Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
Posts: 927
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2005 5:07 am

Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Brian » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:54 am

Posts: 927
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2005 5:07 am

Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby Brian » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:54 am

Every issue in "Writer's Digest"'s InkWell section, we pose a thought-provoking question related to the writing life. In the April issue of "WD," Aury Wallington talks about how her debut novel about a 17-year-old girl's decision to lose her virginity, got banned from Borders' bookshelves.
Here's the link to the article: ... hunned.asp

Do you think it's OK for bookstores not to carry a book based on theme?

To be part of our monthly Conversation, e-mail your brief response (up to 50 words) to with "Banned--Or Simply Shunned" as the subject line or post it here.

Posts: 163
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2006 8:56 am

RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby kfox » Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:54 am

A bookstore is a business with every right to make decisions about what it chooses to carry. That's true whether it's a tiny local store or a huge chain. If an author chooses to write about a controversial topic, he or she is choosing to accept the risk that some readers might be offended and some outlets might not carry the book. From Ms. Wallington's article, it also seems as if the back-cover copy wasn't necessarily true to the theme of the book, so perhaps part of the problem was a marketing decision by the publisher to emphasize controversy over content.


Private E-1
Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:23 am

RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby JasonPage » Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:46 pm

With controversial writings many subjects would never be brought to the attention of the public eye at all. While i don't think it's right for a bookstore to not stoc a book based on theme, i agree it is their right. In the case of "Pop" i understand why, the book carried a message promoting promiscuity, and made it look bad or strange to be a virgin. Not something for impressionable minds.

Posts: 1240
Joined: Fri May 26, 2006 10:15 pm

RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby jessica » Wed Feb 21, 2007 2:28 am

Stores, like libraries, seem to reflect communities in which they are found. I do not necessarily agree to banning books due to content. I can understand when a business makes decisions that might affect profits by shelving those which aren’t going to be bought. They could take orders instead.            ~jess

Sideline: Could it be presentation? I’m confidant that romance novels have similar details.

Private E-1
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2007 8:34 am

RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby R.C. » Wed Feb 21, 2007 6:39 am

When tackling a controversial subject, writers open them up to criticism. I once wrote a short story for a major contest in my state. I followed the guidelines and made the short story one that was suitable for all audiences. My wife read it and said the story was great and it was well written, but the subject matter made her feel horrible. It was a story about drug and acohol abuse suffered by a veteran and his girlfriend after arriving home from a war. She told me that the content would be viewed as a little too controverisial, though most of what was written was alluded to.

In the case of POP!, I am 39 and have a very open mind, but based on the back cover as related by the author in the article on this website, I would not want my 15 year old sister to read it. Its up to the book buyers to decide if the book will be carried, and if they decide not to, the publisher failed on the marketing with that bookseller.

Private E-2
Posts: 53
Joined: Mon Dec 18, 2006 3:33 am

RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby writer78 » Wed Feb 21, 2007 7:52 am

It's easy for me to be dismissive of a book with a philosophy that I would probably not agree with. So I have to ask myself how I would feel if the book in question had a powerful, influential message that I thought was positive and healthy. I think I would feel frustrated and held back if such a book were limited from reaching readers based on stores' refusal to stock it.

I'd be tempted to say that "someone" should step in and do something. But who? There's always protests, letter writing campaigns, and public awareness. Those seem like reasonable steps to speak out about what you believe in.

But when it comes to a business being "allowed" or "required" to do anything, the only body that can enforce that is the government - with a big multi-state bookstore chain, probably the federal government. I think it would be horrible to have the government deciding what we can and can't buy at bookstores.

Not having your book stocked at bookstores must be a crummy experience for the writer and her readers. But having the government come in and enact a huge new set of laws and regulations on bookstores would be a nightmare for everyone. I think the writer should go on promoting her book (heck, she got featured in WD, so she's not doing so bad!) and let everyone (from readers to bookstore presidents) make their own decisions about it.


Isn't having an audience, at all, a good thing? None of us is entitled to a readership, and many of us have written books that have gone unpublished. The writer certainly has a right to feel frustrated with her experience, but in the grand scheme, she's actually gotten further than most of us novelists have.

Private E-1
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 9:25 am

RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby piasavage » Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:04 am

The Diary of Anne Frank talks about sexual feelings and was banned. The Island Trees Long Island school district sought to ban it, and other books because of sexual content in a Supreme Court case

While a bookstore has the right to carry whatever book it wants, would Borders not carry a book promoting Christianity because I might object?

Has our country reached a point where people cede to the radical right because they know the right will fight them?

Private E-1
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2006 1:11 pm

RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby pamelabeers » Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:07 am

If the book were banned it wouldn't be on any storeshelf. If a bookstore decides not to sell a particular book, it's their right as a business to do so. As far as "Pop" being low on sales, from what I understand, it is in every bookstore except Borders. Does Borders control the marketplace that much? I don't think so. Customers do.

Vice Commander in Chief
Posts: 7123
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 7:49 am

RE: Banned--Or Simply Shunned?

Postby abqwriter » Wed Feb 21, 2007 11:12 am

Agents and publishers spend a great deal of time shunning queried material that might be a hard sell; why should booksellers be held to a different standard?  Last time I checked, these entities are in the industry to make money.  If a business - be it an agent, publisher or bookseller - does not believe a certain title will sell, they owe it to their bottom line not to back that venture.


Return to Conversation question

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest