Higher Power of Lucky

Go check out the As If! blog on the subject of how one anatomically correct, non-slang word (scrotum) is making teachers and librarians consider keeping a book out of classrooms and libraries -- and that book s The Higher Power of Lucky, chosen by the American Library Association as the best book of the year written for children, and honored with the Newbery award.

It is not a dirty word, people. It is just a body part that almost half the population has. If a child old enough to read the book doesn't know the name for his own bits, that's already making me sad.

And the idea that schools and libraries would not want children to be able to read the best book of the year because they're scared to name the bits of human beings (once! nonsexually!) -- well, I really do think those people are making the wrong decision.

no gay books

In Arkansas, a new study shows, less than 1 percent of school libraries carry books with GLBT themes. And only 21% of public libraries do. And only 5% of University libraries -- which are entirely geared for people over 18.

The researchers surveyed media specialists and checked the online catalogs of public and university libraries for 21 of the most popular gay-, bisexual-, lesbian-, and transgender-themed books published between 1999 and 2005. They included titles such as:
Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys
Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club
David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy.
Each book they searched was described as a coming-of-age story or labeled as juvenile or young adult fiction by the publisher.

This situation makes me very sad. I've read the books -- they're excellent. They're popular, and some people not only want to read them -- their lives will be changed for the better by doing so.

For more, go visit the As If! blog -- Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom.

My future husbands AND book banning

PaulnewmanThanks, everyone, for the nice notes on my publication day!
and for taking that funny quiz, which I now know is called a MASH.

I will post my own results soon, but I realize I took it much too seriously and need to re-do it with funny celebrity boyfriends. I want to be like Mary Pearson and marry Paul Newman! (Yes, I know he is too old. A younger Paul Newman would be just perfect, though. Look at him, there with Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.)

In more serious news, please go read about the ridiculous stuff going on in Texas, where the junior high school students are not allowed to check books out at all for two weeks! Following complaints over two books that contained some profanity and sexual content (one being a memoir by Gary Paulson, a noted children's author), the school decided to review its collection -- fair enough. A junior-high library should not have materials inappropriate for junior high readers. But in my opinon, shutting down the library is far from an appropriate response. People were calling swear words "pornography" and getting hysterical and generally
and this is my point
making the children in the community feel that the adults (parents and librarians) in their lives are people they can not speak to about anything sexual or "adult" as they grow up and begin to want to understand these things.
They are closing a door.
Happy Banned Books week.


I Read Banned Books

Ireadbannedbooks_2Banned books week, babies!
What can you do to speak out in favor of intellectual freedom?

Here are some itty bitty things to do:
Check out the AS IF website.
Add As If! on myspace.
Contribute to the dialog on banned books at the Teen Lit group on myspace.
Swipe the button, above (made by the ALA) and post it on your blog.

Some slightly bigger things you can do:
Bring up Banned Books Week with your English teacher and ask if your class can have a discussion about the subject.

Talk to your local YA librarian or the librarian at your school and see if there's a possibility of inviting Chris Crutcher to speak in your area. He's an inspiring lecturer, and very funny, and speaks passionately and convincingly on the subject.

Read one of these teen novels from the American Library Association's list of most-often banned books:

Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Deenie, by Judy Blume
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
Forever, by Judy Blume
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
The Pigman, by Paul Zindel
Lord of the Flies, by Wiliam Golding
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher

Or even just start by checking one of those books out of your library and read it. Forever is romantic; the Chocolate War is thrilling; The Bluest Eye is thought-provoking; Lord of the Flies is terrifying.

Then share the with a friend. And spend three minutes talking to each other about why you think it might have been banned.
That's free. And you'll have read a dang good book.
You'll also have made a tiny difference in the world -- opening up your mind, and your friend's.
Those tiny differences add up.

Happy reading!


Get ready for Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week begins Sept 23. Attention bloggers, librarians, authors and everyone! You can get all sorts of materials and images here. Like this cute button from the ALA (American Library Association):
You can help out by telling people about Banned Books week, ordering and wearing buttons or t-shirts, organizing an event at your local library (or suggesting an event to your school librarian!). You may not know this, but many, many books we consider classics have been banned. Probably some you've even read and loved! Really, do you want to live in a country where you can't get Harry Potter at the library? Take some action!

BOOKSENSE made a list of their favorite oft-banned books. Here it is! Read 'em proudly.

