Many controversial books available in Moffat County
October 6, 2007
Craig — On the American Library Association’s most challenged and banned books list, contemporary classics share legroom with modern pulp fiction.
Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is close by Alvin Schwartz’s “Scary Stories,” and “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes is next to the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice.
When J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” debuted in 1951, it was widely criticized for its depiction of youth angst. More than half a century later, it’s not angst that lands a novel on the banned book list as much as sexuality, violence and the occult.
This week, from Sept. 29 to Oct. 6, marked the ALA’s annual Banned Books Week. The event celebrates freedom of thought by raising awareness for the country’s most controversial books.
Many books topping the ALA’s “Most Challenged Books” lists are available in Moffat County.
Only two of the ALA’s most challenged books of 2006 are not found in Moffat County – “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, and the “Gossip Girls” series by Cecily Von Ziegsar. Both books are criticized for depictions of homosexuality.
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They are not the only books commonly banned for homosexuality, however, and the others can be found at various locations, including Moffat County public libraries, Moffat County High School and Downtown Books.
All of the ALA’s 10 most challenged books of the 21st century – since 2000 – are available at different Moffat County book outlets.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that controversial books would be available locally, Downtown Books owner Carol Jacobson said.
“I suspect people who don’t like what their kids are reading in school would just home school their kids,” Jacobson said. “I suspect that people aren’t so worried what (their kids) are reading, they’re just thankful they are reading.”
The ALA might not agree, because it probably receives a lot of challenges each year, but communities are probably more worried about explicit content on the Internet and television, Jacobson added.
There also is a degree of changing morals, she said.
In “Athletic Shorts” by Chris Crutcher, one of 2006’s most contested books, there is a scene where the lead character describes a bra.
In the past, underwear alluding to nudity may have elicited concern, but in today’s society where “underwear has become outerwear,” it’s probably not a big taboo, Jacobson said. On the flip side, “Athletic Shorts” also contains homosexuality, which may be offensive.
However, homosexuality is a taboo in decline, she said.
Manga – Japanese comics – are popular among some high school students, and can contain both heterosexual and homosexual scenarios.
“But kids don’t seem to differentiate the versions,” Jacobson said. “They don’t care. They’re reading for different reasons than” the sexuality.
If there are any books Jacobson’s store does not have, she can order them. But, that doesn’t mean she’ll be an outlet for seedy material, she said.
“I censor for age because I think it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “There are developmental milestones that we set. There are standards of common decency that we need to observe.”
Communities should pay attention to a book’s content and language, and so should parents, Jacobson said. A kid can get a hold of anything, but if it’s something like Madonna’s “Sex,” Jacobson is not going to help them, and she doesn’t think public or school libraries should, either.
As far as Sherry Sampson, Moffat County Libraries Craig Branch manager, could remember, there has only been one challenged book in her 15 years working for the library.
Library director Donna Watkins couldn’t be reached for comment.
Historically, Moffat County High School has much the same situation, librarian James Neton said.
This is his first year as librarian, but he was a high school teacher before, and doesn’t recall any challenges in the past 10 years.
“I think most parents trust the library for what we provide to read,” Neton said. “If people really want to challenge a book, that’s part of our democratic process. It wouldn’t be a personal affront to me.”
What the high school library provides should in some way correlate to the community because of the community’s trust, Neton said.
The high school library involves teachers and administrators when it reviews books to remove or add.
Neton said books are mostly removed when they were found to no longer be relevant to students today, such as old history materials or some fiction from the 1980s.
The library also takes student recommendations seriously, Neton said.
Through the selection process, Neton remains open to content as long as it doesn’t glorify destructive behavior.
“I think we have enough glorification of destructive behavior in our society,” he said. “We need material that motivate kids positively.”
Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or email@example.com