There has been a lot of chat and controversy over an item that was posted on many blogs, including this one, reporting talk that back when Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was mayor of Wasilla, she asked Library Director Mary Ellen Emmons how one could go about having books removed from the library shelves.
So, was the gossip true? That has been the question. Well, the Anchorage Daily News, which, quite naturally, is full of news about their governor-turned-VP-candidate, weighed in on 4 September with the flat statement that Palin asked not once, but three times, about the possibility of removing "objectionable" books from the library. (see http://www.adn.com/)
So, exactly which "objectionable" books did she have in mind? As reported earlier, this matter was muddied when a mischievous commentator posted an irrelevant list on http://www.librarian.net/. The exact titles also seem unimportant when it is the question of book censorship that is being discussed, not the banning of specific books. However, an ABC report has named two titles which, it seems, Palin's Assembly of God church wishes were not available in libraries and stores. (The video can be viewed on a number of sites, including http://www.thenation.com/blogs/campaignmatters/358233)
So, which books are they?
One is Go Ask Alice, the fictional diary of a fifteen-year-old girl whose drink is spiked with LSD and who goes horribly downhill after that, finally dying from an overdose. Though the author is given as "anonymous," it was probably Beatrice Sparks. First published by Simon Pulse in 1971, it is still in print. Obviously, it has struck a chord in the wider community. Columbia University runs a website answering questions posed by teenagers in need of help, called http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/
Library Journal called Go Ask Alice "an important book," and it is now considered a young adult classic. But, because of its explicit references to drugs and sex, it has always been controversial. The book has been banned in all kinds of places ranging from New Jersey to Florida, a trend that is increasing. Back in the 1990s, it was 23rd in the list of 100 "most challenged books" put out by the American Library Association; in 2001 it was number 8, and in 2003 it was number 6. A testament to the growing power of the Christian right, perhaps? Interestingly, it is currently 4,079 on amazon.com, perhaps because of the publicity from the ABC report.
The second book is a sensitive study called, Pastor, I am Gay, written by a semi-retired Baptist minister, Howard H. Bess. (Palmer, 1995.) Bess was inspired when he was approached by a member of his southern California church, who revealed that he was gay. Since then, he has devoted his life to challenging Christian churches to accept and minister to lesbians and gays.
Evidently there is at least one branch of the Assembly of God in Alaska that would turn a deaf ear to his message.