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Thursday, May 10, 2007

FREE MONKEY SPEAKS!

The first article has just appeared in the local Barltesville paper about the banning, and right now, I am just the tiniest bit steamed about it. Fortunately, FREE MONKEY is here, and he talked me down a bit.

Here's the link, first of all. But you'll see I have copied almost the entire thing below. Save a click!

I hope you don’t mind a tiny bit of running commentary with both me and FREE MONKEY. Here we go. (I apologize in advance for my behavior. I have since sat down with a cup of calming tea.)

[ALSO: I HAVE UPDATED THIS AT THE BOTTOM WITH AN AMAZING PIECE OF NEWS. IF NOTHING ELSE, PLEASE SCROLL TO THAT.]

Blogs across the country were buzzing about Bartlesville last week after word got out that a book had been banned from the Bartlesville Mid-High Library shelves.

The banning of the book was allegedly a rumor because Bartlesville Public Schools Community Relations Coordinator David Austin says no decision had been made to ban the book.


ME: I contest this fact. I stand by my story that the decision was made. I have lots of people in the know who telling me so.

FREE MONKEY: The Bartlesville team.

But Maureen Johnson, the author of the book, “The Bermudez Triangle,” says she does not think the banning was a rumor.

“My personal opinion right now is the people that wrote in, I think that those had an impact. I think things happened because of those letters. I think they saw it’s a serious issue that people think about. I’ll be interested to know what the superintendent does,” Johnson said. She had blogged about the alleged banning, people read her blog and responded by writing letters to her and to the school district.


FREE MONKEY: I get your point, but you didn’t express yourself very well here.

ME: Look, I was doing this interview over a bad cell phone connection from the street, outside of where John Green and E. Lockhart and I were working, and there was a trash truck in a constant state of backing up and moving forward very slowly next to me the whole time. I kept trying to get away from it, but whatever way I went, there was the trash truck. Welcome to the glamorous world of phone interviews.

A committee was formed to review the book, after a challenge to the book was submitted in March by local parent Angela Rader.

FREE MONKEY: Did you know the name of the person who made the complaint?

ME: Yes. I never printed it, out of concern for her privacy. Obviously, she doesn't mind being in the paper about this.

Rader's child brought the book home and Rader read it. She complained to the Mid-High librarian and to the principal before writing a letter to school administration and filling out a form to challenge the book's inclusion in the library.

"I didn’t appreciate that it was there," Rader said, referring to the book being in the library. "I just don’t think homosexual materials belong in our schools."

Rader said the basic moral of the story is if everyone sleeps with each other to find out who they are, then they will all learn something.

Rader also submitted a petition that had 164 signatures of people who agreed with her that the book should be removed from the library.


FREE MONKEY: You look agitated.

ME: (pacing) I am agitated. I feel like I've suddenly come down with angina.

FREE MONKEY:
Maybe you should get me a banana.

ME: There are two parts of this that are going to do me in. The first is the part about homosexual materials not belonging in schools. That's a hateful, ignorant statement.

FREE MONKEY: She is entitled to her opinion, no matter how crass and wrongheaded.

ME: Of course she is. Thankfully, we have a social system that should shield students against this kind of bigotry. I don't mind if you’re a homophobe—just do it in your own home.

FREE MONKEY: I agree. I hate homophobia. I would really like a banana.

ME: Second, WHAT THE #&^*$*#&$^&* IS SHE TALKING ABOUT? "The basic moral of the story is that if everyone sleeps with each other to find out who they are, then they will all learn something." Can I just come out and say it now? Can I? If you really think this is what the book is saying, YOU ARE DUMB. You don’t know how to read. You are the last person who should be making any decisions on books. How do you get that from a book with no sex in it, genius?

FREE MONKEY: You are taking this personally. Take a moment to get the banana. I see that there are some rather ripe ones on the kitchen table. You need not trouble yourself with the peeling. I like the skin.

ME: And then . . . and then . . . she says that she got a petition with 164 signatures on it to have the book removed. Where did you go, lady? Was it your local chapter of MENSA, of which you simply must be a member?

FREE MONKEY vanishes for a moment in fear, and returns a few moments later with some bananas and other pieces of fruit. He finds me sitting on the sofa, breathing into a paper bag.

FREE MONKEY: This is what happens when you let this kind of thing get to you. Try a banana. They are full of potassium and other vitamins and minerals that will calm and balance your system.

ME: (eating banana) I know. But it HAS to get to us all, sometime. It seems pretty clear that not all of those 164 people read the book. I sort of doubt that there are that many copies of it in the town. And even with a book swap going on, it would take weeks to get the book around to that many people.

