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Burning Books Today
By Mark London
August, 2007, 07:59

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 http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bbwlinks/fightcensorship.htm. 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: talktome@canoemail.com


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