2. GEOGRAPHY CLUB, by Brent Hartinger
3. THE GIVER, by Lois Lowry
4. THE STORY OF LITTLE BLACK SAMBO, by Helen Bannerman, Christopher H. Bing (Illus.)
5. THE BLUEST EYE, by Toni Morrison
6. BRAVE NEW WORLD, by Aldous Huxley
7. FOREVER, by Judy Blume
9. WE, by Yevgeny Zamyatin
10. WHALE TALK, by Chris Crutcher

As IF! Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom

Ilovebanned_3I am very very late in posting this due to being out of town and not reading much web news, but there is important stuff going on at the As If! blog -- Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom. Specifically, Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez was removed from a school's summer reading list without review.

As Brent Hartinger writes: The book, which has won lots of important honors, was on the "high school" sub-section, on a list that was a total of some 25 pages long. The list itself was chosen by teachers, presumably with an eye for diversity, and students were required to read two books from the list; the public libraries in the area set the books aside in a special area for easy access.
While Rainbow Boys was not on the middle school list, a middle school student checked the book out and brought it home. The parent read the book and was extremely upset, calling the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and reading an "explicit" passage. The Assistant Superintendent decided to pull the book, and informed the public libraries to remove it from the summer reading collection.

Our As If! spokesman Jordan Sonnenblick recommended people write in to the superintendent who yanked the book from a high school reading list, and to the local paper in Webster, NY. And there was great coverage! Both an editorial and an article.

What can you, as a teen, do about censorship of books? Write to us on the As If! blog (in the comments of the latest post is a good place) if you find access to books being restricted in your community. You can talk to librarians about it. You can post links to As If! and other sites on your blogs and email them to your friends to raise awareness. The fantastic logo at the top of this page was designed by Literaticat, YA goddess mastermind behind Not Your Mother's Bookclub.

Asif_logo_color_4 And you can read the books! Don't let them be silenced! Here's a list of books a worried parent wanted removed from the reading list

Rainbow Boys- Sanchez
Breaking Boxes - Jenkins
Empress of the World - Ryan
I Was a Teenage Fairy - Block
Lucky - Sebold
Keesha's House - Frost
Looking for Alaska - Green
Bless Me, Ultima - Anaya
My Heartbeat - Freymann-Weyr
Ragtime - Doctorow
Smack - Burgess
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Garcia Marquez
When I Was Puerto Rican - Santiago
Chronicle of a Death Foretold - Garcia Marquez
Athletic Shorts - Crutcher
Kindred - Butler
Deliver Us From Evie - Kerr
Hard Love - Wittlinger
Green Lantern: Passing the Torch - Winick
The Last Chance Texaco - Hartinger

La Rochelle

So, I'm a little late in posting this, but David LaRochelle's novel Absolutely Positively Not, which won the Sid Fleishman humor award for best funny book of the year, is at the center of a little controversy.

When LaRochelle attended a a Young Authors Conference held at Northland Community and
Technical College in Thief River Falls, Minn., he was asked not to bring Absolutely Positively Not because it wasn't appropriate for 5th-8th graders - DESPITE there being older YA titles for sale at the same event. LaRochelle's book is about a young man humorously struggling with his sexual identity, and it contains nothing graphic.

Author John Coy, the keynote speaker at the conference, dropped his prepared speech and spoke out against the repression of LaRochelle's novel.

The furor had some positive results: Absolutely, Positively Notdid get showcased alongwith all the other books in the Twin Cities Young Writers Conference, held at Bethel University -- though it had been kept out of that event last year.

So -- an inspiring situation in which Coy's outspokenness (is that a word? sorry) led to people talking about it, which led to a CHANGE. WOoohoooo!

All my info from Publishers Weekly, though I'm not quoting them or anything.

For more on the subject of book censorship in its various forms, especially as it pertains to books for teenagers, visit: AS IF!

Yay Students!

Hurrah for students in Township High School District 214, a Chicago-area suburb. They are taking action to protest a single school board member’s attempt to ban seven books from the curriculum.

There's more at the As If site, in an article by Rosemary Graham. She writes:

"One student launched an on-line petition, which has over four hundred signatures and comments. Some students are wearing tape that reads “censored” over any writing that appears on their clothing and many plan to attend the school board meeting..."

It turns out the school board member hasn't even read the books in question -- only the scandalous bits. The books:

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan

Anyway, the board meeting was last night (Thurs) so hopefully we'll have more news soon. But whatever the outcome, those students are GREAT, and a model for taking action should the repression of certain titles turn out to be an issue in YOUR community.

Create a petition
Attend Meetings
Find a form of visible but non-disruptive protest
and Tell the papers you've done it!