Joshua Karzen, of Epilogue Book Co., discusses banned books from the perspective of Thomas Jefferson on Friday as part of an event concluding Banned Book Week. Banned Book Week has been observed since 1982.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Joshua Karzen, of Epilogue Book Co., discusses banned books from the perspective of Thomas Jefferson on Friday as part of an event concluding Banned Book Week. Banned Book Week has been observed since 1982.

Censorship not a relic of the past

Banned Book Week promotes awareness of current literature disputes


Most challenged books of 2007

1. "And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell (2005)

Plot: A children's book depicting the true story of a penguin in Central Park Zoo with two fathers.

Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2. "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier (1974)

Plot: A student refuses to sell chocolate during a fundraiser and creates turmoil in his school.

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3. "Olive's Ocean" by Kevin Henkes (2003)

Plot: When Martha's classmate Olive dies, Martha discovers a connection and a secret they both held. Martha also meets Jimmy, a boy who piques her curiosity.

Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4. "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman (1995)

Plot: A fantasy story in which Lyra finds herself transported to another universe to find her kidnapped friend, Roger.

Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain (1885)

Plot: The classic story of Huck floating down the Mississippi River with an escaping slave, Jim.

Reasons: Racism

6. "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker (1982)

Plot: A poor black woman describes her tumultuous life of childhood through marriage, and finally an awakening.

Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

7. "TTYL" by Lauren Myracle (2004)

Plot: A story of high school told through text messages.

Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou (1969)

Plot: The autobiography of Maya Angelou's young life and the challenges she faced.

Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9. "It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health" by Robie Harris (1996)

Plot: A young adult book about sexuality and puberty.

Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky (1999)

Plot: The story of a boy's freshman year on the fringes of high school.

Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

- Sources: List of banned books from the American Library Association. Plot summaries from the book publishers.

— As Thomas Jefferson said Friday, "Information is the currency of democracy."

And for that reason, added presidential impersonator Joshua Karzen at Epilogue Book Co., it is a tragedy when books are not freely available to America's citizens.

A manager at Epilogue, Karzen donned a full period costume, complete with a gray wig, to portray the third president of the United States in an event culminating Banned Book Week. The week-long celebration and informational awareness campaign is sponsored by the American Library Association to bring attention to the reality that even in 2008, books are being challenged and banned across the country. Karzen said that although he would never consider banning a book, he understands book banning still exists.

"The same forces that wanted to challenge or ban books 200 years ago are still doing the same thing," he said.

Bud Werner Memorial Library Director Chris Painter said books often are challenged because of language or mature topics.

"The (challenged) authors are some that we in American literature consider to be true classics," she said. "These authors are known for creating literature that will be part of our literary canon for decades."

Kari Sandvig, events and advertising coordinator at Off The Beaten Path bookstore, said the store stocks 41 books that the ALA reports to have been challenged during the past year.

"As an independent bookstore, we like to present a wide variety of beliefs and opinions," she said. "It's important to have access to these books, even if they are questioned."

For bookstores, it also doesn't hurt that challenged books often are some of the best sellers, from recent chart-topper "Harry Potter" by J. K. Rowling, to perennial favorite "Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger.

No banning

Despite the challenges posed against these titles nationwide, Painter said the Steamboat Springs library has had very few challenges to any books.

"Our community embraces intellectual freedoms as a whole, and fairly universally," she said. "We've never had anyone request a complete banishment of a book or film from the library."

Occasionally, a parent will question the placement of a book in the children's section or young adult section, and a book may be moved to a higher reading level, but no work has been removed from the collection.

"The wonderful thing about libraries is that you have a choice. Nobody is making you check out a book," she said. "We're fortunate that we have a fairly sensible community."

If a book ever is challenged, there is a formal complaint review process that guides the library's decisions.

Painter agreed with Thomas Jefferson in saying the ideals supported by having free access to books are critical to a functioning democracy.

"I think it's very, very important for people to be made aware of the fact that even in today's society and even in a democratic society, there are those who still feel certain literature should be suppressed from public distribution and consumption," she said. "Libraries uphold democratic ideals of freedom that we feel was laid out in the Constitution of the United States."

Although these are high ideals, it may seem as though the time for banning books has passed. Not so, say Karzen and Sandvig. The booksellers cited reports that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin attempted to ban books in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. Citing two sources, the New York Times reported Sept. 13 that Palin attempted to ban "Daddy's Roommate," a book about children understanding homosexuality, from her town's public library.

"I think she's brought a lot of attention to the issue of censorship," said Sandvig.

Karzen agreed, saying, "It doesn't get more relevant than that."

Banned Book Week has been observed since 1982, the ALA reports. The organization collects data from libraries across the country to compile the list of most-challenged titles.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail


JLM 8 years, 6 months ago

Let's cut the crap and deal with the truth. This is typical Palin smear baloney.

First, the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, served at the pleasure of the Mayor. In this instance the Mayor was John Stein, a 3-term incumbent. Stein appointed MEE as librarian. MEE publicly supported and campaigned for Stein in a hotly contested election. She was vitriolic in her opposition to Sarah Palin, the candidate opposing Mayor Stein.

