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The following contains some strong language.


I have done a Yahoo! search on "Banned Book Week," which ends this Saturday. As a writer, I must say that censorship of books constitutes as total bullshit, and I for one, will not tolerate it in my potential children's schools. Why, the only thing it's done so far is to provide our high school students with boring crap literature, that you would only read if you had trouble falling asleep. The only exception is if I feel the books are not "age-appropriate." What the hell were those liberal gay folk doing in a middle school in Boston, Mass., handing out gay literature to students? And I really don't think Leslea Newman's "Heather Has Two Mommies" is proper for the younger reading audience, nor is Michael Willhoite's "Daddy's Roommate." The titles alone are pretty suggestive, and I think homosexuality tolerance lessons should be reserved for junior and senior high schools students. That's perfectly old enough.

But what really pissed me off is that some of the classics are being forbidden in high schools. Now, I hope to hell this does not happen to me, as the intention of some of my novels is to bring about some improvements to the currently dismal high school English curriculum. I understand if some books are banned for sexual content; I would think twice before putting that in a book meant for high school students, unless it's absolutely necessary to the plot, then I would have to keep it to a minimum. (How does, "I refused to have sex with her without a condom" sound?) I won't have to worry about political content, as "Hollie Springwood" (which I brought here in the winter of last year) is not meant to be all that political in any way; it's not the central focus of the novel. Another novel on this site, "To Love And Leave In Winnipeg," my story about police-youth relations, has some gang violence and strong language, and I would like to reserve this for the "senior level" students upon publication. And I would like to write a novel in the style of J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher In The Rye."

It is this novel that I'd like to focus my concerns upon. No, I did not get a chance to read this glorious book while I was in high school. However, when one of my cousins visited me in the spring of last year, he told me that he got to read this book in (I think) his senior year of high school. I was insanely jealous, and the closest I ever got to reading it was the first 20 or so pages as excerpt on Amazon's book section of its website. Needless to say, I enjoyed what I did read, and am thirsting for more.

So why then, would some high schools and libraries keep this book on the list of "challenged and banned books?" Many censors would cite the encouragement of youth rebellion as one of the main reasons, but the main reason why students would want to read it is because they can identify with the Holden Caulfield character, his frustrations, opinions, etc. I understand that high schools tend to choose literature they believe their students will relate to, and topics they feel apply to modern-day standards, unlike most of the shit the school board wants to ram down their throats, which I will bring up later. Explain the popularity of "Romeo and Juliet," (and by the way, if they intend to challenge and ban Judy Blume's "Forever," a novel about two teenagers in love, citing that high school is too young to learn about romantic love, why not challenge this Shakespeare classic while they're at it?)

Still, I will decide for myself if Holden Caulfield is a likable character in literature, through not necessarily sympathetic. And if I want my kids to read it in school, I will have it so, and no conservative parent is going to stop me! But thanks for your concern!

I would've preferred to read "Catcher" as opposed to some of the swill I had to read in twelfth grade. Margaret Laurence's "The Stone Angel" comes to mind. Basically, it was about a 90-year-old woman who bitches about her life as she's dying in some hospital. I won't get into the plot (there isn't much,) but you know a book is bad if you have to pinch yourself constantly throughout reading. Another book I didn't care for is Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." It was mostly set in a mental hospital, and while it was good for the first five chapters, (I have to credit the realistic use of strong language here) the lack of setting pushed me out of interest.

And I think it's in Southern Ontario that they're reading Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." Actually, it's beieng forced down their throats, as I've read a lot of bad comments about it on the message board when I was posting at the MuchMusic website. If I remember from one poster, "I hate how, in the books we have to read, the main character's goal is to marry a man who's rich and much older that herself (usually 20+ years.) It's such bullshit and so backwards. Why should we read about such outdated traditions that, by most modern standards, are considered silly?" Although she confused this with Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" (Jane marries Darcy?) Needless to say, I almost made it through the 12-page excerpt on Amazon before I could see where they were coming from. Why not ban these boring books for utterly dulling the minds of our youth?

However, I was very surprised to not see Nathaniel Hawthrone's "The Scarlet Letter" on that list. How can these censors cite sexual content for books such as "The Chocolate War," "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower," and "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings," and not include "The Scarlet Letter" in this category. That book is about a woman who has an affair with a minister in Puritan Era Boston, has a illegitimate child as a result, and forced to wear a scarlet letter "A" as a mark of her adultery. Sexual content there, people. If the censors deliberately kept this off the list despite the sexual goings-on, then this would be hypocritical on their part.

When and if my books are published, if I have to deal with this shit from the school board and local censor groups, you bet I'm going to be raising hell through very formal letter writing. If they aren't going to listen to anti-banning voices, surely they will listen to the written word.




Comments

The following comments are for "Censorship Ruins the English Curriculum"
by davewriter

Banned
I couldn't agree more with this entire piece. Well, actually, I could: I'd agree more if you struck this statement from it all:

"And I really don't think Leslea Newman's "Heather Has Two Mommies" is proper for the younger reading audience..."

