YALSA controversy breaks out!


Imagine for a second that a beloved writer for young adults recently won an award. But, some folks are upset because this person has frequently and insistently protested about the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Or railed against the continuing denial of same sex marriage in the United States. Or maybe the author has openly attacked all religions as delusions and adherents as narrow-minded bigots. Now, he never did these things in his books, but in other media, his position is well-known to the folks who track this sort of thing. But not well enough known that everybody who hears the author's name connects it with the politics. Do you think there'd be a conservative backlash against this author receiving the award? And what would the debate around this look like? How long would it be before the more liberal would brandish the 1st Ammendment as if that closed down the whole conversation?

Now, here's what really happened. Orson Scott Card recently won the Edwards Award, a prestiguous award handed out by School Library Journal and the Young Adult Library Service Association. Personally, I think he rightly deserves this award, as he's a skilled writer and has made many a young folk crossover, however briefly, into sci-fi. But, there's a backlash. Why, you might wonder? Because he's stridently anti-gay. I mean, hardcore. He's published articles about how we should still have sodomy laws, not to enforce them but rather to establish moral parameters. He also says that gays in America can marry, as long as they convince an opposite-sex partner to sign up with them. And so on. (see here for the SLJ article; and here for the most commonly cited opinion piece).

Now, his books are not openly homophobic and his views rarely enter his writing. They may contain coded homophobia (like the perjorative "bugger" for the aliens, if we are to believe some readers), or they may just be silent on the issue. But this raises interesting points about authorship, personal views, intellectual freedom and religion. Should we evaluate all authors based on their personal lives before granting them awards? Can only the liberal help children understand themselves? Should only the people whose politics you like be granted awards?

Personally, I don't see what the fuss is. I think this comes back to some wacky liberal version of the conservative bugbear that children aren't smart enought to sift through information. Apparently, those opposing this award seem to think that rabid teenage fans will google Card's name, find his anti-gay writing and confuse their love of his novels and style with the gospel truth, or something. I'd like to give kids more credit than that. Plus, if you call foul at things like this, don't you lose focus when you also try to draw attention to much bigger problems of anti-gay sentiment or behavior? Surely there are bigger fish to fry in this realm.

Of course, any librarian worth their salt knows that it's times like these where your intellectual freedom rubber has to hit the road: you've got to step up and defend something springing for a worldview you don't agree with. Maybe it'll help us all understand the fundamentalists who want Harry Potter out of our stacks a little bit better.


betty said...

To My Friends of Faith,,,, on an unrelated topic that requires our attention....

Recently a friend at our church brought this "film" to my attention.
Her son apparently was sent this web link from someone.

It's a movie clip (that has been recently released, or is about to,,, I'm not sure),,
anyway, it depicts Mormons as flesh eating ghouls, and it is just awful. www.thebookofzombie.com

On behalf of myself and my husband, and our Mormon friends,
I would like to make sure that young people are NOT subjected to this terrible conception of our faith.

please let me know if you are able to help.

regards, Betty Toms

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