If I've wished in the past that I had a dove bar for every time I'd heard someone say, "I love romance, I just hate all the sex in it," I guess I'd like to score a buss from Gerard Butler for every instance in the past year that a book's been challenged in the United States by someone who thought it should be banned because of sexual content that could lead the youth of our nation on the path of moral decay that only can lead to sin and possible guest spots on the Howard Stern show.
You'd think that folks who worry so much about whether their kids see sexual content might spend a little less time scanning tomes looking for it. But apparently, the majority of folks who submit formal challenges to libraries across the nation do so because they keep finding printed content they feel is inappropriate for kids: their kids and yours. Sometimes those eagle-eyed protectors find the dirty parts in romance novels and challenged their local, high school and university libraries to have the books shoved from the shelves.
"While we don't organize challenges by genre, works by Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele and others have been listed among books officially challenged," says Angela Maycock, Assistant Director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). Maycock notes that romances aren't at the top of the list of most-challenged tomes, but reads by Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele and many others certainly have been protested in the past.
Currently, Maycock and the Office for Intellectual Freedom are celebrating the freedom to read by presenting the 28th annual Banned Books Week. It draws attention to the fact that while in 2008, 513 books were challenged across the nation, thanks to the diligence of librarians and concerned citizens, the majority are unsuccessful.
But why protect the freedom to read books, let alone romances? Because we're guaranteed the right as U.S. citizens. "We all know the First Amendment," notes Maycock. "But freedom to speak your mind isn't very meaningful if people on the other end don't have the freedom to hear your free expression."
Romance books don't always change the world like some books that have been challenged and banned, but they do change lives, and some people see that kind of power as dangerous. "But what's actually more dangerous," says Maycock, "is the suppression of ideas. Because that's absolutely fatal to a democracy like the one we live in."
Check out this Banned and Challenged Classics Books list. What makes you consider a book inappropriate for someone whose reading you supervise? In what situation do you think a book shouldn't be readily available?
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Image: ALA. Quote from "To Kill a Mockingbird ," by Harper Lee, book which has been banned and challenged.