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Censorship

Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ Challenged in Michigan

In a Michigan school district, two parents have challenged an AP English class assignment to read Beloved by Toni Morrison.

The controversial challenge has generated an impressive response in the Plymouth-Canton community, and the school district is currently deciding if they should act on the challenge.

You can share your opinion in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools Board of Education suggestion box. Follow this link to email: suggestions@pccsmail.net. According to the board site, “suggestions are reviewed weekly by the Board and your idea may be shared publicly at a Board of Education meeting.”

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Chen Wei & Chen Xi Imprisoned

Chinese writers Chen Wei and Chen Xi were both given long prison sentences over the holidays. The PEN American Center denounced the action, calling it “an eerie replay of the 2009 trial of Liu Xiaobo.”

Both writers published digital essays criticizing China’s political system and government activities. Wei was charged with inciting subversion and sentenced to eleven-years’ imprisonment. Xi was charged with the same “crime” and sentenced to ten-years’ imprisonment.

PEN president Kwame Anthony Appiah gave this statement in the release: “Once more the Chinese regime has chosen to darken the holiday season with a reminder of its fear of independent thought. We salute the extraordinary courage of those Chinese, like Chen Wei, Chen Xi, and Liu Xiaobo, who love their country enough to risk long-term incarceration for speaking out against a government that betrays the hopes of the Chinese people every day.” What do you think?

Anti-Censorship Video Features Challenged Authors

Penguin Group has released an anti-censorship video featuring 20 different authors (video embedded above).

What are some of your favorite banned books? Join the conversation at the #freespeechmatters hashtag.

All of the participating writers had their books challenged or banned. Recently, award-winning writer Meg Rosoff was dropped from a UK kids literature festival because the organizers deemed her latest work, There is No Dog, to be “blasphemous.” Last year, a Texas YA lit festival famously cut Crank trilogy author Ellen Hopkins from their lineup.

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Turkish Publisher Ragip Zarakolu Arrested

Belge Publishing House director Ragip Zarakolu was arrested on October 28th. Zarakolu, a member of the Turkish PEN Center, has been targeted by the Turkish government for his refusal to yield to their censorship laws.

His legal battles began when he launched the publishing house in 1977 with his wife, Ayse Nur. They published books by political prisoners and nonfiction titles about the Armenian genocide. Larry Siems, director of the Freedom to Write program at the PEN American Center, declared the organization’s mounting concern over “a disturbing acceleration of violations of the rights of Turkish and Kurdish activists, writers, and scholars.”

Here’s more from the release: “Turkish authorities have arrested up to 1,000 scholars, writers, publishers, and rights advocates during a two-year crackdown targeting activists who focus on Kurdish issues. This list of those arrested Friday also includes Büşra Ersanlı, a constitutional law expert and a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Zarakolu’s son, Deniz Zarakolu, who is an editor at Belge Publishing House and a Ph.D. student at Bilgi University, was arrested on October 4. It is unclear whether charges have been filed against any of those arrested in Friday’s roundup.”

Los Angeles Review of Books Taps YA Authors for Banned Books Week

The Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) celebrated Banned Books Week with a series of essays by YA authors called “Getting Banned.”

The authors in the Getting Banned essays have all had their work banned or challenged at some point. Follow these links to read essays by Ron Koertge, Ellen Hopkins, Susan Patron, Sonya Sones and Lauren Myracle. LARB‘s YA editor Cecil Castellucci explained: “YA authors are on the front lines of today’s censorship battle.”

The web publication will also publish a two-part essay by English professor Loren Glass about the 1960′s obscenity trials Grove Press faced for publishing William Burroughs‘ Naked Lunch and Henry Miller‘s The Tropic of Cancer. Nickel and Dimed author Barbara Ehrenreich will also publish a Banned Books Week essay on Saturday.

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Alabama Prisoner Sues Over Book Censorship

Alabama prisoner Mark Melvin has filed a lawsuit against prison officials and the state commissioner of corrections, claiming that they have unfairly kept him from reading a book.

In the suit, Melvin alleges prison officials prevented him from reading Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon.

The New York Times has more: “[It] is a Pulitzer Prize-winning work of Southern history, an investigation of the systematically heinous treatment of black prisoners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mr. Melvin, 33, alleges in his suit that prison officials deemed it ‘a security threat.’”

The news comes during Banned Books Week, a push from the American Library Association that celebrates the freedom to read.

Infographic Explores Top Ten Banned Or Challenged Books Of 2010

As readers around the country celebrate Banned Books Week, The Huffington Post has created a massive infographic with excerpts from the top ten of the 348 books that were threatened in school libraries or curriculum last year.

Follow this link to explore the graphic with a laundry list of controversial themes, including: “homosexuality,” “religious viewpoint,” “unsuited to age group” and “political viewpoint.”

Here’s more from the post: “To mark Banned Books Week (Sept 24-Oct 1), we’ve created an infographic to highlight the most banned or challenged books of last year. Click below to read more, and click here to read the President of the American Library Association on why censorship continues to threaten our freedom to read. We’ll be posting more coverage of Banned Books Week events and commentary throughout the week.”

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How Booksellers Can Fight Censorship During Banned Books Week

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression wants to help booksellers stop book banning. The organization has a new set of tools to help booksellers participate in the “Internet read-out” that is happening during Banned Books Week (Sept. 24-Oct. 1).

Essentially during Internet read-out week, readers, booksellers, librarians and book fans alike will be encouraged to promote the reading of banned books through events and social networking. The ABFFE has a list of what booksellers can do to participate on their site. This includes creating in-store displays, making YouTube videos and selling t-shirts.

Think that book banning is a thing of the past? Think again. School boards have recently decided to cut a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book and a Haruki Murakami book from school reading lists.

Knopf Responds To School District that Cut ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami

Today Knopf published an official response to the New Jersey school district that pulled Haruki Murakami‘s Norwegian Wood off a reading list.

Here is the response: “We are disheartened to learn about the action by a New Jersey school district to remove a book from its required reading list due to objections from a group of concerned parents. The novel, NORWEGIAN WOOD by Haruki Murakami, was originally selected for the list based on suggestions by teachers, librarians, and administrators within the district, and the list was approved by the board of education. It is unfortunate the parents felt the need to dismiss such an important work of fiction and regrettable the school district would succumb to such pressure and disregard the recommendation of its own professional educators.”

Below, we’ve included a Storify post about the controversial novel. It includes book reviews, photos, Google books links and social network posts about Norwegian Wood.

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Haruki Murakami Yanked from School District Reading List

A New Jersey school district has pulled two novels from its required reading list after parents complained about the works. Haruki Murakami‘s Norwegian Wood and Nic Sheff‘s Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines were both pulled from the list after parents complained about their gay sex scenes. 

Fox News has more: “The books were on a required summer reading list for middle school and high school students. The district decided to pull the books off the list, with the start of school just days away. ‘There were some words and language that seemed to be inappropriate as far as the parents and some of the kids were concerned,’ said Chuck Earling, superintendent of Monroe Township Schools in Williamstown, N.J.”.

In other censorship news, last week a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book was banned from a Virginia school district for its depiction of Mormons. In response, we provided you the link to the free download of the banned book A Study in Scarlet.

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