In this enlightened age, surely Banned Books Week has become passé. Just kidding! There are still piles of books that have people clutching their pearls all around the world. Let’s see what’s in the news, just in time for Banned Books Week 2015 (Sept. 27–Oct. 3):
NEWS FLASH: WOMEN HAVE CERVIXES; STDS CAN CAUSE CANCER
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot’s highly lauded tale of a poor black woman whose cancer cells became a cash cow after her untimely death, has been challenged by the Tennessee mother of a high-school sophomore, who calls it “pornography” and was “shocked” by the book’s “graphic information.” With the Common Core push for more compelling examination of nonfiction texts in schools, what other true stories will find themselves at risk of being tossed from the reading list?
ENTIRE COUNTRY PROHIBITED FROM “DISTRIBUTING” A PARTICULAR BOOK
A group called Family First is battling the standing 2013 classification of Ted Dawe’s Into the River, leading to its temporary ban in New Zealand. While reading it is still not a crime, “distributing” it IS, punishable by a $3,000 fine on individuals and $10,000 fine on organizations that attempt to share this book with others. Technically, the ban is in place pending a review of the 2013 decision (expected to come in early October). According to Dawe, “Family First appealed the decision, a new body was assembled (four co-opted members) and they overturned the censor, imposing an R14 restriction. To my knowledge this was the first-ever restricted New Zealand novel. I was upset but philosophical. After all, the head of this group, Dr. Don Mathieson, had wanted an ‘R18-sealed-in-plastic’ ruling. When he didn’t get his own way, he distanced himself from the group and published his own judgement.” The upshot of this is that teens in New Zealand have been forced to show their IDs to gain access to his book in shops and libraries.
Prior to this judgement, Into The River was the most-borrowed NZ-written YA novel in the country. After the ruling, it was removed from libraries’ shelves and either placed behind the desk or in the basement stacks.
VONNEGUT LIBRARY IMPRISONS LIBRARY DEAN IN THEIR STOREFRONT USING BANNED BOOKS
This one’s pretty much as described: to bring attention to the plight of banned books, DePauw Dean Rick Provine will live in the panopticon of the front windows of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library 24/7 for a solid week to bring attention to the issue of censorship. Presumably, in New Zealand he’d have to submit to the Chief Censor (a real job!) to qualify for distribution to the general public.
Heard of any other interesting or troubling Banned Books Week news? Do share in the comments!