banned books

RIP Ann Crispin; Toni Morrison Responds to Book Ban

RIP Ann Crispin

The blogging world lost a long time member this summer, Ann C. Crispin, who founded Writer Beware with Victoria Strauss.

Ann Crispin, best-selling author, Writer Beware co-founder, fearless fighter in the scam wars, beloved wife and mother, my friend, died this morning after a two-year struggle with cancer.

You can read more here. The post was written by Strauss, Crispin’s co-founder.

Writer Beware was a blog I used to follow more regularly, but as things in the publishing world started to change I stopped following it as regularly because it wasn’t something that was directly related to anything I’ve been doing for the past five years. Though I haven’t always agreed with everything on WB, I have learned a great deal through them and Crispin was another consummate blogger who was passionate about what she did.

If you are a new writer and you haven’t read WB, I would advise checking it out. As I said, I do think that with many of the changes happening in publishing some things should be rivised (like warning authors about literary agents and other authors who are working together as e-publishers and not disclosing this up front…and yet still claiming they are self-publishing so everyone thinks is just another simple self-publishing venture), but there’s still a great deal of good information that might help keep you from getting screwed over by shifty editors and e-publishing services, among other pitfalls that prey upon good unsuspecting people, that seem to be popping up all the time. The e-mails I get from scammers daily would turn this blog into something completely different if I started posting about them daily.

In fact, Tony and I are planning to start an e-publishing service in the future, and one of the things I pay close attention to are posts on WB about other e-publishing services. Our goal is to create something affordable, and that has quality books, where the author always maintains control, and his/her rights at all times. The last thing I would want to see happen would be to get slammed on WB as an e-publishing service. So far, I haven’t seen anything at WB with regard to e-publishing services that I haven’t agreed with. Most of what they’ve posted makes sense…and I come to this thinking as a writer, not a publisher or agent. I know what I wouldn’t want happen to me.

In any event, Writer Beware will continue on.

Toni Morrison Responds to Book Ban

One of the things that sometimes frustrates me about writing gay fiction of any kind, even gay romance, is when people who are NOT gay challenge what I know to be true and to be fact as a gay man. When I write gay fiction I don’t try to turn it into a heteronormative frolic through suburbia like you see on TV shows like The New Normal. I do use heteronormativity sometimes in books because I think there are many gay people who are leaning toward that as we gain more equality. Just look at the marriage proposal video that went viral this weekend and you’ll see what I mean. And look at all the gay couples who want children and the typical heteronormative family. But what I never do is fake gay culture, and some things that are rooted deeply in gay culture, and I’ve been slammed for doing that more than once by non-gay people who *think* they know all about gay people.

And this is exactly how Toni Morrison seems to be responding to comments made about her book, The Bluest Eye. Some have even gone so far as to call the book “porn,” which I’ve posted about on this blog several times. I have read the book more than once and it’s not only literary masterpiece, but also an account of African American culture we don’t see often. For me, as a gay white male, to even begin to criticize anything about Morrison’s personal knowledge when it comes to the African American experience would be ludicrous. It wouldn’t even occur to me.

“The book was published in the early seventies and it has been banned so much and so many places. That I am told I am number 14 on the list of 100 banned books,” Morrison told Columbus TV station NBC4.

“I resent it. I mean if it’s Texas or North Carolina as it has been in all sorts of states. But to be a girl from Ohio, writing about Ohio having been born in Lorain, Ohio. And actually relating as an Ohio person, to have the Ohio, what- Board of Education? Is ironic at the least,” Morrison, a Lorain native, told the TV station.

I understand exactly how she feels, from a slightly different POV. Though I would never even suggest that my books be in schools, or read by minors, I feel the same kind of resentment each time I see someone question something I’ve written about gay men, as a gay man. I’m not the only gay man who feels this way either. It’s something we discuss often in private, yet there’s nothing to do about it because there are some who don’t really want to hear gay voices as they really are. They support gays, they support equal rights, and they support the concept of all LGBT people. But when it comes down to *listening* to gay people they go dead blank and think what they want.

I’m glad Morrison responded to all this, and I’m glad she’s not just sitting back and taking it. You can read the entire article in full, here.

She also deserves the last word on this topic, as an African American woman, and a writer.

New Zealand Sings for Gay Marriage; Challenged Books of 2012; Transgender Banned from Store; New York’s Income Inequality

Everyone broke out in song after New Zealand became the first place in the Asian Pacific to legalize gay marriage. This would make them number thirteen, in the world, to recognize gay marriage legally. One lawmaker mentioned how her own daughter took another young woman to the prom last year. She spoke with pride about this and received huge applause.

As the announcement was read out, spectators watching in the gallery spontaneously started singing the New Zealand love song “Pokarekare Ana.”

It’s an amazing thing to see, and you can get there by clicking this link.  You don’t see that kind of emotion often.

