“And Tango Makes Three”

Some believe it is legitimate to shield children and teenagers from information that is perceived to negatively affect that critical time of development. Time and time again, the efforts of artists and authors to incorporate controversial themes in works for children are challenged by parents, schools and libraries. While the right of parents to decide what is appropriate for their children should be respected, the banning and removing of books deprives other families from making their own choices and can send a pervasive, negative message to children about a specific topic or group.

And Tango Makes Three is a true story about the two male penguins, Roy and Silo, at the Central Park Zoo. These two penguins acted like a couple so the zookeeper gave them an egg to raise. Many might be surprised to know that the book topped the American Library Association’s (ALA) list of most-challenged books from 2006 to 2010, and it continues to draw opposition across the United States. The book was first challenged in Missouri, when several parents asked two public libraries to remove it. Complaints have also surfaced in Georgia, Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and North Carolina.

The source of controversy surrounding the book is that some readers have distorted this story of an alternative family to be about encouraging homosexuality. The two most cited lines in support of this argument are the comment by the zookeeper that “They [Roy and Silo] must be in love,” and one section mentioned, when describing Roy and Silo’s activities, that states that “(t)hey slept together”.

While And Tango Makes Three could be used to introduce children to LBGTQ issues, another potential lesson is one of tolerance. Banning the book in a particular community could potentially lead to alienating homosexual individuals and couples, and possibly children. The book conveys to children the importance of strong family bonds. That Roy and Silo both were male penguins did not deprive them of the ties necessary to raise and care for their child.

In light of ALA’s Banned Books Week (coming up this fall from September 24-October 1)  we decided to gage public opinion about And Tango Makes Three through a short survey.  Of the 59 people that we surveyed online and at New York City’s South Street Seaport, 86% felt comfortable with this book being available to children.  The second question in our survey asked how surprised people were that a book of this nature was the most controversial book in the country. The plurality (44%) of respondents was surprised by that fact. However, while the large variety of responses conveyed that people understood why the book would cause controversy, they were surprised that it was the most challenged book in the country.

Recently, the school board of Republic High School in Missouri voted to remove Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer from the school curriculum and the school’s library. As Banned Books Week approaches, it is important to remember the benefit books contribute both within schools and as a leisure activity.

Thanks to everyone that participated in our survey and make sure to check back for more information as Banned Books Week approaches this fall!

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Blogging Censorship is where National Coalition Against Censorship staff weigh in on the censorship issues on their minds.
This entry was posted in Allegra Simon, Mariel Tavakoli, Rachel Shuman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “And Tango Makes Three”

  1. Dan Kleinman says:

    Please, NCAC, don’t promote ALA propaganda or you’ll tarnish yourself with it.

    I have viewed the the ALA’s new bannedbooksweek.org page. It suffers from four major problems.

    1) It’s “About” page hosts the list of the top ten challenged books that one of the authors of which admitted at an NJLA meeting that the ALA admitted to her that there were other books more challenged than hers but hers was actually removed and dealt with a certain political issue so the ALA decided to promote it. So the list is simply false, a fakery.

    And how many times was Tango “banned” in the latest list? 4. That’s right, 4.

    “The second question in our survey asked how surprised people were that a book of this nature was the most controversial book in the country. The plurality (44%) of respondents was surprised by that fact. However, while the large variety of responses conveyed that people understood why the book would cause controversy, they were surprised that it was the most challenged book in the country.”

    Did you advise people in your survey that the book was challenged only 4 times? There is simply no controversy whatsoever, except that manufactured by the ALA by misleading people and using its Top 10 list to do so. No one would thing 4 challenges in a year nationwide makes anything “the most controversial book.” If you did not advise people you surveyed that it was challenged only 4 times throughout the year, then you skewed the results to favor your desired outcome, that you are now here propagandizing.

    2) It’s not censorship to keep books out of schools that do not meet the school’s selection policy or that may be removed under Board of Education v. Pico, so calling everything “censorship” is overbroad.

    3) It makes no mention that the last book banning in the USA occurred about half a century ago.

    4) It’s “Mapping Censorship” page remains based on substandard, plagiarized material I exposed long ago: http://safelibraries.blogspot.​com/2010/12/how-ala-plagiarism​-becomes-truth.html

    Please stop promoting the work of plagiarizers promoting admittedly substandard material. Try to be honest, not merely a mouthpiece for the American Library Association pushing its faked Top 10 list and BBW scare.

    And don’t be angry at me for saying this–I’m just the messenger–I did not force the ALA to fake its Top 10 list, to plagiarize, nor to continue to promote its plagiarism even after having been exposed for doing so.

    Thank you.

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