October 2004

Chris Zammarelli

banned bookslut

"This book kind of scares me."

The holiday season is fast approaching, and if you're looking for a great way to corrupt any impressionable youth you may be related to, here's a small list of books (and a movie) that were challenged this past year in the United States due to concerns about their content.

The Devil's Storybook by Natalie Babbitt
The Devil: Opposing Viewpoints (Great Mysteries) by Thomas Schouweiler
Parents of a 14-year-old boy asked the Washington Township (NJ) school district to remove from school libraries these and other books about the occult, which they blamed for their son's interest in Satanism and self-mutilation. They also formed a group with 20 other parents called National Concerned Citizens for Youth to campaign for circulation policy restrictions for teenagers. When the school district voted to keep the books on the shelves, an area resident organized a candlelight vigil in support of the parents' organization.

 

Deenie by Judy Blume
A parent of a Spring Hill (FL) Elementary School student requested Blume's coming-of-age novel be removed from elementary school libraries because it made reference to masturbation. Blume defended her book, saying that what parents may find offensive might not bother kids. The school district ultimately decided to retain the book, but require parental permission for students to borrow it.

 

 

 

Eat Me by Linda Jaivin
After a Marion County (FL) library system patron complained that Jaivin's novel about women and their sexuality was obscene, Library Director Julie Seig ignored the recommendation of her staff and pulled it from the shelves. The library board voted her decision down, but she ended up keeping the book on her desk for several weeks afterwards. After she finally returned it to the stacks, an outraged local resident began reading parts of the book during a Marion County commissioners meeting, declaring that if his grandson ever checked the book out of the library, he would make it a "personal" issue with the staff.

 

Walter the Farting Dog by Glenn Murray
Former West Salem (WI) School District board member Maynard Carlson asked the board to remove Murray's story of a dog with flatulence problems from his grandson's elementary school because of its excessive use of the word "fart" (24 times). While the board had a special meeting to consider his request, Murray said the book ultimately remained in the stacks.

 

 

Horses by Juliet Clutton-Brock
A parent of an eight-year-old student at Smith Elementary School in Helena, MT, challenged the presence of Clutton-Brock's book about horses in the school's library because it supported the theory of evolution. Helena's school district recommended the book remain on the shelves, but the parent who raised the challenge has requested the school add a book about creationism to its library collection.

 

 

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
Mathabane's autobiography about growing up under apartheid was removed from a Jay County (IN) High School English class reading list because of its passages about child abuse and violence in South Africa. Kaffir Boy was also removed from the Hephzibah High School senior literature reading list after a 12th grader complained to his mother about a sequence where men asked starving boys to exchange sex for food.

 

 

The Captain of Her Heart by Anita Stansfield
The author, known as a leader in Mormon fiction, was unable to get her romance novel published because the main character has sex out of wedlock. After she formed her own company to release the book, two Mormon retailers refused to carry it.

1776, a film by Peter Hunt
Fairfax County (VA) School Board banned the movie version of the musical 1776 because of sexual innuendo between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. School social studies coordinator Sara Shoob said, "There's some sexual innuendo and language, and when you're talking about the Declaration of Independence, that does not have to be part of your discussion."

 

 

 

King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
Parents of a seven-year-old requested that the children's book about a prince who falls in love with another prince be removed from the Freeman Elementary School in Wilmington, NC. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) supported the parents, saying "This is another attack on morality by the extreme left." (For more, see I've Never Cared Much for Princesses from the April 2004 issue of Bookslut.) Also, a mother of two was surprised to find King & King and Judith Vigna's My Two Uncles in a public library in the Mid-Columbia Library District (WA). She has asked that the books be moved to a separate section in the library.

 

 

A Child's Life by Phoebe Gloeckner
Stockton, CA, Mayor Gary Podesto called on the city council to make area libraries safer for children after an 11-year-old checked out a book for adults about child abuse. He called it a "how-to book for pedophiles."

 

 

 

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
The book, whose plot hinges on two Chinese teenagers stealing a suitcase of books banned by the government during the Cultural Revolution, contained a passage about a virgin having sex. The superintendent of the Federal Way (WA) school system pulled the book from school reading lists after the mother of a 15-year-old student complained. The school board has asked schools in the district to submit reading lists for approval, and wrote up a policy explicitly forbidding sexually explicit materials in schools.

 

 

Pinkerton, Behave by Steven Kellogg
An Evanston, IL, mother was disturbed by the image of a burglar holding a gun to the head of the mother in Pinkerton, Behave, a book about an unruly dog who saves his family from being robbed. Her request that the Evanston Public Library Board remove it from the stacks was voted down 6-0.

 

 

 

America by E.R. Frank
The school board in Twin Bridges, MT, voted to keep E.R. Frank's novel about an abused child in the high school library. A teacher had challenged the book, saying that it was too graphic, but the committee that recommended the board keep it said, "Abuse cannot be painted with a pretty picture."

 

 

 

The Natural by Bernard Malamud
The mother of a 16-year-old petitioned the Central Valley (WA) School District to take The Natural off the 10th reading list because of its passages about making out, skinny dipping and female breasts. "All books and knowledge are not of the same value," the parent said to the school board. "Some are uplifting and move us to become better individuals. Other knowledge is degrading, filthy and damaging to the character."

 

 

Urban Legends by N.E. Genge
A woman whose granddaughter checked Urban Legends out of the public library in Simms, LA, threatened to burn the book because she objected to the chapter called "Crazy Little Thang Called Sex." The library reported that they had a second copy of the book available in the stacks.

 

 

 

One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte
The Ansonia (CT) Public Library removed Lipsyte's coming of age novel from the shelves of the middle school reading section after the mother of a 10-year-old found in the book a description of a masturbation fantasy. In addition, local school officials removed the book from the summer reading list.

 

 

 

Alice the Brave by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Saying "This kind of book scares me," the mother of a Mesquite, TX, fifth grader requested Pirrung Elementary to remove Alice the Brave from the library because of its descriptions of sex and the protagonist's obsession with her widowed father's relationship with her teacher.

 

 

 

Deal With It! by Esther Drill, Heather Mcdonald, and Rebecca Odes
The Gilbert (AZ) High School library pulled gURL.com's self-help book for pre-pubescent and teenaged girls because the mother of a 16-year-old student protested. "It's basically pornography and it's just awful," the parent told the Arizona Republic.

 

 

 

Ricochet River by Robin Cody
Two parents of Clackamas (OR) High School students requested the school remove Cody's coming of age novel from its reading lists because of its profane language and passages about teenagers having sex. One mother also found it to be degrading towards women.

 

 

 

Helping Your Child Learn History from the US Department of Education
Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice president, protested the publication of this educational pamphlet because it referred to the National Standards of History, which she opposes. In response to her complaint, the Education Department destroyed over 300,000 copies of the publication.

 

Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Parks
A couple who asked the Centennial Elementary School of Fargo, ND, to remove Mick Harte Was Here from the library plan to appeal to the Fargo School District a review committee's decision to keep the book on the shelves. They had objected to the use of the words "damn" and "suck," as well as references to birth control pills and eating disorders.

 

 

Diamond Dogs by Alan Watts
The Speight Middle School library in Wilson, NC, pulled Watt's novel about a high school football player who kills another student in a drunk driving accident, pending a review. The parents of an 11-year-old student complained about the book's passages describing sex between the main character and his girlfriend.

 

 

 

America (The Book) by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show
Wal-Mart cancelled its order of the civics textbook parody from the popular news satire because it "didn't meet their criteria" on sexually explicit material, according to the book's publisher. In a section on the Supreme Court, America features a photo doctored to look like the justices of the Supreme Court are naked. Wal-Mart continues to sell the book online, saying that internet users are different than in-store shoppers. Daily Show executive producer Ben Karlin responded, "We were hoping to be banned by a lot of mom-and-pop bookstores, but they keep selling the book."