Challenged/Banned Books of 2012

The American Library Association came out with a list of the 10 most challenged books of 2012…those that were talked about being banned. I’ve had a book banned myself (Skater Boy), and for reasons that were strictly related to search engine issues. I posted a lot about this when it happened. In my case, the word “Boy” in Skater Boy was considered taboo because it implied underage characters involved in sexual situations. And there was nothing like that in the book. I don’t do that. It was just one single word that got me banned.

I’m surprised to see The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, and Beloved by Toni Morrison, on this list. I’ve read both and can’t believe anyone would want to ban either of them. In fact, if you haven’t read Beloved and you’re a writer, shame on you.

The most challenged books of 2012 are: “Captain Underpants” (series), by Dav Pilkey; “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie; “Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher; “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E. L. James; “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson; “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini; “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green; “Scary Stories” (series), by Alvin Schwartz; “The Glass Castle,” by Jeanette Walls: and “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison.

You can read more here.

Transgender Banned from Store 

A transgender person was banned from a grocery store in Idaho this week for using the “wrong” restroom. He identifies as a woman and he used the ladies room. A few women in the ladies room freaked out and complained. The transgender was banned from the store.

I’ve actually always wondered how it worked with transgenders and public restrooms. Is there some kind of law that states he or she must use a specific restroom…male or female…and would those same laws apply to a transgender who has gone through a full change as opposed to a partial change?

“The store employees didn’t want any further problems, and they chose to exercise their right to trespass this individual from the business,” said Lanier. “Anyone who owns or controls their property can make that decision.”

You can read more here. This is a tough one for me. As a former small business owner who owned and controlled my property, I had to exercise my right to ban certain people from my store on occasion. Though I never did this based on discrimination of this kind like the incident above, I did like knowing that I had the power/freedom to do it. Frankly, I’ve always wondered why there weren’t unisex bathrooms designed, with completely private stalls where doors can be locked, for everyone. Maybe that sounds a little way out there to some, but I’ve never been too fond of urinals myself, and I rarely ever use them. And maybe men’s rooms wouldn’t look so awful compared to women’s rest rooms.

New York’s Income Inequality

The New Yorker recently published a piece about how incomes vary in New York City, and they titled it with the word “Inequality.” They should have chosen another word.

I know there are variables here, and sometimes personal circumstances come into play over which people have no control. I’m also not fond of the fact that professional sports players make millions of dollars compared to cops and teachers, however, I do think that if someone works hard enough in life to enjoy the benefits of more money they shouldn’t be penalized for it. And I know a lot of people in New York who do work hard, damn hard. I also know many who don’t and complain about not having money all the time.

 “It’s particularly bad in New York City—according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, if the borough of Manhattan were a country,” the magazine explains in its “Idea of the Week,” “the income gap between the richest twenty per cent and the poorest twenty per cent would be on par with countries like Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Lesotho.”

It’s true, and that can’t be disputed. But New York City has always been like this, so it’s not something new. As far back as I can recall everything was more expensive in Manhattan, and the differences between those with grand wealth and those in poverty hasn’t changed all that much. But then again you can find this anywhere in the world, and this also isn’t something new. So I’m not quite sure where they are going with this, but I do think the New Yorker should get over itself. If anything their own elitist attitude promotes inequality.

This article links to another article that talks about people who’ve lost their jobs. One in particular is about a small town sports writer who worked for his local newspaper. I have to wonder where this sports writer has been for the last ten years. I was told, about ten years ago, by editors that if I didn’t make the switch to digital I wouldn’t work in the future. Up until then, I’d only worked in publishing with hard copy, phones, and snail mail. I didn’t even own a computer until ten years ago. But you know what? I did what I had to do in order to survive.

You can read more here.

PayPal’s Newest Policy on Erotica

From Techcrunch: PayPal has decided to update its policy regarding erotica. Here’s the link. And here’s another link to PayPal’s statement.

This part of PayPal’s statement interests me:

“Instead of demanding that e-book publishers remove all books in a category, we will provide notice to the seller of the specific e-books, if any, that we believe violate our policy,” he notes. “We are working with e-book publishers on a process that will provide any affected site operator or author the opportunity to respond to and challenge a notice that an e-book violates the policy.” It says it has not shut down any accounts of e-book publishers as a result of this situation.

A few weeks ago one of my books was removed/banned because of harmless words in tag line, not actual “banned” content. I wrote several posts about it here. I wonder how many others had to deal with this. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one.

Mark Coker from smashwords said this:

“This is a big, bold move by PayPal. It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction. It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.”

I agree with Mr. Coker. This is a huge move by PayPal. And it not only protects the rights of both writers and readers, it protects the rights of innocent people who get caught in the middle for no justifiable reason.

Please take the time to read the article I linked to in full. It’s short and it’s worth knowing all the facts. It’s also interesting to see how PayPal updated their policy after Visa and MasterCard made public statments saying they had nothing to do with PayPal’s original decision to censor.