Remember that Sarah Palin was already a member of the City Council and knew the librarian very well. She was more than a bit surprised that a City staff member would take a public position against a sitting City Council member and Mayoral candidate. Not too smart on Emmons' part, eh?

When the "Cuda was elected Mayor, she asked for letters of resignation of every department head. This is not an unusual thing for a newly elected Mayor or Governor to do. She accepted some of these letters of resignation and she rejected some of them.

She was understandably concerned about the loyalty of a team member who had campaigned vigorously against her. Wouldn't you be so concerned?

The issue of MEE's firing had absolutely nothing to do with the issue of books. It was triggered by Mayor Palin's desire to build a team which was loyal to the new administration.

At a City Council meeting --- after Mayor Sarah Palin had already asked for MEE's resignation and clearly had made her intention of firing the librarian very well known --- Sarah Palin asked rhetorically what the process would be for restricting an age inappropriate book in the Wasilla Public Library. The question was raised in an open meeting and was rhetorical in nature.

Other City Council members approached Mayor Palin to reconsider her decision to fire MEE. MEE came to Sarah Palin and apologized and indicated her behavior had been inappropriate and asked Mayor Palin not to fire her.

In fact, no book was ever banned. There was a scurillous attempt to circulate a list of proposed banned books but many of these books on the list had not even been printed in the applicable time frame.

End of story.


Barb Tuchlinsky 8 years, 6 months ago

Currently, more than half of the country does feel that Obama is what we need right now. We'll find out on Nov. 4th. If you watched the debate you heard what Obama's plan is. I didn't hear any plan from McCain. I'm listening.....


JLM 8 years, 6 months ago

OK, so I guess that we are in agreement that no books were actually banned and that the source of the "information" is the disgruntled librarian.

So I guess in the final analysis Sarah Palin is guilty of having asked a question? Anything else?

Shall we burn her at the stake or simply drown her? LOL

The impression that many doofi like you want to make is that Sarah Palin is some kind of weird book banner. Nice try.

I remember a similar personal incident when I glanced at a book my middle schooler brought home and it contained the most disgusting depictions of oral sex between a teacher and a student. I thought the book to be beyond inappropriate and pornagraphic at best.

I approached the librarian and headmistress to "ban" the book from this very fine religious (well, it was Episcopal, so it was really religion-lite LOL) private school. I went to see them with the book and showed them the objectionable passages.

They all cried "censorship", began to speak very slowly like I was a simpleton (you know the Al Gore speech pattern) and gave me that "shall we call the men in the white coats" look.

I went to the next meeting of the Board of Trustees and read two offensive passages from the book aloud to the Board. I told them I found them to be offensive and inappropriate. I asked them if they did also. I shared with them the librarian's and headmistress's reaction to my request.

The Episcopal Bishop, who sat on the Board, removed the book himself and wrote me a letter of apology. The book was simply disgusting and it's inclusion in the library was simply contrary to decency.

The removal of inappropriate reading material from a middle or high school library is often an act of courage. The reaction to a thoughtful discussion is often a kneejerk hollering of "censorship."

Morality and decency require a thoughtful assessment of appropriate materials for inclusion in middle and high school libraries. To do anything else would be tantamount to child abuse.

Some books are inappropriate for young minds.

Sounds to me like the 'Cuda was thoughtful and inquisitive. My kind of gal and she will make a great VP.


playa46 8 years, 6 months ago

No she wouldn't........

She was totally picked out of nowhere by McCain to die down the fire of Obama's amazing speech during the Democratic Convention. What can she do?-

  1. Hunt in Alaska
  2. Tell incredibly funny jokes during a Republican Convention (Pit Bull with Lipstick)
  3. Incourages abstinance while her daughter gets pregnant
  4. Pose in a beauty contest
  5. Sell Jets on eBay
  6. Say very interesting and unique words during speeches, like "Golly" or "Dangnabit".
  7. Run a city with a pop. smaller than Steamboat
  8. Continue to drag our money into a war that we have "Already Won".

She can also see Russia from her house.

And, Oh No! The Democrats have Joe Biden for V.P.! At least he can answer questions.


playa46 8 years, 6 months ago


While on the subject with censorship, why do we need it? JLM says that some books are innapropriate for young minds. Oh wait, what does the first Amendment say? I forget. By the way, an author or director is not forcing you to read his book or watch his movie. I am fine with parents not wanting to have kids exposed to this material, but consider this: humans are naturally violent or want to reproduce (you know what I am talking about). How do you think we survived this long? And why are we in the first place trying to hide this from kids? They are going to find out anyway.


JLM 8 years, 6 months ago

I can onlly assume you are about 17 years old --- playa --- please come back when you have kids and just a bit of common sense.

A parent raises children in great part by shielding them from the dangers of the world until they are old enough to understand and deal with them effectively.

Like many things in life, it is all about timing and dosage.

As to Obama's "amazing speech" --- when you are just a bit older you will begin to recognize the predictable liberal "chicken in every pot" shibbeloths which are trotted out every 4 years to be visited upon another crop of unsuspecting voters by wildly liberal Democratic candidates.

