26 February 2009

Print Media Still Relevant!

Here's proof that high tech media isn't all that; good old print media can still cause trouble!


This concerns the young adult historical novel My Brother Sam is Dead, apparently "the 12th most frequently “challenged” book from 1990 to 2000", according to the article.

The parent complainant said that "her 9-year-old daughter told her, 'Mama, this book’s got cussing all in it'", so the kid had obviously already read the book. Damage done! The mom further stated that her complaint wasn't "about the book itself" and she thought "the story is fine". Her issue was "that books like that can get into my daughter's hands".

Well, what does that mean? That the book would be okay, as long as no one could read it? Or that it should be limited to certain age groups? Or carry a "parental advisory notice" on its cover? Who knows?

What amazes me about these kind of complaints is their meticulousness. The complainant in this case listed 19 objectionable terms from the book, which means she must have read it too!

Where I work, we recently had a book challenge about The Boy Who Drew Cats, a Japanese folk tale. Here's a link to a version on IPL: http://www.ipl.org/div/kidspace/storyhour/boycats/boycatcover.html

Our complainant thought the book (which was actually a kit with a CD included) was inappropriate for the children's section of the library, and in fact should be read by "no one" due to the violence in the story. But what the story is really about is an outcast child, viewed as useless by his family, who discovers that his one talent--drawing cats--is in fact a gift. It's a gift so great that it actually saves his life in the story. But our patron didn't see it that way, so we had a 3 person committee meeting to discuss her complaint and our response. We ended up doing nothing; the kit is still on the shelf, classified under folklore.

I just wish "book challengers" would read books for MEANING, rather than making a laundry list of swear words or picking out scary illustrations. The story exists as a totality, a complete and complex work of art, and should be analyzed as such, not dissected. Potentially objectionable elements need to be viewed in context. Why are they present? To advance the plot? To reveal a character? There's a reason the writer put them there.

Or am I asking too much? Probably!

1 comment:

  1. Not to be That Guy (or, totally to be That Guy, I guess), but this reminds me of a Simpsons quote:

    (as Flanders is emailing his complaint of Kent Brockman's swearing on Smartline)
    Rod: Daddy, what are you doing?
    Ned Flanders: Imploring people I never met to pressure a government with better things to do to punish a man who meant no harm for something nobody even saw, that's what I'm doing!