Turning A Light On Book Banning

Book banning happens in secret. The saga of Revolutionary Voices in New Jersey is one example.

Risha Mullins is an English teacher. Her heartbreaking saga of the emotional, personal, and professional consequences of book banning is recounted at her blog, For the Love of YA

Comments sometimes heard about book banning include “the author is lucky because book sales go up!”  or “this gets more people reading the book so it is a good thing!” Mullins provides an emotional, detailed account of the hell that professionals endure during such challenges. Rarely do we hear from the librarians and teachers who have to live with the challenges and the consequences, which — depending on the school or library they work for — can include being personally and professionally targeted, attacked, bullied. It’s something that happens behind closed doors; something that, as employees, they may be unable to legally or ethically talk about.

Mullins bravely opens that door in Censorship at its Finest: Remembering.

Some people may wonder why #speakloudly has gotten so much attention, so much passion, when challenging books is hardly new.

My personal opinion is that, as Mullins’s account shows, book banners have been successful at labeling young adult books as “soft pornography,” using that as a lead pipe to attack. “You’re giving our children PORN,” and everyone says, “how terrible,” and the book goes away. Wesley Scroggins made a tactical error in using Speak as his example of filthy pornography, because it created the opportunity for people to turn that attack back on the person making it. “You think rape is porn? What’s wrong with you?!”

Wesley Scroggins also went public. When I first read his editorial, I wondered, what is wrong with this paper that they gave Scroggins a soap box? (And to get a clear picture of what Scroggins wants done in public schools, read his full 29 page complaint dated June 2010.)  Having read Mullins’s account, I have a new theory. I think the paper did this to turn the spotlight on what was going on. And turn the spotlight it did!

One final thing. CommonSenseMedia continues to use its “established child development principles” to let parents know that Speak is only appropriate for ages 17 and over, and that rape is categorized as sex.

Edited to add: Sarah Ockler takes on the Authors Make Money From Book Banning Myth.

Talking About a Revolution

In NJ Library, Citing Child Pornography, Removes GLBT Book,  SLJ reports “A New Jersey public library has ordered the removal of all copies of Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology (Alyson, 2000) from its shelves–despite the fact there was no formal book challenge–and its library director has referred to the title as “child pornography.”

Read the full article, including the comments.

Other places to go for information and conversation about this book and the removal following a non-challenge:

New Jersey ACLU open records requests show book removal decisions history at Library Law Blog, which includes the internal library emails obtained by the NJ ACLU that reveals how and why the book was removed. Disclaimer: My blog is mentioned in the emails, because I’ve been posting about this for a couple months now.

Lisnews.org reporting on the Library Law Blog post. Check out the comments, many anonymous.

Blog post from National Coalition Against Censorship. This post mentions the 9.12 connection that comments at the SLJ article are disputing. Google news 9.12 and “Revolutionary Voices” to see May 2010 news paper reports that reflect the 9.12 involvement in this removal, including this one.

My original post on this issue — it’s the one that is referenced in the emails. Note the anonymous comment which attempts to promote readers to say “of course this book should be banned!” While I (and others) back up our posts, articles, and tweets with names, anon does not. Interesting, this is the post that was mentioned in the emails and commented on, instead of the more recent post I did on the removal.

And, finally, Bookshelves of Doom and her take, because seriously, part of my philosophy of blogging is “link to Leila once a week.”