Sep 28

It’s a long episode for us, as we talk about a few upcoming events, and then launch into a lively discussion of Banned Books Weeks, aided by reader and listener voicemails, emails and blog comments. Please listen to the episode and let us know what you think. If you’re reading this in an RSS reader, the link to play the audio is at the bottom of the post. If you are reading this by email, please click through to booksonthenightstand.com to listen.

Upcoming events:

Ann is hosting an online discussion of The Poisonwood Bible, Tuesday October 5th at 9:30pm EST. You may call in by phone, join in a text chat, or use a computer microphone to talk along — or you can just listen, but where’s the fun in that? To join us, visit the Books on the Nightstand Talkshoe community and click “join this call”.

Many of you have requested a Halloween-themed show, which we’d like to do as a listener call-in show. Please call our voicemail line, (209) 867-7323 with your favorite spooky reads. We’ll be recording this ahead, so please call in by October 13th. That show will air on October 20th.

And don’t forget about the Books on the Nightstand Weekend Retreat, April 8-10, 2011. Please make sure to fill out our registration form once you’ve committed to attending. We need an accurate headcount for space and facility planning.

Banned Books eyechartBanned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week in the US (9/25 – 10/2, 2010), and we thank you all for contributing your thoughts about banned books. For more information on banned and challenged books, please visit the American Library Association Banned Books website.

We thank all of you for your voicemails, emails, comments and calls on the topic of banned books. This episode runs a little long (about 34 minutes), but I think it’s worth the time.

The Chocolate WarMelissa left a note on our Goodreads group to let us know that Canadian Freedom to Read week is in February. More information on that can be found on the Freedom to Read website. Robin emailed to say that her favorite banned book is To Kill a Mockingbird, and Linda called in from Ohio to tell us a story about Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War being removed from a school classroom. The Chocolate War is one of my favorite books ever, so this made me very sad.

Vanessa’s commented on our blog that Judy Blume’s Blubber and Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret are two books that she loves that are frequently challenged, and Kate left a comment to share her views on accessibility of controversial books in school libraries vs. public libraries. Thank you both for your blog comments! Also in the comments, Tanya shared her thoughts about age-appropriateness and book challenges.

The GiverIn preparation for Banned Books Week, Michael read The Giver by Lois Lowry, which is also a favorite of mine. Michael tells the story of one mother’s attempt to have this book removed from schools because, as she says, “This book is negative. I read it. I don’t see the academic value in it. Everything presented to the kids should be positive or historical, not negative.” (read more about this here).

SpeakAnn recently read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is a book that has become central to the banned books discussion this year. In a blog post, Halse Anderson mentioned that her book was under attack in a Missouri school district. The Springfield News-Leader newspaper ran an editorial by Wesley Scroggins that called for the removal of Speak (and other books) from the local school curricula.

Shannon called in her favorite banned book, The Harry Potter series. In an interesting voicemail, Kristen told us about her favorite banned book (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), but she also called in to share a story that she read in Library Journal, about a librarian who was upset that a book was shelved about a book on the Young Adult shelf, so she repeatedly checked the book out to herself, or relocated the book.

Carol, a librarian from the Saxton Free Library in Connecticut blogged her thoughts about Banned Books Week from the library’s perspective. Carol’s favorite banned book is Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

And lastly, Esther from Israel left a post in our Goodreads group that we found interesting, about the differences in censorship in her country. Thanks for the international perspective, Esther!

We’ll be back next week with a “regular” episode, including “Two books we can’t wait for you to read.”

  • Ash

    Just listened to this episode and I’m so pleased that you mentioned the recent controversy over Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I read Speak when I was 12 and it had a tremendous impact on me. I find it very upsetting that Wesley Scroggins is trying to turn the book into something evil when it is actually something very empowering for girls.

    For anyone interested in banned books that are powerful for women I would also suggest The Handmaid’s Tale and The Awakening, which are also frequently challenged.

  • Ash

    Just listened to this episode and I’m so pleased that you mentioned the recent controversy over Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I read Speak when I was 12 and it had a tremendous impact on me. I find it very upsetting that Wesley Scroggins is trying to turn the book into something evil when it is actually something very empowering for girls.

    For anyone interested in banned books that are powerful for women I would also suggest The Handmaid’s Tale and The Awakening, which are also frequently challenged.

