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Saturday, June 09, 2007


Many of you have been asking me for updates on the Bartlesville situation. The reason I haven’t given one is that I have been working to get information, with little success until today.

A quick recap, just to get everyone up to speed. If you know this story backwards and forward, skip to the part at the bottom that says PRESENT DAY.


April 27th: I get an e-mail from Ninja Librarian Susan Hunt telling me that The Bermudez Triangle had been challenged and removed from the Bartlesville Mid-High Library. She asks for my help.

When I put the story up on my blog, and when excellent writers like Justine Labalestier, Scott Westerfeld, John Green, Maryrose Wood, Meg Cabot, and Neil Gaiman (to name a few) picked up the story . . . and when all of you got involved with letters and posts . . . the committee that banned the book realized that this was not just going to be slipped under the carpet. After a week of effort, during which they stubbornly refused to answer my e-mails and calls, I finally spoke to one person on the committee.

He denied that they ever did this. “We can’t ban the book!” I was told. “Only the school board can do that!”

But I had information saying that yes, they really did do that, and no, they aren’t supposed to, for that is very naughty indeed! Remember how I kept insisting and insisting that it had really happened that way?

They couldn’t admit that, because it’s wrong and they would have gotten into trouble.

As the story got bigger and the local paper got involved, they gave the same story to the reporter, making both me and Ninja Librarian Susan seem like we were making something out of nothing, and doing a classic, “Who, me?” defense.

Which pretty much none of you believed, thankfully.

Then we entered into a period of bureaucratic weirdness, during which I learned more than I ever hoped to about the inner workings of the Bartlesville school district. I heard about the many tiny technicalities, the by-laws, the little things that they were using to say that the book hadn’t been banned, when it actually had been.

Except what they were saying kept changing. And it wasn’t just what they were telling me. My many Bartlesville friends told me that they were also all getting different stories about what went down, but the bottom line was . . . many mistakes were made, and the book was still off the shelf.

Finally, a committee member wrote to me to tell me that they had finally made a recommendation about the book, but that they couldn’t tell me what that recommendation was. Which was annoying enough. I then read in the paper that they said that they HADN’T made a recommendation.

“But!” I sputtered, pointing at my screen to the e-mail from the committee member that said that they had made a recommendation but could not tell me what it was. “But, but, but!”

Then my phone rang. It was a Friend in Bartlesville who I cannot name put who was very much involved with that story. She told me that no, I wasn’t going crazy. They had made a recommendation, but then . . . whoops! . . . they violated public policy by not informing the public of the challenge!

So they had to withdraw it. So they said they hadn’t made one. Well, except they forgot to tell the school PR person about the “new story,” so the truth was still getting out until they got that fixed up.

Still with me? Does your head hurt yet? We’re getting to the new part.

They then notified the public (by putting up an opinion box on the school website). While many of you expressed serious concern and anger about banning, it seems that several people in the area were all for it! And so, for a period of about a week and a half, I got nasty letters full of very non-Christian remarks, explaining how I was a bad person and certain to be hit by lightening.

I began to get grouchy. Still, I tried and tried and tried to reach the committee members again. I tried to reach ANYONE. I heard only from my friends in the town, but they had no new information. I thought over some new strategies. Many of you signed my petition to have the book replaced.

Weeks of silence followed, until today.


Today, Ninja Librarian Susan Hunt got in touch with me and told me two things.

The first thing is that the only librarian on the committee, the only person who stood up for the book . . . was removed from her position as a chair of one of the library committees by Janet Vernon, the head of the committee, and the person who STILL refuses to talk to me about the book.

The second is that Ninja Librarian Susan Hunt was called in for a meeting. It was fairly clear that this was not going to be the best meeting, and that there would not be hugs and sloppy kisses all around. She decided that rather than back down, she would resign her position. And I quote:

“I have taught for 33 years and have now gone out doing what I know was right. I continue to stand by my original statement to you, Maureen. The committee headed by Vernon voted to remove your book without having read it. I did not lack patience in the process in revealing this. I have no doubt that had we not made this information public that the book would have been immediately removed.”

So there you have it. One book advocate punished, another leaves because she refuses to go along with this insane situation.

This afternoon, I called Janet Vernon yet again, but got no answer. So let me put my message here.

Janet, if you are listening . . . I am officially #&$^#&^ed off. I was bemused before, sometimes addled, and occasionally irate. But now I cannot print what I am. And FREE MONKEY isn’t even here now to talk me down, because he is on his way to Los Angeles to start the World Tour.

I think you think that this kind of thing can go on, and that it’s okay, and if you just keep quiet and keep lying it will go away.

But it won’t. Especially not now.

