Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ouch! I'm under attack!

Much as I was rearing to get back to working on my novel, it's a little hard to concentrate when I feel as though I'm dodging bullets. Don't know if any of you saw a tiny article in the Heckler (back page of The Age) on Sunday (October 31), revealing the fact that Dancing in the Dark has been banned from the library at Mount Scopus College. (You must be getting sick of hearing about it.)

The article did not go unnoticed by the editors of Galus Australis, an online 'forum for discussion and debate about Australian Jewish life'. Similarly, my session at the Melbourne Jewish Book Festival heightened the controversy. Galus Australis asked me for an account of what had happened, and also asked Rabbi James Kennard for his perspective on the issue.

In just 2 days, the issue has attracted nearly 50 comments. To read about, or contribute to, the debate, click here.

I haven't responded to any of the comments - I think the novel speaks for itself, and fortunately, a lot of people are arguing the case against censorship far more eloquently than I ever could.

I'll end this post with a question: Do you think censorship is ever justified, and if so, under what circumstances? Opinions welcome!


  1. Wow, what a fascinating debate, Robyn. And what a brave and honest piece you wrote, too. Let's hope this gives your book all the publicity it deserves! (By the way, my YA novel, Chenxi and the Foreigner, is banned in many international schools in China. This is something many Australians have come to expect from China, but not Australia. Who would have guessed?)

  2. Thanks, Sally. Didn't know your novel was banned in China, but come to think of it, I'm not suprised. Given the many wonderful books that have been banned in various countries over the years, we should probably be glad to be in such good company.

  3. Absolutely!
    Actually, to be perfectly honest I'm not sure if my book was 'banned' as such, but when I was doing a residency in Beijing, the librarian said he wasn't able to oder it in through their usual channels, unlike my other books. But, having said that, he was happy to stock the ones I had brought with me on the library shelves for the students to stumble across themselves, as long as he wasn't seen as condoning it. Thank goodness for intrepid librarians, hey?
    Hope this only encourages you to write more, Robyn.

  4. I completely agreed with you on your arguement on the article. Your book, which I actually already, finally read (yay me), was definitely less about insulting the legitimacy of religion and Judaism, and more about having a choice and going after those things that people should be gifted with the freedom to pursue.

    In this day and age, children and teenagers are exposed to so much more. I don't think censorship really goes to anything good. :/ It's a shame that so many books have been banned, and while some banners may feel that it is for the children's wellbeing, I think they need to take into consideration that being close-minded will result in ignorance and rebellion.

    I'm not so sure how it works out from a religious standpoint. :S

    Can't wait to see how your second novel pans out. I'll be rooting for you!

  5. We've been posting in there quite a bit and the debate's just become progressively more ridiculous.

    It's now 70+ comments in and no one has yet been able to articulate exactly what it is you're supposed to have misrepresented or lied about in the book when it comes to the Jewish community.

    Everyone who is in favor of the ban just seems to mutter vague platitudes about how you don't "understand" the community or you "hate" Charedim. The fact of the matter is, none of them can come up with anything you've written that couldn't (and doesn't) happen. Your book may not represent the day to day experiences of those specific Charedim and their friends, but that's a purely anecdotal criticism.

    The most infuriating part is this utterly paternal notion that children need to be protected from reading about anyone even theoretically having a negative experience with Judaism. The latest comment at the time of this post entreats upon you to have written a novel where "Ditty learns to dance within the confines of her Orthodox faith," and then accuses YOU of not being realistic.

    An utterly infuriating discussion that shows the sheer laziness of a segment of the Jewish community that would rather shelter their children from ideas than explain and debate them. Like those who oppose gay marriage because they don't want to have to explain to their kids why those two men walking down the street are holding hands.

  6. Thanks, Dimitry. I agree, and I really appreciate your comments on Galus.