Thursday, September 28, 2006

"A riot is an ugly thing...

...and I think that it is just about time that we had one!"
--"Young Frankenstein"

This week is the American Library Association's "Banned Books Week," where they try to raise awareness of books that have been challenged or outright banned by institutions that hold books (i.e. not just public libraries).

Here are some of the more interesting links.

2005's Most Challenged Books
To be fair, this doesn't indicate what sort of institutions challenged these books, but I'd be willing to bet that Catcher in the Rye doesn't see much play in third-grade reading rooms. But darned if it doesn't make me curious about Robie H. Harris' It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, which was challenged for "homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion and being unsuited to age group." The list does include perennial favorite The Catcher in the Rye, but has finally pushed out others such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Most Challenged Books of 21st Century (2000-2005)
Guess who tops this list? If you said Forever, Judy Blume's intense work about emerging sexuality, you're wrong. It's actually the "Harry Potter" series.

You remember Harry Potter, right? He's the one who goes around advocating how cool witchcraft is. Do you remember that it was the subject of a federal lawsuit in Arkansas in 2004, after the book was restricted because it called authority figures "stupid" and demonstrated "good witches and good magic"? Let's be honest: if calling authority figures "stupid" was a category for banning, we'd lose half our written books and most of the television we watch. So it must really be about the witchcraft. For more on this, consult this page of religious objections.

Do you also remember that copies were burned at Alamogordo, New Mexico in 2002, after being called "a masterpiece of satanic deception"? The Christ Community Church held a bonfire wherein congregants were invited to toss on things that were oppressing them spiritually. Harry Potter, pornographic magazines, a Ouiji board, J.R.R. Tolkein's famous fantasy novels, and a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare were among the offensive articles. This was days after the pastor had preached a sermon alluding to "plagiarism" in Harry Potter. It was Pastor Jerry Brock's contention that Harry Potter's story was stolen from the childhood of Jesus. I'll admit, I'm no religious scholar, but I'm going to have to reread the Bible to catch the parts about the Evil One killing both of Jesus' real parents, attempting to kill him but only disfiguring him thanks to a spell that had been placed on Jesus by his parents, then having Jesus eventually join a shadow culture of magic-users that exists along side the "normal" society.

Come to think about it, I *do* seem to remember that Jesus refers to the Pharisees as "Muggles" in the Gospel of Mark at one point. Uncanny!

The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-–2000

Here's where To Kill a Mockingbird finally gets the mention. I should point out that it's one of my favorite books, so I'm irreconcilably biased. It was challenged in 2006 in Tennesse because of profanity, rape and incest and because the use of racial slurs promoted "racial hatred, racial division, racial separationn, and promotes white supremacy." I have no jibe comments to make about this, other than to say that if this book is taught in a vacuum with no discussion, or if some kids scan the pages for only what the racist characters say, then we have bigger problems.

You know what book isn't on there? The Bible. Has anyone actually read this book? It's filthy! Sure, it started one of the major religions and promotes peace, tolerance, and love. But some of the stories are vile! Won't someone think of the children!

I could name lots of places (I've read the book eager...I mean, disdainfully looking for awful content), but I'll just choose one. After all, choosing the part of the Bible that proves your point and ignoring all the rest is how you make your arguments in today's society, right? Direct your pointers to Ezekiel, chapter 23. Then, after having read those foul words from that foul book, burn it for the cleansing of your soul! Then, as penance, read from the Bible.

Only be careful to choose the holy sections, this time! O Israel, let not thy eye fall upon the naughty bits.

Credit to The Onion for the image.

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