July 30, 2009

Someone Wants To Ban My Book

You would think in 2009 that talk of actually banning books would be a thing of the past. Well, not in West Bend, Wisconsin where local Christians are in an uproar about books promoting the "gay lifestyle" at their local library. The big difference now is that they are not using the word "ban" but instead, asking for the books to be "not carried', "recategorized for adults" or placed in the "Reference section". These people are getting smarter...and scarier too.

Recently, CNN reported on this
story which actually started back in February when West Bend couple Jim and Ginny Maziarka left a letter in the library's overnight book drop containing a list of 38 books (including my first novel "A Really Nice Prom Mess") which they wanted removed from the Young Adult section of the West Bend Library due to the portrayal of gay characters and so-called "pornographic" situations. Additionally, they asked the library to remove a page from their website which listed 58 LGBT YA titles. In early June, after a contentious public meeting and circulated petitions, the library's board voted not to remove the webpage or the YA titles putting the issue to rest...for now.

Yesterday, I got in touch with West Bend's wonderful YA Librarian Kristin Pekoll, who informed me that there are currently no challenges to these books and all the listed books remain availble in the teen section. Which is where they belong. I mean, can you imagine someone looking for a book about a gay dude going to prom in the Reference section?! They'd never find it...which was exactly the point. However, the Maziarka's have promised to continue their efforts to rid the library of these books and have even suggested a list of other titles the library should add to their collection; charming books like "The Battle for Normality" and "Homosexual No More"(!).

All this is to say that the fight goes on. Personally, I'm thankful for librarians and staff like the group at West Bend who fought and won their skirmish in this ongoing battle. Each year there are more than 500 book challenges at libraries across the US. In fact, earlier this month the American Library Association celebreated it's annual Banned Book Week
as a way to keep people vigilant about this persistent and insidious threat. As Oscar Wilde put it so well, "“There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”