Byline: Greg Olson
Sept. 30--From the classics to children's tales, books can be the targets of objections. Parents, library patrons and clergy are among those who challenge books as being racist, violent or sexually explicit. This week, as part of Banned Books Week -- an annual recognition by the American Library Association of challenges still mounted against some tomes -- Diane Hollendonner, outreach librarian at the Jacksonville Public Library, took about 25 books that have been banned or challenged in public or school libraries to share at a monthly book club discussion at the Jacksonville Area Senior Center. A banned book is one that has been prohibited from being sold or distributed. A challenged book is one that an individual or group objects to and wishes to have removed or restricted from public access. One book Hollendonner uses as an example of a banned book is John Steinbeck's classic Dust Bowl-era novel "The Grapes of Wrath." "It was banned in California in 1939 because of objections to profanity and sexual references," she said. Other classics banned in certain locales over the years include "Gone With the Wind," "Moby Dick" and "Fahrenheit 451." In recent years, challenges have been raised against two books that were in west-central Illinois school libraries. Those were Jodi Picoult's "Nineteen Minutes," a novel about bullying that leads to a school shooting, and Margaret Walker's "Jubilee," a historical novel that focuses on the story of a biracial slave during the Civil War. "Nineteen Minutes" was in a Beardstown school library in 2008 when an objection was raised. "Someone in the community didn't think it was appropriate for teenagers because of the violence and sexual content," Hollendonner said. "It was not banned, but it was moved to a more appropriate age group. The result was a much higher interest in the book, with many people checking it out from public libraries in the area." In 2010, a Jacksonville pastor objected to "Jubilee." "It was being taught at Jacksonville High School, and a local minister believed it was degrading to African-Americans," Hollendonner said. "In that case, JHS administrators offered an alternative to the assigned reading." Hollendonner said even children's books have raised controversy in recent years. Two examples are "And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and "The Dirty Cowboy" by Amy Timberlake. "And Tango Makes Three" is a story about two male penguins that hatch an egg that a Central Park Zoo employee gave them. "Some parents believe that the book promotes same-sex parenthood, and they find that objectionable for children," Hollendonner said. "The Dirty Cowboy" is about a cowboy taking a bath in a river. "It's a humorous story, but some people don't like the fact that he is shown partially naked," Hollendonner said. Challenged and banned books have not been a big issue in Jacksonville, according to Jacksonville Public Library Director Chris Ashmore. "You read these lists of books that have been challenged or banned around the country, and I feel quite good about the fact that we have not had to deal with these situations," he said. "Public libraries have always been strong advocates for freedom of speech." Greg Olson can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1224, or on Twitter @JCNews_Greg.
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