Saturday, April 18, 2009

Most Challenged Titles Include Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner turns up as one of the most frequently challenged books in US libraries. There is a child rape scene and some strong language in the book.

The American Library Association listed 513 challenges to titles on library shelves in 2008. A challenge is defined as a :
... formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness ...
Topping the list for the third year was Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell's award-winning And Tango Makes Three a children's book about two male penguins caring for an orphaned egg.

The association will co-sponsor the 28th annual Banned Books Week starting September 26th 2009 to highlight banned and challenged books.


Fadz said...

Oh to even think about challenging and/or banning is complete tosh.

Sure, there's a small section about a boy being raped by other boys, but that is the key point of the story itself.

Are they forgetting that the book sends a powerful message about friendship, forgiveness, redemtion and courage finally found?

For a country fronting gay and lesbian rights, they seem to take a sudden conservative turn with literature. Weird.

Mayhap it is because the story is about the Afghan, and not someone Caucasian? (Well I may be out of context here).

But still. If Juno can be a blockbuster hit, why are they even challenging The Kite Runner?

Soz. Just voicing out my thoughts. I love the book (the movie was only so so though. It didn't capture the power of the book). As I said, this is complete tosh.

Fadz said...

Oh. Sorry for the typos.

bibliobibuli said...

you are one after my own heart! LOL

Anonymous said...


A challenge can be made by one person - who is hardly representative of the whole.

Would you like to be held responsible for all the books that have been challenged in Malaysia just because you are Malaysian, even if you disagree with the challenge?

Not to forget, that The Kite Runner is a bestseller in the US. Fact is, the US and its people are not one monolithic organism. Americans in fact are a very disparate people with a wide diversity of views (which they are not shy about airing) - just like people of every other nationality, including Malaysians.

So please take some time to think before writing something like
"For a country fronting gay and lesbian rights, they seem to take a sudden conservative turn with literature. Weird." Yes, liberals and conservatives coexist in the US , but it is hardly fair to attribute the views of one to the other, much less lump them together in one sentence like that.


Anonymous said...

Just to reinforce Jen's excellent point:

1) It's ridiculous to suggest that Americans would judge The Kite Runner negatively just for being about "the Afghan, and not someone Caucasian." Why, then, would the book be SELLING so well in the US, and why would _Unaccustomed Earth_, _The White Tiger_, _The God of Small Things_, _Half of A Yellow Sun_, _The Joy Luck Club_, _Song of Solomon_, etc. etc. etc. (and I don't even necessarily love all these books myself) all be/have been bestsellers? The "challenge," as Jen said, is made by one person, and it's a bit rich for a Malaysian to be accusing America of covert racism, if you ask me. Not that racism doesn't exist there, but you know, as a society we should pick the log out of our own collective eye before taking the speck from someone else's, no? Why don't we take a look at the Malaysian banned books list and see if that might have anything to do with race, religion, or culture?

2) Afghans are "Caucasians," technically, if you want to stick to that creepy (and scientifically invalid) classification system (which also includes "Negroid" and "Mongoloid" -- see, creepy, yes?).

3) About Juno being a blockbuster hit while The Kite Runner has been challenged: see above. You're mixing apples and oranges. One measure has to do with what the American people as a whole want; the other probably with some right-wing nutcase in the Bible Belt who took uncommon exception to the book and does *not* represent the tastes of America as a whole.

-- Preeta

Fadz said...

Whoa...I didn't mean for my comment to incite racial arguments.

Jen and Preeta, I'm sorry if I came across with the wrong message.

But if you think again, you have to think real hard to come up with a valid reason for someone(s) to want to challenge the book. It's hardly what I would call a 'children book', and if in the US schools use it as part of literature classes (again, I'm stretching here. Correct me if I'm wrong), they have sex ed in schools as well.

Ergo, the complaints about the book portraying lewd language and boys getting raped, that's just ridiculous.

I reckon a lot of someone(s) complained about the book for this issue to make the news (or article piece).

Don't get me started on banned books and stuff in Malaysia. The general concept in this country is, "if we don't expose them, they wouldn't think of doing such things in the first place." Tosh, I tell you.

I think Sharon and her friends could spend days talking about banned books here.

