11th grade English project is requesting information from authors on banned books. Some questions are actually good and should prove to have interesting discussions...

1. What is your opinion on the censoring and banning of books?
2. Do you believe any one has the right to ban or censor books?
3. Why do you think people try to get books censored or banned?
4. If you wrote a book and some one challenged it, and requested it be banned or censored what would your response be?
5. Is there any book that you've read that you believe should be banned from being read by everybody? if so why?
6.Do you think the government has the authority to ban or censor books?
7. Do you think that there should be some kind of line drawn that limits what an author has a right to write about?
8. Have you ever read a book that was banned or censored?
9. What kind of people do you think try to ban books?
10. Why do you think someone would want Huckelberry finn or Harry Potter banned?

thank you in advance for your input.

Deirdre

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I've probably read most of the banned books. Boccaccio's DECAMERON comes to mind. It was banned very early because many stories dealt with the promiscuity of priests and nuns. Lawrence's LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER was a let-down. I had expected better.
There are books that can influence unstable minds and cause people to commit crimes. I suppose we don't particularly want wholesale instructions on how to commit acts of terrorism by using dirty bombs.
Years ago I would have been totally opposed to banning books, but meanwhile I have decided that mankind cannot be trusted to remain level-headed at all times.
It is interesting that the latest publishing craze is memoirs written by people who've been bad. Frequently the authors lie in order to impress readers with just how bad they've been.
Someone said to me a little while ago, "We can't make the world so safe that you don't have to do any parenting."

Even though I agree with IJ about mankind, I'm still oppsed to banning any books. Nothing has ever been successfully banned (in Toronto we're having a huge debate over banning handguns and I wonder why anyone thinks it will work any better than banning marijuana or ecstasy).

But not all libraries need to stock all books. People seem to routinely call it "censorship" when a school library takes a book off the shelves. There are plenty of books I don't think should be in school libraries.
It seems the more something is banned the more people want it.

I guess its like my husband telling me we can't do this or that... Its all the more I want to do that particular thing.

Thanks for the view point. The hand gun thing has been going on in America for quite some time. The only people that still wouldn't have them are the legitimate ones. Criminals will always find a way. Next they'll be banning kitchen knives, could be used for murder, you know.

Sincerely,
Deirdre
1. What is your opinion on the censoring and banning of books? - I think it's a little silly, because once you ban something, it just makes people want it more. Plus it's a limitation on the human being's God-given right to choice. But then again, when something has particularly unwholesome content, then maybe it's a good idea to keep it off the library's shelves. But unwholesome shouldn't be based on religious attitudes - a How to Guide on How to be a Serial Killer probably shouldn't be found in the local primary school's library for example. It's just common sense really. (I don't think something like that would ever even get published, so feel free to disregard that whole last part!) Basically, in my opinion, trying to manipulate someone into your way of thinking by limiting their ability to make an informed answer is morally wrong. Like a prosecuting attorney witholding evidence that proves his adversary's innocence.

2. Do you believe any one has the right to ban or censor books? - No. Never. Never ever never. It's a choice thing. It's like saying, 'We have banana, chocolate and old english toffee flavoured ice cream, but you can only have old english toffee because banana and chocolate have sexual connotations.' That's just dumb!

3. Why do you think people try to get books censored or banned? - Maybe they're compensating for something? Or, more likely, they believe they are doing the right thing in banning them. Perhaps they think the world would be a better place if all the literature was about how great God is, or 'Praise Alah' or something like that, rather than the graphic and occasionally inapproprately erotic literature floating around nowadays.

4. If you wrote a book and some one challenged it, and requested it be banned or censored what would your response be? - My middle finger.

5. Is there any book that you've read that you believe should be banned from being read by everybody? if so why? - Anil's Ghost should be banned, but that's simply because it was crap. And again, that would be my personal judgement which in no way should be taken as authoritative or even well advised or thought out... Banning something based on a few people's ridiculous opinions is (as you will see from my ice cream analogy) incredibly foolish.

6.Do you think the government has the authority to ban or censor books? - That's an interesting question, because theoretically it should; but I doubt a govt would stay in office very long if it started messing with people's books! No govt would be ballsy enough to try; but the courts have before. Remember OJ? Tom Cruise? I think it's more a question of high profile people influencing the populace to adopt their way of thinking (scientology, anyone?) rather than a govt. Has one even tried before? This is where historical trivia comes in handy! Quick! to the Book-Mobile!!!

7. Do you think that there should be some kind of line drawn that limits what an author has a right to write about? - If you're going to write a book detailing how to slice someone's throat in a dark alley with no one knowing it was you, then yes, there probably should be a limitation on that. But getting books published is hard enough without the psycho angle! No publisher in their right mind would consider it. That's the line that's already been drawn, the rest is up to self censoreship and common sense.