I have left my e-mail and phone number for you on multiple occasions. What are you afraid of, Janet, if what you are doing is so proper? People with nothing to hide usually aren’t so shy and retiring.

Feel free to reverse the charges if that’s the problem. I’ll gladly accept them.

That’s the end of my message.

I’m opening this up to you, friends. What do you think the next step should be? Comments, e-mails . . . send away. I am all ears. How do we deal with these book banners? Because where they’ll remove one book (without reading it, natch), they’ll remove others.

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Anonymous Dawn said...

So it's officially banned now? NO!!! I thought we were making such headway!! I almost wonder if you can go to Bartlesville for a Girl at Sea signing and bring plenty of Bermudez books with you. If they met you and really knew that you weren't some sort of psycho that they apparently think you are for writing such a book, then maybe they would be less harsh. Plus, it's always nice to show your face when people think that they've scared you away. Show them that you won't back down, and you're definitely not afraid. Other than that, I don't know what else we can do. Keep trying? I'm feeling certainly irate and frustrated, but I can't even imagine how you feel. I would hate it if this were happening to something I wrote.

2:08 AM  
Blogger The Bibliophile said...

I think this is where a well written op-ed in a newspaper with wide circulation would be really useful. The article could use this case as an example to discuss the broader issue of book banning. And those of us who are anti book banning should be inundating the school board with polite letters, emails and phone messages.

2:17 AM  
Blogger heidi said...

I can't believe she lost her job over this!! That is so insane---I'm flabbergasted. I don't even know what to say except that I'm glad I just got an awesome agent for SEA and that my next novel involves battling censorship. Good luck w/ your new novel.

2:32 AM  
Blogger Laursie said...

Crap, I just wrote a long response, but they wanted my email verified and I lost it. Anyway, I think I said that you could go to Bartlesville and have a meeting with everyone or a big support rally.

Another idea that I liked was that we, the fans, at our own expense, each send a copy of The Bermudez Triangle (...in my pants) to Bartlesville. I know you sent a box full of them to Ninja Librarian Susan. I don't know if it would help, but it would definitely show how people support you and the book.

2:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Argh!!! This is sooo unbelievable! And she lost her job?! You should get other authors involved and use there wealth of knowledge and influence to take those banners DOWN!!
k dis sounds rilly negative but those people are getting carried away! and what's with the Chair lady? She must be seriously scared to be hiding from you and possibly the hundreds of fans backing you.
Good Luck, Maureen!!
O n Ninja Librarian Susan Hunt ROX!!

xx Hanna xx

2:40 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Okay, first of all Ninja Susan chose to resign, she DID NOT lose her job over this. Secondly, the librarian on the committee DID NOT lose her position as secondary library coordinator because of this--there is absolutely no evidence of that, and I happen to know the person who got that job, and she's not one to lie down and accept censorship. Thirdly, the book HAS NOT BEEN BANNED YET. It's sitting on the School Superintendant's desk. There have been several letters to the newspaper on both sides. I have personally contacted most of the school board members, in whose hands this will ultimately rest. The best thing to do is not to get all crazy, but to continue to contact Gary Quinn, the superintendant, and the members of the Bartlesville School Board. I would also suggest continuing to send letters to the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise is a good way to keep the issue before the public in Bartlesville--local control means that you need to get local people on your side.

Why don't you try contacting the Tulsa TV stations? That might get some interest going.

2:47 AM  
Blogger Becs said...

This is not right. A person who has worked at the school for 33 years should not feel the need to resign over something like this. Janet Vernon has NO GOOD REASON for continuing her refusals to speak with Maureen. And as Maureen has said, and all of her readers have said, we're not going to let this go away.

And am I correct in remembering that, by law, the school board doesn't actually have the right to remove the book? Or is there some catch in there that I'm missing (like the fact that minors are involved)? I read something, I believe on Mary Rose Wood's blog, about how there was the potential for cases like these to be taken to court. Is this true, or am I messing it up? And if it is true, I'm guessing this is why the book hasn't been officially banned yet. The fact is that right now, the students do not have access to a book which they have every right to read, which means it is as good as banned, so far as I'm concerned.

I like the idea of each of us sending in a book, except that I'm afraid Bartlesville ISD would throw them all out. Maybe instead the city library could take them and have a Bermudez Triangle Day or something and give them away free to anyone who comes.

3:33 AM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

Susan's resignation: Wow.

The silence of Bartlesville makes me sing this song.

If only we could get another school or organization in or near the town to make TBT the community read - you know, the One Town, One Book type of program?

6:02 AM  
Anonymous Frankenfoot said...

I cannot believe this! I feel bad for the Ninja Librarian, but I probably would've resigned too, over this. There's only so much bs a person can take before the stink gets to nasty.

