Deni Dietz


I have a blue tee-shirt…well, it’s more like off-blue…maybe light teal or dark turquoise…that says: I READ BANNED BOOKS

When I wear it I get strange looks, but – so far – no one has asked me what it means. I suppose it’s self-explanatory 🙂

Or maybe people are afraid to hear my answer since they already consider me…eccentric. And passionate about social and political issues.

Last week, when publication was abruptly halted on OJ Simpson’s (cough) hypothetical If I Did It, my first reaction was joy. The public spoke up and was heard. Then the following thoughts occurred:

Did OJ get his full advance? Or, like many of us, did he get half on signing (the contract) and the other half on publication?

That’s an "I’m merely curious" question. It really doesn’t matter. It’s like wondering if Tom Hanks got his usual 6 (or is it 8) million for Da Vinci Code. Or did he take "points"? And who cares? Except maybe Hanks, if he chose points 🙂

So, can OJ now sell his hypothetical (cough) book to another publisher? Or can he self-publish with, oh say iUniverse? Or maybe he can Xerox the pages from his galleys and create a new press — Orenthal Press has a nice ring to it.

Assuming he self-publishes, will Amazon carry his book? Before the book was pulled, Barnes & Noble said they’d certainly carry it ("like any other book"). So, will B&N carry a self-published version? Will Borders still donate any profits to charity?

I don’t know the answers.

But I have mixed feelings about the book’s cancellation. My husband Gordon says it’s a grey area since OJ wasn’t convicted of murder but was found guilty in the civil suit, and no one can write/sell his/her tell-all book and make a profit off a crime he/she committed. Still, legalities aside, my mixed feelings have more to do with…well, I can’t say banning the book since, technically, the book never came out. I have mixed feelings about public outrage "winning the day," I guess.

Is that a good thing?

Again, I don’t know. Maybe it’s not a bad thing, unless of course it goes too far. Suppose the voices screaming that the Harry Potter books should be banned had been louder, more strident, more threatening? Suppose someone, or a lot of someones, thought a Paul Guyot script should be banned because it was too violent or an Alex Sokoloff novel taken off the shelves because it was too horrific?

About a year ago I had a heated discussion with a friend who insisted that children shouldn’t be given access to "everything out there" without adult supervision. She was defending a banned-books list. I agreed that adult supervision was important. I disagreed with the banning of books. What gives anyone — or a committee of anyones — the right to determine which books are detrimental to one’s health? And morals?

Furthermore, I told her, it’s been proven over and over again that books sell even more copies when they’re banned.

"They wouldn’t sell more copies if they were unavailable," she snapped, and that was the end of our discussion.

Here are the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2001

*Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
*Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
*I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
*The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
*The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
*Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
*Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
*Forever by Judy Blume
*Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
*Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
*Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
*My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
*The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
*The Giver by Lois Lowry
*It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
*Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
*A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
*The Color Purple by Alice Walker
*Sex by Madonna
*Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
*The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
*A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
*Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
*Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
*In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
*The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
*The Witches by Roald Dahl
*The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
*Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
*The Goats by Brock Cole
*Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
*Blubber by Judy Blume
*Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
*Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
*We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
*Final Exit by Derek Humphry
*The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood *Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
*The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
*What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents
& Daughters
by Lynda Madaras
*To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
*Beloved by Toni Morrison
*The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
*The Pigman by Paul Zindel
*Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
*Deenie by Judy Blume
*Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
*Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
*The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
*Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
*A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
*Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
*Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
*Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
*Cujo by Stephen King
*James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl *The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
*Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
*Ordinary People by Judith Guest
*American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
*What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
*Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
*Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
*Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
*Fade by Robert Cormier
*Guess What? by Mem Fox
*The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
*The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
*Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
*Lord of the Flies by William Golding
*Native Son by Richard Wright
*Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
*Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
*Jack by A.M. Homes
*Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
*Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
*Carrie by Stephen King
*Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
*On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
*Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
*Family Secrets by Norma Klein
*Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
*The Dead Zone by Stephen King
*The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
*Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
*Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
*Private Parts by Howard Stern
*Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
*Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
*Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
*Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
*Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
*Sex Education
by Jenny Davis
*The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
*Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
*How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
*View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
*The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
*The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
*Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

I’m fairly certain the list has grown. Makes you think, eh?