8. Have you ever read a book that was banned or censored? - I read the Tom Cruise one. It was dissapointing. I also read the OJ one. Also dissapointing. When I was younger I used to think To Kill A Mockingbird ought to be banned because of the title. Then I read it and found out there weren't even any mockingbords in it...

9. What kind of people do you think try to ban books? Religious types. Fanatics. Control Freaks. The Dolores Umbridges of the real world, who need to have everything under their personal control.

10. Why do you think someone would want Huckelberry finn or Harry Potter banned? - Because they don't understand them! People who wanted to ban Harry Potter wanted it banned because they thought it promoted Paganism! Those people obviously had no idea what Paganism is or they would have realised just how dumb they were being...
Now I have a question. What makes us think we've heard of every book that's been banned?
1 & 2. Let's get our terms straight.
A lot of the time, when people are talking about "banning" a book, they're not talking about taking the book off every shelf everywhere, so that no one can buy it or look at it, ever. They're most often talking about removing it from a particular library. And that's where the issue gets complicated. You can't really say no book should ever be removed from any library, ever, unless you approve of hardcore porn in the elementary school library or books on improvised weapons in the prison library. So, granting for the moment the premise that there are some books that are inappropriate for some settings, where do you draw the line, and who makes the decisions?

I see a continuum here:
"Some books should be illegal and no one should read them, ever." I think we can all agree this one's right out.
"Some books should never be available even to adults in a public library." Ummmm...still no.
"Some books should not be available to children in a public library patronized by both children and adults." Hmmmm..maybe. Shading into a gray area here, although I'm thinking no one wants a third grader leafing through The Joy of Sex. (Yes, it was in my public library when I was a kid. In fact, I swiped it for a couple of weeks when I was in the seventh grade. I was the most popular kid on the block for a while).
"Some books are not appropriate in some settings for some children." Okay, we can probably agree on the basic principle, but here's where implementing it gets messy. Who decides? Parents? Educators? God help us, politicians?
"Any book should be available to any one, of any age, all the time." Given what we've discussed above, does anyone still hold to this?
3. I believe people try to get some books censored or banned becuase they feel, for various reasons, that those books are inappropriate for certain people, usually children.
4. Again, defined banned or censored. I write books for adults. I wouldn't want to see any of mine in the elementary school library. But if someone tried to take them out of the public library, I'd raise hell.
5. No. See above. There is no book that I believe should be banned from being read by everybody.
6. Again, define ban or censor. I don't believe the government has the authority to outright forbid a book for everyone.
7. Absolutely not.
8. Oh yeah. Lots.
9. See question 3.
10. Because they think said books are inappropriate for children for some reason. Said reason is almost always due to a misunderstanding of what's in the book or what it's about.
The American Library Association, which sponsors banned books week, keeps tabs on books that have been challenged. According to the ALA website, "A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others."

The problem with challenging books is that it strikes right at intellectual freedom which is the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. Once we've lost the right to seek and receive information, we've lost the right to think.

Books are challenged by someone who feels threatened. What was the most frequently challenged book of 2006? "And Tango Makes Three," a children's book based on a true story about two male penguins parenting an egg from a mixed sex penguin couple. It was challenged on grounds of being anti-family and promoting homosexuality. It's an entertaining book that teaches that a non-traditional family is okay.

Two books by Toni Morrison made the top-ten that year for language and sexual content.

Other books that have been challenged are Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” Sallinger’s “A Catcher in the Rye,” Paine’s “The Rights of Man,” Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” and Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations.” These are books that contain powerful ideas and powerful ideas make some people nervous.

I think some books are challenged ostensibly for one reason when the real reason is something different. Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" was challenged for language and sexual perversion (aliens and humans having sex) when it's primary message is a powerful anti-war statement. Do we really believe sex with aliens is more threatening than the anti-war message?

Librarians have been active in keeping books on shelves, in defending our right to read, but even though challenges are not often successful, they can have a chilling effect on our freedom. As Judy Blume, herself an author whose books have been frequently challenged says, “It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

Actually, what I find sad, is that mysteries are seldom challenged. In spite of the language and violence in some mysteries, they don't seem to contain powerful, and therefore threatening, ideas.
"Actually, what I find sad, is that mysteries are seldom challenged. In spite of the language and violence in some mysteries, they don't seem to contain powerful, and therefore threatening, ideas."

In many ways this is the difference between genre and literary. The thing about crime fiction is that it's usually written by people with an underlying faith in people. Order gets restored in the end, bad guys get caught, alcoholic, dysfunctional cops don't screw up quite enough to ruin everything.

But I'm sure there are a few crime novels that if some reactionary parent bothered to read, they'd want banned.

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