CBC’s Q interviews Judy Blume

Judy Blume

While cooking a tasty batch of Red Greek Lentils from the Rebar cookbook, I heard Jian Ghomeshi interview Judy Blume on CBC’s Q (16:08-:30:08). I can’t believe that she’s 70 years old now.

The introduction was lovely:

Name a book that was important to you as a kid. A novel that helped you negotiate the challenges of changing body, changing identity and general grappling with life’s big changes. I bet many of you will pick a novel by Judy Blume. Because if there was something that was troubling you, something you couldn’t talk to your parents, teachers of friends about. You could always go to the library and discreetly sign out a worn out copy of Are you there God?, It’s me Margaret. Or Blubber. Or Forever. Shut the door to your room. Find some solace. Because Judy and her characters understood what you were going through and didn’t judge.

For almost four decades Judy Blume has written about the things that children and adults have a hard time talking about: religion, racism, divorce, bullying, teenage sexual choices, menstruation, masturbation. She has published 28 books since 1969 with 75 million copies sold worldwide. Not one of them is out of print.

I remember reading Judy Blume’s books in elementary school. I don’t remember if I liked her books, but I do remember reading them because my classmates said there were dirty words and sex. I think I was disappointed at the sex content (in Forever the 18 year old guy refers to his penis as Ralph, I mean, c’mon…), but I read everything she wrote.

She talks about writing, being a writer, her dislike for categorizing books as “girls’ books” or “boys’ books” and writing provocative stuff. When Jian asks her about how she felt in the 80s when many of her books were challenged and banned, she replies:

I felt alone, and frightened. For a long time, until I realized I wasn’t alone and I came together with the National Coalition Against Censorship. When you go out and begin to stand up and speak out, because in those days publishers didn’t speak out for us… I certainly knew that when I was writing Forever, that this book might get me in trouble. But I had a 14 year old daughter at the time who was reading books that linked sexuality with punishment. I thought that was a very bad message to be sending to young people. So I wanted to write a book where two 18 year olds take responsibility for their own actions, and when they become sexually active they are responsible kids. This is not the best way to go about writing a book, but I’m glad that I wrote it. And I’m glad that it spoke to so many kids.

There’s also some interesting essays on her website about her thoughts on censorship.

Did you read Judy Blume’s books? What are your recommendations for really great YA/teen books that tackle difficult issues without being didactic?

Posted in freedom of information Tagged: author interviews, cbc radio, challenged books, children’s books, teen, ya

Minister Polak, I’ve got my eye on you

I was surprised to hear that BC Premier Gordon Campbell named Mary Polak to his cabinet as the Minister of Healthy Living and Sport.A   Whenever I hear her name I remember that she was the the Surrey School Board Chair who supported banning three kids picture books that had representations of gay and lesbian parents:A   One Dad Two Dads Brown Dads Blue Dads by Johnny Valentine, Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin and Michel Paulse, and Belinda’s Bouquet by Leslea Newman and Michael Willhoite.A   This decision was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada.A   This legal challenge cost the Surrey taxpayers over $1.3 million (I realize that it’s not how civic budgets work, but imagine if that money was instead given to school or public libraries in Surrey).

I’m glad she’s not the the new Minister of Education.

Even if I wasn’t a homo I would be disgusted by her homophobic “pro-family” beliefs and practices of banning diverse representations of families.

Read more about the book bannings in Surrey schools:

Censorship in British Columbia website

EGALE Canada-Book Banning in Surrey-What Happened?

survey results released

CLA Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom released the results (7 page Word document) from their survey of challenges in Canadian libraries today.

Items challenged ranged from Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby to The Golden Compass; books, graphic novels and film; and internet filtering.

Almost all of the challenges resulted in the item being kept in the collection. One film was reclassified to be moved from the children’s section to the adult section, one item was added to a private collection with the conditions that a student needed to discuss the material with the librarian and have parental permission to borrow the item, one item was removed because the format was old, one item was placed in a professional library and one item was moved to a central library collection.