FREE MONKEY: There's no way they read it. Why don't you move on to the rest of the article? The next part is about you.

After hearing of her book’s alleged banning, Johnson tried to make contact with several committee members.

A committee member returned one of Johnson’s calls Friday.

"To be honest, I couldn’t get a lot of information about what was going on," Johnson said, adding that she did learn from the committee member that the book had not been banned yet.


ME: Allegedly.

FREE MONKEY: Allegedly.

ME: They banned it. Then denied it and backtracked.

FREE MONKEY: I know. I was sitting here when you were screaming about it to John Green, saying all those things that you know from people involved in the situation, but that you can't say on this blog because they might get those same people in trouble.

According to Bartlesville Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary W. Quinn, the committee has not yet made a recommendation. Once Quinn reads the book himself and receives the committee's recommendation, he will make the final decision whether the book will be banned or not.

ME: Wait . . . what? What do you mean the committee hasn't made a recommendation? I've spoken to one committee member. He TOLD me they made a recommendation already. I have E-MAIL PROOF.

FREE MONKEY: Let's see it.

ME: Here you go. This is from an e-mail forwarded to me by a committee member.

Dated Friday, May 4th, 2007:
A committee appointed by the Superintendent met to discuss the book, and their recommendations have been forwarded to him.


FREE MONKEY: That seems pretty clear.

Me: It does. I stand by the fact that the decision was made on April 27th. People were there. It happened.

FREE MONKEY: That’s been denied.

ME: Yes. There's a word for when one thing happens, but you say another thing happens. It begins with L. I’ll bet the readers know what that word is.

FREE MONKEY: So, the committee is saying they haven't made a decision?

ME: Strangely, it appears that way. I also know, directly from the e-mail from the committee member, that he read the book "last week," meaning the week of April 30th-May 6th.

FREE MONKEY: He told you that?

ME: He sure did.

FREE MONKEY: So, he read it after the decision was made.

ME: Right.

FREE MONKEY: Does this issue really need to be this complicated?

ME: No.

FREE MONKEY: The next few paragraphs of the article are just quotes from a letter you wrote. The readers have heard you say this stuff. Then here's the end.

If someone is unhappy with the decision when it is made, Quinn says there is a process to appeal.

ME: Well, that doesn’t sound good. Know what that sounds like? that sounds like someone saying, "Look, we've been dating for a while, and I've just realized we have very different needs. But we're really good friends, and I don't want that to change."

FREE MONKEY: No matter what, someone is going to be unhappy.

ME: See, this is why I wanted to do this. This is book banning. It starts with letters and quotes like the ones you saw above from the parent, Mrs. Rader—and I’ve said what I think about those—maybe too much of what I think about those. From there, it goes to things like committees that don’t read the book. The issue often stops there, and the book is just taken from the shelf, and no one is any the wiser.

FREE MONKEY: So public policy and school materials are being influenced by letters and comments like that?

ME: YES! That’s why this is so important.

Because all the readers got involved, now everyone is spinning in place and spazzing out and making up stories and generally trying to deny and delay . . . so that this relatively small matter of one book getting pulled becomes a bureaucratic nightmare. People start acting like they are in the CIA, planning some kind of black ops mission.

FREE MONKEY: A library invasion.

ME: And now that I've heard about these 164 signatures, which was new information, I'm even more outraged. I think I feel righteous indignation coming on! Maybe a new commitment to this! I'm as sick of talking about this as everyone must be of reading about it, but if I give up and stop . . . then it all just happens. That's how book banning can sometimes be permitted to happen. People try to bore you so much and frazzle you with detail that you lose the will to go on.

FREE MONKEY: It's worth the effort. I would like one of those oranges as well, please. The peel policy still applies.

ME: (waving at the oranges) What if I could get 165 signatures from inside the town of Bartlesville, condemning this anti-American and homophobic action?

FREE MONKEY: I think that is an excellent idea. Will you keep talking in that pompous way, though?

ME: Sorry.

FREE MONKEY: And why not collect signatures from other people as well? So you could have two petitions—one from within the town, and one from outside of it?

ME: I like the way you think.

FREE MONKEY goes to computer and types for a few moments.

FREE MONKEY: Here. I have created two petitions. One is for the people of Bartlesville, and the other is for everyone else who wants to get involved.

ME: Slap them up there on the page!

This is the link for Bartlesville residents.

This is the link for everyone else.

It gives you the option of being anonymous, but if you don't mind leaving your name, that would be better.