I Guess I’ve Been Banned, and for No Valid Reason: "Skater Boy"


Before I get into this, I’d like to clarify that I have never written anything with underage characters, bestiality, incest, or any of the other things/topics that have been banned because of the recent PayPal issue. I’ve heard PayPay is not the blame, and I’m not pointing any fingers at them now. But I’ve been banned for no good reason and I’m not happy right now. It’s one thing to be censored for a reason, it’s a completely different issue to be censored for no good reason.

My publisher informed me my story, Skater Boy, has been banned on ARe. And I do, indeed, take offense to having a book banned on ARe or anywhere else…censored…that doesn’t contain anything that’s considered part of the taboo list. The term “Skater Boy” is widely used in the gay male community as a type of guy who wears baggy jeans, funky hats, and tends to be rough around the edges.

But, I assure you, there are no underage characters in this short book. I don’t judge those authors who decide to do things like this, but I’ve never done it and never will do it. In fact, the main character, Jared, the guy referred to as a the Skater Boy, is only a quasi skater boy. He’s in his twenties and is clearly a consenting adult. This is one of the tamer stories I’ve written.

To add to this, the original version of this story was published in an anthology by Cleis Press in a book, get this, titled “Skater Boys.” I didn’t come up with that title. The editor at Cleis did. I just released a newer revised version of my story with Loveyoudivine.com as a digital short story because I didn’t sign an exclusive with Cleis, and I wanted to change the story and see how the story would do on its own. The original title of my story in the anthology was “In This Our Day.” Interesting how they failed to check this out before they banned the book.

What infuriates me more than any form of censorship is when the censorship isn’t even accurate. The only reason why this book is being targeted is because the word “boy” is in the title. It has nothing to do with content or what’s part of the banned list of topics.

Here’s the blurb for Skater Boy, and I defy anyone to find a hint of underage content in this story.

When Bradley Klinger (a consenting adult, not a minor) moves from the city to a small town in the mountains of upstate New York, the last thing he expects to find is a hot young skater boy named Jared who never stops flirting with him. They meet in the small restaurant Jared (Jared owns a restaurant; he’s clearly over the age of twenty-one ) owns, thanks to Jared’s sixty year old partner in New York with whom he shares an open, sexless relationship. Though Jared is kept by the older man in every sense of the word, from his Bentley Continental to his small restaurant in the mountains, Jared doesn’t waste any time getting to know Bradley much better. And though Jared is the kind of young skater boy, in baggy, low-hanging jeans and loose T-shirts, Bradley has always dreamed about, Bradley is concerned the age difference between them might be too vast. (The age difference is between two consenting adults, not an adult and minor) But Jared doesn’t stop pursuing Bradley, to the point where he actually follows Bradley home one night on his skate board.

I’d really like someone to clarify why this book has been banned. I’ve also let my publisher know she can change the title to “Skater” if she wants to. I hate to buckle to that kind of censorship, but if one word is going to hurt the publisher I’d rather concede. And I hope ARe and other retail web sites that sell digital books are paying closer attention to the books they are banning. This is an implication and a reflection on me as an author, and the kind of fiction I write, and I’m not fond of being targeted and placed in a category for no reason at all.

(update: Here’s a direct quote from the book about the character referred to as “skater boy.” “Mt. Saint Hope was a small town; people talked. Over the next week, Bradley heard Jared
was the lucky twenty-one-year-old…”
And, I just learned the Cleis Press book, “Skater Boys,” has not been banned on ARE.)

LGBTQ YA Book, SHINE, Removed from National Book Awards

I read this on Janet Reid’s blog and had to share.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2011/10/lauren-myracle-asked-to-withdraw-from-national-book-award-finalists.html
This is from the article:

That perspective has clearly been revised. “The National Book Foundation regrets that an error was made in the original announcement of the Finalists for the 2011 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature and apologizes for any confusion and hurt it may have caused Lauren Myracle,” it said in a statement. “At her suggestion we will be pleased to make a $5,000 donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation in her name.”

That’s because of the book’s subject matter, explained in our review:

Myracle’s latest, “Shine,” continues to trade in the forbidden. It just does so in literary prose, following a 16-year-old girl as she attempts to solve an antigay hate crime in a small North Carolina town where methamphetamine use is rampant and illiteracy and unemployment rates run even higher.

“Shine” is dramatic in both content and presentation. Its end pages are jet black, a not-so-subliminal indication of the novel’s dark subject matter. Before Chapter 1 has even begun, that subject is revealed with a newspaper clipping. Seventeen-year-old Patrick Truman has been beaten and bound to a guardrail outside a convenience store with an antigay slur written in blood across his chest. Patrick was well known in his hometown of 743 residents for being “light in his loafers” or “swishy,” as some of the townspeople called him. The question at the center of “Shine” is, who would beat him bloody with a baseball bat and leave him for dead?

Myracle’s books, which include “ttyl” and “ttfn,” have often appeared on the most-challenged and most-banned lists released by the American Library Assn. “I was over the moon last week after receiving the call telling me that ‘Shine’ was a finalist for the award,” Myracle said in her statement.

I truly hope this book was entered in the 2011 Rainbow Awards, where they don’t do this sort of thing.