What is up with Oklahoma?

A bow in appreciation to boricuababy1119 for pointing out my shameful neglect of Women’s History Month. (Check out the poem she posted on my LJ yesterday.) It is the kind of thing we should all be celebrating!!

And appreciation to all of you for sharing your Cat 4 books with yesterday. I suspect a lot of us will be going to the library to check out some new titles.

Speaking of libraries… there is a problem in Oklahoma. The state legislature is very close to passing House Bill 2158. The bill would take away money from Oklahoma libraries unless they move all materials that have “homosexual or sexually explicit subject matter” that were written for kids or young adults into a special “adults-only” section of the library. That’s right – they want to take YA books that contain references to sexual behavior, and the books written for children that explain reproduction, and lock them away in a section of the library that kids cannot access.

You can read more about this, including newspaper editorials and librarians responses at AS IF.

This is ridiculous. If parents don’t want their children to borrow a book like SPEAK or PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER then it is the right and the responsibility of that parent to say “no” to their kid. Is the Oklahoma Legislature implying that parents are incapable of supervising their children? A public library is PUBLIC – it is the sacred space of democracy wherein people are free to learn. Are the people of Oklahoma going to let the government take over the parenting of their children?

I suspect that there has been some clever manipulation going on there. I suspect that someone said “let’s protect the children.” Who wouldn’t support a statement like that? I certainly want to protect children. In fact, my career is based on it. I try to provide stories for kids and teens that will help them look at the confusing world they live in and (I pray) make healthy, moral decisions when they are confronted with difficult choices.

Do any of you know more about this situation that I do? What do you think of this? What would you do if you went to the library and asked for a YA book and was told it was off-limits for anyone under 18 years old? Is it American to censor libraries?

29 Replies to “What is up with Oklahoma?”

  1. I wish the government would butt out of our lives for once!! Before they pass this bill, perhaps they should try actually reading the entire books. It’s annoying that they want to hide away books like “Speak” with messages that help readers and give insight to an issue. Why don’t they stop teaching us about rape or safe sex in health class if the idea of “sex” is so corrupting. They should be banned from the “adult” section considering how immature they can be!

  2. OMG!!!!

    OH WOW!!! i did my college research paper on this last semester!!! i didn’t know about O.K. but i found a lot of other instances in the past years!! this is a bunch of crap. i mean we aren’t censoring tv, look at all the sex && homosexuality on the television. on cable networks that pratically every family in the U.S.A has && watches. sure let them watch w/e but if it’s in print && can be traced back God forbid. why read when they can visually see on the television. i hate this. i looked @ my book shelf when i was doing my research paper && realized i would have no books on my shelf if i went by al the books past && present that have or are being ban. what is this south africa?? the gov. is trying to keep us from our own ideas. it’s like 1984 (which should prolly be banned!) damn those thought police!! ok err well this is really long so….glad i got that out… bye

  3. It’s not far from Kansas, I note.

    The question is, what do they define as sexually explicit? Per my definition, most libraries don’t have this kind of book anyway. But if what they’re talking about is books with, say, kissing, or books like ‘s Swordspoint which have brief passages of guys rolling around with guys, that’s a different ball of wax, and, I expect, the definition we’re both afraid they mean.

    It’s also pretty profoundly hypocritical for “conservative” places like that to use tax-and-spend as a whip. I’d say this to them: If you’re for small government, be for small government even in the ways that make your job harder. Or acknowledge that you’re a hypocrite.

  4. I agree, but I think the larger issue is this:

    Our country has a multitude of opinions, political stances, and faith communities. We agree to disagree about many, many things. That is what it means to be American.

    We cannot allow one group or another to dictate the contents of public libraries. Libraries are funded by taxpayer dollars to present a broad selection of books and other sources of information to all citizens. If a person in, say, Oklahoma, doesn’t like a book, then there is an easy solution: don’t read it. Don’t let your child read it, either, if it makes you that uncomfortable.

