Sex sells, but to editorial visionary and romance devotee Kate Duffy, any sex sold to women should combine love and desire with deep emotional commitment. So when Duffy created Kensington Books' Brava line of erotic romance, many women rejoiced to find in novels mature, more-graphic depictions of sensual imagery they recognized as intrinsically part of falling in love.
However, Duffy -- whose death this week devastated industry members and readers alike -- knew that some folks felt uncomfortable with the aspect of Brava books that arouses as it engenders romantic emotions. "Romance fiction is about the relationship and emotions being central," she remarked in an interview for WNBC.com. "Not everything is appropriate for every reader."
But not every reader understands that what they don't dig might be dug by someone else. This week, the American Library Association's (ALA) Banned Books Week reminds us that there are folks across the nation trying to trash other folks' treasured tomes right off the shelves of local, high school and university libraries.
"Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read," says Angela Maycock, Assistant Director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). "We all know the First Amendment. 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.
Freely expressed speech in the form of books was formally "challenged" to the tune of 513 reported cases in 2008, according to Maycock, who says that romance fiction, while not at the top of the list of most-challenged works, definitely has seen its share of formal complaints.
"While we don't organize challenges by genre, works by Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele and others have been listed," said Maycock. "But so many of the books we see challenged fall under different genres of fiction." Says Maycock, there's a reason sensual romance may be included, as well as novels like Pat Conroy's "Prince of Tides," which deals with sexual abuse and recovery: folks are concerned children may read material concerning sexuality the challengers find objectionable. "One of , if not the the most frequent reasons for challenge that comes up," reports Maycock, "is that a work is seen as inappropriate for young people."
Yet there's plenty of good news. Says Maycock, "Banned Books Week also celebrates the fact that thanks to the commitment of librarians to intellectual freedom, in the majority of cases, challenges are unsuccessful." Maycock also credits average citizens whom she says stand up and speak out in defense of the freedom to read.
Whether it's about protecting access to Kate Duffy's Bravas for women who say reading erotic romance changed their lives after sexual abuse - or keeping on the shelves novels that changed the world - Banned Books Week deserves our interest.
Says Maycock, "It shows us how important books really are. There are some people who think books are so powerful, that they're actually dangerous. But what's actually more dangerous 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's your fave banned or challenged book? When do you think a book might deserve limited access?
If you celebrate sexy romance, join Roxanne St. Claire at BN.com's Heart to Heart romance blog tonight 7pm EDT for a no-hold-barred book-club chat about her sexy new romance, "Hunt Her Down ," plus a hot exclusive excerpt of "Make Her Pay !" Join us for this H2H Online/In-Store Romance Reader's Circle.
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