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Sunday, June 24, 2007


A lot of you expressed what I was feeling about this whole Bartlesville naughty shelf/big bad book labeling issue. Of course, I got in touch with FREE MONKEY to tell him what was going on. He gave his usual balanced advice—he told me to reply to a lot of the great comments and e-mails that have come in.

(You can always find out what he’s up to by looking at his LiveJournal page. You can see some of the places he’s been at the bottom of this post.)

So, let’s get to your thoughts.

First, this turned up in my inbox, and I was extremely interested in it. Yes, it’s a different state, but it deals with pretty much the exact same setup. In this case the victim was Harry Potter.

Counts v. Cedarville School District, 295 F.Supp.2d 996 (W.D. Ark. 2003)

The school board of the Cedarville, Arkansas school district voted to restrict students' access to the Harry Potter books, on the grounds that the books promoted disobediance and disrespect for authority and dealt with witchcraft and the occult. As a result of the vote, students in the Cedarville school district were required to obtain a signed permission slip from their parents or guardians before they would be allowed to borrow any of the Harry Potter books from school libraries. The District Court overturned the Board's decision and ordered the books returned to unrestricted circulation, on the grounds that the restrictions violated students' First Amendment right to read and receive information. In so doing, the Court noted that while the Board necessarily performed highly discretionary functions related to the operation of the schools, it was still bound by the Bill of Rights and could not abridge students' First Amendment right to read a book on the basis of an undifferentiated fear of disturbance or because the Board disagreed with the ideas contained in the book.

So . . . any Oklahoma lawyers out there? Anyone want to take this to the limit? (To prepare yourself to go to the limit, you can go here.)

tobias said...

I think you should perform a selected scene from "Oklahoma" outside their office windows!!!!

I’m starting to get more and more tempted. I don’t feel like these people should be simply let off the hook. And my dancing is a powerful thing.

sarai said...
I think I'll add librocidal maniacs to my personal "things to be afraid of" list... Please allow me a gratuitous Buffy quote.

"Where do we go from here...
The battle's done, and we kinda won;
So we sound our victory cheer."

In my community, I'm thinking of getting involved in the public library to make sure such books are available outside of schools. This should be a wake up for all of us. We probably can't change Bartlesville, but we can get try to keep this from happening our home towns.

I like the quote, your idea to volunteer, and the word “librocidal.”

laini taylor said...
Oh man, this just sucks. Thought I'd share this great [that is, AWFUL] quote I came up with when researching book banning for a library talk I did at the wonderful Topeka KS library a few months ago. A Texas mother who had attended a "book mulching rally" in front of a library (the mulcher was in the bed of a pickup truck), was quoted as saying that children should not learn about puberty until they are married. ACK! The blazing minds of book banners!

Fantastic! The minds of book banners at work! I think this was the book mulching she attended. Book mulching. How obscene is that? These people are disgusting.

jellybean said...
Terrible. Just terrible.

A special shelf? Give me strength. If they are going to do that, they should have to put a label on the book stating exactly why the book requires special permission. Come on Bartlesville: I want to see a sticker that reads, "We heard there might be homosexual content in this book. No one under the age of 18 may read about homosexuals without parental permission. But we aren't sure because we haven't read this book."

Seriously, these people should have to take the embarrassing step of explaning why the book is semi-banned. Perhaps the shame of it will make them reconsider.

They essentially have labeled it. Since Bermudez contains no sex and nothing else of note that banners like to ban . . . this is entirely because of the homosexual characters. And I’d love to have them explain, but they won’t talk to me. I’ve tried to reach Janet Vernon for weeks. I keep trying to tell her how much fun I am to talk to on the phone, but she just doesn’t believe me.

dawn said...
I listened to David's speech. I know there are kids out there who would benefit from reading his books, Bermudez and so on. Kids in all sorts of situations often turn to books to help them through, and though he spoke a lot about the tolerance of books that contain homosexuality, I know he was saying in general that it doesn't matter what the book is about. It matters that we get the books out there for whoever needs them. And I completely agree.

