To parents working to raise their children and teens in a world inundated with so much media – from video games to movies to music to the thousands of youth-oriented books published each year – a little help from experts is welcome.
So news that the American Library Association will announce its 2010 Youth Media Awards in just a couple of weeks should be good news for those who want to enrich their kids' cultural and intellectual lives, right? Just read what the ALA Web site has to say about the awards:
Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, the ALA Youth Media Awards guide parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for youth. Selected by committees composed of librarians and other literature and media experts, the awards encourage original and creative work in the field of children's and young adult literature and media.
But in the case of the Youth Media Awards, the
If past awards are any indication, parents can look forward to the
'Authenticity' According to
“Authentic literature” is the term that has been adopted by the
“Skim” is a “graphic novel” (aka a comic book) about a depressed, gothic, homosexual, Wicca-worshipping high school girl and, according to the
The protagonist of the graphic novel, Kim Cameron – nicknamed “Skim” because she's not slim – participates in séances, channels the spirits, swears judiciously, discusses porn and handjobs, and skips class to smoke. The major plot of the story revolves around Skim's relationship with her flaky drama teacher, Ms. Archer. When Ms. Archer catches Skim skipping class and smoking a cigarette, she sits down for a drag herself, which eventually leads to a romantic relationship depicted in a double-page tableau of the two kissing in the woods.
Published in 2008, the
“On the tallest mountain above the town, lived a queen,” the book began. “She decides her son should marry and invites princesses from around the world, but one by one the prince rejects them all until he notices the princess who's come with her brother.”
It's not the princess he's attracted to, though. It's the princess' brother. The book “resolves” the conflict by marrying the prince and the princess' brother, a scene depicted on the last page with the two kissing each other.
Wirthlin, disturbed by her son's story, confronted the teacher about reading such a controversial book at an age when boys think that girls have cooties.
The second-grade teacher defended her actions by saying that a student had found the book at the school library and had simply asked her to read it to the class. And the library had it on the shelf because it represented “authentic literature.”
But conservatives like Steve Baldwin, a former
“The authentic literature books,”
Baldwin gave examples of “authentic literature” that the
Just this year alone, the
The book “After Tupac & D Foster,” for example, which had a detailed account of homophobes beating a helpless gay boy, was not only listed on the
The Rainbow List was created by the
There's also another specific award that focuses on homosexuality called the Stonewall Book Award. Some of the non-fiction, teen-targeted books it awarded this year include “Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating with my Dad,” and “Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003,” a book that examines the “destructive history” of laws banning “nonreproductive sexual activity” based on “Christian interpretations of a few biblical passages.”
With both the Rainbow and the Stonewall Awards specifically geared towards the homosexual agenda, why were numerous homosexual books still given additional, perhaps more mainstream awards, like the Newbery? The simple argument, of course, would be that its good literature and it deserves to be awarded. But that argument doesn't hold when compared to books that won awards in other specialized
Neither of the teen-oriented Batchelder award winners – the ALA award that recognizes books published in foreign countries – were even listed on "Best Books for Young Adults"; and out of the four teen books that won the Coretta Scott King Award – the ALA award that honors the African American culture – only one was chosen for the list.
Are these books just not as good as the gay-themed books? That would be difficult to argue. The more likely scenario is that the
And it's these “award-winning books” that are ousting truly inspiring books from library shelves across the nation. In his article,
“Increasingly, this [authentic] literature is replacing the traditional literature classics, which, in general, promoted mainstream American values or at least didn't undermine them,” he wrote. “The books that used to inspire; which celebrated American values; that chronicled the exploits of trailblazers, astronauts, soldiers, and other heroes are fast disappearing. And their replacements are books like: 'A Woman in Heat Wiping Herself,' 'Outside the Operating Room of a Sex-Change Doctor,' and the 'Rainbow Boys,' a story of three homosexual boys and the various routes they took in 'coming out.'”
