Category Archives: Collections Highlight

2019 Banned Books Week

This week (September 22nd-28th) is Banned Books Week, which is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Inspired by an article I read this year (More than half of banned books challenged for LGBTQ content), I want to highlight some LGBTQ related titles that have been challenged or banned to make us more aware of the need to include a variety of voices.  I hope that you will enjoy exploring these titles for yourself.

Angels in America by Tony Kushner.  Angels in America was challenged at Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Massachusetts after protests from a community member who objected to its sexual, religious and racial content, and public attacks made by a local organization that called the play ‘pornography.’ However, after a major outcry from students and other community members, including a student who wrote an op-ed, it was decided that the book would still be taught in the Deerfield AP English class.

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden.  It was published first in 1982 amidst controversy because of its positive portrayal of the story’s gay protagonists. There have been several attacks on the book because it centers on two 17 year old girls exploring their sexual orientation, though there are no explicit sexual encounters in the novel. The book was also reportedly banned in some Kansas City schools.  The book was at the center of a high-profile 1995 case in which US District Court Justice Thomas Van Bebber ruled that the novel must be returned to high school libraries where it had been removed because it was educationally suitable.

Coming Out in College: The Struggle for a Queer Identity by Robert A. Rhoads.  It was one of 55 books that parents in Fayetteville, Arkansas petitioned to have removed from school libraries. The parents formed Parents Protecting the Minds of Children and objected to the profane language and depictions of sexuality in the book. They also accused librarians and other opponents of their efforts of promoting a homosexual agenda. PPMC objects to this book because it promotes gay pride and a rejection of heterosexism.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.  Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a graphic novel memoir of the author’s childhood, particularly focused on her relationship with her closeted gay father Bruce. As Alison grows older and realizes that she is a lesbian, she and Bruce are both forced to confront how his repression may have affected her own self-image and the way that she dealt with her sexuality. Time magazine named it the best book of 2006, describing it as “a masterpiece about two people who live in the same house but different worlds, and their mysterious debts to each other.” The musical adaptation of Fun Home won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical. In 2018, two New Jersey parents requested that it be removed from the 12th grade honors curriculum because of its “sexually explicit nature.”

Gays/Justice: A Study of Ethics, Society and Law by Richard D. Mohr.  Gays/Justice was one of 55 books that parents in Fayetteville, Arkansas petitioned to have removed from school libraries. The parents formed Parents Protecting the Minds of Children and objected to the profane language and depictions of sexuality in the book. They also accused librarians and other opponents of their efforts of promoting a homosexual agenda. PPMC objects to this book because it endorses stronger civil rights for gay people and opposes organized religion.

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger.  It has recently become one of the most banned and challenged books in the United States. It was banned in the author’s hometown of Tacoma, Washington. More recently, the book has come under fire in West Bend, Wisconsin, where community members object to its presence in the local library because of its ‘immoral’ gay content. Click here for the Kids’ Right to Read Project interview with Brent Hartinger.

George by Alex Gino tells the story a child who is born male and known to all as George, but identifies as female and prefers the name Melissa. The book details how Melissa comes out to her best friend, and eventually to others, through the help of a school play. Five elementary schools in eastern Oregon withdrew from an annual statewide ‘Battle of the Books’ competition because of the inclusion of George in the reading list. The book carries an age recommendation of grades 3-7 and the schools’ principals argued it was not appropriate for their third-to-fifth grade students who would be participating in the competition.

Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’Emilio.  In May 2005, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on public libraries to remove children’s books with references to gay characters or families. In response, gay and lesbian civil rights groups in Oklahoma donated copies of Lost Prophet: The Life of Bayard Rustin and Stonewall: The Riot that Sparked the Gay Revolution to local high schools. The donation was met with conservative outcry but the Oklahoma City school board voted to permit the donation.

New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein.  The New Joy of Gay Sex met various challenges including its being challenged at a Clifton, New Jersey library where the board voted to limit access to the book, keeping it hidden behind the circulation desk and requiring that patrons ask for it specifically by name. Additionally, a York Township woman in Medina County, Ohio quit her job as a librarian in protest over children being able to check out adult-oriented materials like The New Joy of Gay Sex. The library took no action maintaining that its policy was a parental responsibility to monitor which books children checked out.

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse is a graphic novel about a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality in the Civil Rights era American south. Themes include homophobia, racism and gay identity. The novel was attacked by the Library Patrons of Texas, who objected to its inclusion in local libraries. They forced the reclassification of the book from Young Adult to Adult, but the book was not removed.

The National Coalition Against Censorship has even more titles on their website.

Lilly Collection Spotlight – Native Voices: the Duke Common Experience and Beyond

Native Americans in the Arts

by Ira King

Book There,There
There There – The Duke Common Experience

Need some new reading material or are you just interested in seeing what’s in the Lilly Library’s collections that you might not know about? Check out Lilly’s Collection Spotlight!

