Next week marks the 30th anniversary of the ALA’s Banned Book Week, and to celebrate, we thought we’d highlight a couple of our own banned titles, and offer a giveaway of each, with one this week, and the other next week.
If you look at the two titles that we know for sure have received the ban hammer at some point in their shelf lives, they couldn’t be more different where subject matter is concerned. In fact, this is probably the only time that you’ll ever see these two titles on the same list. Let’s examine their crimes against humanity, shall we?
Author: Lenore Kandel
Book:¬†The Love Book
Crime: Writing poems too steamy for a female writer
Banned by: the city of San Francisco
When Lenore Kandel first published her short collection of erotic poems,¬†The Love Book, it was seized by San Francisco officials for violating obscenity codes, and the female Beat poet spent eight years trying to get the ruling overturned. Though many have argued that Kandel hadn’t written anything racier than her male peers, she had just written it about the male form from the perspective of a female, rather than the more common reverse of roles, it fell on deaf ears with at least one jury, who had deemed the poetry without value. These days, the stuff of Kandel’s poetry would probably be too tame to appear on the pages of the cult classic bestseller¬†50 Shades of Grey.
Earlier this year, we celebrated this important, though often-unharalded female voice to the Beat generation and former Digger by publishing the first-ever¬†Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel, featuring the poems that once got her banned. It received praise from fellow Beat Michael McClure, along with¬†Publishers Weekly¬†and¬†SF Weekly, and thanks to “different times,” we have yet to hear of any book burnings or seizures thus far.
Author: William Kotzwinkle
Book:¬†Walter the Farting Dog
Crime: Too much farting, any farting, really
Banned by: School libraries, parents, principals
We have probably published more controversial children’s books that¬†Walter, but this¬†New York Times¬†bestselling children’s book has seen its share of cold shoulders where school libraries and flatulence-phobic parents are concerned. Though it’s often recommended as a great book for reluctant young readers, at least one parent in West Salem, Wisconsin had the book removed from their child’s school library. We’ve even received a few letters over the past 11 years from¬†appalled¬†school principals who couldn’t believe that a publishing house run by a group of adults would publish such a vulgar book.
Obviously, after releasing a special 10 Year Anniversary edition of the book, we still disagree.¬†Walter the Farting Dog¬†isn’t just great because it gleefully uses the word “fart” 24 times (as pro-Walter O’Fallon, IL City Administrator Walter Denton points out in a post on his city’s official website). ¬†Walter shares a lesson about not judging others for things they cannot control, even if those things are sometimes uncomfortable to witness. And yes, we have translated the book in Latin, Spanish, and French.
Though they’re books intended for completely different audiences, one could argue that Lenore Kandel’s banned poems and¬†Walter the Farting Dog¬†are both about the same ironic thing: acceptance (it’s just that one is about female sexuality, and the other is about, well, farting). So, before you plan your next book burning party, consider keeping these books warm on the shelf, not in the fire.
A winner for this giveaway has been chosen! Thanks to all who entered.