25 September 2006

A winning ticket

September's almost over and that means that it's Banned Book Week at libraries and bookstores throughout the U.S.

Here at the Quinella Castle, I've been marking the occasion by re-reading some of my favorite banned books -- Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Alice Walker's The Color Purple -- while rejoicing in the thought that these books are still available to me, even though there have been folks who thought they should be removed from the library.

For 25 years, the American Library Association (ALA) has sponsored Banned Books Week to remind us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to or view.

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded more than 7,800 book challenges since 1990. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum. About three out of four of all challenges are to material in schools or school libraries, and one in four are to material in public libraries. The most challenged reading materials have been books for children, though this year, public library purchases of Spanish-language books came under fire in Colorado, where a state ballot measure was narrowly defeated in a committee vote.

Challenges are not simply an expression of a point of view; they are an attempt to remove materials from public use. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental: it denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. And for children, it's my feeling that decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who know them best -— their parents!

So, this week, if you'd like to cash a ticket of a different sort, pick up a copy of Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge, which comes in at number 80 on the list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. It's a breezy novel about a teenager who spends a summer with his uncle in Tucson, mucking stalls at a Tucson racetrack. A lot of track terminology is explained, the wisdom of a well-placed place wager is demonstrated, the race track management program at the University of Arizona is mentioned -- and the main character "breaks his maiden" with a girl who works as an exercise rider. Oh, and did I mention the uncle is gay?

OK, it's probably not your cup of tea -- or glass of gin. That's fine. You don't have to read it. And that's the point.


Superfecta said...

I've just been organizing our home library and found our book on banned books, just in time for Banned Books Week.

Now I can't decide whether to put it with 'current events' or 'books about books.' Cataloging for the home library carries a rather complicated set of rules!

kentucky joe said...

very interesting post. The list of most challenged books was interesting in finding what people find "dangerous" writing. I always liked Jack Kerouac 's On The Road and Hunter S Thompson's Fear and Loathing (in Vegas, On the Campaign Trail, Hells Angels) and Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool Aid Acid Test as some very interesting and inciteful writing. I suppose those books are so far off the average Teens readers list as to not be deemed a "threat". The Bill of Rights is probably our single saving grace for democracy. Very thought provoking post!