Friday, June 1, 2012

Really?!? [1]

Welcome to my first "Really?!?" post.  This is a new feature where Cat or myself can rant or rave about current topics in books, celebrities, television, movies - really anything.  

There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.~ Excerpt from The American Library Associations Freedom to Read Statement

Disclaimer:  I am a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey.  It's no secret.  I used the series as a current example in this feature.  By no means is this piece on censorship only about Fifty Shades.  It's about censorship in general with one of today's hot topics.

Today, I want to talk about banned books.  As a former teacher, and someone who has completed way too much schooling, I am a firm believer that no books should be banned.  Over the years, the following titles have been banned or challenged:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1987 - challenged in South Carolina for language and sexual references)
  • The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1960-2009 challenged and banned for content, language, sexual situations, etc.)  There's no question that this is one of my favorite books of all time.
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939-1993 challenged and banned for vulgar language and taking the Lord's name in vain)
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1977 - 2009 challenged and banned for its racial themes)
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1930-1933 banned for content and even burned in Nazi Germany bon fires)
See for additional list of banned books.

Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to attend a school district while growing up that required the reading of every book on this list above.  I don't think I turned out as a degenerate or a morally bankrupt sexual deviant because of the influence of these books on my life.  

This brings me to the most recently banned book.  I know it's a hot button, and I understand that this is an extremely polarizing book.  The examples above concern books that were banned or challenged in public school districts.  Today, libraries in several U.S. states are banning Fifty Shades of Grey by  E.L. James.  

The banning of Fifty Shades of Grey isn't as egregious as the classic banned books.  Fifty Shades of Grey will never be required reading in any school.  However, I have a problem with any government system banning any book.

Libraries in Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida have all either declined to order the book or pulled it from shelves. Other states may soon follow.  "It's semi-pornographic," said Don Walker, a spokesman for Brevard County, Fla., where the library put 19 copies of the book on the shelves then pulled the novel after reading reviews about it. Some 200 notices had to go out to people on a waiting list to read it. ~ Source:

Okay - so Brevard County, Florida is saying that Fifty is semi-pornographic.  Apparently, though, according to my sources in Florida (Hi, Golidlox!) men are very able to purchase hard core porn magazines and videos.  If the reasoning is that Fifty is too steamy, than why allow any pornography to be sold at all?  Okay - I get it.  Men and women have a choice or purchasing porn.  It's their money.  

But books, especially books that are on the prestigious New York Times Bestseller List should be carried by libraries.  As of the June 10, 2012 edition, the three books in the Fifty Shades series hold the top three spots in paperback, e-book and combined paperback and e-book (   Public libraries were formed to serve the tax paying public.  So if the tax paying public is clamoring for a certain book, then why is it the libraries decision to decide which books are appropriate for its readers? Is this a ploy to stop women from reading erotic novels?  Because - here's the problem explained by a spokesperson for the American Library Association:

"When a book is removed from the shelf, folks who can't afford a Nook or a Kindle, the book is no longer available to them," said Deborah Caldwell Stone, the deputy director of the American Library Association's office for intellectual freedom. ~ Source:

So what this really tells me about these libraries, is that they are performing an act of censorship, which isn't good for anyone.  Of course, I wouldn't want my teenage daughter to read this book, but to deny adult women, who can't afford to purchase these books, an opportunity to read this bestselling series, is nothing more than censorship.

From an article posted on

50 Shades Of Grey has every right to exist on public library shelves because it’s a book people want to read. It doesn’t matter if those people tend to be fifty-year-old women with kids. Their rights are worth protecting just as much as anyone else’s. It’s because we willingly look the other way and allow censorship like this that library systems have the balls to ban other, more critically acclaimed books.

Here's a clip from The View discussing Fifty Shades, as well as the series being banned from Florida libraries:

And now that Fifty Shades of Grey has gone mainstream, do you think that public libraries have the right to determine what is and is not acceptable reading?

Okay.  So that' s my take on book censorship.  What do you think?  We'd love to hear your comments!  


Amber I @ Awesomesauce said...

I do not think any public library should be able to ban any book at all. Maybe schools can if the reading material is inappropriate for the kids but never in a public library!!

Jamie said...

Exactly, Amber. As a parent to young children, I wouldn't want them reading anything like this until they are mature adults. But libraries should not be enforcing their own agendas on tax payers.

Lauren B said...

I wonder if any of these libraries have Lady Chatterly's Lover on their shelves. This is now considered a classic but at one time the publisher was put on trial for publishing it.

Banning books is the first step toward fascism. The next step is burning them like with Harry Potter. People have the right to decide for themselves and NO ONE should be able to take that right away.

Escapism Fanatic said...

Well said Jamie. Libraries should not be banning books as the do not have the right to do so.

Underworld Love Addiction said...

I totally agree. Libraries should not be able to pick and choose what is offered to read. We pay a lot of tax dollars to them each year and I believe they should offer a wide variety of material. Who gets to chose what books they purchase? My reading material from the library would be limited to those books that a few select individual deem "appropriate" for the public to read. I'm not saying these racier books need to be on a huge display when people walk in, hide them in a special section if you want, but they should be available to the public.

Goldilox said...

Its such a shame that libraries are choosing to do this. Thank goodness the library system in my area has not done this (yet!). Erotica is not a new genre and this book is just as graphic as all the other erotica books out there, some of which are being carried at those same libraries that have banned 50 Shades!

Jamie, why do you say a "former" school teacher? Are you getting out?

Laters Baby said...

I absolutely agree! Libraries are there to support their tax paying community, and have no place denying books if their readers want them.

As you said, it only hurts the people who can't afford to purchase the books. For many people a New York Times best seller that everyone is talking about becomes the catalyst in their urge to read. I've heard many authors say they get letters from readers saying that their book was the one that got them to start reading. Fifty Shades of Grey could very easily be a book that will bring a new crop of readers to the library, but not if they are denied access.

Jamie said...

@Lauren - I could not agree with you more! A private institution should have the decision power to not carry a book. A public institution, like a library, should now.

@Samina - Thank you :)

@Underworld Love Addition - I agree. These books don't have to be posted where children can see them, but they should be listed in the adult fiction section.

Goldilox - You're right - erotica has been around for a long time. Just because this one in mainstream doesn't mean it should be held to a higher standard. Yes - I'm done this June. With a third baby on the way, I'll have enough to do at home ;-)

Laters Baby - Well said! People should have the right to read a book or not read it. I've spoken to so many women that have bought or borrowed this series because of all the hype it's getting. Now, these women were fortunate enough to be able to buy or borrow, but it's a sad thing when these women in Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin aren't even given the choice. In my own personal experience, I hadn't read in years until I read Sookie Stackhouse. If it wasn't for Sookie, I would have never gotten started reading again. It would be a shame that this series, along with other, wouldn't be available to someone that wants to start reading.

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