If it makes you feel better, tBT is on the "to be purchased" list for a private school in Perth Australia. It was nearly dropped, because of the furor, but three librarians and a counselor (NOT a guidance counselor, an actual "tell me about your feelings counselor") forced a read and vote on it. The read is done and the vote is on Monday, and it looks like it's going to pass. So for every school that takes you out of circulation (note: I did NOT say banned, I said "takes you out of circulation"!) another puts you in.

Note: I did not identify the school because I am not on the committee, nor am I in Australia, but the counselor in question plays Daphne to my Maureen, and I've heard the WHOLE long story in four part harmony and full orchestration....

7:08 AM  
Blogger Jordyn said...

This is going to be a crazy idea and I don't even know if anyone would want to mess with it since it DOES include book banning (and also we'd need a lot of Bartlesville student/parent/teacher help) also I don't know if it makes sense becuase I am INCREDIBLY TIRED but here goes.

Okay, lemme 'splain. If we got many of the Barlesville school people (parents/teachers/students) to ask that books be removed from the library for different reasons (like the Burmudez Triangle reason), we might be able to get the whole book-banning-robs-us-of-books point across and the committee would realize that when you ban one book it's not very long until they're all banned! (Of course the other side of this is that the committee would realize no such thing and just keep banning away, then we really would be bannies.) So... yeah... I know it's crazy.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Jez said...

Is there any possible way you could go over their heads to someone else about this?

I like the idea of local Bartlesville tv--get more interest in the area, communicate with the people closest who have more influence.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Ammy said...

I can't believe this is happening~ Susan resigning because of some irrational and STUPID action the committee is making? This is ridiculous.

All I can recommend is to keep on talking, and keep sending the emails and calls to whoever is involved. Keep in touch with the public as well, because they've proven to be some of your best friends to date in this matter.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the 2005 SIECUS Public Policy Office State Profile for Oklahoma:

Oklahoma House of Representatives Passes Anti-Gay Book Ban
May 2005; Tulsa, OK
The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted 81-3 to pass House Resolution 1039, which calls
on Oklahoma libraries to “confine homosexually themed books and other age-inappropriate
material to areas exclusively for adult access and distribution.”2 The bill, introduced in May 2005
by state Representative Sally Kern, (R-Oklahoma City) also requires that no public funds be used in “the distribution of such materials to children.” Representative Kern explained, “there are
some issues little children aren’t emotionally equipped to tackle and many parents believe the
issue of sexual preference is one of them….Parents have a right to know that certain books deal
with age-sensitive issues and decide for themselves if their child is ready to read those
The three democratic representatives who voted against the measure, however, said it would
strip power from local library boards and would strain their already stretched resources. Darrell Gilbert (D-Tulsa) explained his outrage saying, “if this is a book that you want to have in, quote, an adult-only access part of the library—which there aren’t any such things—you’re going to
have to take every anatomy book and put it in there, too, because it has nude bodies in it, pictures
of body parts. Where does it stop?”
Kern argued, “this isn’t censorship, because I’m not asking that they be thrown away, be
burned. I’m asking that they just be put in with adult collections and then if a parent wants their
child to see a book like that they can check it out.”
The debate over books dealing with sexual orientation followed a controversy in Kern’s
district in March over the children’s book King and King, which tells the story of a character
named Prince Bertie who falls in love with a character named Prince Lee. It is written for readers
ages six and up by two Dutch authors and has been the subject of several controversies around
the country. Kern called the book “obscene.”

Anyone know if this has been overturned? Otherwise, it sounds like the lunatics in charge in Bartlesville seem to have their fingers on the pulse of their state, and it's more than a little nauseating.


7:31 PM  
Anonymous Addie said...

I say we chain up those horrible book banners and read every book they have ever banned aloud to them to prove how amazingly written they are. If they're the kind of people I think they are they'll hate to be proven wrong. *evil laugh*

7:48 PM  
Blogger Becs said...

"Kern called the book “obscene.”"

This makes my blood boil. I wish I could DO something. Like, right now. I mean, I know we're doing something, but aaarrrrgghhhh, it's going to be a longe battle. I am so $^&#*@*ing sick of people like Kern calling other people obscene. It makes me want to SCREAM. These are my FRIENDS she's talking about. My FRIENDS she and god knows how many others calling obscene. How is it possible for Oklahoma to even have a bill like that?

8:59 PM  
Blogger Joa said...

You can leave Janet one last message. "Oh, by the way, I have some relatives in Bartlesville who I visit every summer for a week. I'll be sure to drop by one of your meetings for some tea and crumpets. Thanks!"

