Recently, Kirkus Reviews printed a review of the Young Adult novel American Heart by Laura Moriarty. It’s a futuristic story that follows a Huckleberry Finn pattern with its leading teenager helping an Iranian immigrant and professor on the run in an America where Muslims are interned in camps.
Apparently the review was not damning enough, because presumed readers on the social webs decried American Heart for having a white savior narrative. The reviewer, who is a non-white Muslim woman, did think it was that big of an issue, but online pressure got Kirkus to pull the review for re-evaluation. When reissued, the review said this: “Sarah Mary’s [the teenager’s] ignorance is an effective worldbuilding device, but it is problematic that Sadaf [the Iranian] is seen only through the white protagonist’s filter.”
Vulture’s Kat Rosenfield spoke to Kirkus’s editor-in-chief about how this revision was made.
And while Smith says the call-out of said problematic element is not meant to dissuade readers from reading the book — “If readers don’t care that this novel is only told about a Muslim character, from the perspective of a white teenager, that’s fine” — he acknowledges that Kirkus does care, and does judge books at least in part on whether they adhere to certain progressive ideals. When I ask if the book’s star was revoked explicitly and exclusively because it features a Muslim character seen from the perspective of a white teenager, Smith pauses for only a second: “Yes.”
I wonder if this will put American Heart on the banned books list for 2018.
Last week was Banned Books Week in America. I hope the loyal readers of this blog enjoyed their local book burning fires and a witty tête-à-tête with a stranger over a cup of pumpkin spiced something. I was somewhat busy last week, so I ignored the festivities entirely, which I hasten to say is in keeping with the holiday spirit.
Matthew Walther wishes all of this would just go away. They urge him to read a banned book. Which book? he asks. Mein Kampf? If that old Hilterian classic appeared in readers’ hands throughout a city during Banned Books Week, would librarians and bookstore owners be slapping each other on the back for a successful campaign? Heil, no, they would not. Walther writes,
In my experience, those with the strongest emotional investment in Banned Books Week tend to be people whose idea of literature is something called “Y.A.,” which they can continue to enjoy well into their 20s, plus whatever they found themselves forced to slog through as liberal arts majors in college in between tweeting and watching prestige cable and old Buffy reruns on Netflix.
(via Prufrock News)
Gui Minhai, a naturalized Sweden, originally Chinese, has worked with four other men in “publishing books about political intrigue among China’s Communist Party leaders; now they are in the custody of mainland Chinese authorities, apparently charged with selling illicit books.”
In January on state-controlled TV, Gui “confessed” to being convicted and paroled for vehicular homicide. Now he is emprisoned for having broken that parole. His daughter, Angela, doesn’t believe it. She’d never heard of any wreck, killing, or conviction until the newscast. What won’t be confessed is the government’s rounding up everyone in Gui’s publishing company to stop them from writing criticism of the government.
Angela Gui said she received a Skype text message from her father’s account a day or so after his TV confession on Jan. 18, when she was widely quoted in foreign media as saying she had never heard of the vehicular homicide case he cited. The message told her to “please keep silence.” Judging from the grammatical errors, Gui said she didn’t believe her father was the author.
Ruth Graham points out the problems with that wonderful literary celebration currently engaging many sweet, ill-at-ease readers across the country, Banned Books Week.
Much of the rhetoric around Banned Books Week elides not just the difference between the past and the present but some other important distinctions: the difference between “bans” from public libraries and from school libraries, and between inclusion in school curricula and general availability in a library. A parent merely questioning the presence of a book on a required reading list is the same, to the organizations that run Banned Books Week, as the book being removed from circulation at the local public library. But the former, I would argue, is part of a reasonable local conversation about public education (even if the particular parental preferences are unreasonable). The latter comes closer to a “book ban.”
We at Brandywine Books hope you are enjoying your Banned Book celebrations. If you’re looking for suggestions, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has always been a great fire-starter. We’ve heard of some bacchants snatching books from tables at coffeeshops or smacking them out of the hands of readers on the sidewalk. Don’t let the reason for the season slip into history. Get out there and ban a book. (via Prufrock)
Alan Noble says that Springs Charter School story may be an overreaction. In fact, the school says, “We can and do provide educational books with religious perspectives, including Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.”
