Lack of fREADom Sucks…No More Banned #Books

21st Centuryville

Sept.27th -Oct 3rd 2015 is Banned Books Week and this year I’ve been lucky to have an interview with senior librarian of 21stCenturyville, Ms. Viva Libriani.

Viva Libriani, head librarian of 21stCenturyville. Original drawing by Kathy Andrew,,writers notebook

Viva Libriani, senior librarian in 21stCenturyville. Original drawing by Kathy Andrew

Ms.Libriani will be seen this year leading the march with her trademark chant Lack of fREADdom sucks…No More banned books!

But she was not always a champion for this cause. Viva was raised in the town of Sittingonthefenceville  and with little opportunities open to her, she won a scholarship to University at UNM (University for the Narrow Minded) in Uberconservativetown. During her time at university and she expanded her own reading material and things started to feel uncomfortable. It all came to a head after she’d worked for several years as a librarian in Uberconservativetowm. When I spoke with her, she talked of her time there.

“At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Everyone was pretty much the same as folks from Sittingonthefenceville.  But the more I read, the more I had difficulty with decisions that were being made. Then three young girls changed my life. The first asked me why there were no books that made her think. A couple of months later, the second asked why we never carried books that questioned life. The final straw for me was when a ten year old girl with her blonde pigtails flying checked out some books and said  ‘You know Mom’s right, ignorance is bliss.’ The girl gave a little wave and left the building.”

Ms. Libriani paused for a moment to wipe her eyes.

“I couldn’t stand it anymore. I gave my notice, went home, cut off my long hair I’d kept tied up in a bun and went straight to Inky Pinky’s and got a tiny tattoo on my ankle of a book with wings.” Viva laughed as she looked down at her arms . “I guess I picked up these once I got to 21stCenturyville.”

Viva Libriani has become a heroine for many of us who’ve struggled with the idea of being limited as to what we can read, particular books banned in schools and libraries, where children and young adults have no choice in acquiring them elsewhere. I like her too because she wanted to be different and broke an old-fashioned stereotype of the straight-laced and judgmental librarian. Tattoos aren’t for everyone, but loads of librarians live in 21stCenturyville these days.

Back to Reality

Viva Viviani may only live in my imagination, but the threat to everyone’s right to read what they want in the USA is real: there were 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom this year. Here are links to the 10 most challenged titles of 2014. Thanks for this list goes to my local bookstore Copperfield’s Books who also sell new, used and rare books online.

1)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10)    Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: sexually explicit

I thought it was interesting that 7 of these titles had an issue with sexuality. Does no-one see what’s on TV these days? If you want more information about the issue or how to get involved, check out the American Library Association or my post Should we Ever Ban Books. Who knows, maybe Viva will answer your call or email.

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association,ak.k. andrew,

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Have you had any experience of not being able to get books you wanted in the US , or another country. How do you think we should deal with this issue? Should any books, other than perhaps ones that might put people, particular children, in physical danger, be banned?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

Many Thanks!

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  1. Welcome back A.K., and a fantastic post. It almost seems ludicrous that in this day and age with what goes on in this world and, especially what is televised that books are under the microscope here. Freedom to write and get published should equal freedom to read. Of course I’m sharing. 🙂
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  2. Great, was about to write article, but will change it to short story, AK.

    Had no idea there was censorship against books in the US. We definitely don’t have that in Sweden.
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  3. Hi Kathy: I haven’t had any personal experiences with wanting to get my hands on a book that is banned. But in the view of the amazing amount of risqué, violent, and horrific content that is readily accessible on TV, I’m shocked that any books are still being banned at all!
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  4. Fabulous post AK and welcome back to blogging!

    We see this on occasion in the USA for sure. There was recently a movement to ban a particular book on Amazon because the author’s topic was rape. I think I have that right.

    But what most disturbs me is our public schools who have been whitewashing the USA history in the name of political correctness. This will change the way our children know about our country. It sickens me.
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    • Thanks so much Pat & good to ‘see ‘ you too.
      I think you make a good point about the way history has been presented in schools. Many stories are missing, particularly the part women have played in history.
      I’m not sure I agree with banning a book about rape- I certainly agree you should have the right not to agree with it being there, but without knowing the particular book it’s hard for me to comment. There will always be things written that I feel are hurtful and hateful, but then others might look at some of my views and feel the same. The right to free speech has always been a tough one, but I have to stand behind it. We’re fortunate to live in a country where we can freely disagree! Thanks so much for your comment- most appreciated:-)
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  5. I was amazed to see the Kite Runner on the list but only slightly less amazed to see all the others. What the hell is going on when books get banned. Freedom of the press is fundamental to this country and if you can get a book published then the onus is on the public to buy or not, use as a teaching tool or not; simple.
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    • I was rather surprised by the Kite Runner too, as I found it quite an inoffensive book, even if it is rather harrowing at times. While I can understand age appropriate being a consideration, then surely that applies to many novels, not banning them per se. And I agree freedom of press is extremely fundamental in this country.
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  6. Despite the prevalent focus on sexuality to sell products and fill TV shows, parents still freak out when a mere wiff of sexuality comes up in the literature their kids read. I still remember the horror of my former principal coming to me with the photocopied pages of a short story anthology I had purchased to use with my creative writing students. The parent had dutifully highlighted all the “tawdry” bits. This parent wasn’t going to take the matter further, but I also was not welcome to use that particular anthology anymore even though I had been asked to develop a college-level course. Yet even more sad was the few stories that were indeed racy were never going to be assigned anyway. Somehow those juicy bits tainted the other stories just by their mere presence. Ugh.
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    • Yes, why is it that parents are so freaked by literature? Is it because its more articulate or just because the child can go back repeatedly to the “Tawdry ” parts? Your example of the anthology I suspect is fairly typical. What a drag that as you say the rest of the work was tossed out because of one story, which I suspect was not really “that bad” anyway.
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  7. Whenever I read about books being banned it always scares me. It just brings to mind communist countries controlling what their people see in the news or online and read in the news. Plus a couple of my favorites are on your list…Kite Runner and the Bluest Eye. If parents don’t want their kids reading certain books that should be handled in the home.

