Banned Books Week: Day 3

Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!

Day Three

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.

Banned Books Week: Day Two

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.  This year, we are focused on stories. 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.

Each day, we will focus on a theme of banning with the stories that accompany that theme.  Please feel welcome to share these stories. 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 curriculum. Books are often restricted at the curricular level, given the power that is in the hands of the teacher and the school.  Students are required or encouraged to read a certain text, a person or a group finds an issue with this, and the book is removed from suggested lists, classrooms, or curricula.

Two of our teachers have seen this in action.  In one example, a teacher expressed that a book that she wanted for her classroom, Plainsong, had a passage containing some sexual material.  The principal allowed her to purchase a class set of these books, but when they came in, he had her take out that page with an exact-o knife. One page removed from every single book in her new class set.  The teacher remarked that this was the worst moment in her teaching career.

A second teacher saw this in a friend of hers, with a book (Stick, Andrew Winger)  being on a recommended reading list. The book deals with LGBT issues, bullying, and abuse.  One group of people pressured the superintendent to remove the book from the list and from the library after one parent complained about the content.  Against the recommendations of a committee formed to review the book, they decided to remove it anyway.

One of the more famed cases of curriculum removal is in the case of Persepolis, removed from the Chicago Public Schools curricula.  The district commanded the removal of Persepolis from both classrooms and libraries, citing that they were unsure the students had the maturity to appreciate and fully understand the book.  There were no formal complaints and no formal process for removing the book, just a sudden and urgent push from the administration. Removing the book from curriculum completely removed it from student hands given that the school libraries there are not nearly as well-developed as the library here is.

Another common reason for books to be banned from curriculum is that they “aren’t academic enough.”  Some books that touch on truths that don’t want to be believed, stories that some believe are too intense for kids to read.  Reading them as a class can provide context and clarity, and requires trust in the educator as well as the text. It’s unfortunate that not every school honors the experience of the educator to teach tough topics.

AAS is fortunate to have books in curriculum that tackle tough topics, as well as books in classrooms and book rooms that deal with real life, emotions, and true experiences.  We are also amazingly fortunate to have educators that teach books that some others have banned.

Banned Books Week: Day One

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.  This year, we are focused on stories. 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.

Each day, we will focus on a theme of banning with the stories that accompany that theme.  Please feel welcome to share these stories. Each story we hear of a banned book helps us to appreciate the freedom we have to read, both as international citizens and as members of the AAS community.  Our school is fortunate to have a robust library, full of books for a diverse school community, typically away from the claws of politics. 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 widespread banning from countries, typically as a result of political or religious reasons.

At least three of our teachers in the high school have faced difficulty with textbooks in particular countries.  In two situations, passages were blacked out or redacted because of the politics of the region. In one more situation, all textbooks with the word “thinking” in the title were never received, having been stopped in customs and vanished by agents there.

One librarian (a friend of Ms. Kris) has trouble importing books into Saudi Arabia; each of his boxes is searched and if one of the books has any indication of alcohol, drugs, or pork, among other troublesome topics, the entire box is sent back.  If AAS was in Saudi, we would have immense trouble receiving boxes.

The idea of a country banning a book has happened through the ages. Books like “Animal Farm,” with government commentary and warning, have been banned in the Soviet Union, China, Saudi Arabia (pigs, right?), and a collection of other governments.

While some governments preempt these books, preventing them from ever entering the country, some governments rely on translation to restrict their topics.  Francoist Spain banned several books (“Ferdinand”) and used the translation in Spanish to scrub out the rest of the “offensive content.” You can find censored versions still today in stores.   

In Thailand, the film “Mockingjay” was pulled from the theatres after protesters began using the three finger salute in the “Hunger Games” trilogy.  Ms. K’s school, sensitive to the government’s wishes, then pulled them from the shelves and the Banned Books display.

In current news, both Kuwait and China are facing backlash for their book banning.  It’s becoming dangerous, though. Hong Kong has seen several booksellers go missing under mysterious circumstances after they sold contraband books to Chinese people.    

AAS is fortunate to have mail delivered through the diplomatic pouch, which means that even topics sensitive in our home country can be covered in the books that we own and enjoy.  You have the freedom to read about many topics that may be out of reach for some others.

Librarians Read: Rage Becomes Her

This book is a very hard read.  It is infuriating and puts into context everything that you are currently seeing in the news.  I highly recommend it as a piece for knowing what making women angry in this moment, or for getting to the bottom of your own anger in this moment.

But, be warned.  It’s tough.

Recommended for mature high school students or adults.  Find it in non-fiction.

Podcasts of Interest

I’ve been listening to podcasts like mad right now!

In addition to my all time favorites (see previous podcast posts), I’ve just enjoyed a few episodes of the following new ones.  I’ve been enjoying the break from politics into something new, and the sound of rich voices in my home that are not part of a screen.

Perhaps you want to explore these as well.

 

20k Hertz has a superb episode about the THX sound that plays at the beginning of movies since the 80s.  This was the brain child of George Lucas, who was looking for his new movie Star Wars to be played with great sound across the country.

 

 

 

Serial has had 2 previous seasons.  The first season was amazing, a crime murder mystery.  The second season was less fine.  This eason is a deep dive into the criminal justice system in America, and it is fascinating what she is finding.

 

 

 

 

Slow Burn is a new-ish podcast about Watergate.  It’s a long form podcast, with tons of information that puts this story in the context of characters and people and drama.  It is spectacular.

Librarians Read: Ordinary Terrible Things series

 These books just arrived in the library, and both Kris and I tore through them.  These books are some of the most sensitive, beautiful, and lovely reads I’ve ever encountered about the subjects.

There is a book about Divorce, Sex, Death, and Whiteness, and all of them were fabulous reads with a message and sensitive emotional activities at the end of each book.

I highly recommend these to any parent or child who wants to open up a discussion and talk some real talk.

Librarians Read: Cardboard Kingdom

Image result for cardboard kingdom This book was one of the more delightful comics I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Each of the characters is going through something at home… there’s a bully struggling to find friends, a boy whose parents are arguing, a girl whose parents call too loud, and each of them works to find an imaginary world that they can play in to overcome their struggles.

It was a truly lovely reading experience, great for Grade 2 and up.

Librarians Listen: Last Seen

Image result for last seen

I hadn’t heard about the huge art heist in Boston before this podcast, but it has certainly sucked me in now.  At the Gardener museum in Boston, 13 irreplaceable works of art were stolen 28 years ago.

This true crime podcast dives into the characters, the places, the situations, giving us a true sense of the crime and the impact it has left.

I’m loving the editing and radio-like atmosphere of this podcast, and highly recommend it for most ages.

Librarians Listen: Ologies

Image result for ologies I have been absolutely loving this podcast called Ologies, with Alie Ward.  It is an independent podcast about science and scientists, and the host (Alie), spends one episode on a different branch of science.

I got hooked from a recommendation from a friend who told me to look up the postcards ology, which was perfect for a letter writer like myself.  I was sucked in with Alie’s humor, side bars, entertaining backstory, and her asking dumb questions to smart people.

I highly recommend this podcast if you are looking for a way to escape some of the political news and find something more joyous.  She does have the occasional curse word, so be wary with too young children!