Why isn't it appropriate? Are you saying that discussion of parents in general is inappropriate, or that homosexual parents are somehow an inappropriate topic for children? Because if it's the latter, then it sure paints your prejudices pretty clearly. It's important to have these books in school because a lot of kids DO have two mommies. Should they be discriminated against? Pornography is one thing that should be age-based in its distribution, but this isn't porn; it's EDUCATION. Homosexual parenting is a reality, as is the possibility that two men or two women can, and many do, have relationships that are just as loving as those of the most-loving heterosexual couples. Don't tell me you still believe that having two gay parents will somehow poison the child or the community? In my opinion, the earlier children learn to accept homosexuality as something not to be discriminated against, the better. What if I were to say that I don't want literature about interracial couples distributed to children? Would your sensibilities be offended then? If so, what's the difference between your comment about gay parents and my comment about interracial couples? The difference, I'm sad to say, is that while we are all against 'racism', anti-semitism, sexism, and so forth, we still accept discrimination based on sexual orientation.

That's all. I don't want to turn this into a big thing, and feel free to post a response, of course. But I'm not going to play tag on this one.


SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: September 30, 2005 )

Censoring homosexuality
About my crack about "Heather Has Two Mommies:" I was speaking upon many fears and concerns about heterosexual (conservative) parents, who believe that six or seven - a time when children should remain innocent is a bit young to learn about homosexuality. When I think of a child having two mommies, I tend to think of a real mommy and a stepmom that daddy married. I think most parents will be on the same page.

Many parents would argue that it's not about prejudice, it's about maintaining innocence in children. Explain the criticisms they voiced towards Britney Spears and the Spice Girls. Although, I would definitely encourage my son/daughter to listen to the Spice Girls; I would much rather (s)he learn that friendships are more important than love affairs (as brought up in "Wannabe.") I'd just protect him/her from their off-stage antics. This would be as opposed to a vague sexual invitation to, "hit me baby one more time." Some parents would rather keep Britney off their child's listening list, claiming she's not a good role model in what she promotes in most of her hits and concert antics - at least those who NEVER believed she was a virgin to start with.

Back in the 60's, if children saw two heterosexual lovers making off, and they asked, "Mommy, what are they doing?" the general answer would be, "I'll tell you when you're older." Today, some parents (especially conservative ones) would use the same answer if they asked about homosexuality. You wouldn't believe the legion of parents who won't let gays around their kids! *rolls eyes* It's frustrating, I know, but it's one of the thing you learn to live with in society.

I know I would be distressed if my kid came home and asked, "Daddy, what do 'gay' and 'lesbian' mean?" I wouldn't know how to answer, really. How do we explain without being so graphic? I think that's the problem here. So I'm thinking maybe wait until at least sixth grade (junior high) to learn about homosexuality tolerance, or until they grow up at age nine and began to "shed" their innocence, whichever comes first. Unless, of course, they bring in family lifestyles class to elementary school levels, lower than grade five, which is when I had my first class. I think that should be the first step.

( Posted by: davewriter [Member] On: September 30, 2005 )

hmmm
But why does learning about two people loving eachother equate to a loss of innocence? Two daddies should carry the same weight as a mommy and a daddy.

Damnit, I said I wouldn't play tag ;) You're free to disagree, Mr. Dave, and I don't intend to change your mind about this. I just wanted to share my opinion LoL

Good day, sir, and thanks for articulating your opinions in a rational manner.

Cheers!

SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: September 30, 2005 )

Er...
Forgot to mention...

It's not like a homosexual relationship is SIMPLY a matter of sex, just as heterosexual relationships aren't solely sexual in nature. So why would you need to explain that gay couples are two men fucking? You wouldn't take that stance when explaining 'regular' married folk. Explaining that two men love eachother to get married, or two women, would be a good way to do it, and that' show those books you mentioned get their point across. Yar. I'll be quiet now ;)

Take care.

SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: September 30, 2005 )

Homotastica
This issue has sort of overshadowed the article now, eh?

It seems odd to me that you'd be so squeamish about telling your kid what "gay" means. When my son was four, I told him that a gay man was someone who wanted to date and marry other men instead of women, ditto for lesbians.

Now he's seven and he knows that gay people have sex with others of their own gender. He isn't too clear on all of the details of sex (straight or gay), and I haven't become as graphic as I could, but then many graduates of Bob Jones university find themselves in the same predicament, so it's hardly shameful for someone his age.

When he wants more details, I'll offer them. He may never ask (I didn't bother asking my own parents. I learned all I needed to know on the schoolground by grade four, not all of it accurate!). Like any other area of life, the information is available to him if he wants it. You'd be surprised to find out that kids can "handle" much more than we typically assume. Even using the word "handle" indicates a common cultural presumption.

In general, though, I enjoyed your article. It's thoughtful for someone your age. You show a lot of promise, and I'm glad you're thinking about these things.

You know, my high school banned The Crucible for promoting Satanism! Granted, I had something to do with the impression . . .

;)

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: September 30, 2005 )





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