To accompany the Duke Common Experience Reading Program selection of Tommy Orange’s There There, our spotlight highlights books and films that center Native American voices and perspectives. Orange, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma, writes in his debut novel about a dozen Native Americans travelling to a powwow in Oakland, California. There There focuses on urban Native Americans, exploring the beauty and despair these characters experience as they navigate life in the United States.

Our collections include books on Native American art, novels by Native Americans, memoirs of native experiences, films and documentaries, and historical accounts. Here are a few highlights from our collection:

Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists

Book Cover
Hearts of Our People: Exhibit at the Minneapolis Museum of Art

This exhibition catalog from the Minneapolis Institute of Art highlights a broad spectrum of art created by Native American women. Work explored ranges from textiles to painting to photography and video, and covers antiquity to contemporary work. If you’re interested in checking out some Native art in person, the Nasher Museum’s exhibit, Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now, opens on August 29th.

Book Cover
Future Home of the Living God

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich Louise Erdrich, an acclaimed writer and member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe, experiments with a dystopian setting in this novel. The novel follows Cedar Hawk Songmaker, four months pregnant, as she ventures out of Minneapolis and seeks out her Ojibwe birth mother against the backdrop of a security state cracking down on pregnant women. Check out Erdrich’s bookstore if you are ever in the Twin Cities.

Everything You Know About Indians is Wrong by Paul Chaat Smith Smith, an associate curator at the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian, challenges mainstream assumptions about native peoples and cultures in this essay collection. This book blends memoir and cultural commentary to paint a more nuanced picture of native life.

Smoke Signals Based on a Sherman Alexie short story, this film follows two young Native Americans, Victor and Thomas, on a road trip to pick up Victor’s father’s remains. Smoke Signals is notable for having a Native American writer and director, as well as an almost entirely native cast and crew.

 

 

 

International and Area Studies Exhibit: Anti-Americanism: A Visual History

Come see a new exhibit from the International and Area Studies Department which displays anti-American materials spanning 130 years and four continents. Inspired by the recent acquisition of a Cold War-era comic collection from the People’s Republic of China, the exhibit expands to capture a broad range of responses to America’s presence on the world stage throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

The earliest materials on display date from the time of the Spanish-American War at the turn of the 20th century. These include famous critiques of American imperialism by Latin American thinkers like José Enrique Rodó and José Martí, as well as political cartoons from the period which reveal both Cuban responses to the war and dissenting voices from within the United States.

Moving through the 20th century, the exhibit features reproductions of Italian World War II propaganda posters which can be found in the Rubenstein Library’s Broadsides and Ephemera Collection. The bulk of the materials focus on the Cold War and the anti-American sentiment invoked by lingering U.S. military presence in East Asia. Highlights include the allusion-rich and satirically humorous Chinese comics from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as published photograph collections documenting anti-American protests in Korea and Japan.

From archival posters to reproductions found in secondary sources, the Duke Libraries’ collections provide a wealth of visual anti-American material to research and explore. Come to the second floor of Bostock Library by the Nicholas Family International Reading Room to view the highlights, and learn about the complex and competing narratives which have shaped international perceptions of the United States through the years.

Special thanks to Yoon Kim and to the Exhibit Services Department for their kind help in providing resources for the exhibit.

Upcoming International and Area Studies Exhibit

Stayed tuned for our upcoming exhibit of anti-American materials from around the world! The display will feature historic Chinese comics from a recently-acquired collection. These visual propaganda pieces were published in the People’s Republic of China in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Cold War drove tensions between the two nations to new heights. The exhibit will also highlight materials from Europe, Latin America and the United States itself. Take a look below to get a sneak peek at two items which will feature.

Entitled “Be Clear about the Nature of American Imperialism,” this comic illustrates American hypocrisy. A serene President Kennedy poses like the Buddha. On his right, arms reading “The Peace Corps” offer gifts of harmony and prosperity, including a sack labeled “Food for Peace.” On his right, arms reading “Preparing for war against Cuba and Lumumba” wield tools of violence.

This comic,  “Thus Is America,” vividly depicts the perceived vices of the United States, including the oppression of workers, the Ku Klux Klan, loose morals and international aggression. Can you spot General George MacArthur?

The exhibit will be displayed on the second floor of Bostock Library next to the East Asian Magazine Reading Room starting in July.

The Photographs of Lt. Col. Sir Percy Sykes: Engaging with the History of Muslim Communities in Xinjiang

The photographs in Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes’ recently-acquired 1915 album capture a pivotal moment in what was then known as Chinese Turkestan (modern-day Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China). China’s Qing dynasty had collapsed only a few years earlier. It was an era of warlords, weak central government and competing external influences as Ottoman Turks, Russians, Han Chinese, the British and the region’s Muslim ethnic groups jockeyed for power in a complex geopolitical landscape. Lieutenant Colonel Sykes was dispatched to temporarily assume the role of Consular-General in Kashgar. He was stepping in for Sir George Macartney, a relation to the statesman of the same name who led the first British diplomatic mission to China in 1793. Sykes was accompanied by his sister Ella Constance Sykes, a prolific travel writer who may also have taken some of the photographs which appear in the album.