David’s speech is great, and he’s right.

liz said...
After reading all the "Bermudez will get more attention on the shelf" comments, I have a major question: Where is this 'reserve shelf'?
The reserved section at my middle school's library was a closet with a watched door partially hidden behind the magazine racks. The only people allowed to walk around in it were the head librarians. I was a volunteer in the library, if Bermudez was in there--I wouldn't have known it because I wasn't allowed to poke around in there and rescue the quality literature (it was a well-filled room). I have a feeling that Bartlesville's shelf isn't out in the open or even viewable.
If anyone could find the where the shelf is, it would give us a better idea of how dirty that committee is playing now. (And if a volunteer could 'accidentally' move it to the YA section.)

Good point. Where’s the shelf? I’d ask, but again, they won’t talk to me.

This was part of an e-mail I got, and I love it:

This is not really a victory in my eyes. It is being given a carrot stick at
a restaurant when you asked for a slice of cake. Sure, carrot sticks are
okay, and its better than getting no food at all, but it's nowhere near as
good as a slice of cake, and this restaurant guarentees cake to every

And the only reason why you aren't getting your cake is because your date to
the restaurant happens to be the same gender as you
and someone got offended that their child had to see you two and complained
to your waiter and really, the only reason you got even the carrot stick is because you complained to the manager.

Precisely, my friend! I think we should send this carrot stick back and get our *#^$&*#^*& cake, don't you?

Please keep your comments coming. And know this . . . I’m not done with this. In many ways, this may just be the beginning. Maybe BanCon isn’t such a bad idea.

Now, some FREE MONKEY photos:

Living in New York, FREE MONKEY never gets to mow the lawn. He told me he liked this very much.

The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas!


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Blogger Becs said...

YAY, Free Monkey pix!!

I can't wait to see where you will take this Bartlesville mess next. I know you'll come up with something awesome. :D It would be bloody fantastic if something like what happened in Cedarsville could happen in Bartlesville too. We want that book back on the shelf!!!!

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Ammy said...

Free Monkey's having fun. haha. Love the pictures.

And I have to wonder where the reserve shelf is as well. This entire matter is just ridiculous. I'm sorely tempted to hop on a plane to Oklahoma and do something of my own.

Something insane, obviously. Because just about everything I do is insane or above. Anyway, I hope you get through to someone in Bartlesville (IF they decide to talk to you) and that something can be done to return Bermudez to its regular position of the shelves.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous sockmonster sarai said...

Thank you kindly!

I was brainstorming with a friend about what book killing would be called and we came up with "librocide". Proper punishment for librocide should involve jail time, where the ONLY reading material available has been banned somewhere. Starting with the one that they killed. Oh and broccoli. Lots of broccoli on the jailhouse menu. Alternated with brussels sprouts.

Re the library thing. I'm now undergoing my criminal background check to see if I'm moral enough to join the library. The volunteer co-ordinator said they won't let newbs be on the review comittee itself, but they will let us be on the recomendation comittee, which involves reading! (YAY!) The other thing they're looking for is literacy volunteers, to help adults learn to read. It came out in a book challenge last year, that several of of the librocidal maniacs had not read the book because they could not. Eductation is the key, it seems...

(PS: Super duper bonus nerd fighter geek points for whomever can identify the protest song hinted at in the paragraph above.)

8:43 PM  
Anonymous jas said...

Librocidal is an awesome word. I can't believe there was actually book-mulching rally. How whacked is that?
I mostly wanted to say that I got my copy of Girl at Sea today, and it's awesome. I'm only about halfway through, but already there's mystery and intrigue and oysters. And curry. And a frittata. I love food. I can't wait to finish it.
I sincerely hope that someday we won't have to deal with psycho-parents who want to shield everyone's children from the evils of the world--and end up pinpointing life lessons as evil.

9:12 PM  
Anonymous jk said...

i think that everyone who has read the Burmedez triangle should form a mob, and make posters, and not leave until the comity people put the book back on the shelves, cause ITS NOT BAD seriously i went out and bought it and read it to see what the big deal is and there ISN'T a big deal. some people are so weird

3:19 AM  
Blogger Becs said...

