Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Banned Books Week

I've been thinking a lot about banned books since I found out recently that my birthplace was the site of such a controversy a while back. I felt a little cringe-y about it at first, but everything worked out all right. Still, as a bookworm, I'd like to think that I was born in a place where everyone would consider book banning anathema.

Marshall, Missouri. Population around 12,000. They've only had a public library since the 1980s or 90s. Anyway, almost exactly 2 years ago, some relative (?) of Sarah Palin's was sashaying through the stacks and came across a copy of Fun Home, the incredibly wonderful graphic novel by the incomparable Alison Bechdel.

You know the distasteful and distressing drill by now: The patron failed to recognized that it was a richly layered coming-of-age story and focused his/her blinders-vision on the nudity and lesbian relationship in one tiny section of the novel. This person was shocked! Shocked! He or she said it was pornography! This person also ragged on Blankets by Craig Thompson, another graphic novel. (I haven't Blankets yet, but now I really want to badly.)

Soon, there was an uproar in the media as other citizens made their way to the library (I'd almost be willing to bet some of them had to ask directions) and demanded that these books be *banned* immediately. Those curious tracks in the dust around the town square? Yup, all made by knuckles dragging the ground. I don't want to, but I can almost see the forefingers up the noses, trying to keep down the deafening sound of those lone brain cells, rattling around like the last bean in a maraca.

The library's director, Amy Crump, defended Fun Home and Blankets, pointing out that they'd both been reviewed in reputable book journals. Crump also correctly pointed out that if these books were banned, Marshall Public Library would be taking that first step on "the slippery slope of censorship" that it might be best not to travel. Good on her for having a brain, a heart and courage. The library board met, banned the books briefly while they worked out a new policy, then reinstated the books the following year. Sounds like they handled the situation with intelligence and skill. But a slap in the face with a 3-days-dead fish to the original idiot and all who supported the banning is so in order.

Alison Bechdel took the situation in stride, calling the banning "an honor".

On the off-chance that I should ever meet Alison Bechdel and in the even more unlikely occurrence that she should ask where I was born, I can't decide whether to be forthcoming or just mumble something like, "Oh, somewhere around Kansas City." Meanwhile, I think I'll reread Fun Home and try to hunt down a copy of Blankets.


Eva said...

Craziness! I lived in the Bible Belt for quite awhile, but at least San Antonio's a big city, so the impact of the fundamentalists is softened. ;)

I realy want to read Fun Home...I think I will over winter break.

Lisa said...

That's what I think is a riot. All they do is give books some free publicity. It always ends up in more people checking them out than they would have before the uproar.

Heather said...

When I hear about a book that others want banned, I try and find a copy and read it. I wrote about one on my blog.