Farenheit 451.2

Ahh, another book banned by folks who don’t even bother to read it. If that pisses you off, please kindly read on & see what Salon alum Julie Polk & the banned author, Maureen Johnson, have to say about it.

Dear One and All:

On April 27th, my friend Maureen Johnson’s book THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE was removed from the shelves of the Bartlesville Mid High Library in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. At the bottom of this email you’ll find the names and email addresses of the committee members who agreed to the removal.

BERMUDEZ is about the friendship of three teenaged girls and what happens to their friendship when, after one of them goes away for a summer, the other two

begin a relationship. It is a smart, funny, and very clean book–there is a little bit of kissing, and no sex at all. Here is an excerpt from the letter written by the one woman whose objection resulted in the removal of THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE from the library:

“There’s no mention of the myriad of diseases, pregnancy, destruction of friendships and lives that are very real consequences of a “sexual free-for-all” decision.”

That’s right: in a book that contains no sex, just a kiss between two girls, this woman says she objects on the grounds that the consequence of unwanted pregnancy wasn’t discussed. Bend your mind around that one, I dare you. Perhaps, as Maureen says in her very smart and funny blog, the objector does not know how babies are made.

As for the “destruction of friendships,” that is the entire subject of BERMUDEZ: it is an intelligent, lovely book about what happens to friendship when dating enters the picture. There is nothing to object to at all in this book — unless, of course, you happen to be a blatant homophobe who is willing to use your prejudice to control what everyone in your community is allowed to see.

Other subjects Maureen has written about include three teenaged sisters dealing with the aftermath of their father’s sudden death (THE KEY TO THE GOLDEN FIREBIRD); a teenaged girl sent on an adventure through Europe via a series of letters left her by her aunt who died of cancer (13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES); and a take on Faust, in which a girl sells her soul to be cool, set in a Catholic school for girls (DEVILISH). Notice something? Maureen’s books deal with life, love, death, with trying to negotiate life as a teenager. These are big, important subjects, and she writes about them with grace, humor, and compassion. Her books were selected by the American Library Association as Best Reads for Teens in 2004, 2005, and 2006 and have received numerous other citations and awards. DEVILISH was recently shortlisted for the Norton Award, the Young Adult version of the Nebula awards for science fiction writing. We are a long way from Sweet Valley High here.

In the most disturbing development of all, Susan Hunt, the Bartlesville librarian who first let Maureen know her book had been banned, is apparently now facing professional consequences directly resulting from her having informed Maureen that the book was being removed. For more information, please check out Maureen’s blog — which, besides having all this info firsthand, is one of the funniest reads you’ll find on the Webanet.

Among you are educators, writers, librarians; many of you work directly with teenagers in your professional lives. Censorship in any case is unacceptable; censorship based on homophobia is morally repugnant. Below are the names and email addresses of the committee members who, though none of them have read THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE themselves, saw fit to ban it anyway. Feel free to take a minute or two to send an e-mail registering your dismay at their willingness to let one narrowminded woman control what an entire school may or may not have access to:

Mrs. Janet Vernon, Executive Director of Secondary Instruction:

Dr. Richard Rosenberger, Executive Director of Human Resources:

Mr. Chuck McCauley, Principal of Bartlesville High School:

One final note: I am collecting quotations from the Bible, which the objector suggested as a replacement to fill the hole on the shelf left by the absence of BERMUDEZ. I would like any and all Biblical quotations you have involving sex, violence, prostitutes — you know, the kinds of things some people like to pretend don’t exist in the bible at all. I have several ideas regarding what to do with these, but I’m taking suggestions for that as well.

In the meantime, thank you for raising your voices!


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