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Sep 05 2011

The Contraband Library

File under Things That Made My Day: What could make a Catholic schoolgirl more appealing than running a lending library of books her school has banned?

Nekochan wrote about the recent book ban: “I was absolutely appalled, because a huge number of the books were classics and others that are my favorites. One of my personal favorites, The Catcher in the Rye, was on the list, so I decided to bring it to school to see if I would really get in trouble. Well… I did but not too much. Then (surprise!) a boy in my English class asked if he could borrow the book because he heard it was very good AND it was banned! This happened a lot and my locker got to overflowing with banned books, so I decided to put the unoccupied locker next to me to a good use. I now have 62 books in that locker, about half of what was on the list.”

This is a win all around. With Nekochan’s help, these kids are not only challenging the arbitrary authority of their school and their religion. They’re also getting a better education than they would even if the books were assigned.

Nekochan recognizes the risk that she could get in trouble for supplying her classmates with banned books, but she believes that she is in the right. “Before I started [the library], almost no kid at school but myself took an active interest in reading! Now not only are all the kids reading the banned books, but go out of their way to read anything they can get their hands on. So I’m doing a good thing, right?”

Absolutely right, Nekochan.

[ETA: See the comments for doubts raised about the truth of this story--some silly and some more serious.]

15 comments

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  1. 1
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh, how long til a thin excuse is made to open and destroy the contents of that locker? Possibly something like “locking an unoccupied locker is against school policy”. If the powers that be catch wind, that locker ain’t staying full for long.

  2. 2
    Steve A.E.

    Is there evidence this actually happened or just evidence that someone on Yahoo answers claimed they were doing it?

    An abrasive librarian blogger was characterizing this as a hoax two years ago.

  3. 3
    Daniel Fincke

    Yeah, I’ve assumed this was a hoax. Just too good to be true and no confirmations of anything. And the logistics make no sense. All these kids are finding out about this forbidden locker and no teachers are? And how does she buy all the books?

  4. 4
    Daniel Schealler

    What could make a Catholic schoolgirl more appealing than running a lending library of books her school has banned?

  5. 5
    Stephanie Zvan

    Interesting. I don’t find the content of the story implausible the way annoyedlibrarian did, having seen what books end up banned and having been that sort of kid in school. The issues with the asker’s profile are more solid, though. And now there are differences between that story and this. There’s a good chance that even if there was some truth to it, it’s gone viral to the extent that the original is lost somewhere.

  6. 6
    Steve A.E.

    Stephanie, when you say you find it more plausible than annoyedlibrarian because you’ve “seen what books end up banned,” while the titles that (s)he’s scoffing at are Divine Commedy and Canterbury Tales, have you seen instances of either of those being banned by a school? I can’t easily find any such cases.

    When you say you were “that sort of kid in school,” I’m guessing you mean bookish and subversive, or something like that, rather than one who ran a contraband library from her locker.

    In a general sense, books certainly do get banned by religious schools in various ways, and there surely are students in Catholic schools who are both bookish and subversive, but all good pieces of fiction require some elements of truth.

    It did go viral, but it appears we can still see the original, just with a changed profile name. I’m not sure what other differences there are between the version annoyedlibrarian wrote about in 2009 and this version.

    I’d love for this story to somehow be true, too, but so far (and it’s been two years), we have no indication that what we’re looking at is anything other than some appealing creative fiction.

  7. 7
    Stephanie Zvan

    Steve, I haven’t seen any public school challenges for Inferno, but The Canterbury Tales has a long history of expurgated versions and challenges to it being taught. However, you should realize that most of the publicity regarding challenged and banned books revolved around public, not private schools, because that’s where the public meetings are held on the topic. If a parent objects to books being made unavailable at a private school, they have much less recourse.

    I’d prefer you not decide what kind of teen I was. I mean I was an activist student who passed around books I thought other kids should read. I didn’t do it out of my locker, but that’s because there were fewer than zero available lockers at my large, overcrowded public school. The sit-in I ran in my ninth grade civics class probably sounds too good to be true, as well, but that’s because we tend to sneer at teenagers in general, then be amazed when they accomplish something, not because they never do anything worth paying attention to.

    I agree that there are reasons to doubt this story. I don’t agree that the story itself is implausible.

  8. 8
    Steve A.E.

    Wow, sorry for the offense. I thought I was making a reasonable effort to understand what I perhaps wrongly imagined to be a somewhat vague phrase; I apologize for my rudeness and presumption.

  9. 9
    Stephanie Zvan

    No worries. We all get tripped up by our preconceptions sometimes.

  10. 10
    Lou Jost

    Steve A. E., looking at the site in your link, and others, I have to agree that this story is surely false. There are fingerprints of internet pranksters all over it.

  11. 11
    astrobiologiste

    Well, the yahoo answers page that is cited in the story mentioned in the post is 3 years old. Regardless the truth behind the story, it is definitely not news.

  12. 12
    Stephanie Zvan

    astrobiologiste, what do you consider the maximum age of an item that is allowed to make me happy and, thus, be post-worthy?

  13. 13
    Jason Thibeault

    How long is the average commercial break, Stephanie?

  14. 14
    Stephanie Zvan

    With Hulu, I think we’re down to 60 seconds. I just can’t write that fast, myself.

  15. 15
    Corvus illustris

    If the story isn’t true, it’s a wonderful invention. But to me (a survivor of Catholic K-12 ed in the 1940s and ’50s) it just doesn’t ring true. Have these kids no non-Catholic friends? Are there no public libraries? No used bookstores? (BTW, those would represent a low-cost source of books for our schoolgirl–assuming she exists–to lend out.) We pre-Vatican II subversives had no trouble getting to literature of the most sinful kind, Catcher in the Rye included. And unless the school is run by the sedevacantists, they must realize that Montini (Paul VI) abolished the Index in 1966. (Off topic: apparently the abolition was due to personal pique of Montini toward another cardinal, Alfredo Ottaviani. The story is in Hubert Wolf’s “Index: der Vatikan und die Verbotenen Buecher”; I don’t know if it’s been translated.)

  1. 16
    The Flooded Libraries | Almost Diamonds

    [...] questions have been raised in comments about the truth of the story behind my last post. I don’t have enough information to answer those either way. This story, however, has been [...]

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