Tag: banned books

Sep 26

Banned Books Week 2013: And Tango Makes Three

Banned Books, Children's Fiction 40

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.

pengwaddle

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!

Banned Books, Classics, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Memoirs, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 49

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?!

toptentuesday

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. 

forever

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!

glass castle

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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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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Oct 04

Banned Books Week: Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence

Banned Books, Classics 13

Hello my dear Bookworms! It’s still Banned Books Week, and we’re still celebrating! It’s a regular fiesta up here at Words for Worms. DH Lawrence published Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1928. It was banned by US Customs in 1929, Ireland in 1932, Poland in 1932, Australia in 1959, Japan in 1959, Canada in 1960, and China in 1987. Yowza. What’s the big deal?

See how this is an ARTSY image of a naked lady? This is an ARTSY book. About naked people.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover takes place shortly after World War I. Lady Chatterley’s husband has returned from the front gravely injured. He is confined to a wheelchair and unable to perform his (ahem) husbandly duties. Lady Chatterley is left in a bit of a pickle. She appreciates her husband for the rich intellectual life he provides her, but our Lady… There is no delicate way to say this. Lady Chatterley wants to get laid. Her husband can no longer help her out there. So… She starts up a steamy affair with their groundskeeper. Who also happens to be married, albeit estranged.

If you read this today it seems pretty tame, especially if you’ve been desensitized by Harlequin romance novels. It’s important to remember that this book was released in 1928. Women in the US hadn’t even had the right to vote for a full decade yet. Pornography has been around forever, but this wasn’t pornography. It was an intelligently written novel. It just so happened to contain explicit sex scenes. And it was brazen enough to discuss female orgasms. Frankly, it’s pretty frickin’ dirty for being so old.

Whilst all her womb was open and soft, and softly clamoring, like a sea-anemone under the tide, clamoring for him to come in again and make a fulfillment for her.

-DH Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

That’s a far cry from some of the gems I’ve read in Harlequins. It’s so formal and fancy, it’s kind of hilarious. I mean, we’re talking about two people doing the nasty in the woods here, for heaven’s sake. If I ever try to compare my lady bits to a sea-anemone under the tide, please call my doctor. Especially if I start claiming my husband is having an affair with a mermaid. Clearly medications will need to be adjusted.

Sex is a topic that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Heck, I’m blushing as I write this. (Apparently I am a prude.) I hate to bring this up AGAIN since I’ve already discussed how I think it’s awful, BUT… 50 Shades of Grey is brand spanking (pun completely intended) new and people are either titillated or horrified by it. Even today, in an era of constant access to free internet porn, people are still scandalized by a dirty book. It makes you think- are times really all that different?

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Oct 03

Banned Books Week: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Banned Books, Classics, Dystopian 29

Happy Hump Day, Bookworms! It’s no secret that I love a good dystopian novel. When I’m having a bad day, I like to tell myself things like, “This sucks, but at least I wasn’t forced to fight other children to the death in a televised competition.” Or “This really sucks, but Big Brother is just a crappy reality show.” Sometimes it’s not even a dystopia thing, it’s a, “This sucks, but I totally have indoor plumbing and deodorant! Celebrate!”

To continue our celebration of Banned Books Week, we’re going to discuss one of the all-time-greatest dystopian novels, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This was written in 1931. It was banned in Ireland in 1932 (quick turnaround, right?) The American Library Association has a huge list of American high schools that have challenged this book as required reading. Parental complaints over the years have included that the book shows contempt for religion, marriage and family. (I can’t disagree with that except that Henry Ford, he of the assembly line, is a godlike figure to these people. So they don’t hate religion… Just YOUR religion.) Among other things, parents objected to the idea that this book made promiscuous sex sound like fun. (I don’t agree with that sentiment either. It wasn’t “fun” so much as required… And our protagonist isn’t really into it.)

Everybody loves a bleak dystopian future scenario!

Fast forward to London in the year 2540 (or the year 632… After Ford.) The human race has become mechanized. All conception and gestation of children takes place assembly line style in test tubes and jars. All children are genetically coded to belong to a particular class. The classes do NOT intermingle. Everyone is sleep hypnotized throughout their formative years so they’re conditioned to believe their particular caste has the best lot in life. There is no nuclear family, and the basest human instincts have been exploited. Multiple sexual partners are required, and if anyone begins to get a little bit cranky, a wonder drug that sounds like xanax plus valium plus ecstasy called “soma” is administered. That helps any ne’er do wells who might get their undies in a bunch to simmer down.

In any “utopia,” there’s always a black sheep. This black sheep is named Bernard Marx. He’s a top tier brain, but rumors abound that he was exposed to alcohol accidentally as a fetus, because he’s short and not as handsome as the rest of his peers. As a result he has a massive inferiority complex. He’s also a psychologist, so he understands in more detail than most exactly what conditioning goes on in order to maintain their peaceful society. This just fuels his discontent.

