Bank Street Books for Banned Book Week

BadForYouThe Bad For You authors, Scott Cunningham and Kevin Pyle will be at Bank Street Books with some of the contributing youth to the latest issue of World War 3 illustrated. We’ll do live readings of some of the projected pages followed by a discussion.

September 29, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Bank Street Book Store
2780 Broadway
Manhattan, NY 10025

BAD FOR YOU AT THE LIBRARY

new-york-public-library-lions

As part of the American Library Association’s celebration of Banned Books Week, which is taking place from Sept. 21-27, BAD FOR YOU authors Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham will be presenting two special slide show readings at local libraries, detailing the dark days in this country when comic books were once burned! That’s right, comics were thought to be corrupting kids in the 1940s and 50s! And guess what, grown-ups are still trying to ban comics today!!!

In fact, BAD FOR YOU has a whole chapter on the kinds of reading materials that adults were once afraid of kids partaking in—including fears from ancient times about reading itself! Also included will be examples of scary old fairy tales and the secret to why Harry Potter books keep getting banned (hint, it has something to do with the devil).

The Banned Book Week presentations seem especially appropriate this year given that the ALA is focusing on censorship issues around comics and graphic novels. “We want to publicize the many events being organized around the country during Banned Books Week,” said Judy Platt, chair of the Banned Books Week Executive Committee, “to show the collective voice that is speaking out against censorship.”

The first talk will be presented at the Hamilton Grange Library, 503 West 145th Street in the Bronx, on Monday, September 22, from 3-4:30 pm and will include a hands-on section where kids can make their own comics.  On Saturday, September 27, the authors will be talking at Manhattan’s main branch, at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium, from 3 to 4 pm.

Both events are free and open to the public. Hope everyone in the area can join the authors for our celebration of Banned Books Week and find out how much fun BAD can be!

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2014/09/27/bad-you-celebrating-banned-books-week

The Anti-Anniversary!

The country is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act this year, but on the other side of freedom, there’s another important anniversary to acknowledge as well: “On this day, in 1954, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency was closing out a second day of hearings.”

And, of course, one of the key speakers during the investigation was Dr. Fredric Wertham, who’s testimony before the committee helped to sway the senators to recommend the adoption of the comic book code, the self-imposed censorship that lead to the demise of much of the horror and crime comics from that period. What it didn’t lead to, though, was a decrease in juvenile delinquency. The numbers didn’t start to decline until the 1990s! The comic book code officially ended in 2012.

There has not been an increase in youth crime since the code was lifted.

In honor of this special day, we are reprinting our map of the comic book burning in America from the 1940s & 50s.

01.BFU.Comics

 

 

BAPTISM BY FIRE

NewYorkSocietyForTheSuppressionOfVice

If you’ve been following the excerpts from BAD FOR YOU at Tor.com, you might recall the name Anthony Comstock and the committee he founded back in 1873, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. That’s the group’s seal directly above, and the burning books in the picture should give you some idea of his approach toward the literature which he judged immoral. Reportedly, Comstock was responsible for the frying of over 15 tons of books, printing plates and photographs during the time he oversaw the organization. But book burning didn’t start with old Comstock and it certainly didn’t end with the final demise of the group in 1950. In fact, the year the committee disappeared fell right smack in the middle of a feverish period of torching, documented in today’s BFY Tor.com excerpt: the Comic Burning map, which highlights the hot spots of comic incineration in the U.S. from 1945-55.

Not surprising, religious leaders were some of the most vocal opponents to comics at the time – much as they have been against the Harry Potter books in more recent years. For instance, in 1949 a collection of crime comics were gathered by girl scouts in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and then handed over to students at St. Mary’s Catholic high school. “Following a script by the parish pastor, Rev. Theon Schoen,” David Hajdu writes in The Ten Cent Plague (a terrific book that served as source material for BFY’s map), “the students conducted a mock trial of four comic-book characters, portrayed by upperclassmen who pleaded guilty to ‘leading young people astray and building up false conceptions in the minds of youth.’” Following the trial, the great comic book campfire was set ablaze and Rev. Schoen “led the assembled group of more than four hundred students from St. Mary’s elementary and high schools in a…pledge to ‘neither read nor purchase objectionable publications and to stay away from retail establishments where such are sold.’”

While it might not seem unexpected that the Catholic Church would have some involvement with book burning, here at BAD FOR YOU we can’t help wondering how many readers are aware of the Church’s history of setting fire to copies of THE BIBLE!!! It sure shocked us when we found out that for centuries, the Bible has been a red-hot reminder of how books deemed unsuitable for burning can shift, depending on the winds of change, to become the fuel for censors’ bonfires. If one steps back to take in the big picture though, it’s easy to see how the smoldering smoke from these glowing flames have a way of blowing back into the faces of the folks who originally set them, illuminating a certain hypocrisy inherent in any act of book burning.

