Monday, 5 May 2014

Freedom to Read by Savita Kalhan


Last week I read about a girl, a teenager from Idaho, who, after her school banned Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, decided to start up a petition to campaign for the book to be unbanned. The book was on the curriculum for many schools in Idaho, but following a campaign by some parents it was removed on the grounds that it contained profanity and sexual and anti-Christian content.

 
The teenager, Brady Kissel, decided to mount a petition and got 350 signatures from fellow pupils asking the school to re-instate the book, but to no avail. The issue was picked up by Rediscovered Books, a local book store, who ran a crowd funding exercise to raise money to buy each of the 350 signatories a copy of the book. They raised $3,400, which was more than enough. Brady and the bookshop gave away copies of the book outside her school on World Book Day, but the story escalated further when some parents called the police to stop her, stating that Brady was giving children books without their parents’ consent.

The police, however, saw nothing wrong in what she was doing and let her carry on.

The national press then picked up the story and, eventually, the publishers of the book became involved and decided to provide a free copy of the book for anyone who wanted it. The American Library Association cites the book as the third most challenged/banned book in the States. Strangely enough, the Captain Underpants series tops the list, with Hunger Games coming in at number five. Most of the books that are challenged by parents fall into books aimed at the 14-18 age group. The expanding Teen/YA market probably has something to do with that.

You might say, well that’s the USA for you. But I’ve heard stories from authors in the UK whose books are sometimes excluded from a school because of their content. A “book ban” in the UK would happen, if at all, at school level, usually following a head teacher’s decision, not a formalised complaint or challenge to a school board or the American Library Association as in the States.

The States has a constitution which protects freedom of speech. Brady Kissel argued that, as teens, they too have the same rights as adults and banning a book contravened that. What actually happened every time a book was banned was that teenagers went out and got hold of a copy in another way.

I know some writers in the SAS have had their books banned in the States. But has anyone had their books banned by a school here?

I hope not...

Twitter @savitakalhan
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8 comments:

Sue Bursztynski said...

What a great kid! Good on her. No, never had anything of mine banned, which is a pity, because it would rouse interest. ;-) a friend of mine had a picture book Anne's onc. It was called The Paw and the heroine, a girl in a cat costume was a cat burglar who only dd a Robin Hood type of robbery. But some school banned it because apparently it implied that crime pays!

Here it tends to be only at the school level too. One moter objected to a book which was n te Year 8 syllabus because a boy in it had a wet dream. However, she was spoken to by one of te teachers and being a reasonable day, withdrew her objection.

I do Banned Books Week activities at my school each year. It's wonderful to see how shocked the kids are that their favourite books a been banned or challenged somewhere in the world. Amazing how many classics are on the ALA list. Last year some weirdo got abusive on my blog when I wrote about Banned Books Week. I deleted his comments when I'd had enough. He turned out to be a an who be ted to a book read to hs daughter and was running a campaign to have ALL books he didn't like banned.

Savita Kalhan said...

Sue, I think it's great that you do Banned Books week with the kids. It's a good thing for them to know - and it's definitely shocking to find out exactly how many classics have been banned over the years. The troll who left you abusive comments will probably find that his policy of vetting his daughter's reading back-fires one day!

David Thorpe said...

A great story.

Certain schools have banned my book Hybrids from their libraries because it contains the phrase "sod off". Sadly, this did not make it achieve notoriety!

Savita Kalhan said...

David, sorry but that made me laugh! The use of the term 'sod off' is the silliest reason I've heard to ban a book. If they were going to ban it for that, then maybe you should have gone for something stronger that would have guarenteed it notoriety!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Ooh, sorry, David, but it made me chuckle too. I agree, you should ask your publishers to change the wording to something stronger next printing. ;-) Then you can arrange a newspaper interview or two.

Sagitta, sorry for all the typos in my comment above. My trusty iPad has a prediction software which can make gibberish of your sentences if you are in a hurry.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Savita! NOT Sagitta! The prediction turned "Savita" into "As it's" this time.

C.J.Busby said...

Don't know if any of you remember the furore over Carol Anne Duffy's poem Education for Leisure? It was removed by AQA from the anthology they were offering at GCSE because it featured a boy thinking about stabbing someone - apparently in 'encouraged knife crime'.

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2008/sep/04/gcses.english

This is clearly why no one studies Shakespeare at GCSE any more - it might encourage cross-dressing, murder, duels, under-age marriage, riots, war...


Celia x

Savita Kalhan said...

Sue, not to worry - predictive spelling and autocorrect can be downright annoying!
C.J. - thanks for that reminder. My son is doing An Inspector Calls and Of Mice and Men for his GCSE at the moment. I wonder what else AQA have banned from the English curriculum over the years - that are not classics...