    • Its is scary isn’t it Susan? I think for me it’s because I live with the knowledge that we have a bill of rights that should cover all this stuff and yet clearly there are loopholes that people find to get around them. And yes Kite Runner & The Bluest Eye are two of my favorites too. Don’t get me started on the news….Good to “see” you again:-)
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  8. SO happy to see you back A.K.!! You have been missed. I have to say that banning is taken seriously by both conservatives AND liberals. The current trend to remove Confederate statues and change history books so they no longer reflect the same is alarming. To me, it’s the change principle behind banning books. I agree with you on freedom of speech. Just because it’s offensive doesn’ mean it should be banned. Freedom does include our freedom to choose, right? And you can’t change the facts in order to advance a point of view. Ugh….
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    • Thanks so much for the welcome Jacquie! Good to “see” you too. I’m not sure we’re going to agree on removal of the confederate flag, but that’s part of our right as you say. In terms of changing history, I think that both the good and the bad should be in the history books, and often minorities are left out of histories e.g. women artists. There were many women artists in the 18th & 19th century and yet their names are rarely mentioned anywhere. The same with Native Americans. It’s only in the second half of the 20th Century that anything other than the most biased view was presented. Both sides need to have a voice. It was only when I studied American history in college that I realized that history is , in reality , an interpretation of facts i.e what happened depends on who’s telling the story. Thanks so much for your comment.
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  9. Good to see you, Kathy! People know reading is a much more “dangerous” activity than watching TV. Reading allows one time to consider, to think, to cogitate, to learn. In a country where people argue for freedom, isn’t it ironic (or not) that the freedom to read is something so many people would willingly take away.
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    • Good to “see” you too Marie! I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head about why books are considered “dangerous” – lets face it they’ve been considered so at many different times in history. It’s extremely ironic as we probably shout the loudest about this being the land of the free, and yet here we are , year after year, banning books. Outrageous. Thanks for your insightful comment.
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  10. Thank you so much for this post! When I received the email from Amazon the other day letting me know about Banned Book Week I was curious so took a look at the list but there was no commentary about why the books had been banned. And banning books is so absurd anyway! I totally agree with the importance of identifying things such as when a story is sexually explicit, or contains violence, but otherwise let ME decide what I do and don’t want to read. Thank YOU!
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    • Thanks so much Marquita – Im very happy I was able to help. And of course I completely agree with you that banning books is absurd . We should indeed be able to make our own decisions. And the sad thing is that most of these titles are banned by libraries or schools, so that it effects people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to buy them. As long as the world is age appropriate – which of course is a very subjective call – then the reader should be able to make their own choice. Glad we’re on the same page!
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  11. Hi Kathy – nice to have you back – hope you enjoyed your break.

    Banning books is wrong – remember the burning of the books during the Nazi regime?

    There are definitely books on that list that I would never bring into my home simply because I personally would have problems with the subject. As to the age appropriate reason, that is one for the parents to decide, not so-called censors.

    Come to think of it, what happened to the TV censors? Remember the days of the Dick Van Dyk show when the married couple had to have twin beds – now it seems everything is allowed. Again, something parents need to monitor.
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  12. Hi, A.K.
    When I read about the subject of banning books, I am always amazed. I agree with you that sexuality and sexually explicit aspects of a story is hardly cause for banning them! Only a few of the 9 books you listed actually said war or violence (gratuitous even), which, if we just have to ban books might be a wiser choice than sex, at least for young minds.

    Then I noticed that I am guilty in my writing of most of those taboos. Shame on me!

    Best wishes,

  13. A.K.- I guess we need to add to the constitution Freedom of Writing. The first amendment is free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press. Banning books is very stupid to me. We all have choices, if you don’t like it and think the book is not right for you, then don’t read it.
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  14. Kathy, I must be doing something right. My kids have read at least 1/2 the books on this list and have spoken at length about them over dinner. Had no idea there was a Banned Book Week. Going to have to spread the word. Thanks.
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  15. No, of course books shouldn’t be banned. I always start thinking it’s a joke but there really are people who want to ban some, aren’t there? Solution for them: don’t buy them.
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  16. Oh dear, what should we do with those who seek to ban books? In the spirit of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal…, here is my own recommended course of action for dealing with them:
    (1) Put the would-be book banners on a plane.
    (2) Fly the plane into North Korean airspace.
    (3) Strap parachutes onto their backs.
    (4) Push them out of the plane.
    Ciao, book banners – it was nice knowing you.

    (One more time, folks, I am being satirical here…I think.)
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  17. I actually just read Persepolis not too long ago. That was an interesting read with a perspective on life in the Middle East we aren’t often exposed to.
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