September 19, 2013

Fifty Shades of Censorship

Last week on FaceBook my sister posted an article titled, Fifty Shades of the Common Core. The article is about the use of the book Dreaming in Cuban in a high school classroom. Knowing I'd have an opinion, but probably not realizing I'd write my own book in response, she tagged me and asked or me to speak up.

Here's what followed:

My sister (not posting her comments as I haven't asked permission to show her name here) responded that I had some good points, and went on to say "But the porn in the section showed is still a bit much for me to handle being in a school library."

Even though I know her heart and her concerns come from a good place, this comment hurt, and here's why -- if one person wants a book out of the library, and pushes hard enough, it can definitely happen. In fact, in this case, it did. On the same day my sister shared the original article, I found an article from The Huffington Post explaining that Dreaming in Cuba was pulled from Sierra Vista School in Arizona after a parent complained about the "pornographic" nature of the book.

Banned Book Week

While my sister agreed that the book probably doesn't deserve to be banned completely, she wondered if it might still be acceptable to ban it from school libraries, since most parents probably wouldn't want their kids reading it. She argued that since we don't allow things like Hustler in schools, why is it any different when it's "just" in written form? Where is the line?

I think it's dangerous to see one section of text from one page in a book and determine the book's literary value from that tiny glance within those pages. If a work has literary value, cultural significance, or otherwise important contributions to offer the reader, who am I to judge it as unacceptable for a library collection? But her points are valid. Parents are concerned about the material being put in front of their children, so where is the balance?

I still want the other side of the story. Where is the teacher's voice in this discussion? I'm definitely curious to know what s/he has to say. Or any teacher or librarian of young adults. I hope you'll speak up in the comments and add to this conversation.

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