Category: Banned Books

Sep 28

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts on Banned Books Week 2016

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Happy Banned Books Week, Bookworms!

It’s that time of year again, celebrating the freedom to read. I was just perusing the ALA’s statistics (check them out here) and while it probably comes as no surprise to you, the VAST majority of complaints about books come in the form of parents objecting to school curriculum or what should and shouldn’t be included in the school library. I have feelings about this. Strong ones. I’ve probably discussed them in past years, but whatever. I’m putting my ranty pants back on. They’re a bit snug, so I’ll probably be even MORE ranty.

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ONE: If you are a parent or guardian of a minor, you get to dictate what they do an do not read. You DO NOT get to dictate what everyone else’s children get to read. If you take issue with a book that your child is assigned in class, ask the teacher for an alternative assignment rather than attempting to deprive a whole bunch of kids the opportunity to read. You may know YOUR kid best, but teachers typically have a pretty good feel for what is and isn’t age appropriate. Give the rest of the class a chance.

TWO: This year’s BBW theme is diversity, so let’s talk about that for a hot second. One of the more common parental objections to books is racism and/or racist language, but the books cited for racism or racist language are often written by authors of color and directly address problems faced by their communities. Racism is real and it’s ugly and pretending it doesn’t exist helps exactly nobody. I feel it’s my duty as a human being to believe folks when they try to tell me about their experiences and what it’s like to be them. I’m not going to say I don’t cringe every time I see the N-word in print, but in my experience, it’s written universally in the context of “this is not the thing to be doing.” Why not use these books as a jumping off point for a discussion with your child?

THREE: It’s pretty clear from the way I’m arguing my points here that I’m not a super conservative thinker, so when I think of folks objecting to books for religious reasons, I tend to imagine it’s a conservative Christian objecting to a different viewpoint (hey, at least I recognize my implicit bias.) But the door swings both ways on this one. Folks have objected to the Bible being available to students as well, citing certain passages as discriminatory, hateful, etc. Soooooo here’s my take. Unless your child attends a parochial school, they shouldn’t be receiving religious instruction. That said, there’s no way you can ignore religion completely in an educational environment. Trying to learn history without any sort of foundation of religious understanding is impossible. And, just because a character in a novel happens to be an Atheist or Muslim or Buddhist or Lutheran or Wiccan doesn’t make a book religious propaganda. It just means they have a particular viewpoint that influences how they react to certain situations. Also, there’s no reason a kid shouldn’t be able to access religious texts through their school library should they choose to seek them out. That’s kind of what libraries are for, you know? Learning about things you haven’t already been exposed to? If your tween comes home saying they don’t want to be Catholic anymore, I highly doubt it’s because of a book. It’s more likely because you continually sign them up for Saturday morning CCD when all they want to do is sleep in. (Alright, that might have gotten a wee bit personal, moving on…)

FOUR: LGBTQ issues- are we not over this yet? Seriously? Much like people of other faiths, LGBTQ folks totally exist. Reading a book about LGBTQ people won’t “turn” your kid. And, frankly, if your kid happens to identify as LGBTQ and you think that a book can “turn” them, your kid needs that freaking book more than anyone.

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FIVE: Remember when I talked about how teachers probably have a decent idea of what they’re doing? Yeah. Teachers aren’t going to assign your 13 year old to read Fifty Shades of Grey (review). But if you think that a YA or middle grade novel is going to be any more explicit than what kids already discuss among themselves, I think you’re pretty naive. Actually, a YA novel that discusses sex is more likely to correct misinformation and serve as a cautionary tale than anything. (SPOILER ALERT: Seriously, Bella Swan gets pregnant the first time she has sex. Sure, she’s married, but she’s only 18. Plus, the baby is half vampire and literally kills her so she has to become one of the undead, so…)

SIX: Part of the reason that school reading lists seem so outdated and stodgy has to be because parents pitch a fit when something like Eleanor & Park is added to the reading list (which is so flipping chaste, I cannot even.) I can appreciate the classics as much as the next nerd, but you’d get a lot more student engagement by assigning Rainbow Rowell than you would by assigning Herman Melville. Plus, a focus on the classics places a focus on (let’s face it) a lot of dead white dudes. There’s so much more out there!