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  • Great podcast, as always. On the topic of age-appropriate books: I agree that parents need to be aware of what their children are reading, but I also know that it is rarely the case, esp. when the parents are not big readers. One suggestion is to get your child (of any age) involved in a book club – either with one adult leader or one that is made up of parents and children. That way you can read those controversial books together and open the lines of communication. I can’t imagine what a tremendous impact SPEAK could have if read by girls (and their parents?) just before starting high school – think of the problems they might be able to avoid!

    Oh, and also – I’m hoping to join in the discussion of The Poisonwood Bible even though it’s been a while since I’ve read it. It’s one of my very favorite books. 🙂

  • Great podcast, as always. On the topic of age-appropriate books: I agree that parents need to be aware of what their children are reading, but I also know that it is rarely the case, esp. when the parents are not big readers. One suggestion is to get your child (of any age) involved in a book club – either with one adult leader or one that is made up of parents and children. That way you can read those controversial books together and open the lines of communication. I can’t imagine what a tremendous impact SPEAK could have if read by girls (and their parents?) just before starting high school – think of the problems they might be able to avoid!

    Oh, and also – I’m hoping to join in the discussion of The Poisonwood Bible even though it’s been a while since I’ve read it. It’s one of my very favorite books. 🙂

  • Love the podcast! My favorite banned book is not as well known, Family Secrets by Norma Klein. She’s one of my all-time favorite authors, and I’m sad her books are falling out of print. Mockingbird is probably the most ridiculous, but so many of them are!

    Just wanted to mention, next month is National Reading Group Month, and I hope you’re going to do a podcast on book clubs! Books that are good for book clubs are such different kinds of books than just “good books”, and I know a lot of book clubs struggle with selections, I think it would be a really interesting topic.

  • Love the podcast! My favorite banned book is not as well known, Family Secrets by Norma Klein. She’s one of my all-time favorite authors, and I’m sad her books are falling out of print. Mockingbird is probably the most ridiculous, but so many of them are!

    Just wanted to mention, next month is National Reading Group Month, and I hope you’re going to do a podcast on book clubs! Books that are good for book clubs are such different kinds of books than just “good books”, and I know a lot of book clubs struggle with selections, I think it would be a really interesting topic.

  • Callie

    I don’t have kids, so I can’t say how I would feel as a parent about certain books being allowed in schools… but I will say that for books to be banned at the high school level is crazy to me. Whether or not you feel like it is appropriate for your child to read about certain subjects, I can guarantee that they are finding out about drugs, sex, swearing, and everything else either in school from friends, on TV, or on the internet.

    I completely agree with the idea that you can’t shield your kids from finding out about things- instead you have to make sure that they have a stable person to talk to about how they feel they are affected by them.

    Another thing from this episode- the idea that anyone would stop their kids from reading The Giver is astounding to me. It is such an important book, and I think it was instrumental in my development as a preteen. It showed me that at times adults lie, sometimes in order to protect people, sometimes in order to control them- so you have to decide for yourself what you are going to believe. It also showed me that positions of honor (such as Jonas received in becoming the Receiver of Memories) are often the most difficult to bear. The book taught me that though I was not allowed to make many choices for myself as a kid (my mom picked out my school clothes, I couldn’t eat candy for breakfast, I couldn’t read my book at the dinner table), there are some people in the world who are allowed to make even fewer choices for themselves, and I should appreciate the (seemingly little) control I had over my own life.

    Can you tell this is my favorite book? I could talk about its merits all day long.

  • Callie

    I don’t have kids, so I can’t say how I would feel as a parent about certain books being allowed in schools… but I will say that for books to be banned at the high school level is crazy to me. Whether or not you feel like it is appropriate for your child to read about certain subjects, I can guarantee that they are finding out about drugs, sex, swearing, and everything else either in school from friends, on TV, or on the internet.

    I completely agree with the idea that you can’t shield your kids from finding out about things- instead you have to make sure that they have a stable person to talk to about how they feel they are affected by them.

    Another thing from this episode- the idea that anyone would stop their kids from reading The Giver is astounding to me. It is such an important book, and I think it was instrumental in my development as a preteen. It showed me that at times adults lie, sometimes in order to protect people, sometimes in order to control them- so you have to decide for yourself what you are going to believe. It also showed me that positions of honor (such as Jonas received in becoming the Receiver of Memories) are often the most difficult to bear. The book taught me that though I was not allowed to make many choices for myself as a kid (my mom picked out my school clothes, I couldn’t eat candy for breakfast, I couldn’t read my book at the dinner table), there are some people in the world who are allowed to make even fewer choices for themselves, and I should appreciate the (seemingly little) control I had over my own life.