    I don’t want to see a spitting contest about which group’s moral agenda is “better” or “right”. That is a distraction technique. The real point is that public libraries have a mission of providing information to everyone. Freedom of speech, freedom of thought – that’s what our country was built on.

  5. I read the state definition of “sexually explicit” that the bill refers to. It details the kind of sexual activities that are illegal everywhere (deviency, child pornography, etc.) which – as far as I know – are not represented in library collections anyway. It also refers to sexual activity that most folks consider to fall in the category of “average” – the kinds of activities necessary for human reproduction, etc.

    This means that any YA book that discusses teen sexuality: talking about it, thinking about it, doing it, choosing not to do it, working through the consequences of doing it, etc. would be taken out of the teen section and only given to adults over 18. This also means that all books that mention homosexuality have to go into the adult section. As well as health books, and books that discuss the physical and emotional changes of puberty.

  6. How many books would be LEFT? Think to all the books you’ve read lately, YA ones, anyways. Including in school. How many would be left on the shelves? In school even, we read “The Color Purple”(rape, incest, lesbianism), “Catcher in the Rye”(prostitution, homosexuality), “Romeo and Juliet”(underage sex), “The Scarlet Letter”(adultery), “The Crucible”(two girls kiss), and “Antigone”(talks about Oedipus, who had an incestuous relationship with his mother). Each of those has content that would cause them to be removed from the stacks and placed in the “special” section. Even the most recent Harry Potter books have sexuality in them! I can’t really think of many books recently published for teens that don’t contain some semblance of a sexuality plot. Most of those books don’t use the sexuality as a big “woo-hoo” type deal. Certainly none I’ve read have the sexual frivolities of television shows such as “One Tree Hill” and “The OC”. Maybe they should take a look at the books they’re talking about. Books such as “The Secret Life of Bees” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” would be included in this ban. I sincerely hope that this does not pass.

  7. Some of the best books, the ones that teach kids the most, are the ones that contain content that some people think is too explicit for children. By banning them or restricting them, they aren’t really keeping kids from being “corrupted”. They’re keeping them from reading, from learning, and from feeling like they aren’t alone.

    This is a great website for kids who want to speak out against censorship.

  8. Hi, Laurie!
    My name is Rosie and I really liked your book. You came to talk at my school last year and you were great. I didn’t know you had a livejournal until now, though.

    I think that law in Oklahoma is HORRIBLE. Every time I hear of cases like this I am apalled. I think that it is admirable to try and protect children but restricting reading material is not the way to do it.

  9. That is truly horrible. I don’t know much about the situation, but I can’t believe the state legislature would try to do that. Speaking for most teens, we don’t like being kept ignorant or ‘protected.’ It’s not the government’s responsibility to decide what is appropriate for us; if anyone, it is our parents’. Many of the books that have greatly influenced my life have references to sexual behavior. I can’t even imagine not having access to them.


    This is no way to protect children. If the government needs new ideas on how to protect children, here’s a few:

    -Remove our troops from Iraq, so that their mothers and fathers can come home and take care of them
    -Protect our forests so that they are still there when these children become adults
    -Institute universal healthcare

    These legislators should visit their soon-to-be-neglacted library and pick up a book from many people’s category 4 list– The Giver. Then maybe they could realize what House Bill 2158 would really lead to.

  11. Censorship

    I think the heart of the matter really lies in the issue of “protecting the children.” Are teenagers classified as children anymore? I definitely don’t think so. If they have to be mature enough to handle “adult” experiences as a teenager, they can handle reading a paragraph about kissing.I just turned eighteen a few weeks ago, so I am legally an “adult” but I still feel like part of what defines me is my “teenage age.” I have been the editor of my high school’s newspaper for the past 2 years and we are censored constantly. I did an in-depth article on a gay girl at school who has been harassed and bullied incessantly and without even letting me talk to him, my principal pulled it. Other topics, such as abortion, drugs, even divorce, and many more, have not been allowed to be brought up in our paper; if it’s not rah-rah for the athletes or the UIL winners, we’re not supposed to write it.