SEVEN: I can only hope that attempts to ban books blow up in the face of would-be banners. In the words of the incomparable Hermione Granger: “Oh Harry, don’t you see?’ Hermione breathed. ‘If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!” – JK Rowling, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

Alright Bookworms. Talk to me. If you were in high school and a book was removed from the reading list for scandalous (IE, parental objection) reasons, how likely would you be to seek out and read that book? 

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Sep 29

Katie’s Unsolicited Opinions on Banned Books Week

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Greetings Bookworms!

It’s Banned Books Week, one of my favorite times of the year. It’s always great fun to discuss the reasons people have for writing to their local libraries and/or children’s schools to complain about the reading material. Objections are almost universally tied to what is and isn’t appropriate for children and teenagers. As a non parent, I should probably keep my mouth shut. The last thing I want to do is play into the Mommy Wars. However, this subject gets me all fired up. I’ve listed some of the popular reasons people challenge books… And my rebuttals.

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  1. Offensive Language: Profanity is always high on the list of reasons books are challenged. Here’s the thing. The words exist. Kids hear them. If they’re in school they DEFINITELY hear them. A lot. Kids love saying bad words. It’s a safe little rebellion for them. Be glad they’re swearing and not shooting heroin. Perspective.
  2. Satanic/Occult Material: You guys. Harry Potter is not your enemy. I repeat: Harry Potter IS NOT YOUR ENEMY.
  3. Sexually Explicit: Teenagers are curious and hormonal. A book is a great way for them to explore the complexities of sexuality with ZERO RISK of getting pregnant or contracting a disease. Your teen is either going to have sex or they’re not. I can virtually guarantee that reading a book isn’t going to change their position on that one way or another. I mean, you remember being a teenager. You had a brain in your head. You weren’t THAT malleable.
  4. Homosexuality: Regardless of your feelings on homosexuality, gay people exist. They’re not going to magically disappear, and they’re legally allowed to marry in the US. Being gay isn’t contagious. Your kid is going to be gay or they aren’t. A book isn’t going to change that. And for the love of all that’s holy, if your heart doesn’t break into a thousand pieces reading about a pair of male penguins trying to hatch a rock, I don’t think you’re doing compassion right.
  5. Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking: I’ve read a good number of young adult novels. A lot of them depict drug use, alcohol use, and/or smoking. I’ve yet to read one that glorifies any of these things, but I’ve read a ton of cautionary tales. Seriously. These books are way more likely to expose the dangers and consequences of substance abuse than to glorify them. And again. A book isn’t going to pour booze down your kid’s throat. Really. A book doesn’t have arms.

What’s the moral of this post? A book isn’t going to undo your parenting. At most it will open the door for discussions on complicated subjects, during which you, as the parental unit can re-instill whatever values you’ve been trying to teach. You have a much bigger impact on your kid’s behavior than any book could. Exposure to different lifestyles, opinions, and circumstances will only help turn your kid into a well rounded adult ready to face the world. Now. Go forth and read all the things. And let your kids read them too.

Alright Bookworms, sound off. Is this post thoroughly smug? If I ever have children will I someday eat my words? 

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Sep 25

Banned Books Week & Diversiverse: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Hey There, Bookworms!

It’s still Banned Books Week, and I’m still celebrating Diversiverse. Today’s book has popped up on the list of Top Ten Banned Books over and over again in recent years, so OF COURSE I had to find out what all the fuss was about. I picked up a copy of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and started reading.
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Frankly, I’m having a heck of a time figuring out why everyone is so worked up about this book. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the semi-autobiographical tale of Sherman Alexie’s first year in an all white high school. The main character, Arnold “Junior” Spirit, is a brilliant kid living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Confronted with the daily frustrations of life and the limited opportunities on the reservation (and, well, an incident involving the violent flinging of a textbook) Arnold decides to leave the high school on the reservation to attend the school of a nearby farming community. I’m going to list some objections from book banners and challengers, then discuss why I think they’re wrong. Cool?

theabsolutelytruediaryofaparttimeindianObjection the First: The language in the book is rather colorful. Then again, I’ve yet to meet a 14 year old who is scandalized by profanity.

Objection the Second: Arnold has a penchant for, uh, self pleasure. But dude. He’s a 14 year old boy. That’s a pretty universal 14 year old boy experience. Virtually all the sexual encounters in this book (aside from a few fairly chaste kisses) are done solo. No underage sex. No teen pregnancy. No STDs.

