Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Book Challenges Closer to Home
Five days into ALA Banned Books Week, and we're finally getting closer to home with book challenges. A couple of months ago, Scowl-Face was approached by an angry patron demanding that Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen, be removed from our Library. Scowlly dutifully provided the patron with the Library's book challenge form, indicating that it would help if specific examples of offensive material were identified from the book. He further instructed the patron to return the completed form either to him (Scowlly) or the Circulation Desk, and a Library committee would consider the patron's request and notify him by mail or email of the decision.
As the patron left the MPL
Indiana Roving Reporter Room, Scowl-Face saw him wad up and toss the form into a nearby wastebasket. So much for following complaint procedures.
What was inside Loewen's book that irritated this patron so much? Perhaps our book trailer will provide some insight.
Some people have fragile world views, and, consequently, they don't want to be confronted with any information that contradicts their opinions or perspectives. Experiencing inconsistency between reality and one's perception of reality, which results in psychological stress, is called cognitive dissonance by social psychologists. Loewen, a sociologist, would appreciate this reaction to his book. Persons who wish to ban books from schools or libraries often experience cognitive dissonance when exposed to ideas inconsistent with their attitudes or beliefs. To alleviate the psychological stress, they suggest the easiest route--eliminate the stress-inducing object, i.e., the offensive books. Their world view remains intact and unscathed, and they have achieved a personal victory in preventing an opposing perspective from being disseminated to others using the library or attending the school at which the ban has been instituted.
Of course, if one is going to complain about a book in a library collection, one needs to follow proper procedures for that book's review. This requires the protester to complete the written form. That seems like a reasonable request, but it requires more effort than some challengers wish to invest.
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, has been banned or challenged at schools and libraries based upon its few swear-words and a brief segment detailing the main character's emerging sexual feelings for the female scientist tutoring him. You'll have to search carefully to find it, since it occupies only a few paragraphs of the novel. Still, some references drive certain people crazy, and, for such persons, anything remotely approaching bad language or sexuality makes a book too "filthy" to place upon a library's bookshelves.
Our book trailers above summarize each book's particulars, which may be sufficient to help you decide if you'd like to read them. They are both available in our Evergreen Indiana catalog (click here and here.)
Why is Keyes' book "closer to home," as I said in the introductory paragraph? No sinister reason--Scowl-Face used it as his example of a banned or challenged library book in his library school collection development course. Bet the class was sawing those proverbial logs before he managed to hit the 30-second mark in his presentation.
Allowing Everyone to Decide What to Read For Her/Himself,
Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
BBW News Beat
P.S. On October 28, 1956, Elvis Presley performed "Hound Dog" live on The Ed Sullivan Show. Scowl-Face told me that his grandmother told him that Elvis was censored by being broadcast only from the waist-up to hide his gyrating hips and legs, but this kinescope recording of the live performance belies that myth. Sometimes, actual experiences can be remembered differently than they really happened, based upon subsequent misinformation about the original events.