I think it’s interesting that no items were chucked out of a collection entirely, but that they were moved to locations that were more difficult to access. I think that requiring a student to discuss an item with the librarian AND to get their parent’s consent before being able to check out an item is silly. The item might as well be removed from the collection.

King and King remains in collection

King and King was challenged in the public library in Allentown, PA.A   King and King is a kids picture book about a prince who rejects a bevy of babes to chose Lee as the one he wants to marry.A   The library director’s comments are spot on and to the point:

Kathee Rhode, the library’s director, said censoring books based on subject matter is the duty of parents, not the library. She said the library strives to provide material representing a spectrum of views and ways of life.A   ”That’s what a public library does, and you make the choice,” Rhode said. ”We certainly want parents to make that decision for their children — not one parent making that decision for all children.”

It’s a fantastic picture book, beautiful pictures, lots of fun alliteration and some rare words.

Thanks Barbara Jo for the link.


BC writer Nikki Tate’s book Trouble on Tarragon Island was banned by the school librarian at Elizabeth Elementary in Kindersley, SK. The Globe and Mail has run two articles on this (Nov 13 and Nov 7) but you probably won’t be able to read them on their site as you need to pay for articles that are more than a day old.

The teacher librarian took issue with the phrase “generous bazoongas”. The Nov 13 G&M article explains the context:

When the grandmother poses for a nude calendar as a fundraising gimmick, the girl becomes the target of schoolyard taunts. “What they say about my grandmother is true,” the girl says. “She does have generous bazoongas, and all of Tarragon Island has seen them.”

The phrase generous bazoongas is hilarious in a very juvenile way, like the word fart. Even saying bazoongas makes me laugh–the sound of the word is funny. Bazoongas is more of a rare word that could be added to one’s language toolkit.

The article states:

The book was released in 2005 by Sono Nis Press of Winlaw, B.C. The publisher describes it as a work of juvenile fiction appropriate for ages 8 to 13. The book was one of nine nominated for a Diamond Willow Award in Saskatchewan, a reader’s choice prize for works suitable for Grades 4 to 6. However, the ban prevents children at Elizabeth Elementary from having classroom access to the title. Voting by pupils ends next February.

I know it makes a more convincing argument to include this book because it is seen as quality children’s literature. I think it’s troubling and elitist to not include fantastic trashy crap, though with extremely limited budgets basing selection on the latest award winners and finalists is a reality for many libraries with tight budgets. Hmmmmm…I wonder if the argument that further limiting school library budgets can be correlated to homogeneous library collections. Anyone from the BC School Libraries Coalition want to weigh in? Anyone else?

10 Most Challenged Books of 2006

Phew.A   I finally finished the last Harry Potter book, which got me thinking…I wonder what the most challenged books will be for 2007?A   It’s more of a small curiosity rather than wondering who is going to win the next Eurovision Song Contest or the Stanley Cup.

Last year And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell topped ALA’s list because of the gay co-parenting penguins in a New York zoo.A   Here are the other nine:

  • Gossip Girls series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;
  • Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;
  • The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;
  • Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;
  • Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;
  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.

scrotum is just another word for sac

After reading many articles (New York Times Books, Librarian.net, American Libraries) on the hullabaloo about The Higher Power of Lucky, I finally was able to get my hands on a copy of the book and read it for myself. In case you missed the kerfuffle, the word “scrotum” is one of the words that Susan Patron uses in this Newbery award winning book. Some people, including librarians, really took issue with that. As a local librarian said, “scrotum is just another word for sac”.

I loved the book. I especially loved the protagonist Lucky, who is a spunky, confident and intelligent 10-year old girl. I also enjoyed the story and the writing. Some school librarians in the US said that it is not quality literature. This argument is used to censor through selection.

Here’s a short video with an interview with Susan Patron, who is also a children’s librarian. Neil Gaiman is quoted at the beginning:

I’ve decided that librarians who would decline to have a Newbery book in their libraries because they don’t like the word scrotum are not real librarians (who I love unconditionally).

I think they are rogue librarians who have gone over to the dark side.

The Asylum Street Spankers sing a song called The Scrotum Song. I think it’s pretty funny (and a bit rude too), enjoy!