I've been a follower of Lee's blog for some time, and I am ever amazed at the important, relevant content he posts. It is a huge source of inspiration to me; I can't imagine how empowering it must be to young people struggling with their identities. I sincerely wish you all take the time to visit his blog and commend him on the incredible work he's doing for today's youth.
When I emailed him a few months ago requesting a guest post, I was hopeful but doubtful. Lee is a busy man, and I am so privileged to host him here at bookmarked today. He suggested we repost his Challenged Book Challenge, and I graciously agreed. While this sort of topic usually comes up in September, I think it is completely relevant today when there are articles such as this one being published. It's very unfortunate that there are people out there attempting to censor such amazing and important literature, but people like Lee remind us that we can gracefully stand up to these bullies and decide for ourselves what to read.
Every year about this time the American Library Association comes out with their list of the top 10 most challenged books in America. Books that are seen by some as too dangerous to be in library collections. Books that some people not only want to make sure their own children don't read but these people want to make sure no one else's child gets to read them, either.
Often, these are the books that challenge stereotypes. That tell it like it is. That change (and save) lives. Sometimes they're just a good story that contains something controversial, and sometimes they're, well to some people, challenging.
In 2010, once again the #1 most challenged book in America was one of my favorite picture books of all time, "And Tango Makes Three."
But... They're so cute!
What's "dangerous" about this book? By telling the sweet (and true) story of two male penguins who become a couple and then loving parents, "And Tango Makes Three" directly challenges the stereotype that gay men can't find love - that we can't be parents, and if we do somehow become parents, we can't be good parents. Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, with Henry Cole's heart-warming illustrations, have created a story where it's so clear that LOVE is what makes a family - and with the parallel of penguins - readers see that gay love is that same kind of love.
There are other wonderful books on this list of the top ten most challenged books: "Crank" by Ellen Hopkins, a searing novel in verse about a good teen girl's descent into drug addition. Ellen has gotten so much flack about her books in which teens make bad decisions with sometimes horrible consequences - they're riveting and wrenching and so important - because no one who reads "Crank" is going to think, "wow, I gotta try that stuff. It sounds great." Because it doesn't.
"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, a wonderful, funny, and not-afraid-to-look-at-the-ugly-stuff novel that I talk about in my Smashing Stereotypes workshops all the time as an example of how writers can deal with stereotypes not by ignoring them but by tackling them head-on.
There are popular books like "The Hunger Games," by Suzanne Collins and "Twilight," by Stephenie Meyer.
There are queer books, like "And Tango Makes Three" and "Revolutionary Voices."
And even a few books I haven't heard of till now. (Sonya Sones! Your books are awesome, but I haven't read this one... yet.)
So I want to put out a CHALLENGE to you:
Let's read them.
Let's read all ten of these books as our protest to the ridiculous notion that books of literary merit should be pulled from library collections to avoid offending certain people.
Here are the ten titles with the reasons given for challenging each:
1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit
4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, and sexually explicit
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
6. Lush, by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
7. What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint
9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality and sexually explicit
10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence
Because a book that is challenging shouldn't be challenged - it should be read and discussed.
You can find Lee on his website, Facebook, or on Twitter.