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January, 2008

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Burning Books Today
Flash! Banned Books Week
By  Mark London

Book burning, for all intents and purposes, is alive and well today in America.
Reflect back sixty or seventy years and you will find Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda beginning his Synchronization of Culture Program. German writers such as Bertolt Brecht, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Alfred Kerr literally found their works on the hot end of a torch. Goebbels also targeted American authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Helen Keller.
Fast forward to 2007 and we find that this mentality continues to exist, minus the torches, regardless of the insanity of it all. Despite the existence of multiple Supreme Court judgements that allow us to often publish what we want, there are still those who firmly believe they have the right to dictate what is made available to the public, as opposed to allowing public choice. Works such as Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s award-winning And Tango Makes Three – about two male penguins parenting an egg from a mixed-sex penguin couple – tops the list of most challenged books in 2006 by parents and administrators, due to the issue of homosexuality.
According to the American Library Association, the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2006, objected to for a range of themes, are:
1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group
2. Gossip Girls series, by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language
3. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language
4. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group
5. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group
6. Scary Stories series, by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity

7. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language
8. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group
9. Beloved, by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group
10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence
Removed from the censorship list in many areas of North America were books such as The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain; Catcher In The Rye, by J.D. Salinger; and Of Mice And Men, by John Steinbeck. However, the battle still continues over what is acceptable and what isn't. On average more than one book a day is challenged in U.S. schools and libraries, including the Harry Potter series for witchcraft and wizardry.
Banned Books Week (BBW) is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores. BBW is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. September 23-30, 2007 marks the 26th anniversary of Banned Books Week.
About 70% of challenges take place in schools and school libraries. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported.
"We are as busy as we've ever been in fighting censorship attempts in schools and libraries," Krug said. "Libraries are no longer simply about books – but also about DVDs, video games, and online information."
It's difficult to imagine a world without such extraordinary literary classics as To Kill A Mockingbird; Of Mice And Men; The Great Gatsby; or 1984. Nevertheless, every year hundreds of challenges are received to remove great books from libraries and schools.
To get involved and help fight censorship visit the American Library Association for more information at Librarians may be our front line against censorship, however, we as writers are the foot soldiers required to solidify that line.
"Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . ." — Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, dissenting Ginzberg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 (1966)
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Mark London is a Toronto based freelance writer and associate editor of IN who has been with the FWO-Int'l from the early years volunteering much of his time in assisting young writers' careers. email Mark:

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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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