    I have been constantly frustrated and angered at all of this. I don’t understand how someone would blind themselves to reality and to what goes on in this world. I don’t want to step all over anyone else’s beliefs, etc., but if you don’t want to read it, then DON’T. But why should someone else’s beliefs dictate what I can write/read?

    The worst case of censorship my staff experienced was when I did another very in-depth article about this girl who had been sexually abused by her grandfather, who is now in jail, and her battle with behavioral problems and depression. We focused on her and then also brought it out to include polls that asked girls if they’d ever been assaulted, ever felt uncomfortable due to agressive male behavior, if they had been sexually active and at what age did it start, etc., and the results were sooo high! None of these girls (we polled over 700 girls) were over 18 years old!
    If they face issues like this every day, how is it “protecting” them to just ignore it completely and pat them on the head and say that they’re too young?! How will that help, at all?

    I can’t believe this bill might pass in Oklahoma to censor LIBRARIES! At such a volatile time in their lives, why are teenagers having books taken away from them that can help them not feel so alone or weird or different or just anything? Books and reading have been such a large part of my life, I can’t imagine what I would be reading if it didn’t have “inappropriate” material in it. “Inappropriate” is real life.
    How are young teens supposed to make those right choices when they are shut out of any discussions/information at all? Doesn’t puberty start around 13 year sold? And they’re supposed to wait at least 5 years before they can read anything that even comes close to referencing what they’ve already been experiencing?

    I love books by David Levithan, Francesca Lia Block, E.R. Frank, Susan Shaw, and of course you Mrs. Anderson, because they raise questions and really touch readers. There would not be a young adult section without the books that don’t shy away from subjects like homosexuality, sex, abuse, drinking, drugs, etc. I can honestly say that I would not be who I am if I had not read books concerning that material.

    It’s unbelievably disappointing that this could happen.

    I guess we’ll see what happens.

  12. I’ve seen discussions about video games similar to this one – the government is trying to restrict which video games kids can get their hands on. Video game advocates think this is a Bad Idea, and they explain that, like movies and television, video games have an internal monitoring system which warns consumers about the content of their products – a game that isn’t for kids gets an ‘M’ rating, which means it is recommended for people 17 years old and older, and stores should not sell such a game to minors, and the ‘M’ comes with a list of the reasons why this rating has been given. Very similar to the way a movie can be rated ‘R.’

    I think the Oklahoma law limiting what books kids can read is awful, awful. But i also think that it is surprising that books don’t have any sort of rating system to warn parents about what their kids are reading. I think in the best-case-scenario, this law will not be passed, but it will help people understand that parents would like to know what their kids are being exposed to and perhaps books could adopt a rating system similar to the MPAA and ESRB.

    Or i might be way off, in which case i apologize.

  13. Crutcher on censorship

    I hadn’t heard about this Oklahoma case, but one of my favorite sites that has loads of resources about the war against censorship and what writers and readers can do to fight it is Chris Crutcher’s site at http://www.aboutcrutcher.com

    He’s got a whole section devoted to free speech, op-ed pieces he’s written, recommended books and a great essay titled SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT CENSORSHIP AND OTHER THINGS THAT HACK ME OFF BIG TIME.

    Jan Kozlowski

  14. That’s outrageous.

    And after everyone always mentioning THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER as “controversial,” I finally gave in and read it–it was amazing!

  15. And let’s face it, this is more an attack on homosexuality than anything. I wish all the biggots would cecede and form their own little Holier-Than-Thou land so that everyone else wouldn’t have to deal with them.

  16. Hello it’s called a public library we’re not living in the middle ages or something. They can’t control what we’re exposed to asfar as what we read. Just because your exposed to something doesn’t mean we’ll go to it but we reserve the right to. I bet you a whole lot of energy is going to be put into this when they really shouldn’t be worrying about it but forbid they should put more thought into gun and drug control and teens exposure to it oh no. So did you like the poem Laurie? I wrote it myself 2 years ago.