Hmm, have we stretched that metaphor a bit too far? Probably, so how about we just prove our point with a timely time line about the twisted logic of torching, which we have titled…

BURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY

1244
Before the Catholic Church started burning Bibles, the Pope warmed up with Talmud scrolls (a Jewish sacred text). Only four years earlier, the Talmud was put on trial in Paris for “being harmful to Christian society.” The text was declared guilty and condemned by the court of King Louis IX. Twenty-four cartloads of scrolls were scorched into ash. For his efforts, Louis IX was declared a saint in 1297. Plenty more public burnings of the Talmud by Popes followed, including: Innocent IV (1243–1254), Clement IV(1256–1268), John XXII (1316–1334), Paul IV (1555–1559), Pius V (1566–1572) and Clement VIII (1592–1605).

1490s
Hebrew Bibles (i.e. the Old Testament) were burned along with other Jewish texts during the Spanish Inquisition.

1624
Martin Luther, a religious leader who broke from the Church, had his German translation of the Bible burned in Catholic-dominated regions of Germany.

1640s
In Protestant-dominated England, it was Pope and other prominent Catholics who found themselves on the other side of the bonfire – or rather, in it…at least as effigies. Along with their writings and Bibles. Since the last person was burned at the stake for heresy in 1612, the public Hangman, who usually dispensed such “justice”, had switched to burning effigies and heretical texts instead.

1731
Once again it was Burnabout time as Protestant books and Bibles were burned by the Archbishop of Salzburg as he savagely persecuted followers of Martin Luther’s breakaway Christian sect living in rural regions of the country.

1933-1945
The world’s most famous book-burners, the Nazis, torched an estimated 100 million books throughout occupied Europe, including Torah scrolls. By burning and looting libraries and censoring “un-German” publications, the Nazis tried to eliminate all traces of Jewish culture (as well as the Jewish people – six million of them were systematically murdered). In his 1821 play, Almansor, German writer Heinrich Heine referred to the burning of the Koran (the key religious text of the Muslim religion) during the Spanish Inquisition: “Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.” The Nazis burned Heine’s books too.

1945-46
Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Chancellor and the head of the Nazi party, had his autobiography Mein Kampf (in a sense, the “Bible” of the Third Reich) burned when Allied forces invaded Germany at the end of World War II. The Allied Control Council issued a directive for the confiscation on all media that could contribute to militarism from German libraries as part of the “denazification” movement. Over 30,000 titles were destroyed. “The representative of the Military Directorate admitted that the order was in principle no different from the Nazi book burnings.” Even to this day, there are restrictions on Mein Kampf’s availability in parts of Europe.

1956
First the Fascists in Nazi German burned books…then the Allies burned the books of Fascists…then the U.S. government burned a book titled The Mass Psychology of Fascism written by noted psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prosecuted Reich in 1954 following an investigation of his device called the “orgone accumulator” (which the government dubbed quack science). In March 1960, six more tons of Reich’s books were incinerated.

1989
The Satanic Verses by British author Salman Rushdie is published and almost immediately branded as anti-Islamic by Iranian leader the Ayatollah Khomeini. A fatwā is issued against Rushdie – essentially a death sentence for blasphemy – and the novel is burned in protest in a number of cities in the United Kingdom. The Japanese translator of the book was murdered in 1991.

2008
American troops confiscate and burn Bibles written in the Pashto and Dari languages in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Mark Wright told CNN “such religious outreach could endanger American troops and civilians because Afghanistan is ‘devoutly Muslim country.’” Using the Bibles to try to convert Afghans to Christianity directly violates the U.S. military rules against proselytizing religion in any country.

2008 (again)
Orthodox Jewish youths set fire to hundreds of copies of the New Testaments in Or Yehuda, Israel after the city’s deputy mayor calls for a bonfire of the missionary-distributed material. The burning is staged next to the town’s synagogue. The deputy mayor said that “he regretted the burning of the books, but called it a commandment to burn materials that urge Jews to convert.”

2010
More modern variations of the original King James version of the Bible (which, it should be noted, is itself a translation of Greek and Latin texts), were originally planned to be set ablaze on Halloween 2009 by The Amazing Grace Baptist Church of Canton, North Carolina, headed by Pastor Marc Grizzard. But destruction of the so-called heretical texts had to be postponed until this later date due to protests, a state environmental protection law against open burning…and rain.

2011
A copy of the Koran is burned by Florida pastor Terry Jones in his Gainesville church and condemned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. At lease 30 people are killed following protests in Afghanistan. Among the murdered were United Nations Assistance Mission employees, who were shot and decapitated (though not burned).

