Where's the topless sunbather? (A detail from Where's Waldo?)
Tomorrow is the start of Banned Books Week 2007. Clicking on the link will take you to the American Library Association's Banned Books Week website, which includes a list of the most challenged books of the decade 1990-2000, and lists of the most challenged books for each of the past six years. The lists include old-timers like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye, as well as novels by Toni Morrison, Judy Blume, and J.K. Rowling. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn makes notoriously free use of the n-word, and has often been accused of being racist. Toni Morrison (whose novels The Bluest Eye and Beloved have been banned) acknowledges that the novel is problematic, but she says, "the rewards of my efforts to come to terms have been abundant." But how much easier it is to ban a book that troubles us than to engage with the challenges it presents!
The most challenged book of 2006 was Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell's And Tango Makes Three, about same-sex penguins parenting a baby penguin in the Central Park Zoo. The most surprising member of the Banned Books club is Martin Handford's Where's Waldo? Another book whose presence on the list surprised me was A Wrinkle in Time, which was banned for allegedly undermining religious beliefs. The irony is that Madeleine L'Engle, like C.S. Lewis, was a devout Christian who used fantasy allegorically to explore issues of faith. There are far too many literal-minded so-called Christians in this country who have nothing better to do than to search picture books for cartoon breasts.
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
The frontispiece from Countee Cullen's The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929). Illustration by Charles Cullen. Click to enlarge. On...
Here's the poem I wrote and read for the student-organized International Day of Peace gathering in Bridge Square on Wednesday, Septembe...
In early August, the director of the Northfield Public Library, Teresa Jensen, asked me to write a poem to be displayed prominently in the...