That being said, a majority of Westerners (not naming race or country) simply bunch us all up as Asians. Annoying, that. So forgive me if I 'lumped them together in one sentence like that'. A French in Malaysia getting first-class treatment during their stay in Malaysia gets the impression that Malaysia is a wonderful country, filled with generous, friendly people. A French who gets mugged here would likely tell their friends back at home that Malaysia is filled with brigands and terrorists. Generalization is evil, I know. But we all do it.

So if you can think of a strong reason to justify The Kite Runner being challenged, by all means, please enlighten us.

Anonymous said...

The Shite Runner should have been challenged because it was a crappily written, cliche-ridden book...

- Poppadumdum

Drachen said...

Bad books should just be ignored.

It's an old trick to do something controversial for attention - Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, Ning Baizura's fantasy about sex with multiple guys, some obscure artist exhibiting photos of her own vagina, etc etc. Becoming famous is really not that hard. Getting a book banned is one way.

Anonymous said...

Drachen, I don't think Khaled Hosseini cares whether some loony State Representative in Texas puts forward a "challenge" to his book! I also don't think he wrote the book with a view to getting it banned. It doesn't strike me as an attention-grabbing stunt in the same league as all the ones you list. The book just isn't that controversial -- I think that's part of Fadz's point, and also part of Poppadumdum's point, though their opinions of the book differ :-) .

Fadz -- yes, we all make generalisations. But it's good to be aware that we do it, and to avoid it when we can, isn't it? I think Jen and I were trying to steer the discussion away from a generalisation about Americans that was both inaccurate and *not* implied in Sharon's original post. I can't think of a reason to ban the book, no, but I bet most Americans don't want it banned either, judging by the sales record.

I think Poppadumdum's comment is the most interesting one here, though maybe it's a subject for another discussion another time. I tend to agree with you, PPDD, about the clichés, but I've often wondered what can make something a cliché to one person (or one culture) and genuinely moving to another person (or another culture). Take, for example, Bollywood, which is one huge colourful cliché set to music when seen through Western eyes -- yet those films move most Indian audiences. And when I put on the right hat to watch them, they move me too. I think some of us tend to shy away from anything too populist/mainstream/crowd-pleasing because these things *are* trite, but I've come round to the belief that "clichéd" books/music/films, even if I don't go for them, might have their place in a democratic society. I suppose another question is whether Khaled Hosseini wrote -- like any self-respecting author -- the kind of book *he* would want to read, and for whatever personal or cultural reasons, *we* see it as clichéd but he doesn't, or whether he himself cringes at parts of it, but wrote it just because he knew it would sell and then laughed all the way to the bank. In which case it's not democracy, but capitalism, that's winning. Only he knows the answer.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

P.S. Fadz -- FYI, a lot of people -- probably the same ones who've challenged The Kite Runner -- were up in arms about Juno. But in both cases, these people have been a minority.

-- Preeta

Damyanti said...

I tend to agree with Fadz on one point: there is very little in the book to make it "ban" material.

Other than that scene of the boy being raped, there is very little even a conservative mind can find objectionable.

But that scene was pivotal to the story, so not as if the writer inserted it to make the book more "ban-able" or commercial.

I agree with PPDD that the book is riddled with clichés(despite issues of cultural relativity brought up by Preeta), but that is not what bothers me about the book.

The writer has excellent craft in places, which kept me reading, but having read the book what really made me decide to never look at it again is how totally weak, spineless and ultimately unlikeable the protagonist is.

I kind of felt cheated for having rooted for him at all. Maybe I've reverted these days to being an instinctive reader rather than a critical one, but I absolutely hate that main character--my purely subjective opinion.

Still no reason for banning the book though.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you Preeta, that what's cliche to one may be new and original to others.

Maybe because living in KL, I was exposed to Bollywood when I was young and found the plot of Shite Runner so unoriginal: Wah, the servant boy is actually my half brother! (Hands up those of you who didn't see THAT coming pages away); my dad fucked one of the servant girls! etc etc...And Shite Runner is so homophobic as well: OF COURSE the cardboard villain sodomises the hero. Of course the villain grows up to like fucking young boys. Because gays are EVIL you see. EVIL!

And the writing in A Thousand Turgid Suns is even worse...reminded me so much of Sidney Sheldon.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 3.23 pm was me, Poppadumdum. Forgot to put my name :-)

- Poppadumdum

bibliobibuli said...

i thought you love sidney sheldon???

Anonymous said...

When I was 9 I did! :-)