 

 

SF, FANTASY & FLAMES: A BANNED BOOK UPDATE

If you’re linking to us for the first time, welcome to BAD FOR YOU!

And to the hearty handful of others who have been here from the start, welcome back.

This is the website for updates on general bad-for-you stuff in kid world. Rather than define what that means, we prefer to simply show it, just as we do in the book that this site is based on (the book, by the way, is set to be released in January 2014 — and available for pre-order with a click on the book’s cover at the right of this page).

Here you’ll find candid shots of school lunches, news about zero tolerance policies, controversies over violent videogames, as well as the latest suspension for flatulence on a school bus. We try to cover all the things that someone out there thinks is bad for kids. 

bookOne of the things we think is bad for kids, and everyone else, is book banning. As it happens, Tor.com is excerpting sections of BAD FOR YOU for the next couple of weeks as part of its “celebration” of Banned Book Week. Celebrating book censorship might sound a little weird because, after all, who wants to throw a party over a bunch of books getting banned. But what Banned Book Week celebrates is “the freedom to read,” according to the American Library Association (one of the biggest sponsors for the annual event).

But you also can’t celebrate “the freedom to read” without highlighting when that freedom has been challenged by censorship. And those challenges occurred over forty times during 2012-13; challenges to books and graphic novels that were considered bad for kids. Six of which were fantasy or SF, the beloved genre of Tor.com followers (also popular among censorship-lovers).

This post is a nod to both genres, the hands-down winners for most censored this past year (a perfect segue to today’s BAD FOR YOU excerpt: “Nursery Crimes: Fear And Fantasy”). 

1) Ender’s Game

Leading off with a Tor publication (it’s up to readers to figure out why), Ender’s Game is an award-winning futuristic tale about specially bred, super-smart kids designed to fight off an alien attack. Though originally published in 1994, the book made the news in 2012 when a teacher at Schofield Middle School in Aiken, S.C. read it aloud to his class and one of his students (and more importantly, the kid’s parent), declared the book pornographic – even though a number of review websites deemed Ender’s Game as “appropriate for readers twelve and older”. The instructor was threatened with criminal charges; charges which, happily, were eventually dismissed. Perhaps in the future, specially bred super-smart kids will be used to fight off any censorship attacks.

2) Feed

Another futuristic society story, this time with folks connected to the Internet via direct implants in their brains. Called “trash” and “covered with the F-word,” the book was challenged in a Virginia high school in Green County, even though the teacher had posted on the school web page a warning about Feed‘s mature nature and a consent form was sent home with students to be signed by parents prior to the assigned reading. Among this “trash” title’s many honors: National Book Award Finalist and Junior Library Guild selection.

3) The Handmaid’s Tale

Here’s a pretty well-known title from famed author Margaret Atwood about yet another futuristic society where, due to declining birthrates, a woman’s main function has been reduced to breeding. The book was required reading for a Page High School International Baccalaureate class at Grimsley High School in Guilford County, N.C. – or, at least it was until challenged for being “sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt.”

4) Fight Club

Like the previous title, Fight Club was popular enough to be adapted into a big-budget Hollywood movie. And violent enough to be challenged by parents in Katy, Tex. Independent School District who were able to get it removed from the required reading list. Too bad it wasn’t called “Hug Club”.

5) Robopocalypse

Despite being challenged for it’s “inappropriate language,” the national bestseller managed to remain on the required reading list at the Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. It also managed to win the 2011 Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association.

6) Neonomicon

We end the 2012-13 list with, appropriately enough, a graphic novel. This Lovecraftian horror fantasy was penned by Alan Moore of Watchmen fame. It was banned from the Greenville County, S.C. Public Library in 2012 because a teenager was able to check it out, even though the comic was placed in the library’s adult section. “The head of the library system overturned an internal review committee’s decision to retain the graphic novel because the pictures gave her pause,” according to an Illinois Library Association article on challenged and banned books – which also served as the basis for this post.

As already mentioned, fantasy and SF are two of the most popular genre’s for book banning. In fact, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five has the dubious honor of being named number four on the Ten Most Banned Books list of all time. Of course, the Harry Potter series (featured on today’s BAD FOR YOU excerpt at Tor.com) is trying it’s best to keep up. And like the Potter books, Slaughterhouse Five has been burned by censors. It was back in 1973 when copies of the book wound up slaughtered in a North Dakota school furnace. In fact, administrators were so determined to see the novel destroyed they assumed a scorched-earth policy, and had students’ lockers searched to make sure every last one of the copies (originally issued for a class assignment) were confiscated and burned. After being informed of the torching, Vonnegut wrote to the school board chairman, “If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.”