The school statement continues: “However, like every other public school in the State of California, we cannot legally maintain religious textbooks on our warehouse shelves for distribution to our families. Donated items are made available to our families at no cost. Any and all donated items are not incorporated onto the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse. The only materials we maintain on the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse are items we have purchased ourselves in accordance with the laws of our State.”
Noble asks, “Did the Superintendent make this clear in the letter she sent to PJI? That much is not clear, since PJI didn’t actually post her letter online.” But the Super does appear to be a practicing catholic, not a opponent of faith.
River Springs Charter Schools in California is reportedly removing all Christian books from its library shelves.
The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a legal defense organization, has been circulating the accusation that this network of California charter schools is culling its stock of Christian material, notably The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.
The school says it receives state funds and so cannot allow “sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves.” On their Facebook page, the school states, “No, we are not banning Christian novels at all. We are not allowed to provide sectarian textbooks however, so this is where the confusion comes in. So it’s yes to novels, no to textbooks as a public school.”
But attorneys with PJI say the Supreme Court has a “long-established precedent that strongly disapproves of school libraries removing books based on opposition to their content or message.”
Now I fully understand that “sectarian” could be defined in wild and nonsensical ways. I mean, this is California. But I have a hard time understanding how a library is supposed to operate if it can’t remove books over content issues. How did the books get in the library to begin with? If they had a volume of a decade of Playboy issues, would librarians be able to remove it based on the content?
I’m told Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico is in play here. Continue reading So What If School Library Dumps Christian Books?
It’s Banned Books Week again, friends, that wonderful time of year when parents and teachers pull out their cardigans and gather to discuss serious complaints and differences of opinion over mugs of hot apple cider. When we drink cider in America, we think of censorship. Isn’t that right?
This year we have a delightful book about the Islamic Revolution in Iran called Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. It’s an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, based on her experience growing up in Iran. Oregon’s Department of Education recommends this book for high school students. It’s a disarming little tale of horrific events as seen through a child’s eyes. You can see a couple pages through the link.
Parents in Murphy, Oregon, have objected to the language and violent content in the book at their Three Rivers School Board meeting. When one parent was allowed to read from Persepolis, a board member stopped him because he didn’t think the language was appropriate for the meeting, which helped make the parent’s point.
Curiously enough, Chicago public schools pulled the book last year, which provoked parents and teachers to react in support of it. Copies of the book were reportedly taken from schools, and even Chicago’s mayor said he would investigate the reason. They have since rescinded its complete removal. The school CEO asks that it not be taught to seventh graders.
None of this is censorship, friends. I don’t know why Chicago wanted to yank this book, and I’m willing to believe the worst about their intentions, but that doesn’t mean the parents in Murphy don’t have good ones. Both of these things are beside the point. Objecting to a book’s placement on a reading list is not calling for it to be banned. Asking for more parental consent when assigning difficult or morally objectionable material is not a book burning party. It’s democracy and many other things as well.
The NY Times has an eye-opening overview of Judith Krug’s crusade against content filtering in their 2009 obit. She claimed, “Library service in this country should be based on the concept of intellectual freedom, of providing all pertinent information so a reader can make decisions for himself.” She eventually applied that concept to her arguments against filtering internet access for children using library computers and against the federal government looking into a person’s library borrowing record (The USA Patriot Act still allows “the Justice Department to conduct searches of library and bookstore records, in the investigation of suspected terrorist activity.”)*
Miss Krug credits her parents for inspiring her to stand up for readers of the world. That story comes at the end of the obit. With crusaders for immorality like this in the world, it’s no wonder parents want to pull books out of school libraries or pull their kids out of public schools.
How can moral parents raise moral children in an immoral world? Continue reading Remarkable Legacy of Banned Books Week Founder, Judith Krug
Loren Eaton talks about censorship in light of last week’s banned books celebration. Did you attend any book burnings or Protest The Read rallies? I was out of town, so I missed the usual fun.
