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?

Click here to visit the delightful and personable Stephanie Laurens now at Center Stage!
She's answering all your questions on Aussie time.

Image: ALA.  Quote from "To Kill a Mockingbird  ," by Harper Lee, book which has been banned and challenged.

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎09-30-2009 04:28 PM

Wow Nora and Danielle should be impressed to be among such a who's who of authors.

The mere word banned rings of hypocrisy to me. I can remember attending a school board meeting when my daughter was in high school where they were trying to ban talking about contraceptives in health class because some uniformed, ignoramus thought that talking about preventing pregnancy would make kids want to have sex.

There's too many of my favorites on the list to mention them all so just pick your favorite half and call it that.

One of these days we will all be enriched and educated enough to tell the difference between something that's really harmful to our children and Where the Wild Things Are (which was also on the banned list for children)


by Moderator becke_davis on ‎09-30-2009 05:48 PM

I really, really hate the idea of someone choosing what I can or can't read. I understand parents censoring certain books while their children are young, but even then, it bugs me when people randomly decide books are "wrong." I knew a school librarian (who wasn't really a librarian -- they couldn't afford one who had a degree) who just randomly decided not to allow Goosebumps books in the school library because she didn't think they were suitable for kids. She hadn't even read them! If a book might turn a kid on to the love of reading, I want that book on the shelves. This is definitely one of my hot buttons.


Michelle, don't let Rosie hear you're taking GB's name in vain!

by Moderator Melanie_Murray on ‎09-30-2009 06:02 PM

What a kick reading that list, Michelle! Winnie-the-Pooh! Charlotte's Web - oh that subversive pig!


I'm with Becke - anything that drives kids to read is a-okay by me.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎09-30-2009 06:22 PM

Well, Debbie, I don't know.  once that 'wild rumpus' began, all hell broke loose, if you'll remember.  Max was just a rabble-rouser; he deserved to go wi/out dinner, but his damn soft parents just reinforced his bad behavior and encouraged his cavorting with other species. 


becke, it was hard to choose, but nobody really understands my crush on Italian footballer Fabio Cannavaro round here.  I can understand people getting upset by books and not wanting their kids to read them.  But they've no right to keep other folks' kids from doing the same.  I think of it as folks who complain about TV: If you don't like it, change the channel. Don't approve of thebook? Don't read it. 


Yet I've got to say I hear folks online say stuff like, I heard this book was awful and had a scene in which something I disapprove of happened, so I'm not going to read it.  huh.


I read an Anais Nin quote the other day:  We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.  I think that applies to the challenged books issue.  But I agree there are books I'd rather my kids not read right now because I'm not sure they're ready for the issues written about.  Or, I'd like to be discussing those issues as they're reading the books.


My son told me the other day about a short story they read in class called "Sucker."  He said he wasn't sure they should be reading it becuase the kids swear and one saw his brother having sex, then told his friends about it.  My son and I are really open about sex, especially in art forms.  I asked him what really made him uncomfortable about the book.  And I also told him he ws really privileged that his school allows kids to read a broad range of works of fiction.And this is what BBW is all about.


By the end of the convo, he said, 'you know?  I think it'd be cool to be a librarian."  And I thought, "His becoming a full-fledged nerd wanted only this. But I think we still may be able to get him a date to the prom in 6 years."

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎09-30-2009 06:24 PM

I'm w/you melanie. My kids told me they don't feature Eyore anymore? Is that true? Something about his being too negative for kids.  I dunno. I feel like Eyore taught me empathy.  And I liked purple.  Now, the Rabbit, he's the one you had to look out for...

by 1lovealways on ‎09-30-2009 09:40 PM

Charlotte's Web?  Winnie the Pooh?  The Color Purple?  When I was reading down that list my mouth was hanging open.  Wow, how much crazier can it get!!!  Without free expression the creative process may as well be stifled!   No new ideas and nothing new to add to the mix that is life would be pretty dull.   I can't imagine where we'd be?!!  While I can understand monitoring what kids read when they are young, doesn't mean the rest of us should suffer in the process,  because of a few people who sit around a table and make a decision for all of us.  There are enough politicians that do that!


It is well worth it ( in this day and time) if you can get a child to read.  It stimulates their mind, allows them to dream and stretches their imagination.  I think if kids read something or something is read to them, they should discuss it with their parents if any questions arise.  Discussing it makes for a better understanding.


 I've always loved the written word and have been reading for as long as I can remember.  I can't imagine anyone even remotely dictating to me what to read!  That is maddening to say the least!  This banned book thing is too close to what happened in the movie Fahrenheit 451!  That was scary!!! 

by RoroRM on ‎09-30-2009 11:01 PM

Hi Michelle! Hey Everyone!


I feel like a kid in a candy shop! Where do I begin? The list, oh that list! I'm appalled that most of the books on that list aren't seen as works of art by some who malign them for what they believe improper. I hate the ignorance with which some humans disdain or condemn those of us who want to expand our knowledge base, or God forbid, go beyond a Neanderthal's intelligence level. I just don't get it. So, am I'm going to hell in a hand basket because I write erotic romance? Trust me, there are other things I've already confessed to a priest eons ago that said I was headed that way. Oh, well, I'll have plenty of company! 


Naming books that should have limited access is hard for me.  I don't relish anything that nurtures hatred, feeds distrust or prejudice being easy access.  I don't think most of us should know how to make a bomb or crystal meth.  But otherwise, as you mentioned, it's like watching TV, if you don't like what you see, change the channel. 


Oh, and BTW--I totally understand Cannavaro's appeal. He is fabulous and I... um...admire his attributes. Did someone mention GB?  It's okay. Kissing my GB to make a statement is acceptable as long as there's no other touching.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎10-01-2009 06:39 PM

Hi, 1lovealways!  I've been talking to so many folks this week, and they're all as shocked as you when they hear about the books that have been challenged. But I'm really being surprized in a kind of entertaining way by how we adults are shaken by how many of our fave children's books have been challenged.  I guess we all can smile and say, "Hey! I read it, and look how good I turned out!" In my case, guess that's where the challenges would start. 


Roro, you're too generous.  I think your example of the meth lab/bomb-making info is a good one. Heck, I dunno if my local library has it, cause I never looked for it.  But I guess access to it doesn't mean someone's going to use it.  We use a similar argument all the time w/romance, no?   Just because the h/hn are having a loving, respectful, comitted romance, doesn't mean people will do it in real life! Just joking. I was talking about the sex thing. 

And, yeah, Canna's pretty dreamy.  My husband gave me a pretty dangerous book from Italy with Canna's pic plastered cover to cover...

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎10-02-2009 12:20 AM

I believe Roro is a secret name for a certain Italian I know well - what fun to see you here!


Michelle - that is a sign of true love when your husband gives you a book as dangerous as that one!


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