ME: All right. You had better get back to reading those invitations for your world tour.

FREE MONKEY: You should probably go relax.

ME: Or get a stun gun.

FREE MONKEY: Let’s not go down that road again. I think you should also remind people that GIRL AT SEA is coming out in about three weeks, and that you are sending out signed cards, doing signings, and will generally being doing all kinds of things to celebrate. Also, you are going to the Nebula Awards this weekend because Devilish is up for the Andre Norton Award.

ME: Everyone should have a monkey.

FREE MONKEY: This is true. Now give me your Diet Coke. I have worked up a thirst from all of this talking.

UPDATE: I just got a call from Bartlesville. (Again, I'm somewhat obliged not to say who I just spoke to, but please trust me when I say that it was a trustworthy and non-biased source.) I have just heard the most amazing piece of this story to date.

The person on the phone tried to get to the bottom of this "did they send in the recommendation or not" issue. The PR person said yes. The superintendent said no.

Well, except the committee did send it in. And then they had to pull it back and re-submit it.

Why, friends?

BECAUSE THE COMMITTEE REALIZED THAT THEY ACCIDENTALLY LEFT OUT THE STEP WHERE THEY HAVE TO LET THE PUBLIC KNOW ABOUT THE CHALLENGE AND WHAT THEY ARE DOING.

Yes. You read that right. They DID submit it. When they said it hadn't been submitted, it was because they had to pull it back in because they had forgotten the part where they had to tell everyone so the public could weigh in.

Whoops.

This is the most telling part of this entire story, and the worst excuse I've ever heard. I told you the story stood. Thank you for your support and belief, and for GETTING THE MESSAGE THROUGH! Without your letters, none of this would have happened.

It's a Scooby Doo moment!




They would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids!

Labels: , , ,

33 Comments:

Anonymous Nuwon Wearspants said...

I agree with you about the petition. I feel like you are doing the right thing, I just hope this doesn't escalate too much more. Though, it might. But I have faith in you, and so do your other fans. Love you Maureen. Love you Free Monkey

11:54 PM  
Blogger Jessica Burkhart said...

Wow, the situation is quite ridiculous. I signed your petition and best of luck! :)

11:58 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Thank you Jessica and Nuwon. Nuwon . . . I don't know anymore about escalation. It might annoy both me and these people to death, but it's been good for getting the details of the situation out. My case is one of thousands of potential bannings going on across the country. A little irritation in one case, if it creates awareness, might not be a bad thing.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Liz said...

The petition is a brilliant idea. I signed (under my actual first name) and I hope this really clears things up, Maureen. It's simply unethical to keep the writer in the dark and LIE!

12:12 AM  
Blogger Kari said...

petition signed.

also, the link to the examiner has an extra "http://" in it and sends one to this page instead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP

thought you might want to know.
kp

12:51 AM  
Blogger Hoolie said...

I'm flabbergasted. Truly. These people think homosexuals are evil, but lying is fine? Or perhaps even worse (though it really is a toss-up), claim high moral ground but immediately start lying when confronted with their own hypocrisy? It would be pathetic if it weren't so insidious. Actually, it's pathetic *and* insidious. That's quite a trick.

1:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I signed the petition, Maureen. Powers that be often retract their words and their "positions" on controversial subjects when the press takes notice. Good thing Scoob and crew are ON IT. (And if you name drop about John Green and E. Lockhart waiting for you inside just to make us jealous, it TOTALLY works.)

PS. I wanted to show support and buy B.T. this weekend, but alas, no copies for sale. So I bought DEVILISH instead. =)
*heidi

1:50 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I agree with your assessment of the situation, and I signed the petition. Also sent my letter in AGAIN to the Examiner-Enterprise, hope they print it soon. Today's story should galvanize some people into action, so that's a good thing. Also, on the petition you might want to change "is not banned" to "not be banned." : )

Hang in there.

Beth

1:54 AM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

Dear Maureen and Free Monkey,

You have our undying support.

We have signed the petition.

VIVA LE TRIANGLE!

Little Willow and customer/student Angela (who likes pie and is NOT the woman referred to in this article)

** I think it is hilarious that I read your update right as the customer came into my store to ask for the daily update. I think that was fate. Or possibly just really funny.

2:04 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Thanks for posting the article. I disagree with Free Monkey, I think you expressed yourself very well. Or, even if it's not quite what you meant to say, you can't tell -- you sound great, smart, and thoughtful. Well played.

2:10 AM  
Blogger bookbk said...

