Dear Writers, Readers, Publishers, Civil Libertarians, and U.S. Citizens:
The ALA's Banned Books week is September 25-October 2.
To Kill a Mockingbird is #4. Huckleberry Finn is still on the list.
The Harry Potter books are the most banned books of the 21st century.

...For more info check the link:


These are books that were successfully banned around the country.  Most on the list seem to be adolescent books dealing with sexuality and/or alternative lifestyles.  The only "Crime" novel that I can recall from the list with immediancy is In Cold Blood.


Librarians, of course, believe in the "Freedom to Read" and oppose censorship.  We think patrons should be free to censor their own reading choices and parents (not librarians) should be the ones to monitor or allow what their own children read. Books should go on the shelves based on consistently applied (written) Board policies and procedures.  Decisions should not be based on popular opinion.  Policies should also include fair and accessible avenues for challenging books. 


I know several interesting stories of banned books, starting with the first controversial banning of The Grapes of Wrath in Bakersfield after its publication.  The growers said the book was "a pack of lies,"

yet there were 125 people on the waiting list for the book.  The book was not returned to that library's shelves until the 1960s.  There have been other idealistic, brave, principled librarians around the country who successfully confronted censorship.  Unfortunately, there must be many more who, pragmatically, (perhaps, for the greater good) need to keep their jobs and maintain the good will of their communities.  (As you cynical crime novelist must know is a realistic scenario.)

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Devil's advocate, Jon. Are you cool with libraries full of erotica? Or even worse, access to the Smashwords website in school libraries? (That site is becoming smut central.)
Are you cool with libraries full of erotica?

You're kidding, right? Of course. Adults should be allowed to read any damn thing they want.

Or even worse, access to the Smashwords website in school libraries?

School libraries are another issue, obviously. When non-adults are involved, it's reasonable to at least try to limit their access to porn on school grounds.
Absolutely. Let them read what they wish.

The problem is always with funding. Should I pay for a library that packs erotica? Conversely, should I pay for a library that won't stock anything remotely controversial?
The fact that a given taxpayer kicks in a buck or two a year to fund their public library shouldn't entitle them to veto power over the contents of said library, in my opinion. If the library stocks erotica it's probably because library patrons have requested it. Those library patrons also kicked in their two bucks. So whose two bucks is worth more? Maybe we should let the entire community vote thumbs-up or thumbs-down on every book, even if they haven't read it. Or, maybe we should appoint a board of interested and (one hopes) qualified people to be the shot-callers, and let the chips fall where they may.
The decisions to put books on the shelves or remove them should be based on Board policies and procedures. And, those need to be firmly in place and should not waiver because of change in Board membership or public opinion. The librarian the Board has hired to conduct the institution according to their policies makes the decision and the Board should be made aware that all professional librarians have a Code of Ethics that advocates The Freedom to Read. All points of view must be represented in a public library.

Though I have never seen a subscription to Hustler in a public library's magazine section, I know of a librarian in Texas who back in the '90s put her job on the line to keep Daddy's roommate on their shelves. She won, but the book was stolen (presumably by opponents) from the library so often, she could no longer afford to purchase replacements.

While it is easy to be indignant that a book as great as Grapes of Wrath was banned. Sometimes it is not an easy decision to put a book on the shelf. The door swings both ways. A popular question in library school classes these days is: "Would you ban a book about a miracle cure for cancer using sea coral?" This was written by a man who advertised the product on infomercials and the claims are so bogus he was fined millions by the FDA and banned from T.V. for several years by the FCC. (Since P. T. Barnum was right, I have noticed he is back with a new pitch.)

Personally, I am extremely opposed to the practice of "Complementary/Alternative" medicine of any kind. This quakery would be included in that broad subject area. Nevertheless, the correct answer is: "No." Everyone has the right to chose what they wish to read. H. L. Mencken mocked and wrote an essay about "Chiropractic." He called it "buncombe." However, he also wrote that to prohibit yokels (my word) from seeking such treatment would be "advocating despotism and slavery." But, he also wrote that their children must be "badly wanted in heaven."
When my kidneys failed earlier this year someone sent me an article about drinking this special kind of vegetable juice. It was supposed to fulfill the function of the kidneys by detoxing the blood. Yet for some reason I put my money on doctors who spent their entire lives studying kidneys.