From the Wall Street Journal article to which Loren links, complaints are as good as actual bans for the American Library Association (ALA): “For the ALA, what makes them censors is that they spoke up at all: ‘True’ patriots, presumably, would have kept quiet. Who, then, is afraid of discourse?” Indeed.
A misguided pastor from North Carolina plans to burn “satanic” books this Halloween, including recent translations of the Bible.
“I believe the King James version is God’s preserved, inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God… for English-speaking people,” the pastor said.
Of the non-biblical books to be burned, they have works by Billy Graham, Rick Warren, John Piper, John MacArthur, Mother Teresa and many others. You can read a list here. (Maybe a Christian bookstore closed recently.)
I guess my impulse is to laugh off such foolishness, but I can’t do it this time. I’m grieved. This man and his congregation are deceived about the nature of God’s holy word in English and the mercy or gracious freedom he gives to his people. I’m even more bothered by his claim to have studied at a Christian college in my town. He says he left because they were too liberal, which is a little funny. Fundamentalists are known by the way they divide up believers and separate themselves from others. The plain meaning of the text is all they need to know God’s will, and by “plain meaning” they mean their interpretation alone. They have gone to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice they hear is Jesus’ voice, so how could they misinterpret anything?
I’m not too bothered, of course, because there isn’t anything I can do about it. Still, having heard stories of religious abuse, I can’t laugh when those who appear to be clanging cymbals like this hit the news. I’m not a satirist, I guess–which brings to mind this video of a panel discussion from a Ligonier Ministries conference. Doug Wilson gets into acting like Jesus acted, saying we throw some heavy interpretation into our answers when asking what Jesus would do. We almost never think that Jesus would give a satiric or biting answer, like calling some religious leaders a brood of vipers. Piper, Sproul, and Mohler all comment on that idea.
I hesitate to call Dennis Ingolfsland, of The Recliner Commentaries, a “fellow librarian,” since he’s the real thing and I’m an on-the-job-trained poseur. But I know enough to recommend this piece about the American Library Association’s “Banned Books Week.”
The fact is that there are no banned books in America. Maybe I missed it but I don’t recall seeing any articles in the Library Journal or American Libraries protesting that other religion and those other countries which really do ban books.
(Picture credit: Jupiter Images)
“Free access to information is a core American value that should be protected,” said Judith F. Krug, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Not every book is right for each reader, but an individual’s interpretation of a book should not take away my right to select reading materials for my family or myself.”
This quote comes in an article headlining the fact that “And Tango Makes Three” was the most challenged or “banned” book last year, and I think this may highlight our argument for Banned Books Week. How does “free access to information” apply to children’s stories or any story for that matter? If parents believe a book, which the librarian believes with worth reading, should be placed in a somewhat restricted access section in order to guard young reader, do that bar anyone from access to whatever information is in it? Of course not.
But as readers of this blog have said before, the best parental guard against children reading inappropriate material is parental involvement and moral instruction. Children can understand a good bit with loving instruction. Where “And Tango Makes Three” is concerned, it may be a good idea for children to read it, ask questions about what makes a family, and receive thoughtful answers from their parents. Perhaps a book like this makes the top of the challenged list because some parents don’t want to face uncomfortable issues.
I believe we live in difficult times, and I don’t think Christians and god-fearing people will gain any ground by trying to shut out bad ideas or “information” from their libraries. We have to know the truth, love our neighbors, and speak appropriately about issues wherever we can–to speak as a humanist. To speak as a Christian, we should love our Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and then know the truth, love our neighbors, and speak appropriately.
Reportedly the public library system of Gwinnett County (pop. 700,794) had voted to drop funding for “Spanish-language fiction.” Some folks had complained that the readers of such books could be living here illegally. But after it hit the news, several people in the community and around the world wrote in to praise and complain. The result? The $3,000 line item was returned to the budget.
Do we all feel better now? Sure the illegal alien reason is dumb, but can a library cut any budget items without someone making a stink over it?
Despite this public problem, the library board may have other issues according the AP. They dismissed the current library director without explanation.