Monday, September 23, 2013

Wordcraft -- Censorship: coming to you alive & well

Good morning, America -- welcome to banned books week, September 22-28. Wait -- it’s the twenty-first century and we’re still banning books? Maybe they ban books in some remote Ruritania or Berzerkistan, but not in my country. Not in my town.

Sorry, you’re wrong.

Okay, maybe it’s hard to disagree with the decision of the Brevard County, Florida, public libraries to pull Fifty Shades of Grey from their shelves. I stopped reading at the protagonist’s clichéd description of her reflection in a mirror. (Wannabe authors -- don’t attempt this unless you have an insane number of online followers.) The libraries later returned Fifty Shades due to public demand.

But what did 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures do to deserve its banning from the Tucson, Arizona, Unified School District in 2012? (Oh, right, it was banned as a result of Arizona state law prohibiting Mexican-American curricula.)

Or what about the challenges in New Jersey and Washington state high schools to Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian due to, among other things, “religious irreverence and strong language”. Listened to any teenagers talk lately?

Feeling smug because you’re not from the U.S.? How about Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism, banned in Malaysian on the grounds that “it could confuse Muslims”? Or Tintin in the Congo, narrowly escaping a ban in Belgium? The list goes on.

Banned Books Week is proudly sponsored each September by the American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and similar extreme freedom organizations.

To demonstrate support for free speech, readers from across the United States and the world will participate in a virtual read-out of banned and challenged books through September 28, with individuals reading from their favorite banned or challenged book. In North Texas, you can support freedom to read with special events and displays in Frisco, Saginaw and Wylie.

Frisco hosts a discussion at the Collin College Preston Ridge Library Wednesday, September 25, from 7-8:30 p.m. For more information, contact Dr. Diana C. Gingo, at

Saginaw’s public library commemorates banned books week with videos posted to and books donated by HalfPrice Books. Contact Paula Week at 817-230-0300 ext. 4, or for more information.

And Wylie’s Smith Public Library fights book prohibition 1920’s style. For information, call Offilia Barrera, 972-516-6258, or online at

For information about events in your area, to see a list of banned books that have shaped American culture, or for an interactive version of the “mapping censorship” map that illustrates this post, see


In another literary event, Fort Worth, Texas, journalist/poet Gayle Reaves reminds me that short story fans can hear Texas actors read stories by Texas writers at Fort Worth’s central library at 7 p.m. today, September 23. Tickets are $15-35, available through the Texas Bound program. Call 214-922-1818 for information.

On a personal note, my short story, “Gift Cards of an Ex-Goddess,” is now online at

And editor Jake Johnson’s short story anthology, Jake’s Monthly: Recollection, includes my alternate history, “The Khan’s Sword,” among others. It’s available at

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