While on vacation, Bernard witnesses a society of “savages.” Apparently not EVERYONE was on board with the soma induced happy land of the new world order, so there are isolated pockets of tribal peoples who live without modern conveniences. They also (GASP) give birth to their own children. And have a semi organized religious tradition that has nothing to do with drug fueled orgies. As it turns out, Bernard and his buddy come across one of their own lost amongst the tribes decades ago. She was stranded without her birth control, so her socially approved dalliances led to a birth. The woman and her (now grown) son are rescued by Bernard and his compadre and returned to their society in London. The woman soothes herself with excessive use of soma, and dies in a drug induced haze. Her son is devastated and completely confused and horrified by the new society. Of course, Bernard starts hanging out with the wildling, and gets himself into all manner of trouble.

Okay. Stop for a minute. This sucker was published in 1931! I mean, some of these ideas are still pretty radical today. The book resonates 80+ years after its publication, and not in a “where’s my flying car, Jetsons?!” sort of way. Do you even know what was happening in 1931? The Great Depression. Television didn’t exist yet. Birth control pills weren’t invented yet (which leads me to wonder what exactly Huxley was imagining the egg producing women were using to prevent births…) There was no polio vaccine, in-vitro fertilization was decades away… Huxley was kind of DaVinci-esque in his prediction of future technology.

In essence though, I think Brave New World boils down to being a cautionary tale. Huxley was worried. Worried that humanity would go all hedonistic and forget about all the good wholesome things that make the world go round. I love this book, and I think Huxley was a genius to have written it. BUT. Every generation since the beginning of time has thought that “these kids today” would be the end of civilization as we know it. Ooooh that Rock-n-Roll! Get off my lawn! You kids have no respect! When I was your age, I had to WALK to school. In 8 feet of snow. Uphill both ways. And I was HAPPY TO DO IT! (I’ll be 30 in March, I’m practicing my Angry Old Lady-isms. My husband is already well versed in his Angry Old Man-isms. I was reading this to him and he shouted, “The Jersey Shore generation will bring about the apocalypse!”)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not especially scared that Huxley’s future will come to pass. Unless, of course, someone invents soma and releases it into the world’s water supply… Dun dun dun!!!!!! It’s October, y’all. I’ve got to Halloween it up a little. What would your Utopia look like, Bookworms?

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Oct 02

Banned Books Week: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Banned Books, Classics, Historical Fiction, Women's Studies 20

Howdy, Worms! Today’s selection to celebrate Banned Books Week is The Color Purple by Alice Walker. The list of American high schools that banned this book is impressive. It’s been on parents’ shiz-nit list since it was released in 1982. Why is everyone so up in arms? Well… It’s pretty violent. There are some explicit sex scenes, both hetero and homosexual. It doesn’t paint African American men in the best light. And if you can get through the thick dialect, you’ll realize there’s a lot of swearing too. Oh yeah, there’s some baby thieving. And incest… It’s just a giant ball of scandalous activity.

The Color Purple takes place mostly in rural Georgia and focuses on the lives of black women in the 1930s. Our heroine is a woman named Celie. We start following her story when she’s a 14 year old girl being raped by her stepfather. After she’s twice impregnated, the stepfather mysteriously disposes of the children when they’re infants. Celie assumes they’ve been killed and lives a life of misery once she’s married off to yet another physically and sexually abusive man. Shortly after her marriage, her sister disappears, and with her the only functional relationship Celie has ever had. (This book won a crap ton of awards. I mean, it’s a phenomenal work, but do HAPPY things ever win awards? Is that even possible?)

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.

This book’s plot is pretty incestuous, you know, even without the actual incest part. There’s a fairly static group of characters, but they swap partners throughout the story quite a bit. Celie’s happiest moments come when she’s in a relationship with another woman (though that’s hardly surprising given her experiences with men in conjugal situations.) I’ve got to admit, the love triangles make this book a wee bit soap opera-esque. But, you know, since nobody is wearing designer clothes and fighting for control of the family fortune, it feels very real. This book is written from Celie’s point of view, nearly entirely in the format of her letters to God. I’ve got to give Walker credit for making these letters very realistic given Celie’s limited education… But it makes for a bit of a challenge to a reader who is used to her books typically following fairly regular rules of spelling and grammar (cough cough.) Don’t be discouraged though, Bookworms, it’s not NEARLY as bad as trying to read Chaucer in Middle English, I promise.

In spite of this book being tragic at nearly every turn, a number of the characters kind of grow out of their asshole-dom. They’re like real people. They live. They’re flawed. They go through crazy crap. They grow. And you know something? Celie even gets a happy ending. I’m not going to spoil it all for you, but most of you have probably seen the movie (hail to the Oprah.) I haven’t seen the movie, because I don’t watch a lot of movies. Maybe you’re like me. Regardless, this is a really good book. If you’re into any of Toni Morrison’s stuff, you’d love this. Give it a read! Enjoy! Bask in the shiver of exhilaration that comes with reading something that’s banned!

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