"It came out in a book challenge last year, that several of of the librocidal maniacs had not read the book because they could not."

Whoaaa. Were these school board people, or just parents? If they were on a school board, that's insane. How would you get on a school board without being able to READ?

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Ally said...

hey i'm in arkansas right now and lived here all my life but i have no idea where cedarville is.

i got my copy of Girl at Sea today but i havn't read any because i have to finish Black Tuesday before i start it. I had to go all the way to little rock to get it but i think itll be worth it ;)

6:02 AM  
Blogger Laursie said...

I wonder sometimes what parents and teachers are afraid will happen if they actually let us READ. To quote Bender from The Breakfast Club, "I'll get up! She'll get up! We'll all get up! It'll be anarchy!" That's what they probably think will happen.

Do they forget that they were our ages once? And um, they probably did WAY worse stuff than we'll do. I asked my parents yesterday if their parents were so overprotective (because they're WAY overprotective) and they said yes, but they were rebellious. My parents would drive off to Indianapolis (about three hours from here) in almost broken-down car with no money. They used to drink and go out. They were very hippie-ish. So, yeah, I'm nothing like that. What are they afraid of?

Yeah, I got kind of off-topic. They're always saying they're afraid that we'll get "ideas." What "ideas" do they mean?

Yay! Maureen mentioned BanCon! I'm totally up for it. I think it should be a real book event where banned authors and non-banned authors alike should get together and give book readings, talk about censorship, and have a grand old time. Preferably during Banned Books week for that extra whammy.

Librocide is the perfect word to describe this.

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

To lift a quote I saw on the wall of the US Holocaust Museum: "Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." This was said by Heinrich Heine is response to the Nazis burning books in Berlin in 1933. Scarily true, as it turned out.

People are scared of the ideas people will get from these books. But just because you have banned a book doesn't mean the ideas behind it don't exist anymore. Burning and banning books is weak. It's avoiding your problems. Shouldn't we teach our kids to face things? That there's nothing wrong with any of this?

You can't hide from the real world forever.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous sarai said...


I had to call and ask the coordinator, though she did decline to name the school district involved. The school is in a semi-rural county and had several non-voting parent advocate positions. I don't know how the parent advocates were selected. However, it did eventually come out that the person what started the fuss over "Freedom Writers Diary" had based their protest on the movie, not the book. Yet it was the book they were trying to get rid of. The person lacked sufficient skill to read the book. I find the illiteracy issue to be as upsetting as the librocide. I cannot imagine being unable to read for pleasure, and so much of our daily non-pleasurable life depends on the ability to read. Today I've re-read my job contract, looked up information in my health insurance program, tracked down the information I need to set up direct deposit... I've done several things that I needed to read for without a second thought. There are people for whom this would not be possible. That's chilling. So much of our life depends on being able to read!

Going back to the parent... I had heard that the "Freedom Writers" book was much more pg-13 than the movie and when I read it, I discovered that to be true. I can sort of understand how a parent who could not read the book to decide for themselves would fear the book. But there are other options available. But banning it? It's not appropriate for younger kids, but my niece (she's 11)has seen the movie and is now reading the book. With her mother. Who talks to her and answers questions. Imagine that! The parent is reading WITH the child instead of removing the book from every child in her school! I so feel the need to hug my sister right now. Or buy her a monkey.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

They shouldn't "single out" 'Bermudez' lots of other books at least mention homosexuality at least once and some more (i.e. Pretty Little Liars series) but they stay out on the shelves. Plus readers should be surrounded by all kinds of types of people and situations in books, movies, etc. so everyone isn't so scared of eachother in real life.

5:26 AM  
Blogger Kelly Fineman said...

In the most recent Supreme Court case on the First Amendment (announced YESTERDAY), the Court opined that in a tie between speech and censorship, the speaker wins.

I hope you find a lawyer ready to suit up.

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not really related to this thread, but I just thought I'd let you know that 13 Little Blue Envelopes is one of the books for the Harris County (Houston) teen summer reading online discussions for June. If you are interested, you can see what's been posted so far here:

5:35 AM  

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