Of course Vonnegut isn’t the only famous figure in SF to weigh in such a burning issue. There’s also this guy:

We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, is all ancient history. Then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly, it threatens to start all over again.

Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

 

 

BAD FOR YOU SNEAK PEEK AT TOR.COM

Heads up to followers of the BAD FOR YOU website (both of you): Tor.com, a hub site for “all the things that interest SF and fantasy readers” will be excerpting sections of BAD FOR YOU beginning Monday, as part of their recognition of Banned Book Week (September 22−28). Never heard of Banned Book Week? It’s an annual event “celebrating the freedom to read,” according to the American Library Association. Though, along with all the celebrating, there’s a big dose of lamenting as well.

Why so sad? Because of all the books still getting targeted for challenging, censoring  and outright banning from book stores, libraries and schools, that’s why. A total of forty-four for 2012-13 (and that’s the Illinois Library Associations short list).

BAD FOR YOU is honored to be a part of the celebration and thanks Tor Publishing for allowing us to participate. The history of comic book and book banning (and burning) is the main focus of the first section of BFY. In particular, censoring fantasy material for the sake of sensitive kids — since they weren’t supposed to be sophisticated enough to tell the difference between make-believe and real life. It’s an old story…one that started with Plato (yeah, that one).

Banned Book Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; the Freedom to Read Foundation; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; National Association of College Stores; PEN American Center and and Project Censored.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

Whew!

TO BE OR NOT TO BE…BANNED

While the internet offers kids (heck – ALL people) the ability to access an unbelievable amount of info these days, it has also broken down some of the barriers that once stood between children and material that they might find disturbing if exposed to at too young an age. Policing these borders of knowledge is of special concern in places where the internet is accessed by kids: schools and libraries, in particular. To control this, filtering software has been added to computers at those locations to block content deemed as “unsuitable”. Unfortunately, this filtering technology has proved to be far from perfect, as a blogger from England has pointed out in a recent post.

“On Monday, I was sitting in the British Library frantically trying to write my new book…[and] I had to quickly check a particular line in Hamlet, so I Googled Hamlet MIT, because the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has put the entire works of Shakespeare up on the Internet. (It takes 70 mins to order a physical book). I clicked on the link and…

A message came up from the British Library telling me that access to site was blocked due to ‘violent content.’”

hamlet-and-skull[1]

The Bard barred for “violent content”?! Why, that’s bloody crazy!!!

BANNED IN IRAN…AND CHICAGO

This week Chicago public school students were set free for the summer, but when they return to classes at the end of August there will be something missing that was there when the 2012-13 year began (and we’re not talking about the 50 schools that will be shut down for good after being deemed underperforming). The big difference we’re talking about is the absence of the highly-praised graphic novel Persepolis: A Story of Childhoodwhich was officially banned from all Chicago middle and high schools in March. According to an email sent out to staff by Christopher Dignam, principal of Lane Tech High School, the Chicago School Board mandated that all copies of Persepolis be removed from every library and classroom in the network. The autobiographical comic by Marjane Satrapi, which depicts her early years growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution, was first published in France in 2000, and has gone on to become an internationally acclaimed comic. In 2007, it was adapted into a successful animated film as well and even received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. All of which begs the question: what can’t Chicago kids read it in school? According to an email sent out to staff by Christopher Dignam, principal of Lane Tech High School, while he was mandated to “physically” take each copy out of the school and confirm that it was done – he was not “provided a reason for the collection of Persepolis. If I learn more I will inform all staff….”

Later, Chicago Public School’s general counsel James L. Bebley explained that the ban was based on the book’s “graphic images of torture… as well as obscene language.” CPS administrators determined it is not appropriate for use in the 7th grade curriculum and are considering whether or not 8th and 9th graders should be exposed to Persepolis. The Kids’ Right to Read Project, an initiative of the National Coalition Against Censorship, filed a second Freedom of Information Act records request with the district for internal documents on the removal. At this time, they have yet to receive those documents from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Whatever the internal documents say, it will still be hard to explain CPS’s erratic behavior, given the fact that Persepolis served “as a foundational text to discuss violence against women and equal rights in a curriculum developed and endorsed by CPS itself, the Chicago Teacher’s Union and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.” Chicago Teachers Union’s financial secretary, Kristine Mayle, commented on behalf of CTU: “We are surprised Persepolis would be banned by the…CPS system. The only place we’ve heard of this book being banned is in Iran. We understand why the district would be afraid of a book like this – at a time when they are closing schools – because it’s about questioning authority, class structures, racism and gender issues.”

BAD FOR YOU tracks the long history of comic (and book) censorship in America in its opening chapter “Flames of Fear.” Click on the “Book” section of the BFY banner to see the “Comic Burning Map,” which graphically explains the fiery issue comics became in this country in the 1940s & 50s.