    Can you tell this is my favorite book? I could talk about its merits all day long.

  • Steven

    While I would never dream of censoring a book, it is an act I think we all engage in whether we admit so or not. The simple act of what I “allow” or “expose” my children to (ages 11, 8, 6, and 3–all girls) is censorship in and of itself. With that said, I’m thrilled that Ann clarified the issues about Speak, a book I had the fortune to read lately. The voice of the writer, the style of her prose, the wittiness of her character, the sheer way the language dances off the page as well as the empowering closet episode made me like the book, though I had difficulty with its predictability and almost cliche ending.

  • Steven

    While I would never dream of censoring a book, it is an act I think we all engage in whether we admit so or not. The simple act of what I “allow” or “expose” my children to (ages 11, 8, 6, and 3–all girls) is censorship in and of itself. With that said, I’m thrilled that Ann clarified the issues about Speak, a book I had the fortune to read lately. The voice of the writer, the style of her prose, the wittiness of her character, the sheer way the language dances off the page as well as the empowering closet episode made me like the book, though I had difficulty with its predictability and almost cliche ending.

  • I enjoy every BOTNS podcast and listen faithfully each week, but I wanted to let you know that I particularly enjoyed this podcast on Banned Books. I read a lot of articles and blogs about banned books this past week, but you really nailed the topic, with interesting and thoughtful commentary, both from yourselves and from your listeners.

    I strongly agree with the opinion that it’s the job of the parents to not only monitor what their kids are reading but also to read the books themselves and be available to talk to their kids about difficult topics. In my own reviews of kids and teen books, I try to point out anything that might be objectionable in a book, just so parents can help to determine what’s age appropriate and/or what might merit discussion.

    I posted links to this podcast on both of my book blogs. Thanks!

    Sue

    http://www.greatbooksforkidsandteens.com
    http://www.bookbybook.blogspot.com

  • I enjoy every BOTNS podcast and listen faithfully each week, but I wanted to let you know that I particularly enjoyed this podcast on Banned Books. I read a lot of articles and blogs about banned books this past week, but you really nailed the topic, with interesting and thoughtful commentary, both from yourselves and from your listeners.

    I strongly agree with the opinion that it’s the job of the parents to not only monitor what their kids are reading but also to read the books themselves and be available to talk to their kids about difficult topics. In my own reviews of kids and teen books, I try to point out anything that might be objectionable in a book, just so parents can help to determine what’s age appropriate and/or what might merit discussion.

    I posted links to this podcast on both of my book blogs. Thanks!

    Sue

    http://www.greatbooksforkidsandteens.com
    http://www.bookbybook.blogspot.com

  • Tcheer4life

    Two comments from Linda from Ohio who called in about “The Chocolate War”…

    The hubbub about the Harry Potter books when they first came out presented me with both a great parenting moment, an invitation to that wonderful series and an education in the rest of the world.

    My son was about ten. I had heard the negative comments but knew that I would NEVER ban a book from my son. My solution? We read them together so that we could discuss anything that I felt may be controversial. Of course, I found nothing objectionable. He chose not to finish the series, but I did. (The family has seen all the movies.)

    It was after that I started receiving the ominous “Don’t read these books” e-mails. I blasted back my own comments to the senders – especially because many of those e-mails included the phrase “I have not read these books but…”. It was wonderful to start my e-mails saying, “I have read them. They are wonderful.”

    Reading the comments today reminded me of a situation in a large suburban high school where I taught. I was taking a day from teaching and arranged for my American History class to be shown the movie “Amastad” while I was out. I had gotten the movie from the History department’s closet. When I returned, I could not find the movie. A movie called “The Amish” was on my desk.

    It turned out I had caused a major uproar. My sub did not feel the movie I had chosen was appropriate for my juniors in high school to see since it contained nudity (the slaves on the slaveship). There ended up being repercussions since many of the movies shown in classes (The Crucible, The Patriot for instance) had objectionable material.

    Once I heard about the objection, I figured many of my students had had much closer association with nudity than on a movie screen.)

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