Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week is an annual event, sponsored by the American Library Association, celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. It highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States. Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.

The Fayetteville Public Library is celebrating the freedom to read this week by hosting a daily bag lunch discussion of several books that have been banned in the past. Today it is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The schedule for the rest of the week is Tuesday, Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo; Wednesday, Ordinary People by Judith Guest; Thursday, The Giver by Lois Lowry; and Friday, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

Haven't yet heard any complaints from Laurie Masterson and the Teabaggers. Back before she was leading the local outcry against a new high school and everything Obama, even before she divorced her husband and married Mike Masterson, Laurie Taylor was the queen of book censorship hereabouts. During the summer of 2005, she submitted complaints against at least 54 books in the school libraries that she found objectionable but said she had a total of 70 "lewd and lascivious" books on her list that she wanted cloistered. These nasty books, she claimed, were "raw, unadulterated sex, biased sexual rhetoric and instructional sexual pandering to children."

At first, Laurie Taylor won a small victory. A required review committee (composed of a central office administrator, a building administrator, a media specialist, two classroom teachers, and two parents) held to the 1986 school policy that "It is the duty of the schools to provide a wide range of materials on all levels of difficulty, with diversity of appeal and presentation of different points of view." Superintendent Bobby New agreed with Taylor's challenge of three books and to her delight overrode the review committee, which she called "sad and pathetic." The school board first supported then reversed New's decision by a narrow 4-3 vote. Laura Underwood, Chris Bell, and Howard Hamilton supported the position of New and Taylor that the books should be restricted.

The battle continued all summer and into the next school year. Laurie Taylor was supported by State Senator Jim Holt of Springdale and Jonesboro's Debbie Pelley of the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee. Johnny Tittle, tax dodger and right-wing radio ranter from Elkins, was there for her, and Mike Masterson wrote seven different editorial coulmns praising Laurie as "selfless and noble" and applauding her various positions to restrict library books. Lots of heat but very little light.

The matter was resolved when Judge Rudy Moore, the School Board attorney, told the Fayetteville board that Federal Judge Jimm Hendren -- who had recently ruled that the Cedarville School District violated the First Amendment and ordered the return of banned Harry Potter books to the shelf -- would likely decide any case involving Fayetteville. With the precedent firmly established, the screwy idea of putting school library books on restricted access would be legally indefensible.

Don't get too smug. Mike and Laurie Masterson are still around. The book banners will always be with us.


  1. Thank you for bringing this to mind again. It is good that Bobby New, Laura Underwood, and Chris Bell have all been replaced by more open-minded people. It is sad that Mike Masterson has been promoted and George Arnold fired. Arnold had several good editorials supporting the freedom to read and opposing the book banning efforts, but Masterson was in bed with them and still is.

  2. Howard Hamilton must go. When does his term expire?

  3. Would you please post the list of books they proposed to ban? Might want to see which ones we haven't read and get with the program! I know that many are standards of freshman English all over the nation and most of us have read them. But the list would be interesting see.

  4. Laurie Taylor's list of books in Fayetteville school libraries she found "vile" and objectionable:

    "Doing It" by Melvin Burgess

    "Choke" by Chuck Palahniuk

    "Between Lovers" by Eric Jerome Dickey

    "Cheaters" by Eric Jerome Dickey

    "The Other Woman" by Eric Jerome Dickey

    "The Homo Handbook--Getting in Touch With Your Inner Homo" by Judy Carter

    "Gays/justice: a study of ethics, society, and law" by Richard D. Mohr

    "GLBTQ: the survival guide for queer and questioning teens" by Kelly Huegel

    "Rainbow High" by Alex Sanchez

    "Rainbow Boys" by Alex Sanchez

    "Forever" by Judy Blume

    "Kissing Kate" by Lauren Myracle

    "Family Values: Two Moms and Their Son" by Phyllis Burke

    "Eight Seconds" by Jean Ferris

    "Annie on My Mind" by Nancy Garden

    "Baby Be-Bop" by Francesca Lia Block

    "Leave Myself Behind" by Bart Yates

    "Always Running: La Vida Loca,: Gang Days in L.A." by Luis J. Rodriguez

    "Beloved" by Toni Morrison

    "Bless me, Ultima" by Rudolfo Anaya

    "Breaking Boxes" by A.M. Jenkins

    "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    "Deal With It! A whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain and Life as a Gurl" by Esther Drill, Heather McDonald, Rebecca Odes

    "Druids" by Morgan Llywelyn

    "Fade" by Robert Cormier

    "Fair Game" by Erika Tamar

    "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers*

    "Fools Crow" by James Welch

    "Girl Goddess #9: Nine Stories" by Francesca Lia Block

    "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" by Julia Alvarez

    "I was a Teenage Fairy" by Francesca Lia Block

    "Less Than Zero" by Bret Easton Ellis

    "Like Water For Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments With Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies" by Laura Esquivel

    "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    "Lucky" by Alice Sebold

    "My Father's Scar" by Michael Cart

    "My Heartbeat" by Garret Freymann-Weyr

    "One Hot Second: Stories About Desire" edited by Cathy Young

    "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    "Paula" by Isabel Allende

    "Peter" by Kate Walker

    "Push: A Novel" by Sapphire

    "Ragtime" by E.L. Doctorow

    "Rats Saw God" by Rob Thomas

    "Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson

    "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison

    "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison

    "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky*

    "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett

    "The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold" by Francesca Lia Block

    "Tenderness" by Robert Cormier

  5. Laurie must have a slight case of homophobia.

  6. I'm sure that Laurie Lee Taylor Masterson (ah, the family value of divorce) became an expert on objectionable reading material by giving it a thorough going-over-- and over, and over. But I thought it was very considerate of her to put links to all the hot parts of the smutty books on her web site. Wouldn't want to make it too hard for the perverts...

  7. Do we have to read these in alphabetical order or is it OK to jump to our personal favorites among the titles??

  8. The "thought for today" from the A.Word.A.Day e-mail newsletter:

    "The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame." --Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)

  9. Weren't Laurie and our Great Moral Leader Mike Masterson bumping uglies when they were still married to other people?