"Natural" or "alternative" remedies have some merit, but basically all repackage the common notion that eating well is good for the body.
If this is going to get into a conversation about alternatives to chemical therapy, I'll have to add to the fray. Does anyone remember Galileo? Yes, that Galileo. Many "quacks" have been discredited over the years. All forms of medicine have their place but to say that any alternative or complement to conventional Western medicine is quackery is harsh, Joyce. Do you also believe getting some sun is the " quack alternative" to the vitamin D pill? How did mankind heal its collective self before the almighty school of conventional medicine literally took over? I could go on about this subject but don't want to stray too far off topic. I'm just shocked that someone of your caliber in the "open mind' department would be so against anything but FDA approved treatments. What say you to all the "drugs" that are being quickly approved only to be proven to cause serious side effects causing the need for more drugs? As I've stated, all medicine has its place and there are good and not so ethical doctors. Admittedly, much of the fault lies with the FDA/big pharma brotherhood who won't approve any alternative whose patent owner does not want to be involved with the FDA, likely because of the corruption, but please don't be so quick to admonish all alternatives.
I am sorry I disappointed you. Disagreement doesn't mean my mind is closed; but, on this subject it is. I worked in a Research Hospital for some time and have not found any evidence of corruption in the FDA or misbehavior from pharma (in this country). I could write an extremely long post citing horrors from the untried practices of alternative medicine. (I did a paper on the subject in graduate school) And, I don't think getting Vitamin D from the sun is an alternative. Good nutrition and healty lifestyle has always been part of traditional medicine. However, traditional medicine would go on to tell you to slather yourself in sun block if you are going to spend some time in the sun, since they deal with the "side effects" like melanoma. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought Galileo was concerned with the world being round, not medicine, or banned books.

And, I don't think man did take care of himself until the 20th century and the amazing advances made in medicine (mostly in this country). So far, I have had 4 family centers survive cancer and other major illness and injuries that would have been accepted as death sentences a century ago.
Well, there have been a few examples. The one that comes immediately to mind is the Vioxx scandal, in which the drug-maker (Merck) covered up its own test results that showed that the drug caused an unacceptably high number of heart-attacks in patients during studies, and the FDA basically looked the other way until large numbers of prescribing doctors and the editors of the NEJM began to publicly express alarm. The practice of letting drug manufacturers test their own drugs and them submit the results to an FDA board with intimate ties to the drug industry is inherently corrupt, as is the practice of drug-makers essentially bribing doctors to prescribe their products.
I guess we have just been lucky. It has been my observation that the 4 phases of clinical trials are so closely monitored it is difficult to miss a bunch of glaring adverse events. What strikes me as unfortunate is how long it does take to get a drug to market. From my perspective physicians, patients, and their families were frequently extremely frustrated with the FDA, thinking they were being prevented from taking something that could save their lives.

I did a paper in graduate school on the Thalidomide scandal in the 1950's. Now that you mention it, that was almost legalized here from pharma pressure. It was stopped because of just one stubborn woman at the FDA who had conducted research discovering Quinine crossed the placenta and caused damage to the fetus. The idea of anything crossing the placenta was a new one. She insisted that the drug company prove this drug would not (since it was to be used to treat Morning Sickness). In the countries where the drug was legal (starting in Germany) throughout Europe and Asia, no one had yet "connected the dots" linking Thalidomide to the outrageous number of children born with disfigured and missing limbs. Among many problems with the entire issue, the trials conducted had never been conducted on primates--only lesser vertebrates. Nevertheless, it was inches away from approval, when Time published the news and the photos of the poor children and crushed all hope that it would ever go on the market for that purpose.

Interestingly, today it is used (with tremendous oversight and restrictions) to treat certain types of cancer. The mechanism that stopped the development of limbs in the fetus also stops development of certain cancer cells.
With respect Joyce, I understand your perspective. Galileo was just an example of times changing and new ideas being pushed down. As an aside, sunblock prevents vitamin from being absorbed, does it not? Of course, I don't recommend long bouts without it. It sounds like I've hit a nerve. My apologies.
I didn't know sunblocked stopped the absorption of Vitamin D. However, I think you only need 15 minutes in the sun everyday to get your Vitamin D. It would be nice if genetic testing had advanced to be able to discover those susceptible to Melanoma. I brutalized my skin in the sun as a teenager, but have no hint of Melanoma. So, I think some people are in danger and some are not.

No apology necessary. No nerves hit. I must have a more aggressive writing style than I realize.


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