Objection the Third: This book deals with racism, head on. Pretending racism doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Getting inside the head of someone different than you might make a difference though.

Objection the Fourth: There’s also quite a lot of discussion of the rampant alcoholism that plagues the reservation. I don’t think anybody is really thrilled to think their kids might take up drinking at a tender age, but this book makes one of the strongest anti-alcohol cases I’ve ever read. If anything, I think it would prevent kids from touching the stuff.

In short, SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS?! Don’t ban this book. It’s a fantastic coming-of-age story. It is tragic and heartbreaking and wonderful and difficult- just like being a teenager. It’s also got some killer illustrations which offers a little extra something to the reluctant reader crowd. Everybody likes a cartoon, I tell you! Although, maybe y’all should keep banning it. Nothing will get teenagers to read something faster than hearing adults tell them they can’t! Here’s a bio of the mastermind behind the controversy:

Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Alexie has published 18 books to date. Alexie is an award-winning and prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. Sherman’s best known works include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Smoke Signals, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

 Let’s chat, Bookworms. You remember being a teenager, surely? Was there any activity made more appealing to you by the fact that your parents or other authority figures didn’t want you to do it? I’m curious, really, because I was really rather dull and my parents didn’t make any attempts to restrict my reading material…

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Sep 23

Top Ten Weirdest Reasons Books are Challenged

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Howdy Howdy Howdy, Bookworms!

It’s Banned Books Week still and I thought it might be fun to look at some weird-ass reasons books have been challenged and/or banned. The most common complaints about books are the holy trinity: sex, drugs, and naughty language. Those are the ones you expect to see, you know? Luckily for our reading enjoyment, there are some more entertaining problems that have caused folks to get their knickers in a twist over books. Check these out.

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1. Talking Animals are an Insult to GodWinnie-the-Pooh and Charlotte’s Web have both been challenged because they feature talking animals. Apparently in certain religious circles, talking animals are an insult to God. Sounds like those folks would have done well in Gregory Maguire’s re-imagining of Oz…

2. Depicted Women in Strong Leadership Roles- Speaking of Oz, apparently The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was banned in 1928 in all Chicago Public Libraries because Dorothy and the witches were ladies with power. True, Dorothy and Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West were the key players and the Wizard was a charlatan. True all Dorothy’s male travel companions were lacking a certain something. I still fail to see this as a problem. Then again, I’m a big old feminist and would likely land on the naughty list of the folks who hated this book myself…

3. Because it Defined Oral Sex- Okay, I know that a book being sexual explicit makes easy pickings for challenging books, but in 2010, some schools in California banned the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary because it included a definition for oral sex. You know how I learned what oral sex was? My 6th grade science teacher told us on the bus to the annual health center field trip that oral sex wasn’t just “talking about it” it was “mouth on genitals.” That resulted in a resounding “ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” from a bus full of 12 year olds.

4. Middle Class Rabbits- It seems Beatrix Potter has been challenged in some schools in the UK because only “middle class” rabbits are depicted. My sources failed to mention if the challengers wanted more rich rabbits or more poverty stricken rabbits, but the middle class just wasn’t representative enough of rabbit society. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.bbwbeatrix

5. Witchcraft- Because Satan. I’m always frustrated by wanting to be tolerant of religious beliefs and wanting to shake people who think Harry Potter could possibly be a bad influence. It’s not just HP, of course. Pretty much anything that deals with magic, spells, potions, witches, wizards, fairies,  mythological creatures (and likely fun in general) is seen as problematic by some.

6. It used “ass” or “bitch” in the appropriate context. Ah yes. Bad language. Books are forever being challenged for the use of dirty words. But I’m not talking about f-bombs here. I’m talking about using the word “ass” to refer to a donkey and “bitch” to refer to a female dog. That IS what they mean, after all. It’s not “ass” and “bitch”s fault that people started flinging them about in a rude manner.