  17. What!?!

    Do they realize that if they do this, they will have to put the BIBLE in a restricted area?

    My school newspaper has had to deal with this. They did an article on expression and featured some students with tatoos. They got in trouble for it for showing one girl’s tatoo on her lower back, saying that it was in an inappropriate area even though you can see it every day in the lunch room! And they asked one girl where she got hers, and supposedly that was promoting the tatoo business.
    They also wanted to run an article about teen mothers at our school. A few girls at our school have gotten pregnant in the past few years, but they’ve continued to go to school and plan to go on to college, so they wanted to give the girls some recognition for doing what a lot of teen mothers don’t. The School Leaders told them they couldn’t do that.

    And in our yearbook (which I am a part of) we can’t upt pictures of people in bathing suits (even if they’re on a school field trip) because it’s against dress code. It’s a freaking bahting suit! It wasn’t a revealing one – it was just a regular one.

    What, do they think that if they stick these books back in a safe place that it’s gonna help lower children’s exposure to sex? Um, no. It’s in the music, television, movies, magazines. It’s even in the school. People at school have to read books with whole paragraphs about sex in them. One of my friends from a different school told me that his teacher told the students not to tell their parents about the book they were reading.
    Sex is a part of life. It just is. You can’t write a teen book that really relates to teens without putting something about sex in it. It’s not like we’re perverts – we’re just curious.

    Is there some way we could show these posts to the Oklahoma legislature so they could see how pissed everyone is about this?

  18. Geeze

    Banning books is soooo dumb. Worse can be heard walking down the street. My mom thinks it is wonderful for me and teens everywhere to read books on these topics. We learn it anyways (in school and in public) and these books are wonderful about relating sex, drugs and whatev to our lives. Banning or putting them in adult section just makes them more desirable anyways.

  19. That is honestly, in my opinion, a horrible mistake. A book like “Speak” doesn’t only offer a more in depth view on an issue of rape, but it also helps people who are victims of being sexually abused get through it. Taking a book like that away from people whom are 18 (which by the way, a large majority of those who are raped fall into that age category) will only take away a source of help when they are too afraid to seek professionals. That disgusts me.

  20. Honestly I hate censorship. America is supposed to be the place of free speech, all full of freedom and oppurtunity. And we’re actually going to censor books like SPEAK? I’m tired of all the light and fluffy nothing books that you can pick up off the shelves. When I find something that actually touches my soul and gives me a view into the life of someone who has been through a lot, something truthful and right, it’s special. The idea of censoring books like that is ludacris.

  21. I just picked up SPEAK yesterday. So that’s one of the books they would ban if they had their druthers? It’s an interesting thing about banned books. Don’t read this because it’s scandalous is just going to get more people to read it. “Hands off!” “Don’t Touch!” “Don’t Read!” just spark curiosity. It may keep the books out of the reach of some people for a while, but in the long run, if they ban these books and subject matters, they will only be helping our cause. Now, where was I in SPEAK. Ah, there we are.

  22. Why?

    I don’t understand why they would want to take wonderful books out of public libraries. Like you said, it is a PUBLIC library. If someone doesn’t want to read that book, then they can just ignore it. I don’t think that people such as myself who want to read books like Speak should be kept from doing so! Gosh, if this goes into affect, then more great classics will be taken out of our public libraries. What about To Kill a Mockingbird? It is a wonderful American classic. But the book is based on a rape case. Ah. this is very annoying!!

  23. Believe it or not…

    I actually heard that Where’s Waldo was going to be banned. Kind of similar to Cat in the Hat in a way. That’s just out of hand.

  24. Re: Believe it or not…

    yea when i did my research paper on book banning i saw that too!! it’s b/c there is an “inappropriate” picture in there. but umm all the people in the pictures are less than an inch tall so w/e it was i doubt neone but whoever complained noticed….morons..

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