Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How can you tell the Hunger Games books are really popular?

How can you tell the Hunger Games books are really popular?

They are climbing the banned and challenged book list of YA literature quickly! The release of the first Hunger Games book has seen increasing mainstream media attention on this great book series and the books have cracked the top three banned and challenged books list put out by the ALA each year. Last year The Hunger Games came in at number five but this year the entire series hit number three in complaints from parents and educators for being "anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence."

Interestingly many of the complaints levelled against Suzanne Collins' series are not in fact about the books, according to Barbara Jones, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, but were actually related to the movie version:
There was complaining about the choice of actors for the film. You had people saying someone was dark-skinned in the book, but not in the film, or dark-skinned in the film and not in the book. In general, a lot more people were aware of the books and that led to more kinds of complaints.

The number one banned or challenged book for 2011 is list repeat YA series TTYL written by Lauren Myracle which has appeared on the list since first being published in 2004. The series follows a group of teenage girls and is written in the form of emails, texts, and IMs. It is interesting that, although the protagonists deal with some difficult but realistic issues, the books are not terribly graphic or controversial and some articles I read about the books posit that the reaction might have more to do with the texting language and slang than actual content.

Both TTYL and Hunger Games are in good company this year with many excellent books making the ALA list - might make a great summer reading 'to do' ;-)

1) ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

2) The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

3) The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

4) My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

5) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

6) Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

7) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

8) What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

9) Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

10) To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Offensive language; racism

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Censor's Library by Nicole Moore

Reposted from BoingBoing - March 23, 2012

It is a little known fact that for most of the 20th century Australian officials have banned more books than most other English-speaking or Western countries.
Australian literary historian Nicole Moore has written a book about the history of Australia's censorship of books between the 1920's and 1980's after discovering a hidden archive of banned books\in a government repository. nearly 800 boxes of books were stored discovered and provided Moore with the materials to write her new book The Censor's Library, about the history of Australian's literary censorship.

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

As Moore shows, such secret collections have accumulated in many parts of the world, often carefully tended by censor-librarians. Private Case, Public Scandal, the book that revealed the contents of the British Library's secret collection, was itself banned in Australia in 1966. Not surprisingly, the 20th century's largest and most notorious repository of forbidden literature was in the Soviet Union, with more than 1 million items.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Archivists and the Occupy Wall Street movement

Check out this very interesting article from the Chronicle of Higher Education blog from April 3, 2012 about clashes between members of Occupy and archivists who want to document the movement.

The article opens with this line:
Howard Besser, a New York University archivist, recently got into a shouting match at an Occupy protest, making a case for why the activists should preserve records of their activities.

The article discusses how archivists have been working to document the Occupy Movement for future scholars within a community that is suspicious of formal organizations including universities and libraries. Archivists have had to come up with new ways of collecting information and documents including "distributing postcards promoting archiving at protests, developing automated systems to download photos posted online, and asking participants to vote on which images are most important for the historic record."

This is a really fascinating example of non-traditional document management and working with a community that doesn't necessarily trust traditional organizations' way of working, like the NYU library's request for a signed donor agreement that was denied by the group who did not want to tie themselves in the traditional hierarchical power system they are protesting. In response, many of the protestors are releasing images and videos under Creative Commons licenses as a way to self-document and disemminate information about the movement.

The author also mentions the dangers of self documenting and putting non-censored images up online, where both scholars and police can access them freely, and attempts to get document creators to add standardized metadata to their work.

Occupy now has an Archives Working Group of their own which you can check out through their website.

Exciting times in the world and for libraries and archives. I think this kind of archiving challenge will become more and more relevant in our current political and global information-driven world.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut's Response to Book Burning

Reposted from Letters of Note - March 30, 2012

In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, on November 7th, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school's furnace as a result of its "obscene language." Other books soon met with the same fate.

On the 16th of November, Kurt Vonnegut sent McCarthy the following letter. He didn't receive a reply.

November 16, 1973

Dear Mr. McCarthy:

I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Drake School Board. I am among those American writers whose books have been destroyed in the now famous furnace of your school.

Certain members of your community have suggested that my work is evil. This is extraordinarily insulting to me. The news from Drake indicates to me that books and writers are very unreal to you people. I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am.

I want you to know, too, that my publisher and I have done absolutely nothing to exploit the disgusting news from Drake. We are not clapping each other on the back, crowing about all the books we will sell because of the news. We have declined to go on television, have written no fiery letters to editorial pages, have granted no lengthy interviews. We are angered and sickened and saddened. And no copies of this letter have been sent to anybody else. You now hold the only copy in your hands. It is a strictly private letter from me to the people of Drake, who have done so much to damage my reputation in the eyes of their children and then in the eyes of the world. Do you have the courage and ordinary decency to show this letter to the people, or will it, too, be consigned to the fires of your furnace?

I gather from what I read in the papers and hear on television that you imagine me, and some other writers, too, as being sort of ratlike people who enjoy making money from poisoning the minds of young people. I am in fact a large, strong person, fifty-one years old, who did a lot of farm work as a boy, who is good with tools. I have raised six children, three my own and three adopted. They have all turned out well. Two of them are farmers. I am a combat infantry veteran from World War II, and hold a Purple Heart. I have earned whatever I own by hard work. I have never been arrested or sued for anything. I am so much trusted with young people and by young people that I have served on the faculties of the University of Iowa, Harvard, and the City College of New York. Every year I receive at least a dozen invitations to be commencement speaker at colleges and high schools. My books are probably more widely used in schools than those of any other living American fiction writer.

If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.

After I have said all this, I am sure you are still ready to respond, in effect, “Yes, yes–but it still remains our right and our responsibility to decide what books our children are going to be made to read in our community.” This is surely so. But it is also true that if you exercise that right and fulfill that responsibility in an ignorant, harsh, un-American manner, then people are entitled to call you bad citizens and fools. Even your own children are entitled to call you that.

I read in the newspaper that your community is mystified by the outcry from all over the country about what you have done. Well, you have discovered that Drake is a part of American civilization, and your fellow Americans can’t stand it that you have behaved in such an uncivilized way. Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons, and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.

If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the eduction of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books–books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive.

Again: you have insulted me, and I am a good citizen, and I am very real.

Kurt Vonnegut