 7. Anne Frank is a Debbie Downer- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl has been challenged for a number of reasons ranging from perceived homosexual undertones (what the what?!) to the idea that the Holocaust is too mature a theme for certain age groups. The one I find most amusing (and troubling) is that Anne Frank is just too depressing. Well, yeah. It is depressing. The Holocaust was an atrocity of unspeakable proportions, but it happened, and astonishingly recently. You can’t just dismiss a book because reality sucks. I actually think this book is one of the best introductions to the Holocaust there could be as it deals with the family in hiding rather than the nightmare inducing subject matter of a concentration camp memoir.

8. It Teaches Children to Spy- Harriet the Spy apparently encourages children to spy, lie, and be general malcontents, according to some opponents. Funny, after reading this book as a kid I recall learning that spying wasn’t a great idea and that you shouldn’t talk smack about your friends in a secret notebook (a lesson kids today could learn in regards to Facebook!)

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9. Promotion of Cannibalism- The perrenial favorite Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein supposedly promotes cannibalism in children. Unsurprising given that some of Silverstein’s other works have been so insidious as to “encourage children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” (Please tell me someone else thought of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead: “The dishes are done, man!” I can’t be alone here!)

10. Little Red Riding Hood is an Alcoholic- Some have voiced concern that the timeless fairy tale depicts LRR putting a bottle of wine into her basket of goodies for Granny. Never mind the fact that Lil’ Red didn’t drink it. And never mind the fact that if she HAD drunk it, the tale originated in a time when potable drinking water could easily have given you dysentery or cholera and you were better off with a little alcohol. Never mind that a Big Bad Wolf is eating people. NEVER MIND. BOOZE IS BAD.

Talk to me Bookworms. Anybody out there heard of any strange reasons for books being banned and challenged? Which of the weirdo reasons is your personal fave?

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Sep 22

Banned Books Week & Diversiverse: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

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Hey there, Bookworms!

It’s one of my FAVORITE weeks of the whole year. That’s right kiddos, it’s BANNED BOOKS WEEK! This week I’m going to be basking in the glory of books that have been banned and challenged. I’m planning to, as my friend Shelli is fond of saying, “feed two birds with one scone” (because why would you want to kill the birds?) and chose banned books by authors of color. It’s a Banned Books Week/Diversiverse hootenanny up in here!

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I’m going to start this party with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It is challenged ALL THE TIME. A few pages into the novel and it’s clear why. You’ve got naughty language, sex, booze, alcoholism, incest, child molestation, rape, domestic violence, bullying, poverty, and basically every other horrible thing people do to break each other. Why you gotta bruise my soul, Toni?!  The Bluest Eye is a book designed to make you uncomfortable. How could it not? The fact that it makes people uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s without value though. Not by a long shot!
thbluesteyeThe vast majority of book banning and challenging takes place with regard to school curriculum. This book is not an easy read, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it aloud to a 4th grade class. (I do have some common sense, I promise.) I would, however, defend The Bluest Eye as a choice for an advanced high school English class.I know, I know. I don’t have kids. I was, however, a teenager, and I remember that whole experience keenly.

As far as profanity goes, I heard more casual swearing in my high school hallways than I have anywhere in my adult life. I knew kids who would drop F-bombs to punctuate phrases the way I’d say “like.” I know what you’re thinking! “I don’t mind the profanity, Katie, but what about all the sex and incest and violence and general horribleness?” To which I respond, “Why, this book is chock full of cautionary tales!” All the things you should NOT do in order to be a decent human being are represented. It’s also got a hefty dose of what I like to call getting-inside-other-people’s-crazy-heads. For every broken psyche, you find out what happened to the character that contributed to their particular problems. Empathy! Teenagers need it!

My teenage self would have eaten this up. You know what was not at all interesting to my teenage self? A ginormous book about a freaking whale. Kids get burned out with all the classics. That doesn’t mean they’re without value either, but changing it up every now and again with something that’ll make a teenager’s jaw drop? That’s amazing. Take your pitchforks elsewhere, book banners, The Bluest Eye is here to stay! On the off chance you know nothing (Jon Snow), here’s a little about Toni Morrison:

Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), is an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of “The 30 Most Powerful Women in America” by Ladies’ Home Journal.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Are there any books you wish you’d been assigned to read in school? Is there a classic you’ll hate forever on principle because you were forced to read it? Inquiring minds and all that…

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Sep 26

Banned Books Week 2013: And Tango Makes Three

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Greetings Bookworms!

