Friday, December 21, 2018

Leave Alice Walker alone

Last September 23rd, kicked off Banned Books Week.  Maybe we need a month -- or even a year -- to challenge the notion that books should be banned?

From Banned Books Week's website:

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
Banned Books Week 2018 will be held September 23 – 29. The 2018 theme, “Banning Books Silences Stories,” is a reminder that everyone needs to speak out against the tide of censorship. 
By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country. The Top Ten Challenged Books of 2017 are:

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher
    Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie
    Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
  3. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    This Stonewall Honor Award-winning, 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.”
  4. The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini
    This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
  5. George written by Alex Gino
    Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
  6. Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because it addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee
    This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
  8. The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas
    Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.
  9. And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
    Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
  10. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.

What's in the water lately?  You've got crazy crank Bob Somerby insisting that tabloids need to be pulled from supermarkets.  They are there because they sell.  And, hint, Somerby, THE GLOBE was harder on Hillary Clinton than THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER.

But why call for banning to begin with?  Grow up, what a nation of titty babies, yeah, I said it.

AMERICAN PSYCHO?  A bunch of timid people -- some as feminists -- had a freak fest over the book.  I didn't.  I didn't call for it not to be published or for people not to buy it.  It's a bad book -- badly written.  He's trying to be funny (check out the Whitney Houston part) but he's not funny.  Doesn't matter, he can publish.  People can read it, that's the world we live in and the world we should want to live in.

But if it's not crazy crank Bob Somerby trying to ban tabloids, it's the TWITTER frenzy attacking Alice Walker because of a book on her bookshelf.

Alice can -- and should -- read any damn thing she wants.  That's true of everyone in every society.  We don't ban books in free societies.  Trying to shame her over her reading choices is the same thing as banning a book.  It's a more coercive step, in fact.  Public shaming is what it is.

I do know Alice.  I have for many years.  I called her out here repeatedly for things that actually matter -- war, for example.  I didn't feel good about it but I don't play favorites.

If she was writing anything hateful, I'd call her out for that.

But she's not and she hasn't.  She's decided to read book that she wants -- THE CRIME! THE HORROR!

Who the hell are you to think that you can tell a woman -- any woman -- what to read?  Who the hell are you to think that you can tell a woman of color what to read?

How about this: You read what you want to read and you let others read what they want to read?

That's how it's supposed to work in a free society.

I won't try to characterize the book in question.  I pulled this from today's snapshot because I couldn't get that characterization right.  I haven't read him.  (I don't read fiction at all these days unless a friend's asking me to look at one of their own books -- I can't read fiction and do this site. That's reality.  I would love to escape into fiction but I don't have that option.)  I haven't read him.  I don't know what he writes.

But here's the thing, I don't need to.  He writes books.  That's all that matters.  Alice or any other person who wants to can pick up those books.

I do not support book banning.  I certainly don't support book burning (remember when we called KPFA out because a morning host was calling for book burning?).

Alice is an artist and it's also true (see Marcia's "Maybe Rebecca Pierce needs to get a life") that artists are inspired by various things.  What you may find outrageous may lead Alice to write a powerful novel like POSSESSING THE SECRET OF JOY (that is my favorite book by Alice).    And I agree with what Rebecca said in "can our nation just grow the f**k up already?" Get over yourselves.  You do not have the right to dictate what anyone else reads.

You have fundamentally misunderstood what a democracy is and what free speech means.

Go read Alice, she's saying it better and kinder than I am.

But I stand by the above and I'm really getting sick of everyone thinking they're so smart and so wonderful and have their s**t together enough to dictate what someone else can and cannot read.  You think you're fighting for justice but you're the close minded prigs in RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE -- and the only thing worthy of note in that film was Tuesday Weld!

Here's the opening paragraph of Alice's response:

I was asked, in writing, by the NYTs BY THE BOOK “What is on your nightstand?”  I replied with the titles of the pile of books that were currently on mine; all of them in some state of read, to read, or unread. David Icke’s book, And the Truth Shall Set You Free was among them. I find Icke’s work to be very important to humanity’s conversation, especially at this time.  I do not believe he is anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish.  I do believe he is brave enough to ask the questions others fear to ask, and to speak his own understanding of the truth wherever it might lead.  Many attempts have been made to censor and silence him.  As a woman, and a person of color, as a writer who has been criticized and banned myself, I support his right to share his own thoughts.  It is too late in the day of our planet not to consider everyone’s opinion on where we’ve gone wrong, and how we might survive, if we are to survive, in the years ahead.