Anyone who knows me knows I think banning of books is pretty stupid. If you don’t like what’s in a book, then don’t read it. In fact, by not buying it you’re already making a statement with your wallet. And what is or isn’t offensive is a personal thing…if you find what a book contains to be offensive, then you have the right to voice your opinion. You can even sway others to share your same opinion. And this can be done without taking the book away from those who might want to read it… who might gain something from what is between the covers.
A second-hand book shop in Wellington, New Zealand wound up with a copy of Bloody Mama by Robert Thom, a book published in 1970 about Ma Barker and her sons. According to Radio New Zealand News, it was removed from the book shop by the Department of Internal Affairs.
To say I am appalled is an understatement. As a teenager, I’m used to (sad to say) books being challenged by parents and removed for review by the schools. And I’ve even heard of a book being banned in a town before (although not recently), but that today, in 2011, a book can be banned for an ENTIRE COUNTRY is beyond belief. The book was confiscated from a second-hand bookstore by an arm of the government… not taken off the shelves of a school, which means that the government has decreed that the book should not be read — even by adults. Really New Zealand??? That people think that teenagers cannot make an appropriate decision, is maddening to say the least, but that the government has decided that ALL of the people in an entire country are incapable of handling the contents between the covers of a book is absurd. Maybe the most disturbing of all is that the Department of Internal Affairs arrived at the second-hand bookstore after an anonymous tip.
So, what is sooooo bad about Bloody Mama that a country is not allowed to read it? I couldn’t find a book blurb, but the movie, also made in 1970, had a write up:
A psychological gangster film based on fact. Machine gun totin’ Ma Barker lead her family gang (her sons) on a crime spree in the Depression era. Her loyal brood have every perversion imaginable. The sadistic Herman sleeps with his Ma. When Fred Barker is released from prison, he brings home his cell mate/lover Kevin Dirkman, who also sleeps with Ma, much to Fred’s chagrin. Lloyd Barker is a spaced-out drug addict who sniffs glue if nothing better is around. Ma kidnaps happy-go-lucky millionaire Sam Adams Pendlebury and holds him for ransom. Arthur Barker – Ma’s wallflower son – and Herman’s hooker lady friend Mona Gibson also figure in the story. The bloody finale is virtually choreographed and a visual stunner. Filmed in the Ozarks.
Apparently, the suggestion of incestuous relationships is what caused this book to be banned. Again, really??? The book has now been passed by the Department of Internal Affairs to the Office of Film and Literature Classification to see whether they feel it can be removed from the list. On this whole thing, I have to agree with Mr. Hollander, the bookstore owner, “…people should be free to read any book.”