Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!
Every day this week, we will be bringing news of book banning from across the divisions and around the world. Banning Books Silences Stories, and our community has more than a few stories of censorship, either from a home country, a place we’ve lived, or from family and friends.
Take a moment today to appreciate your right to your personal story, and your ability to see it in literature and on film, and feel free to share this message with anyone you choose.
Today, the topic at hand is currency and community.
Yesterday, one teacher told me that while teaching in the middle east, he couldn’t touch even the idea of Persepolis in his school. He told me that the parents at his school in Washington wouldn’t let him teach “Diary of a Part Time Indian.” Another teacher, though, wrote a grant for a class set while working on the reservation that made her teaching remarkably successful. The students connected with that story beyond any “offensive” content that might be there.
Librarians are struggling with this book at the moment, though. With the advent of the #metoo movement, accusations about the author of “Part Time Indian” came into the public sphere. Kris and K both love the book, but struggle with the idea of splitting the artist and the art. While we won’t remove this particular book from the library, we did specifically re-evaluate the reader series “Young Bill Cosby,” based on the currency of books, circulation statistics and value to our collection, after his conviction. We chose to remove them.
One recent story connects with the #metoo movement. A parent in the UK wanted to remove Sleeping Beauty from the curriculum and the libraries given the liberties that the prince takes by kissing Aurora while she is asleep. This current news brings up issues in the stories that are being told and what they say about the culture.
Sometimes the community rebels against the idea that the issues in books could impact their children. The book “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is currently behind the library desk (available only when you ask with parental permission) at the school where the book is set. The author is from a school in the Pittsburgh suburbs, and it tackles child abuse, sexual identity, and teen drinking and drugs.
Other times, there is some benefit to being sensitive to different groups of people. Books like “Babar” highlight the benefits of colonialism, often by showing discrimination in a positive light. Other books, like Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” use racial slurs throughout the text. Perhaps changing politics and changing language warrants a change in story.
Of course, not every group has the same logic. The Lorax was challenged by a group of parents who worked as lumberjacks, who didn’t want their children to see them unfavorably. Many environmental books are challenged for a similar reason. Police officers didn’t like their portrayal as pigs in “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.”
Our AAS community has such a diverse group of people, and we want to honor that diversity and respect that all of us are coming from a different perspective. We want our library to reflect a story for each and every one of our patrons.