It's a sad, sad, sad thing to see the wonderful ninja librarian resign. It shows her strength in character, totally, and I'm sure she'd rather not be under a committee like this, but still. I hope she can continue her wonderful ninja librarian life. We should get her a trophy or award plaque when all this is over. "Super Most Ninja Librarian Ever."

9:20 PM  
Blogger Mrs. N said...

I just emailed all my former students and told them about this. I recommended that they all read it.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Jill said...

**Insert many bad words here** I must stay away from plane tickets to Bartlesville and pointy objects. What Ninja Librarian Susan did was so nice, but it shouldn't have happened. After 33 years she decided to resign because of the lack of intelligence in the committee. I wish that she didn't have to do that.

Anyways... remember that link that you showed us that asked for our opinion on Bermudez? Well I sent Five emails to be exact ((Under different names and addresses of course)) and Vernon didn't reply to one of them.

I don't understand why it is so hard for the people to get their story right. I wish they could decide on something so we know what to protest against. As for Janet Vernon ((Is it my Harry Potter senses tingling or is it just coincidence that she is a bitc- meanie like Petunia?)) she should do her job and answer you. She should also take more control and read the book rather then going by what people say.

I awaiting for your next post.

1:02 AM  
Blogger WinterRose said...

For craps sakes... why in the WORLD are people such nitwits??? I'll never get it...

And they didn't even bother to READ it??? How can an entire committee of people decide to ban a book that they've NEVER read??? Just who's interpretation are they blindly relying on???

Wow. Seriously... wow. Hey, I like that ban more books idea. Honestly, they'd end up banning probably 90% of all the books in their pithy library, and look around, and do a Homer-esque, "D'oh."


Anyway, good luck!!! *sends luck and well-wishes your way*

People are so silly... so silly I want to point and laugh at them...

10:35 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Sounds like the perfect time for a peaceful Bermudez read-in. Liberty-loving, book-loving teens and adults reading aloud together peacefully... Maybe even people who still haven't read the book might learn something! And while I won't deny that I suspect anyplace with this many shady, underhanded dealings could deal out unexpected, unkind repercussions, it's worth consideration.

This children's librarian has your back, Maureen. Yours, and all the kids and teens out there who don't have access to books because of other people's sensibilities.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Jen said...


Have you looked into ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom yet? http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/challengesupport/challengesupport.htm

7:42 PM  
Anonymous writer_chick18 said...

I propose that we turn on the woman. Show her how many people are really behind this thing. We should get ahold of an e-mail address, home address, something, and have a whole bunch of people write her letters stating our case. Even if she doesn't read them all, she'll get the idea.
I don't think we should go down like this.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous tess said...

This is gonna make me sound kind of behind, but I JUST finished The Bermudez Triangle and I LOVED it! I know I should be reading Girl At Sea, but my mom would not buy me a hardcover and I myself am broke.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Krissi said...

I remember from the "concerned mother's" objection form that she said that homosexual content and characters are not appropriate for high schools. The only problem is that there are homosexual people in that school, whether people want to close their eyes and say "nah nah nah nah nah nah, I can't hear you" or not.

Last time I checked, God was not some woman in Oklahoma. Therefore, this woman has no right to say who is "appropriate" and who is not.

3:19 AM  
Anonymous Chelsea said...

If it's possible to give her e-mail address, I have a print copy of a speech I made at my high school last year on book banning Opinionated, but no vulgarity, along with examples both ludicrious and agreeable. Also mentions the PABBIS group) that I could send to her. May not be the best way, but maybe she's one of those annoyingly stubborn peoples who needs to be told something 5 million times before it sinks in. If it's not possible, well....I could always send you a copy and see if it winds its way to her.

Emial address: rainflowerb63@aol.com

Best of luck,


9:15 PM  
Anonymous Jayme said...

ms. johnson,

i was very upset to hear that your book was challenged at bartlesville mid-high. i'm an english major from bartlesville, oklahoma. although i haven't read any of your work yet i feel it is unfair to banish someone's thoughts. i myself do not agree with homosexuality--but as a christian i feel that i can not judge others. why would they listen to me when i refuse to listen to them? how can i tell them about my Jesus when i will not hear what they have to say?
i feel that the school board and the book banners are not listening to what others have to say. i hope that they will soon come to thier senses.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Bartlesville has no place for such dribble.


Silly, silly homo.

3:33 AM  
Blogger A.Jay said...

I'm doing a project in my freshman english class on banned books and book banning, and I'm using your situation with The Burmudez triangle in it. Actually i'm specifically using your quote at the bottom: "Where they'll remove one book, they'll remove others." to answer a question on if book banning will ever end....

I just wanted to let you know that, though I'm not sure that it matters...



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