I’ve read (and loved) 23 of the above, assuming the Harry Potter series counts as one book. The Color Purple and To Kill a Mockingbird are on my list of all-time favorites.

And I’m still trying to figure out why they’d "challenge" Ordinary People. Anyone know?

                                           AND NOW…A CHANGE OF ADDRESS

This is my last Murderati blog. It’s been fun but I’m moving "across town" to a new blog. With a very exciting concept.

HEY, THERE’S A DEAD GUY IN THE LIVING ROOM will include a publisher, a couple of editors, a publicist, a reviewer, a bookstore owner, and my bud Jeff Cohen, who makes me laugh even when I don’t feel like laughing. We’ll all be talking/writing about the publishing business from our own (unique) perspectives.

And if, occasionally, one of us strays into more controversial terrain…well, that’s one person’s opinion, not the entire blog’s. But I think readers are smart enough to know the difference.

I’ll still be doing my QUIBBLES & BITS every Tuesday, hopefully more bits than quibbles, only I’ll post it at the new site.

If HEY, THERE’S A DEAD GUY IN THE LIVING ROOM is extraordinarily successful, we might have a line of Dead Guy toys and games, stuffed animals (Dead Guy has a cat?), an animated TV series…

So keep your ears — and eyes — open for the launch date this January. And please email me at deni@denisedietz.com if you’d like a personal notification.

Happy holidays, my friends, and goodbye for now. As those 7 little dwarfs (man, my spell-checker is going bonkers over "dwarfs") would say, it’s off to work I go. In between rehearsals for Oliver, I plan to finish writing my fourth Ellie/Peter mystery: EVERYBODY DIDN’T LIKE SARA LEE, and my Ingrid/Hitchcock sequel: THE LOLLIPOP GUILD.

Over and Out,

20 thoughts on “I READ BANNED BOOKS!

  1. Lorraine T.

    Without effort, I don’t read banned books because I read murder mysteries and they don’t seem to make the banned list. I did read Little Black Sambo, over and over again, but that was 60 years ago and it wasn’t banned at the time.Lorraine

  2. G. T. Karber

    Not to hijack, but according to what I can find, Tom Hanks got eighteen million for The Da Vinci Code.

    Plus points.

    Though it’s possible, as some sites have referenced, that he was paid as much as $25 million up front.

  3. pari noskin taichert

    Re: Banned BooksWhen I had my literary column for the local paper, I wrote a piece about this. Rudolfo Anaya — author of BLESS ME, ULTIMA — agreed to an interview. He was surprised that his book had made the list.

    What many of the YA novels have in common is an open expression of ideas such as witchcraft and family disharmony. Parents who want to ban books must be terribly afraid of losing control over the hearts and minds of their children. Alas, by being so closed, they probably already have . . .

    Deni, the best of the best to you and Jeff at the new blog. Please don’t be a stranger.

  4. Naomi

    I think that you’ve posted a bulk of my husband’s former reading list for his high school students. L.A. Unified must be much more lax than the rest of the country.

    Good luck with all your book projects, and see you at the Dead Guy’s!

  5. Deni Dietz

    Thanks for checking in, Lorraine.

