Saturday, September 06, 2008

Palin story slams into Banned Books Week

I received the following timely ALA press released promoting "Banned Books Week" at about the same time I heard that Republican Veep hopeful Sarah Palin tried, as the new mayor of Wasilla in 1996, to get the librarian to remove controversial books from the shelves. The Palin story is a bit more complicated than it first appeared, but it is clear that her fundamentalist Christian bent got in the way of free speech. This happens often. You can read a comprehensive report on Palin and book-banning at the Anchorage Daily News web site at Time magazine also did a piece on it.

One of our county librarians told me the other day that she met a librarian from Converse County checking out a book by C.J. Box. This mystery writer's books face removal from the Converse County Library due to what's called a challenge. Objectionable language and content, stuff not fit for reading -- at least according to the challenger. So the librarian had to go somewhere other than her own library to get a book.

C.J. "Chuck" Box of Cheyenne writes the Joe Pickett mystery series set in Wyoming. Chuck has won tons of awards (nominated for an L.A. Times award for his first novel!) and his books are read by all kinds of people because they're set in Wyoming and the protagonist is a game warden. I was at a book signing at City News three years ago. Ahead of me in line were teen boys (very rare at readings and book signings), elderly couples, entire families, guys that looked like actual cowboys, a few pinko Liberals such as myself, and one biker wearing colors. Chuck told me later than the biker gushed about being a big fan. Chuck asked who to sign the book to. "Mouse," said the biker.

Wonder how Mouse would react to people telling him what NOT to read.

I have to mention here that Chuck is a Republican, owns (with his wife) his own international travel business, is a member of the high-falutin' Cheyenne Frontier Days committee (no pinkos allowed), and is a dedicated supporter of free expression, books and writers. His book jacket photo shows him in a black cowboy hat. He has his own horses and the entire family rides.

That's the great thing about Wyoming. Just as you've worked up a stereotype about someone, he or she blows it all to hell with something unexpected.

Here's the ALA press release:

The American Library Association (ALA) opposes book banning and censorship in any form, and supports librarians whenever they resist censorship in their libraries. Since our society is so diverse, libraries have a responsibility to provide materials that reflect the interests of all of their patrons.

Each year, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom receives hundreds of reports on books and other materials that were "challenged" (their removal from school or library shelves was requested). The ALA estimates the number reported represents only about a quarter of the actual challenges.

In support of our efforts to fight censorship, the ALA annually celebrates Banned Books Week – a national celebration of the freedom to read. Observed during the last week of September each year, Banned Books Week reminds Americans not to take the precious democratic freedom to read for granted. This year, Banned Books Week will take place September 27–October 4, 2008.

The American Library Association is a nonprofit, 501(c) (3) educational association that supports quality library and information services and public access to information. As such, it is not allowed to take a position on political candidates and strives to be nonpartisan in its

To learn more about book challenges and Banned Books Week, please visit

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