PENGUINS! You all already know that I am a card carrying penguin enthusiast. Actually, I don’t carry a card (though now I really want to MAKE CARDS) but I’m a huge ginormous penguin fan. In honor of Banned Books Week, I thought I could combine two of my obsessions in a review of And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. This book was released in 2005 and made quite a splash (pun intended.) It’s consistently topped the list of banned and challenged books since its release. How on earth could a kid’s picture book about penguins ruffle so many feathers, you ask?

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Hello, adorable illustrations!

Well… The two grown penguins snuggling on the cover? They’re both dudes. And Tango Makes Three is based on a true story of a pair of chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in NYC. Roy and Silo fell in penguin love. They did all the bowing and nuzzling and nest building of a penguin couple, but because they were both boys, they couldn’t make an egg. After the zookeeper watched the pair attempting to hatch a rock (seriously how adorably heartbreaking is that?!) he decided to give them a shot at parenthood. Another penguin couple had two eggs that season and they were historically unable to care for more than one egg at a time. The zookeeper gave the orphaned egg to Roy and Silo and voila! The lovely little Tango was hatched!

Full disclosure here. I’m ALL ABOUT the rainbow. In my book, love is love is love. Now. This book is undoubtedly aimed at children. The interest level is listed as Kindergarten-2nd grade, though the reading level is around a 4th grade level. The challenges this book typically gets are that it’s age inappropriate… And that it talks about homosexuality.

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I’m in a sticky situation here because while I support the gay community with all my heart and soul, I’m also a big fan of freedom of religion. It’s tough for me to rectify the two, because a lot of religions are less than enthused about homosexuality. That said, regardless of your religious views, at some point, kids are going to come in contact with gay people. There’s a very good chance a kid on their soccer team will have two dads or two moms. This book would be a FANTASTIC opening for that discussion. Heck, it’s even a great way to introduce the concept of adoption to a kiddo. Because really, what is more adorable and wonderful than an unconventional penguin family?!

Anybody out there have kids who have been introduced to And Tango Makes Three? Did they enjoy it? Because… PENGUINS!

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Sep 24

Banned Books Week 2013: Top Ten Tuesday Goes Rogue!

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Howdy Bookworms!

Today is Tuesday and you know how much I love lists. I normally link up with the fantastic ladies at The Broke and the Bookish and participate in their weekly topics, but this week I’m going rogue. In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to forgo The Broke and Bookish topic this week (although they’re talking about sequels, so I encourage you to take a trip over there and check it out!) Instead, I’m going to continue my celebration of Banned Books Week and list some of my favorite banned books! Ready?!

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1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. This book has been challenged for its realistic depictions of slavery and the South during the Civil War. There are absolutely elements in this book I can see making people uncomfortable- the attitudes of the characters toward black people are ugly to say the least. HOWEVER, I think it’s important to preserve that history. Understanding how such a hideous institution could have ever been considered acceptable is critical to keeping it from happening again. Sweeping an embarrassing past under the rug doesn’t do anything for anyone. PLUS, this book tells an amazing story. It would be tragic to lose that!

2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Ironic much? The book about the dangers of burning books is banned? Apparently at some point a school in California took offense with the language and issued a version to their students with all the “hells” and “damns” blocked out. Because, really?

3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This book is often challenged for a myriad of reasons. Profanity, race depiction, and homosexuality only scratch the surface. Whatever, Book Banners. The Color Purple is all kinds of awesome whether you like it or not!

The color purple is totally a metaphor. It's not like they talk about purple stuff all the time. So, if you're just like a purple enthusiast? This might disappoint you.

The color purple is totally a metaphor. It’s not like they talk about purple stuff all the time. So, if you’re just like a purple enthusiast? This might disappoint you.

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The objections to Brave New World are fairly predictable. I mean, okay, so there might be rampant drug usage, casual sex, and the occasional orgy. The thing is, none of those activities are made to sound appealing in the slightest. It’s the ultimate cautionary tale. It’s the stuff dystopian nightmares are made of.

