ACLU of Texas releases ‘banned books’ report

Posted on 22 Sep 2010 at 5:46pm

“Banned Books Week,” the ACLU’s annual effort to raise awareness of the dangers of censorship, is Sept. 25-Oct. 2, and the ACLU of Texas on Wednesday released its annual report, “Free People Read Freely,” on the number of books that have been challenged, banned or restricted in Texas public and charter schools during the previous school year.

According to the report, 87 books were challenged in Texas schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those, 24 percent — or 20 books — were banned and another 20 percent were “restricted.” That’s down a bit from the previous two school years. In 2007-08, 102 books were challenged, and 27 were banned. In 2008-09, 98 were challenged and 26 banned.

Half the books that were banned were in middle schools. Another 29 percent were banned in elementary schools, and 13 percent in high schools. The remaining 8 percent were banned in intermediate schools. The vast majority of the books that were challenged — 44 — were challenged because they included sex or nudity. Profanity/poor language came in as the reason for 29 challenges; 18 for violence and horror; 17 for drugs and alcohol; 12 for being offensive to religious beliefs; and 11 for being politically, socially or racially offensive. No reason was given for 14 of the challenges.

So yes, the numbers are down. But the idea that books are banned at all is infuriating. And of course, books that included anything about LGBT people or issues hit the list.

I can’t say this is a definitive list of books challenged for LGBT content; these are just the ones on the list that I know for sure included some LGBT content: “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, about two male penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo that fall in love and start a family by sitting on an egg til it hatches; “Born to Rock,” by Gordon Korman, about the former president of a school’s Young Republican Club who, after a debate involving accusations of homophobia and cheating, sets off to find his biological father who is a punk rock star; “Eight Seconds,” by Jean Ferris, about a young man who realizes he is gay while attending a rodeo camp; “Far From Xanadu,” by Julie Anne Peters, about a young woman who comes to terms with her own homosexuality while trying to find a way to escape her small home town; and “In Our Mothers’ House,” by Patricia Polacco, the story of the happy and well-adjusted life of a family headed by two lesbians who raise several racially diverse children.

Yep, that last one has to go for sure! Can’t have our kids reading anything that might give them the idea gays and lesbians and their families can be happy and well-adjusted!

“Eight Seconds,” “Far From Xanadu,” “And Tango Makes Three” and “In Our Mothers’ House” were actually removed from libraries. “Born to Rock” was moved to a restricted access section. Oh, and one school didn’t take “Tango” out completely, but did move it to a restricted access section.

Of course, the usual suspects are on the challenged list, too: J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon,” “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” and just about any other book written by Judy Blume; and “Go Ask Alice,” the book written by an anonymous author that chronicles the life of an adolescent losing control as she battles mental illness and drug use.

But there were a couple that I was surprised to see on the list. I mean, really — “Time-Life Magazine” and “Guiness Book of World Records”? Really?

Still, there was a book even I was surprised — and perhaps a little disturbed — to see was actually in school libraries: “The History and Methods of Torture” by Brian Innes. I’m not saying ban the book, but I was surprised to find out there even was a “juvenile literature” book on the methods and implements of torture used during the Inquisition and the witch hunts. Who knew?

Want to see the whole list and read the ACLU report for yourself? Go here.

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