Another book banned (updated)

Maureen Johnson‘s excellent and extremely clean (no sex or violence) book, The Bermudez Triangle has just been banned in a school in Bartlesville, Oklahoma because it is about (among many other things) two girls who fall in love.

A parent read it, hated it and complained, demanding it be removed from the shelves and suggested the bible as a replacement. I’m very fond of the bible myself, but it has way more sex and violence than Maureen’s book. There’s incest in the bible, people!

There’s also excellent bits like this:

“There is no longer male nor female, bond nor free, Jew nor Gentile, for we are all equal in Jesus Christ.”

—Galatians 3:28

I believe that includes homosexuals as well as heterosexuals.

If anyone who reads this is from Bartlesville, Oklahoma and cares about first amendment rights, you are in a position to be able to complain to the school and to the local newspapers. I really hope you will. Bermudez Triangle is a lovely warm book about the importance of friendship.

For the rest of us, I think now would be a really good time to invest in a copy of Maureen’s book. She’s a wonderful writer and it’s a wonderful book.

Update: Maryrose Wood eloquently explains what the first amendment means when a book is banned in the US of A.


  1. Elmo on #

    I don’t think people who make complaints like that actually *READ* the Bible, (or at least the old testament). The same goes for people who say young people are reading trash littered with sex and violence and should turn back to the classics, like Shakespeare…need I say more?

  2. Elmo on #

    Hey, look at that, I had the first comment…

  3. Sherwood Smith on #

    Oh, well said.

    I just ordered my copy.

  4. Rebecca on #

    um…. i could go on and on about this at great length, but i know i’ve done that here before anyway. if i didn’t already have the book, i’d go get it right now. 😀

    of course, isn’t it secretly every author’s dream to be banned? 😉 think of the publicity! ha.

  5. Justine on #

    Elmo: Indeed.

    Sherwood: Onya!

  6. lili on #

    it is my goal in life to have a book of mine banned in the us. it will mean i have Arrived.

  7. Justine on #

    Rebecca and Lili: You know I used to think that it would be grand to be banned, but having seen one acquaintance have a book banned with accompanying threats and poison letters and “we know where you live” kinds of intimidation, well, I’m less excited by the idea.

    And then there’s all the books being quietly removed from shelves all over the US of A. Maureen only knows that her book was banned because the librarian told her. That doesn’t always happen. Mostly there’s no fuss, no publicity, no nothing.

  8. Rebecca on #

    “having seen one acquaintance have a book banned with accompanying threats and poison letters and “we know where you live” kinds of intimidation, well, I’m less excited by the idea.”

    wow. really. you know, i’m just kinda furious about all this. i mean, every time it happens, i get mad, but right now it’s the sort of thing that makes me want to fly over to oklahoma and tell the woman exactly what i think of this. however, instead, i’m just going to sit down and read the book. seems to me that’s the best way to protest.

  9. Justine on #

    Rebecca: Absolutely. The thing is though I bet she really does think she’s doing a good thing. There are people who genuinely believe that homosexuality is evil and want to protect people from it. They’re wrong and they’re violating students’ first amendment rights in their wrongness, but most of them actually mean well. I think that’s important to remember.

    The folks who were harassing the writer I mentioned above did not mean well.

  10. Ally on #

    I just bought 13 little blue envelopes yesterday and i can’t put it down..its awesome and there is nothing bad in it..(even though we arn’t talking about it)

    if homosexuality is allowed in public and people are aloud to state their opinion in the U.s. then why was it banned. they have a choice to read it or not, they are not made to. It would be different if it was like maybe a private school but dang

  11. Rebecca on #

    “most of them actually mean well.”

    yes. you’re right. but i have a very hard time remembering that. so many of my friends are fighting people like this, so i guess, to me, it’s almost personal.

  12. Donna on #

    Shouldn’t people just be glad kids are reading rather than spending time unnecessarily banning books? I remember reading ‘A Clockwork Orange’ at 12 and having got it from my high school’s library. I turned out perfectly fine, actually.

    I hadn’t heard of the book, but I’ve just ordered it from Amazon because of this post. I love the smell of banned books in the, erm, evening. 🙂

  13. Dawn on #

    If there is one thing that I’m absolutely adamant about…its being against censorship! Sure, stories that include homosexuals bother people. Stories that include sex bother people. Stories that curse. AND A MILLION OTHER REASONS!!! So what? If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Don’t be ignorant and prevent other people from reading it just because you don’t like it. GRRR. It really ticks me off. Plus, don’t parents know what this does? Um, kids like to rebel. Tell them they can’t do something and its a pretty surefire way they’re going to die of curiosity if they don’t find out why.