5. Forever by Judy Blume. Oh Judy Blume. How do I love thee? I’ve written before about my unabashed adoration for Are You There God? It’s Me Margaretbut Forever has had it’s share of challenges, too. It’s not surprising, really, this book is about teenagers who have S-E-X. Facts are facts, though. The average person loses his or her virginity at 17. It’s not realistic to pretend that teens in all their hormone riddled glory are all going to remain abstinent. It’s also silly to assume that every kid who reads this sort of book is going to go out and find someone to get naked with. What I love about Forever is that it’s a very realistic story of first love. They talk about the scary stuff- STDs, birth control, emotional investment. It also depicts heartbreak. Honestly, I think this book is more likely to talk teens OUT of having sex than it is to talk them INTO it. 

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6. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. On the off chance you didn’t read my rant on the subject yesterday, please go have a look. Click here!

7. The Giver by Lois Lowry. Seriously, what is there to object to in this one? For heaven’s sake, they all take pills so there’s no sex, no sexual desires, no random make-out sessions- nada. It’s set in a dystopian society in which things are so tightly controlled that even color is forbidden. It’s like Pleasantville. It’s a fabulous book (better than all its sequels) and its a great challenging read for the middle school set.

8. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Yes, yes. Sexual assault, casual profanity, alcoholism. I know. But really, it’s all about overcoming adversity. It has the added benefit of convincing teenagers that they don’t have it so bad. This realization may be fleeting and replaced quickly by more pressing teenage concerns, but learning to think about things from someone else’s perspective is a part of growing up. If a book can help with that? Heck yes, kids should be reading it!

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9. 1984 by George Orwell. Whaaat? A totalitarian dystopian society raising a ruckus? Why that’s unheard of! Kidding, of course. This book touches on issues of privacy, censorship, sexual repression… It’s sort of the opposite of Brave New World, but terrifying in its own way. I can see why it might freak people out, but censoring a book about censorship? Bad form!

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Huck and Jim’s trick down the mighty Mississippi has landed on the banned books list a time or three. Critics cite racist overtones and language as their major objections. Language complaints cause would-be readers to miss out on one of the greatest classics in American literature, and that would be a travesty. Long live Huck Finn!

Have any of your favorites ended up on a banned list? Any of your beloved tomes being challenged? Tell me about it, Bookworms. Let’s get our rebellion on!

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Sep 23

Banned Books Week 2013: Eleanor and Park?!?!

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Hey Bookworms!

It’s time to celebrate Banned Books Week. Every year the national book community sets aside a week to celebrate FREEDOM!!! (I hope you imagined me bellowing that a la William Wallace in Braveheart because that is how it sounds in my head.) There are few things that raise my hackles the way banning books does. Of all the crazy shiznit that goes down in The Handmaid’s Talewhat has always bothered me the MOST is the prohibition of women reading.

The American Library Association doesn't want you to ban books either. (Image courtesy BannedBooksWeek.org)

The American Library Association doesn’t want you to ban books either. (Image courtesy BannedBooksWeek.org)

Books are banned and challenged by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. They’re banned by governments for spreading subversive ideas. They’re banned by religions for containing content they find offensive. Lately though, the groups that seems to be getting the most press for trying to ban books are parental groups.

Most of the time, I try to keep my nose out of the Mommy Wars or any debates on parenting. Sure, I have opinions, but as I do not yet have any progeny, it seems ill advised to wade into those waters. HOWEVER… Some yahoos in Minnesota tried to have Eleanor and Parkthe brilliant coming of age novel penned by the ridiculously talented Rainbow Rowell, banned from their schools’ reading lists.

Yep. This is happening right this minute. A group of parents in the Anoka-Hennepin school district has chosen to wage a war against my beloved E&P. If you feel like raising your blood pressure, you can go ahead and take a look at their list of complaints on the Parents Action League website. What’s got these parents all riled up? Profanity mostly. Because, you know. Middle and High School aged children have never heard a bad word. They’re certainly not using them either (GASP.) Also, it’s chock full of “crude and sexually charged material.” Sure. For a book where no actual sex takes place. Hand holding is described in all its intensity. The characters in this novel never graduate beyond some making out and minor groping! But of COURSE normal teenagers wouldn’t know anything about THAT either. 

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In fairness, I wouldn’t recommend reading Eleanor & Park to a young elementary school student, but we’re talking about teenagers. I’ve been a teenager. They’re a heck of a lot smarter than groups like Parents Action League ever give them credit for. I’d think parents would be stoked at the idea that their kid was assigned a book in school that they ACTUALLY wanted to read. Dismissing the messages presented in Eleanor and Park based on concerns over naughty words and heavy petting is a ginormous mistake. There’s so GOOD to be had in E&P!!! It addresses bullying, abusive home situations, first love, body image, being different, and GYM CLASS. I’m positively flabbergasted that anyone could object to this book, it has ALL THE LESSONS!