Well, I finally got a chance to read The Bermudez Triangle and so was able to both sign the petition and to include a professional evaluation of the book along with a (perhaps a little pompous, but heartfelt) lecture on the purpose of libraries and the un-Americanness of removing books therefrom on the basis of homosexual content.

It was really, really satisfying. Thank you.

3:21 AM  
Anonymous Joa said...

I am glad to see that this book banning situation is getting somewhere! (That is, in the opposite direction.)

The petition was a great idea, Free Monkey! You really are a smart FM. My PPM (Pink Pirate Monkey) is jealous, poor guy can't even read. But he can speak pirate (which comes in handy when one happens encounter pirates).

It makes me even happier to hold on tightly to my checked-out copy of The Bermudez Triangle, and know that it is my right, and everyone's right, to read and enjoy this book. Thus, I signed the petition, and donated to the petition site, and now I feel as though I have, singlehandedly, banished WorldSuck! Or at least diminished it...somewhat.

4:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I signed the petition. Hang in there. We all support you and intellectual freedom.

5:13 AM  
Blogger Clair said...

I signed the petition! In fact I may have (accidentally) signed it three times. Sorry!

5:26 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

Rock on Maureen (and FREE MONKEY)!

Also, I feel I must point out something that you may not know, related to this statement in your blog post: "IF NOTHING ELSE, PLEASE SCROLL TO THAT."

"If nothing else"? Maureen. Seriously. Don't you know that people are hanging on your every word? That they've been checking multiple times a day since your last post, waiting to see what's going to happen? And thanks to you and the honest Scoobies in Bartlesville, we've ALL got the goods on those would-be book banners. (And thanks to FREE MONKEY, you're calm enough to write lucidly about it.)

Keep up the good work.

6:03 AM  
Blogger Laurel said...

Here in Bville things are different now. Since a few days ago this has made lots of talk/gossip. now there is an article confirming information I was previously denied access to. Hopefully I can get all this sorted out in my article.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Becs said...

GO MAUREEN GO!! You are totally awesome. I have signed the petition as well, and I'm trying to get other people to sign it (and read the book). You've already got 110 signatures. That's amazing!! You rock. :D

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rock on, Free Monkey & Maureen!!! I signed your petition too! Good luck with exposing the truth- i'll be watching:)

xxHxx

btw my question still stands: can free monkey travel overseas- i.e. England?

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maureen:

I signed the petition and passed it on.

I am concerned about Ninja Susan, as I have been in her position before. Please let us know if she's ok and if she needs any kind of additional support.

Laura-the-Librarian

7:23 PM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

Your petition now has more signatures than their petition, and the names just keep on coming. I've heard from a dozen people since last night who signed it. Lady, look at those names - readers and bloggers and writers, oh my! The signatures are just going to keep coming.

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Carleen said...

I've signed the Bartlesville petition. :-)

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just looked at the signatures on the Bartlesville petition. Michelle Rader's name is there. Is this a case of a teen defying her mother (I believe that I saw on another site that Mrs. Rader's daughter's name is Michelle, but I may be wrong) or did someone sign the petition in her name? If it's the latter, that's cause for concern on so many levels.

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of you are ridiculing the parents for signing a petition without reading the book. While at the same time, many of you are ridiculing the Bible - - - -have you read it?? The Bible does speak of many horrible acts because it is explaining to us what happens when we turn our backs on God and God's truth. Try reading the book- - -it might change your life!!

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus said the world would hate Christians because it hates him (John 15:18-21) People hate Jesus because his very name convicts them of their sin even if they can't fully articulate that.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Carleen said...

I'm not really sure who "they" are but I wonder if they're point wasn't to ridicule the Bible but to express a dislike for those who use the Bible to ridicule others simply because they believe differently from them, not to mention taking actions that would threaten their rights to read, write and think for themselves. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm pretty sure most, if not all of us don't hate Christians. Not at all. We simply want to leave religion out of it. We're not here to debate relgion in schools, that's an argument for another day. We're not here to debate the nature of "sin" as defined by Jesus. Save that for Sunday School. We're here to prevent the banning of a book at a highschool library. A book that is otherwise perfectly decent and good, it just happens to contain a lesbian relationship, something which is often ridiculed by people in our society, Christian and non-Christian. I think it would be most beneficial and more forward thinking if we focus this dialogue on the issue at hand, and not turn it into a Christian vs. non-Christian thing.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Chelsea Roberts said...

Boo for banning books.

Yay for standing up for yourself.

Left a nice little paragraph on el petition.

4:43 AM  
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