  14. Ally on #

    yeah the whole rebelling thing is a kid i should know and heres proof:

    okay at my school we have a center hallway we call “the hub” which is in the shape of a circle..we have three hallways going off of it so it looks like a round-about..well one day our principal decides that it would make more since to make it go one way “only to your right when entering the hub” which was really stupid because if you were entering the hub and your locker was right to your left you had to walk all the way around!KIDS WENT INSANE!! everybody was walking the wrong way and making protest and the only reason we did it was because he told us not to

  15. Elmo on #

    I go to a private school and I don’t think that any books have ever been banned..(That might also be an australian thing) but we do have a senior reading section that that students 14 and under aren’t *supposed* to borrow…but they do anyway.
    ally, donna, dawn: You’re all so eloquent! Well said!

  16. Ally on #

    haha why thank you

  17. David Moles on #

    I think Scott should put Bartlesville in the next Midnighters book, and not in a flattering way.

  18. Veronica on #

    she really does think she’s doing a good thing. There are people who genuinely believe that homosexuality is evil and want to protect people from it. They’re wrong and they’re violating students’ first amendment rights in their wrongness, but most of them actually mean well.

    Yeah, but so what? Everyone thinks that they’re the good guys. Nobody gets up in the morning and thinks “Heh. Another beautiful day to sully by committing highly immoral acts and promoting the dark side of the force” (well, sometimes I do, but you take my point). The people who write death threats think that they’re the good guys too. All the bigots, including the ones who kill people, genuinely believe that whatever their personal hobbyhorse is–homosexuality, interracial couples, uppity black people, uppity women–is evil and that they’re protecting the world, or the part of it they care about.

    I just don’t care about people’s good intentions any more. When they do something bigoted and foul, they’re foul, and to hell with them.

  19. Beth DeGeer on #

    Hi Justine:

    I’m the Assistant Director at the Bartlesville Public Library and a big Maureen Johnson fan. We’re all pretty sick about the decision here. Here’s what I just sent to the paper.

    Dear Editor:

    It has come to my attention that the book THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE by Maureen Johnson has been removed from the library at the Bartlesville Mid-High. The book is the story of three girls who have been best friends since childhood. The summer before their senior year, Nina goes away to an academic camp while Avery and Mel work as waitresses in a restaurant. Nina falls in love with a boy at camp, and Avery and Mel fall in love with each other. While Mel believes she is a lesbian, Avery seems to be experimenting. The heart of the story is how their friendship changes when Nina comes home to find her two best friends are a couple, and how the friendship changes again when Avery dumps Mel. The book doesn’t advocate for anything other than forgiveness and friendship.

    The book is a fine example of a young adult problem novel, the characters are interesting, and the situations are realistic. It contains no sex scenes, just kissing.

    The book was removed from the Mid-High because of the homosexual content.

    Students at the mid-high are freshmen and sophmores in high school. I am quite certain there are students at the mid-high who are in same-sex romatic relationships–statistics show that 2 teenagers in 20 identify themselves as gay. Popular culture has many examples of gay couples. It ludicrous to think that any mid-high student is sheltered from and ignorant of the existance of homosexuality.

    THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE is not on any required reading list. It was one of many books made available in the mid-high library for recreational reading–a very important component of anyone’s education. Nobody HAS to read the book. Removing it doesn’t protect or shelter anybody, it simply denies a good book to students who want to read it.

    I find it fascinating that the mother whose complaint got the book removed from the library suggested it be replaced with the Bible. Aside from the fact that I’m sure the mid-high library has plenty of Bibles, I wonder whether the complainant has ever read the Bible. While it is one of the great books or our civilization and a guiding light for millions of Christians, it contains plenty of homosexuality, rape, murder, drinking, and incest. I don’t think anyone would suggest that the Bible be removed from libraries due to this content–that’s not what the story is about. By the same token, while THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE features homosexual characters, it is a story about friendship.

    I would wonder why a student whose mother is so homophobic would check out a book obviously about gay characters to begin with. Anyone reading the back of the book, or the flyleaf, can clearly see that the book features two female characters who fall in love with each other.

    I have gay friends, and they are just like anybody else. I can verify that homosexuality is not catching–I’ve been hanging out with some of my gay friends for years, and so far I’m still heterosexual. I’ve also read books about gay characters, and I have not been converted. In fact, I read books about gay characters when I was in high school–still straight. Reading a book about gay characters won’t turn you gay.

    The real issue here may be this: reading is the ultimate virtual reality game. When you’re reading, to a certain extent you are living inside the world of the book, and inside the minds of the characters in the book. Reading breeds compassion, tolerance, and understanding. Reading teaches you to think for yourself. Ultimately, that may be what book banners are so scared of.

    Beth DeGeer

  20. Justine on #

    Awesome letter, Beth.

  21. amy fiske on #

    wow, beth is a ninja librarian superhero!

  22. maureen on #

    I’m overwhelmed by how many great letters people have written. Beth IS a ninja librarian superhero.

  23. Candy on #

    hear, hear.

  24. Ally on #

    hello justine! off topic but i just got through reading the glossary and there are some really weird words haha like a sloppy joe being a sweater and i’ve heard of Spagbol form uglies but i didnt know what the “bol” part bolognese bologna? and pop rocks arn’t strange..i like them, i remeber getting them when i was little

    well i hope ur trip is going good

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