children's access to pornography and obscene material in libraries, mainly through Internet blocking software, according to its Web site These efforts have been fought by the American Civil Liberties Union and American Library Association because the definition of “obscene” and “pornography” can be ubiquitous and result in limited access to many legitimate Web sites, according to the ACLU online.

“I can tell you that they are very active,” Hartinger said. “The American Library Association compiles a list of banned or challenged books every year. A high percentage are gay-themed, and that percentage is growing.”

One high-profile author whose books have been continually challenged or banned is Judy Blume. Known for writing books about coming-of-age girls who experience menstruation, masturbation and teenage sexuality, Blume has received strong support in the literary community.

Hartinger says that while most librarians are very gay-supportive, that's less true of school administrators: "Books are pulled quietly, and no official complaint is ever made. Sometimes the mere fact that the book has gay content can get it removed.

“Nobody wants to confront these people directly. So they quietly acquiesce again and again."
Finally, our members report several recent challenges, one of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and one of my own book, The Last Chance Texaco. Should either of these books actually be banned, we'll certainly let you know!