Thursday, March 15, 2007
I was a curriculum director in a K-12 school district in California when I got a call from a "concerned" mother who said that the reading textbooks we had adopted was giving her kid nightmares. I had just stumbled into my first coordinated censorship campaign from Focus on the Family and other organizations of that political stripe. It was a statewide campaign, complete with prepared materials that looked home-baked only weren't. They popped up in about 35 other districts. I only survived it because of the work of the ALA; facing down censors can be a very lonely activity.
Since then I have looked with considerable interest at the ALA's Top 10 books targeted for censorship of any particular year. This year's champs, according to the ALA press release include:
- And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group; it's about a pair of male penguins who parent an egg. (Obviously a lurid, pornographic tale)
- Gossip Girls series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;
- Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;
- The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;
- Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;
- Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group
- Beloved by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;
- The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) received a total of 546 challenges last year. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. Public libraries, schools and school libraries report the majority of challenges to OIF.
"The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported," said Judith F. Krug, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. "For each reported challenge, four or five likely remain unreported."