Carol Callicotte


Banned Books Week September 30, 2008

Filed under: Censorship,Reading — A French American Life @ 3:45 pm
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Time Magazine posted an article on the top 10 banned books of all time, here.

Very interesting. I’ve only read 4 of the 10, and 2 of the others are sitting on my dresser in my to-be-read pile. I’ve got some work to do. I’m halfway through Bridge to Terabithia, which did not make Time’s list, but is a frequently challenged book. As I mentioned before, I loved this story as a child and have wanted to reread it for years. I’ve been swept away by the evocative language and strongly drawn characters.

So far, I’ve found nothing objectionable about the book. But whether or not a reader finds something offensive is not the issue. The issue here is censorship and first amendment rights, not whether or not something prods our horrified-gasp reflex. Please, offend me, challenge me, force me to think, but for the love of liberty and individuality, don’t ever expect me to stand by quietly while a government decides what I should be exposed to, what I have a right to read, hear, or say.

And why are more people not outraged at the prospect of having a Vice President who does not understand this fundamental building block of the United States of America?


Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read September 24, 2008

Filed under: Censorship,Writing,Writing World — A French American Life @ 3:58 pm
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Freedom of speech – a topic near and dear to my heart. This year we celebrate the 27th anniversary of Banned Books Week, September 27-October 4.

I took this quote from the American Library Association’s website:

“BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.”

For more information on Banned Books Week, check out the American Library Association.

Here’s a list of the ten most frequently challenged books of 2007. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed.

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henke

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
7) “TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
8 ) “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
10) “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky

And here’s a link to the top 10 challenged books 1991-2007.

So what can we do to celebrate this freedom? Stay informed and get involved in your community. Support your public and school libraries. And read a challenged book this week! I’m choosing Bridge to Terabithia, a favorite from my childhood that I’ve wanted to reread for a while.


Censorship September 4, 2008

Filed under: Censorship,France,Sticky Topics — A French American Life @ 4:14 pm
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Censorship has been on my mind lately, especially with banned books week coming up at the end of this month. Not to mention our recent peek into China. I told myself I wouldn’t get political on my blog – but as this relates to writing, it seems an appropriate topic.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I spend a lot of time in France (I married a Frenchie). I’m a passionate supporter of first amendment rights, particularly freedom of speech, so I found the contrast between free speech laws in France vs. the U.S. fascinating when we were there this summer. Swear words on the radio or in television aren’t nearly as restricted in France as they are in the U.S. Here, there’s a constant flux between what is and isn’t permitted on TV or radio, and for the most part, certain words are never allowed. The “f” word, for example, garners a serious fine. “Penis” moves in and out (no pun intended, of course) of restricted use. I think freedom of speech should include all words of our colorful vocabulary, not just those considered appropriate by the FCC. There’s a diverse enough market that people will be able to find the channels that appeal to them, and radio and TV stations will adjust for their target audience.

In contrast, free speech in France is more restrictive than the U.S. when it comes to certain topics. Bridgitte Bardot, France’s iconic beauty of the fifties and sixties, has found herself in hot water several times over the last decade or so with the French government. Her crime? According to the government, “inciting racial hatred.” They’ve fined her five times as of this year. She’s made quite a few statements over the years, both verbal and in print, citing her hatred for Muslims and what she perceives they have done to her country.

I’ll pause right here to say that I have found her comments to be offensive and ignorant, and I’ve lost all respect for her. Yes, I think those that spout this sort of hateful nonsense show a very poor level of awareness and judgment. And I think that is my – and everyone else’s – personal judgment call to make. Not the government’s. Should being verbally offensive and ignorant be a crime? Or do we all have a right to say what’s on our mind – even if others don’t like it? Where do we draw the line? Who decides what is and is not offensive? Mind you, she didn’t start a violent riot, or harass any one particular person. She said and wrote some stupid, hateful things. Should free speech laws put restrictions on stupidity? This kind of censorship is a slippery slope to try to stand on. I mistrust any government going down this path.

Along the same lines, I look back to the McCarthy era – interesting in and of itself, and in the context of today’s world. I’m a huge fan of The Kingston Trio. Perhaps many of you don’t know this group. You should. They brought folk music to the mainstream in the late fifties. McCarthyism had blackballed many, notably The Weavers, Pete Seeger’s band, for daring to sing protest music. The Kingston Trio managed to avoid being blackballed by sticking to tamer topics – at first. But they gradually began to sneak political lyrics and dialogue into their concerts, and are credited with helping to pave the way for bands of the sixties who helped start the protest movement against the Vietnam War. Ever heard the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” written by Seeger and performed later by the Trio? Try googling “The Merry Minuet.” Written in 1958 by Sheldon Harnick and sung by The Kingston Trio at the Hungry i, this song remains timely, 50 years later.

Books are still being banned. Our First Amendment rights are continuously challenged. Often these things occur under the guise of the U.S. being a country at war, or a need to return to American/ family values.

I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes. Benjamin Franklin said, in 1784, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”


Discussions this week in the writing world August 23, 2008

Filed under: Censorship,Writing,Writing World — A French American Life @ 3:00 pm
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There were quite a few interesting conversations going on in the blog world this week. I’m late posting links – I needed some technical assistance (meaning my husband) and Stephane’s had a long work week. But, better late than never:

Nathan Bransford, a literary agent with Curtis Brown, posed an interesting question on what is and is not a publisher’s responsibility. He cites two recent events: (1) a book Random House chose not to publish, citing fears of backlash and possible acts of violence and (2) a book Simon and Schuster did publish – a less than truthful smear of Barack Obama. At the heart of the matter – moral responsibility and questions of censorship. Check it out, here.

Another blog that caught my eye was posted by The Rejecter, another literary agent. Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, is apparently being returned to stores at an unprecedented rate. I’ve never even thought about returning a book simply because I didn’t like it – I tend to sell those to a used book store or donate them to the library. The Rejecter hosted a discussion on the practice of returning books to the store for a full refund, and the implications of this practice, here.