Howdy. I have two posts in celebration of Banned Books Week. Sounds strange I know but I look at this week as a way to celebrate my right to read whatever the hell I want to, without interference from teachers, parents, or so called do-gooders.
First, Non and I read, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Pete Parnell with illustrations by Henry Cole.
This book is numero uno on the ALA's most challenged book list for 2006, 2007, and 2008. Reasons given:
anti-family - Actually, this book isnt anti family. In fact, it is rather pro family. It just isnt the kind of family a person who tries to ban books would like. It's a non-traditional family.
homosexuality - I assume they mean that the book promotes homosexuality. Non, the nine year old who read it didnt pick up on that. He certainly understood that the two penguins were male, and that they didnt hang out with the female penguins, but he didnt walk away from the book saying, homosexuality is great! He didnt even use the word. (He thinks homosexuality is fine of course but this book didnt tip him in that direction)
religious viewpoint - I am not sure what religious viewpoint the people who challenged the book were talking about. From reading it, religion wasnt mentioned and didnt play a part in the book at all. I assume they meant that by not talking about a specific western religion that the book was trying to push some heathen pagan religion but as an atheist, i can attest that there was NO religious point of view in this book at all.
unsuited to age group - Hmm, I suppose this would depend on the age of your children. There wasnt even the slightest hint of penguin baby making, or penguin anal sex. Unless you are disgusted by homosexuals, you can read this book and take nothing more from it than those penguins hatched an egg and now are a family. If you do hate homosexuals, then yes Crazy, this book is trying to indoctrinate your little butterface.
anti-ethnic - This is my favorite reason of all. This is the reason that I went all ranty over chicken with the family and Q had to talk me down. I had to actually m-w.com the word ethnic because the traditional meaning of "racial, tribal, national, cultural" didn't seem to apply. I wasnt aware that religion was included in the meaning, however. After I scoured the book for any mention of ethnicity and checked out all the photos to make sure brown black yellow cracker and red were accounted for I determined that folks who challenged this book must have decided that it was anti-religion. That really angered me. No where in this book is god or religion mentioned. The authors dont bag on christians. There aren't protests of the penguins by Westboro baptist church members. There is nothing anti religion or religious at all in this book. However, thats the problem right there...
There is a significant and loud subset of christians who think that when you dont talk about religion, that you are actively being ANTI religious. Ricky Gervais is dealing with similar criticism about his new movie The Invention of Lying. Critics have said it was anti-religious when in reality the movie says nothing about god or churches or anything else even remotely religious. The fact that Gervais doesnt mention a god at all is what people are referring to when they say it is anti-religious. Isnt that doublethink? I always thought it was okay for me to just be my own little atheist, not out trying to convert. But now i find that if i write a book that neither bashes nor praises the western christian god I am anti-religious?? Fuck, if NOT talking about a god I dont believe in means I am anti-religious then we are all screwed right?
After finishing the book Non declared it, "good, something kids should or could read." I asked him if was anti-family and he said no, because it was about families. I asked if it was anti-ethnic and he didnt understand what that meant. I asked if it was anti-religious and he said, with that distinctly nine year old whats-wrong-with-you-face, "...they are penguins."
From the mouth of babes....
Later this week I will be talking about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz which is ALA's number one most challenged book from 1990-1999.
For more information on Banned Book Week Events in your libraries and bookstores check out this link.