Thursday, October 4, 2007

On Banned Books Week and GLBTQ Teen Novels

"Burned! I didn't think people burned books any more. Only Nazis burn books."

-Nancy Garden on the burning of "Annie On My Mind."

You'd think she was right - haven't we, as a society, grown past Burning, Banning, and Challenging books - all with the goal of "protecting" others from ideas we don't like?

The shocking answer is... No.

There are still people who want to control even the ideas other people have access to. Remember that saying about "the pen is mightier than the sword?" This is where it comes from. Words ARE powerful.

What if you're a Transgender teen? Think about the power of a novel like Ellen Wittlinger's "Parrotfish" that's about a Transgender teen, where it's not a tragedy.

Think about all the teens who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Question the compass of their sexual orientation or gender identity... And take a look at ALL the books listed on the right side of this blogsite!

Now imagine you couldn't GET any of these books to read. Scary, isn't it?

That's why there's Banned Book Week. Check out this amazing comic history of Book Burning by Matt Bors!

And the attempt to ban books is not just about books with GLBTQ content. Just this year, there was an amazing - almost laughable if it weren't true - controversy over the use of the word "scrotum" in Susan Patron's Newbury Award-winning novel, "The Higher Power of Lucky." I'm not kidding. (For a funny take on the controversy, check out the Disco Mermaid's Newbury Jewels!)

What gets me is that it isn't sufficient for the people (usually parents) who object to a book to keep it from their own children (something that will probably only make their kids want to read it more...) but they feel it's their responsibility to keep it from EVERYONE ELSE'S kids, too.

That sense that they are right and they have some right to impose their view on the rest of the world because of it... That's gotten humanity into a lot of trouble.

So how do we fight back?

First, we can read these books!

Second, it's important to know that the First Amendment to our nation's constitution backs up intellectual freedom:

The first amendment reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. For more on the First amendment to our nation's constitution, click here.

Third, we can find out about the fight against banning books happening right now.

Check out AS IF! (Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom.) It's a group that champions those who stand against censorship, especially of books for and about teens.

Here's a list of just SOME of the challenges happening to books THIS YEAR, from the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression's website, which lists, by title, some of the books challenged. More than 1/3 of all the books challenged on their partial list were books with GLBTQ content! (28 out of 75)

And there are other organizations, like the ACLU, that are there to help and give guidance in the fight to keep these books on the shelves! (They helped those Teens in Kansas successfully fight back the ban on "Annie On My Mind!)

So, this week, take a moment and think about how fortunate we are to have these books to protect. To have them in our libraries and homes. And to have them to read!

Doesn't it make you wanna run out and read a banned book, right now?



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