Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Books Week 2011: Stephen King

What's the difference between a challenge and a banning? 

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Why are books challenged? 

Books usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information. See Notable First Amendment Cases.

Censorship can be subtle, almost imperceptible, as well as blatant and overt, but, nonetheless, harmful. As John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. 

— On Liberty, John Stuart Mill

Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language. The following were the top three reasons cited for challenging materials as reported to
the Office of Intellectual Freedom:
the material was considered to be "sexually explicit"
the material contained "offensive language"
the materials was "unsuited to any age group"Although this is a commendable motivation, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA's basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

--Read more at ala.org

STEPHEN KING: One the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st century

Frankly, although some may not agree, I cannot imagine the horror genre without Stephen King.  He may not have been the first horror author I read when I was in junior high (John Saul gets that honor), but he was certainly my second.  I became an immediate fan and I grew up in the heyday of films based on his works, like Creepshow, Cujo, Carrie, Pet Sematary, The Shining, Salem's Lot, to name a few.  Every time I pick up a new SK book, it's like meeting up with an old friend.  To challenge/ban his work is unspeakable.  He has asked us to think outside the box so many times and stretched the limits of our imaginations.  A world without his books in it would simply be unfathomable.

Years challenged just in the 21st century:  2002 and 2003

100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990–2000: 
Cujo #55
Carrie #77
The Dead Zone #83

Specific Instances:
Carrie--Challenged, along with eight other Stephen King novels in Bismarck, N.Dak. (1994) by a local minister and a school board member, because of "age appropriateness." Challenged by a parent, and currently under review, at the Boyertown, Pa. Junior High East library (1994). The parent "objected to the book's language, its violence, and its sexual descriptions, as well as what she described as a 'Satanic killing' sequence." Source: May 1994, pp. 84-85.

Cujo, The Dead Zone, The Drawing of the Three, The Eyes of the Dragon, Pet Sematary, The Shining, Thinner--Challenged, along with eight other Stephen King novels in Bismarck, N.Dak. (1994) by a local minister and a school board member, because of "age appropriateness." Source: May 1994, pp. 84-85.

The Dark Half--Retained in the Roseburg, Oreg. High School library (1994) despite a parent's complaint that the book contains "extreme, bloodthirsty violence." Source: Sept. 1994, pp. 166-67.

--information from the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom from March 1994 through March 1995.  read at www.afn.org

Different Seasons--Challenged for references to oral sex and prison rape scenes in "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption". 2002  Reference

The Brookeland ISD reported that all Stephen King books were banned in all district schools.  The challenge was brought by a parent, and “…also brought to the attention of the Board of Trustees.” This challenge was listed as one entry in our main report or our summary tables, since it was not specific as to title and because of the large number of Stephen King titles in existence. 2002-2003  ISD=Independent School District  Reference


I can't possibly list all of the instances of the challenge/banning attempts of SK works, but this gives an idea of how prolific are the instances.



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  1. The horror of banning....Stephen King started at the beginning of my love for reading...his books were like entering a community...the characters were real, not those fairy princesses....I loved his books, and yes, I may have read them too young, but I appreciated them for the reality the presented. Parents and adults tend to have little faith that their children can discern fact from fantasy...which is a shame.

  2. I LOVE Stephen King. One of my favorite writers. I started reading him something like in 7th grade.
    I figured that his work was challenged, just by the content of a lot of his works, but I didn't realize just how much. Probably also because I never really thought about book banning until I started blogging, which was a little less than a year ago!

    Awesome post :]

  3. Serena--I agree! My parents were great in that they knew what I could handle and what I couldn't. I think it takes really 'knowing' your kids.

    S.--Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Stephen King rules!

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