And if anyone causes a stir about books like these appearing on shelves in public and school libraries, the
Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of the conservative interest group Eagle Forum, warned her readers that those who file a complaint against a library book will be accused by the ALA of being “zealots and bigots who live in fear of discourse" as well as "screamers and book banners and book burners.” The purpose of this nasty name calling, Schlafy said, is to “intimidate parents from ever complaining about books that are given to their own children.”
“These people accused of being 'book banners',” she concluded, “are just ordinary parents who want to limit their own children's exposure to material they consider harmful or obscene.”
Whenever these so-called “book burners” confront the
1) Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
2) Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
But, as many conservatives have discovered, the
The ALA's Hypocrisy
Every year the
“To call a book 'banned' because someone decided that it was unsuitable for their particular students or clientele would be to make at least 99 percent of all books 'banned',” Sowell wrote in his 1994 article “Hogwash is Happening.”
“No one calls it censorship,” he continued, “when the old McGruffey's Readers are no longer purchased by the public schools … No one calls it censorship if the collected works of Rush Limbaugh are not put into libraries and schools in every town, hamlet and middlesex village. It is only when the books approved by the elite intelligentsia are objected to by others that it is called censorship. Apparently we are not to talk back to our betters.”
Not exactly the pitchfork and torches image that's usually associated with “Banned Books Week.”
Ironically, despite the
More than a dozen high school libraries rejected over 100 books that featured conservative perspectives on homosexuality, which were offered by the Colorado-based Focus on the Family. The books were meant to balance the overabundance of pro-gay literature on library shelves today. Some of the titles included “Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-sex Marriage” and “My Genes Made Me Do It! A Scientific Look at Sexual Orientation” – which argues that choice, not just biology, determines your sexuality.
The “Annoyed Librarian,” for example, a blogger for LibraryJournal.com, pointed out the circular argument of demanding two positive reviews from “professionally recognized journals.” She wrote this short, satirical scenario:
“Hey,” say the conservative Christians, “we found fifteen journals that reviewed Marriage on Trial!”
“I'm sorry,” say the librarians, “we don't professionally recognize those journals.”
Fox News' Diane Macedo, who also wrote about the the
“Baby Be-bop,” for example, the “coming-out story of a gay teen, which includes descriptions of his sexual encounters in bathroom stalls with men he never talks to,” found a spot on the bookshelves.” So did “Love & Sex: Ten Stories of Truth,” which “describes a gay teen's relationship with his tutor with excerpts like: 'Matt had one leg locked between mine, so that his dick was smashed between his stomach and my thigh. And as his hand jerked up and down on me his hips humped with the same rhythm.'”
But other books, such as “You Don't Have to Be Gay," “which describes author Jeff Konrad's struggle to overcome his unwanted same-sex attractions,” doesn't meet their high standards.
The Washington Post, which had also been following the story, asked Susan Thornily, the coordinator of library information services for
Thornily also claimed that the books would make gay students “feel inferior.” Of course, as the “Annoyed Librarian” gamely pointed out on her blog, “Conservative Christians are a minority group, and no one cares about offending them.”
“How are we supposed to take seriously,” she wrote, “the caveat that the books would make gay students 'feel inferior'? And how is that any different than African American students feeling inferior by having Huckleberry Finn on the shelves? Or conservative Christians feeling 'inferior' because every book on homosexuality in their library says exactly the same thing, that every opinion they have is wrong and they are bad people for being so intolerant? Whatever happened to that old librarian standby that just because a book offends a portion of the population doesn't mean it shouldn't be in the collection? They sure like to trot that warhorse out when 'conservative Christians' complain about Heather Has Two Very Excited Daddies.”
That's exactly the point of organizations like Focus on the Family and its affiliates, such as the Illinois Family Institute and the Virginia-based Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX), but it's a message that the ALA refuses to even hear. The
Regina Griggs, the executive director of PFOX said in an interview with Fox News, “It's almost an attack on us as an organization merely because we want to allow people to have all the information on both sides. We aren't out there forcing people to do anything … they have a right to know all of the facts to determine for themselves.”
Their fight for equal representation, however, will no doubt be a long, uphill battle. As Prof. David Durant wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “In terms of political composition, the library profession makes your typical Ivy League faculty look like the Heritage Foundation.”