    I’m not suggesting, by any stretch of the imagination, that people search out the list of banned books. My curiosity was on how one gets to be listed, and the nonsensical selection. The Color Purple? The Handmaiden’s Tale? The Dead Zone? Ordinary People? As for Black Sambo, I taught in a school for emotionally disturbed kids [what way back then NYC called “600” schools because they paid teachers $600 more per year!] and the kids responded favorably to Sambo. Not the words, per se, but the illustrations. With our kids we’d take one step forward, two steps backwards, so we [teachers] were thrilled. Then the book was banned. We used the book anyway…until we were caught. Try explaining to an uncaring bureaucracy that our kids were actually learning to read.

  6. Deni Dietz

    Thanks, J.T. I’ve ben lucky enough to read Pari’s third Sasha adventure (and, boy, are y’all in for a treat!) but I’ll be first in line on the Ellison Express for your thriller. Can’t wait!

  7. Deni Dietz

    Wow, G.T. – Hanks got $18 (maybe even $25) million, eh? Guess I’ll actually have to watch the movie when it hits my TV. Seems to me it made a brief splash when it opened in theatres, then disappeared into DVD land.

    I wonder if an updated banned books list has Da Vinci Code on it!?!

  8. Deni Dietz

    I never lie, Jeff. I get my information from “reliable sources.” Doesn’t everybody?

    [Of course, my reliable source didn’t tell me about Hanks’ $18-25 million :)]

  9. G. T. Karber

    Oh, I’m sure it does. By virtue of its popularity alone, I’m sure it has been challenged in bookstores across America based only on the violence in the book. You add the religious controversy that book has stirred up and, well, Harry Potter, look out.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading your new posts on your new site, good luck with the books and everything else!

  10. G. T. Karber

    Hey Jeff, I found out why Where’s Waldo was banned: apparently, in one of the pictures of a beach scene, there’s a topless woman.

    I didn’t believe it, either, thought that it was a rumor that never got quieted, but no, it’s true.


    Now, it’s from the sides and all, so don’t get too excited, but that’s the reason. Wikipedia “confirms” it, as well, as much as they can really confirm anything.

    So, partial cartoon nudity in a tiny picture in one Where’s Waldo page. Harder to find than actual Waldo.

  11. Deni Dietz

    Pari, I totally agree with your analysis. My parents never banned any books, none, zip, zero, even when I was too young to know what some of the words meant [I took Alice in Wonderland at face value and didn’t catch the social commentary in Wizard of Oz until I was much older], and I grew up okay, right?


    So, okay, I have some weird concepts, like creating a protagonist – a young, uptight actress – possessed by a promiscuous doppelganger. And, okay, yes, in my first mystery I killed off dieters at goal weight, and in the sequel [Beat Up a Cookie] I killed off M*A*S*H’s Hot Lips look-alikes. But other than that, I’m fairly normal.

    Plus, I haven’t written a book with a semi-nude woman on the beach…yet.

  12. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Whoa, thanks a million for that list, Deni. It really boggles the mind.


    Umm… why?

    Waldo’s gay, right? I mean, WAHT?

    Can’t wait to check out DEAD GUY. May you all be banned by all the right people.


  13. Deni Dietz

    Banned by the right people, eh Alex? I really, really like that!

    Because, IMO, that’s what blogs should do/be. Blogs should make you laugh, make you think, make you nod, make you shake your head no, make you wince, make you think of a come-back comment while you’re eating brekkie, walking the dog, knitting a sweater, watching somebody scream at a briefcase.

    Some blogs are diaries, some discuss TV shows like House. My friend has a blog for her dog — “Today Mommy and Daddy left me home alone and I chewed Mommy’s shoes.”

    Mark my words, soon blogs will take over the world, write themselves, and…sorry, where was I?

    I truly hope HEY, THERE’S A DEAD GUY IN THE LIVING ROOM is banned by the right people. Left people, too 🙂

  14. Allison Brennan

    I’ve read 35 of the books on that list, and most of them I read as a YA. I’m actually shocked about some of them . . . like HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS. I mean, it’s a classic. I loved that book (among many others on the list!)

    I always sided with the quote by (I believe) Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”


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