Of course, the Parents Action League also promotes an aggressively anti-gay agenda, so I shouldn’t be surprised by any of this… My only hope here is that the kids in this district decide to rebel against their parents. I came of age when “explicit lyrics” labels began being posted on the outside of CDs (remember CDs, guys?!) All those warning labels did was make it easier for me to decide what album to buy next. Explicit lyrics meant the album was going to be edgy and cool and everything rock was supposed to be. I can only pray that teenagers do as they’ve done for centuries and come to the same conclusion about Eleanor & Park. 

So, Bookworms. I suppose it’s stupid to ask if you agree with me about Eleanor & Park specifically, because differing opinions obviously won’t sway my beliefs. However. I am curious. How much say do you think it is appropriate for parents to have in the curriculum assigned to their children? We’re talking public school here. Weigh in y’all. What do you think?

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Aug 06

Give Me More! Insatiable Fandom on Top Ten Tuesday

Banned Books, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday 70

How goes it, Bookworms?

It’s Tuesday, so it’s time to get my list on. The lovely ladies of The Broke and The Bookish have a fabulous topic for us this week. What are the top ten stand alone books that you wish had sequels? Heaven knows I’ve got more than a few of these. Here goes!

toptentuesday1. Harry Potter by JK Rowling. I know, okay? I KNOW there are 7 books. That doesn’t mean I don’t want more! I would read a wizard phone book if JK Rowling published one! I realize she wouldn’t publish such a thing, as wizards don’t use phones (remember that time Ron called it a “felly-tone?”) I could read 8 zillion Harry Potter books. Is it realistic that she could have kept up the quality if she’d kept the series going longer? I don’t know. I respect her right to have stopped when she did, you know, as long as she respects my right to pine for my lost world of magic… Pine, pine, PINE!

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I would be fascinated to know how Charlie’s recovery goes. I’d be very interested to see how his high school and even college careers went. Being a genius and being psychologically scarred often make for the best characters.

3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. MINI SPOILER!!! What does Park DO when he gets that post card?! In my imagination, they end up together, with impressive careers, surrounded by redheaded Asian babies. My imagination is a Lifetime Original Movie.

I listened to a discman on the bus... Because I went to high school in the 90s.

4. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Yes, I have read Scarlett, the authorized sequel to Gone With The Wind. I didn’t hate it or anything, but I really would have liked for Margaret Mitchell to tell me what became of Scarlett. Scarlett was like an apology for all of Ms. O’Hara-Hamilton-Kennedy-Butler’s crappy behavior… While I am a sucker for a happy ending, I’m not sure Scarlett really deserved one, or that Mitchell would have approved of her getting one. Sadly, Margaret Mitchell was unable to do so since she was hit by a car and died far too young. We shall never truly know Scarlett’s fate.

5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I would like to know what becomes of Louisa. What she does with her windfall, what she decides to study, and how her love life pans out… I’m interested. I loved that girl.

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6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I wasn’t thrilled with the situation Abilene was stuck in at the end of the book. I like to imagine her branching out in her writing and breaking barriers and being awesome… I also want to know how Skeeter manages in the big city. Seriously, how much fun are fish out of water stories anyway? Girl from Jackson taking on NYC? These are things I’d like to know.

7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I know there are scads of books that have carried on with Elizabeth and Darcy’s story. Those do not interest me. What interests me is how Jane Austen would have envisioned their happily ever after. What shenanigans Lydia and Wickham might have managed to get into. The number of times Elizabeth forced Darcy to jump in ponds so she could watch him surface in his white shirt…

8. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I’d be interested to see how the rescued school boys readjusted to “civilized” life after the tribal chaos that went down on that island. Would Ralph ever recover?

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9. Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I need more June! I want to know what becomes of Greta and her career. I want to know more about Toby’s life with Finn. I just want more, I want all of it, and I want it served up in a fancy Russian teapot. Is that too much to ask?!

10. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’m worried about the little boy. I know he’s as safe as he can be, but what I really want to know is if they’ll find a way to grow food and figure out how to sustain human life again… You know, other than just EATING PEOPLE and/or running and hiding from marauding bands of cannibals. I’m rather desperate to know that a recovery is possible, because this book was so bleak! Actually, no. McCarthy would probably make it worse. In my ending they grow things, and the air clears, and the cannibals die off. There are butterflies and unicorns! I need a little optimism or I’ll drown in sorrow, Cormac! DROWN IN SORROW!!!

So Bookworms. What do you think? What do you want more of? What book’s loose ends would you like tied up? What characters can you not get enough of?

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Oct 05

Banned Books Week: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Banned Books, Classics, Dystopian 25

Hello Bookworms! It’s Friday, and thus we have reached the end of Banned Books Week. We’re going out with a disaster scenario and talking about Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

This book has been challenged countless times. According to the ALA website, these complaints typically take issue with this book’s excessive violence, bad language, and racial and sexual slurs. Seriously though. Have you heard pre-pubescent boys talk? It’s not gratuitous, it’s just realistic. Parents, please remove the sticks from your backsides and let your kids learn something. It’s allegorical, you really can’t HELP but learn from it.

Lord of the Flies takes place on an uninhabited island. A plane evacuating a group of British school boys from an unspecified war zone crashes. The pilot and all adult chaperones are killed and the boys are left to fend for themselves. The story that follows explores the thin veil of civilization… And the all encompassing power of bacon. (I’m not even kidding about the bacon.) It also contributed to my fear of children in large groups. That and Children of the Corn. So. Many. Nightmares.

So. There’s a group of school boys stranded on an island. They have no supervision, no supplies, and no idea what to do next. It’s decided that a little boy named Jack Shephard Ralph will lead the group because he found a conch shell that can be used as a horn to call the group together (and why not? I’m sure some politicians these days lack such a qualification.) Ralph is followed around by a boy called  Hurley Piggy. Poor Piggy. He’s a chubby kid with asthma and spectacles. This was written so long before the outcry on bullying, but by God, this kid. He’ll break your heart.

Remember how they have no food? They discover that there are some wild pigs on the island (mmmm bacon) and Ralph organizes a hunting party. This is his downfall, because his hunting party fails. The Others A rival faction takes root and its leader, Benjamin Linus Jack, manages to kill a pig. Coup de’ bacon, as it were. Ralph couldn’t bring home the bacon, Jack could, and the fickle boys changed allegiance to follow the boy who fed them. Makes sense, right?

This is where it all goes terribly wrong. Jack is an asshole. Maybe he wasn’t hugged enough as a child. I imagine hugs are somewhat lacking in boarding schools. He’s a bully of epic proportions. He turns the whole gang of boys against poor Piggy in order to steal his glasses. The reasoning behind the theft is that the tribe needs the spectacles to start fires (but you know a jerk weasel like Jack really just wanted them so he could fry ants.) The boys hunt Piggy down, and in the heat of their feral moment, sacrifice him to the smoke monster kill him by dropping a boulder on his head. (Poor Piggy!!!!) They then set their sights on Ralph, who takes off to the forest to hide. Jack the Dictator decides it’s a great idea to burn down the forest to smoke Ralph out.

Oh irony! The fire they set to capture Ralph is the very same fire that signals a ship to their position.  The boys rescued by a naval officer who obviously has no idea of the level of depravity these boys have displayed. He takes one look at their tribal chaos and gives them a stern “I would have expected better of British boys.” And that’s the end! For real. How could these kids not be outrageously screwed up from this? Hello, PTSD! That’s one thing I loved about The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins gave us closure, and not just a happy ending. Katniss and Peeta have serious psychological issues that follow them for the rest of their lives. I imagine it will be similar for many of the boys on this island. Except Jack. He’ll probably turn into a serial killer. I hate that kid.

So Bookworms, what do you think? What would it take for society to break down and chaos to reign? Zombies? Massive prolonged power outage? A Category 5 Hurricane? I’m seeking a friend for the end of the world, y’all. Tell me things!

Who am I kidding? We ALL know it’s gonna be Aliens.

…My husband helped write this post. He kept thinking I was writing a book report on Lost. Not that book reports about TV shows are a thing… But I may have humored him a little. Silly husband… I’m pretty sure he’s an alien.

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