You were likely still in diapers when First Lady Hillary was hard at work providing us all with "universal healthcare." How did that work out? Not so good.

Do you think it means nothing to be the #1 and #3 most liberal members of the Senate?

They are called "campaign promises" by some and "lies" by others. Take your choice.

I am fairly certain there will be no tax cuts next year as we have just spent the better part of a trillion dollars bailing out Wall Street last week.

That sucking sound you heard? That was the sound of your tax cut going down the drain, Ace.


JLM 8 years, 6 months ago

I have great respect for any woman who can field dress an elk or a moose. They are my kind of woman whether in Routt or Moffatt Counties or in Alaska. It actually says something about a woman. No nonsense, pragmatic, practical real women. The kind we need more today than ever.

And, actually, I make my own beer but I do on occasion buy a six pack but unfortunately with economy the way it is today, it's more likely to become a 4-pack. LOL

And the high ground --- if you can take it, then you get to keep it.


playa46 8 years, 6 months ago

JLM- What, you don't think I know a lot about violence? I understand comepletly, I have shot guns, played video games, saw movies the point is I have exposed myself to what violence in the world is, yet you don't see me pulling a gun out of a holster and flailing it around in a bank.


JLM 8 years, 6 months ago

Did I miss something --- what's this nonsense about violence?

Yeah, playa, I bet you know a whole lot about violence from those video games.

Don't worry about the 'Cuda. The girl is out and about.


JustSomeJoe 8 years, 6 months ago

JLM - You are one of the minority in your ability to stand behind the 'Cuda's ability to be VP, let alone step in to be president should something happen to a president McCain. She's demonstrably unqualified, moose dressing notwithstanding. I don't have to enumerate her lack of qualities, as they are plentiful and already conceded by many conservatives.

Watch the cooter and the cuda go negative over the last month of the campaign, absolute gutter depth. Why? They can't compete on the issues of the day. McCain can't even have a discussion on the economy, he's out of his depth. Palin will continue the teleprompter tour, throwing out gems like Obama pals around with terrorists and hates America. The entire GOP strategy is to throw as much mud, spite and hate over the airways as they can, and hope some sticks.

It's just the sort of leadership our country needs after 8 years of Bush, our military at the breaking point and our economy in need of serious help.


JLM 8 years, 6 months ago

The issues? Really?

Would that be like raising taxes on small business and the most productive part of our society during an economic crisis? Take a look at the Democrat experiment in Michigan to see how well that works.

Or would that be like raising capital gains taxes in the midst of a capital crisis? Or when our trading competitors tax capital gains not at all?

Or would that be like promising a tax cut to all after just having approved a $700B bailout of Wall Street? That sucking sound was the tax cut being flushed down the toilet, pal.

Or would that be like being totally wrong on the strategy in Iraq when we are in the midst of two wars? Or being so stubborn or inflexible or dishonest to admit that the surge has succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams?

Or would that be like voting against funding the military when engaged in two wars?

Or might it be dipping into the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac campaign contribution piggy bank while preventing regulation of the root cause of the economic crisis?

Would it be the desire to sit down with state sponsors of terrorism and having a nice little "chat"?

I can see it clearly.

Barry: Now, Mahmoud, you are going to have to stop supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and calling for the destruction of that stinking corpse, Israel. Those Jews are our friends, Mah.

Ahmadinejad: Damn, sorry, Barry. My bad. I just didn't know.

Barry: Well, Mah, I'm sure glad we had a chance to have this little chat. Now, ya'll play nice with those Jews.

Ahmadinejad: OK, Barry, nobody has ever explained it to me like you did. Thanks, man. But does this mean I can still develop a nuclear weapon?

Obama --- "too inexperienced, too shallow, too corrupt" --- these are the words of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. LOL

LOL --- yeah, we got issues!


Barb Tuchlinsky 8 years, 6 months ago

JLM, at least Obama has put his plan out there for all to scrutinize. I haven't heard any specifics from McCain. Instead, it seems like McCain's plan is to keep the focus on non-issues like Rev. Write and William Ayers. That way he won't be pestered to state some specifics. We all know that campaign promises are not sure things but by looking at specific ideas it stimulates conversation and insight into the character of our candidates.


JLM 8 years, 6 months ago

Tell me all about Obama's plan, seminative.

What is the O man's plan and how much of it do you actually believe? Or believe he can pull off given the current situation?

If one wants to delve into the character of the candidates, does it not make sense to peruse with whom the candidate consorts?

Is it not likely that world class goofballs like the Rev Wright and Bill Ayers would keep company with someone equally goofy? Well, uhhhh, like Obama?

The guy wants to raise taxes in the midst of an economic crisis. He wants to tax capital higher during a capital crisis. He wants to withdraw from Iraq when we are just starting to win.

The guy is not ready for prime time. He is a woefully inexperienced fakir and poseur. He is not what we need right now.


Terry Noble 8 years, 6 months ago

Beware of the wolf in sheep's clothing (Obama)! I already voted for McCain and I'm glad I did! Some sad rhetoric coming from the Democrats if you ask me! And on top of that I'm still proud to be a veteran Jason LMAO!


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