Monday, September 27, 2010

GSA Monday: It's Banned Books Week - What Are You Going To Do About It?

The American Library Association, for the 29th year, leads our country in a celebration of the freedom to read.

The freedom to read books that maybe other people don't think you should. Books that have been challenged in the last year include:

Books with queer characters, like Francesca Lia Block's beautiful Baby Be-Bop. And The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Geography Club, The Bermudez Triangle, and And Tango Makes Three - all books for teens or kids featuring queer characters and themes that I've highlighted on this blog.

And other books, like Sherman Alexie's amazing "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian." "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young girl." "To Kill A Mockingbird." And perhaps, my favorite in the absurd category: "The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary" because a parent complained when a child came across the term "oral sex." The Menifee, California Union School District is forming a committee to consider a permanent classroom ban of the dictionary.

So what can you (and/or your GSA) do to celebrate our freedom to read, and stand up to the challengers?

Here are some ideas:

Host a literary salon at this week's meeting - where everyone brings something that's been banned and shares aloud a page or two.

Organize a reading of "And Tango Makes Three" (it's a picture book that can be read in under 10 minutes) and talk about what's so dangerous about a true story of two gay penguins who fall in love and raise a baby penguin that it would be seen as one of the most "dangerous" books in the U.S.A.

Write a poem about books being challenged and banned.

Talk about the power dynamic of controlling access to information.

Get a group of friends together and go see HOWL, the film biopic of the Gay Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg starring James Franco. The 1957 obscenity trial for the publication of Ginsberg's ground-breaking "Howl" was the legal precedent that helped guarantee first amendment rights for literary works in the U.S.A.

and maybe most important,

READ a banned book.

And hey, I'll tell you what I'm reading if you tell me what you're reading...



Emily said...

As a librarian, I'd like to thank you for your support of Banned Books Week. Some people take this week out of context and don't understand why it's important. This editorial for instance seems to miss the point. Keep up the good work!

My banned books display includes The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, And Tango Makes Three and more.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hi Emily,
yeah, that piece you linked to by Sylvia Cochran did miss the point - if she's uncomfortable with HER kids reading a particular title, it's her prerogative as their parent to ask them not to read it until she thinks they're ready. What she does NOT have the right to do is prevent OTHER people's children - and frankly, other kids - from reading that book by banning it. I'm so grateful to librarians like you for standing up for the freedom to read!