I’ll refer you back to the piece I wrote for Banned Books Week last year, “Penguins, Rabbits, and Guinea Pigs: In Celebration of Banned Books,” noting that LGBT-themed books continue to be banned or challenged, as a July case in New Jersey made clear.
The ALA’s list of books banned or challenged in 2009-2010 still includes And Tango Makes Three, although the book dropped to number two on the most-challenged list for the year. Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes in at number three, also criticized for showing “homosexuality.”
It also includes Postcards From Buster, an early-reader version of the famous episode of PBS’s Postcards From Buster that featured a maple-sugar farm owned by a lesbian couple. President George W. Bush’s education secretary, Margaret Spellings, infamously attacked the show because “Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode.” (Clearly, watching people stick spigots in trees is damaging to young minds.)
As for the fact that Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird remains on the top-ten list—that’s just ridiculous. How on earth is removing a book about tolerance going to teach kids tolerance? Apparently, some parents objected to the fact that the book uses the n-word, To my mind, the book remains one of the best lessons against racism, and if it has to show (but then condemn) racist behavior in the process, that’s all part of the lesson. (And it’s also a sad statement that some parents feel so unprepared to discuss such matters with their children that they want the books banned.)
My favorite quote about banned books remains this one from Chris Crutcher, whose books have several times landed him on the ALA’s list of Top Ten Most Challenged Books (sometimes for homosexual content):
When we ban a book about a kid on the outside, we’re taking a step toward banning the kid.
He was speaking at the ALA’s 2009 Banned Books Week Read-Out in Chicago. (As reported by Sarah Brannen, herself on the list.)
After the jump, a few more great quotes from banned authors.
You can’t ban a book that never makes it into a library. When I hear about authors who are up in arms about their book being banned, or removed from reading lists, I confess to a sliver of jealousy. I’d actually love for my books to be banned so at least I’d know they were once accessible to readers who needed them.
—Young adult author Julie Anne Peters, School Library Journal
We can think of lists we’d prefer to top.
I will say that, as gay men of a certain age, we are no strangers to fear and anger being directed towards us and families like ours. But unlike in the debate of gays in the military, gays at the altar, gays in the Boy Scouts, and so on, this time the government is squarely behind us, and that makes all the difference. And not only is the U.S. Constitution indisputably on our side (the U.S. Supreme Court wrote about a similar case of book suppression in 1982 “Our Constitution does not permit the suppression of ideas”), but throughout these years of challenges we have had the great support of the American Library Association, the ACLU, and PEN America as well as countless teachers, librarians, parents, and most meaningful to us, children. When a group of New York City 5th graders get together to give you an award for writing a book that furthers the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., it becomes much easier to shake the image of the angry mother waving your book around on Fox News.
—Justin Richardson, author of And Tango Makes Three (Richardson and co-author Peter Parnell are also the proud dads of a toddler.)
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