One Writer’s Journey

September 26, 2017

Banned Book Week

Banned book week 2Somehow it had completely slipped my mind that this is Banned Book Week.  This is a week of reading promoted by the American Library Association in order to make people aware how often people attempt to censor or ban books.

A book ban can come from any political or religious group.  People challenge books that disagree with their own beliefs, but these challenges can come from any group.  “The lust to suppress can come from any direction,” said Nat Hentoff in Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other.   (This quote is from the ALA website.)

There are people who simply cannot handle an idea that at they don’t agree with.  When they see or hear such an idea, they get nasty.

When my son was in high school, we had to sign a permission slip for him to read a Banned Book.  The teacher provided a list and he chose one.  Then we had to okay it.  He chose Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  When I signed the permission slip, I wrote a note to the teacher.  “Why am I signing this when practically every book you’ve had them read is banned?”

She wrote back that I was the only parent who realized this.  And that was why she asked parents to sign a slip.  She wanted her students and teachers to realize that perfectly ordinary books get banned.  Yes, sometimes it is for extreme content.  But often it is simply because an idea or concept scares someone and they don’t want their children exposed to it.

You can check out a wide variety of banned books.  There are numerous lists on the ALA web site.

Or you can go with one of my favorites:

  • Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak
  • Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games Trilogy
  • Coville, Bruce. Am I Blue?
  • Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963
  • Green, John. Looking for Alaska
  • Lowry, Lois. The Giver.
  • Polacco, Patricia. In Our Mothers’ House
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter series
  • Winter, Jeanette. The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq
  • Winter, Jeanette. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan

Some of these are picture books.  Some are young adult novels.  The point?  People are easily offended and often try to control the ideas that children can access.  Fortunately the ALA stands in their way.

–SueBE

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April 13, 2017

Most Challenged Books of 2016

I’m betting that 99.99% of you have probably already figured out that I’m kind of wild for intellectual freedom.  Book banning drives me nuts.

That isn’t to say that I’m against a parent saying “No, that book is a bit much for you” if the content is too emotionally advanced for their child.  After all, that’s part of a parent’s job.  But challenging a book because it has gay characters or transgender characters or the teens in the book are portrayed in a realistic way?  Umm . . . no.

The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom put together this graphic about the 10 most challenged books of 2016.  I have to admit that there two books on the list that I know nothing about — Big Hard Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Make Something Up by Chuck Palahniuk.

But there are other books on this list that I’ve read and highly recommend — depending on your child’s age, both physically and emotionally.  Intellectual freedom is one of our most important building blocks and one that you should be concerned with if you are a writer.

My son’s biggest regret?  That I haven’t managed to get banned yet and he’s about to graduate.  Gotta love ’em.

–SueBE

April 21, 2015

Banned books: ALA puts out list of 2014 most challenged books

And the winner of the most banned book for 2014 is…a great read!

I’m not sure what it says about me but I probably get more excited about the ALA banned books list than I do about the Newbery Awards.  Maybe it’s just that with my sense of humor and personality, I could one day have a banned book.  The Newbery feels must more remote.

Anyway, the ALA (American Library Association) just put out their list of the most challenged books for 2014.  Not surprisingly, there are some old favorites.

1) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence, and depictions of bullying.

This is one of my favorite books.  In fact, I gush so much over it that my son read it for lit class.  He highly recommends it because the characters are real.  When I asked him to elaborate, he explained that they weren’t too good to be true. “There’s a character for everyone in there.”

2) Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, racially offensive, and graphic depictions.

3) And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and promotes the homosexual agenda.

I. Love. This. Book.  Of course, I think it is hilarious that three penguins are being accused of promoting anything let alone “the homosexual agenda.”  We won’t even go into my view points concerning that phrase — just remember that if I am never banned, it will be surprising.  If you haven’t read it, this is a picture book about two adult penguins in a zoo who raise a young penguin.  Yes, they are two adult males but this is a book about family and caring, not about sex.  And the penguins aren’t at all religious so if you’re an atheist, don’t worry.  They won’t offend you with their viewpoint.  I’m not sure what religious viewpoint the banners were griping about.

4) The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, and contains controversial issues.

I haven’t read this one but my sister adores this book.  It is an adult book, but we assign adult books to teens all the time.  Huck Fin. Tom Sawyer.  The Grapes of Wrath.  All adult books that my son has read in class.

5) It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris. Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and “alleges it child pornography.”

Well, it is a nonfiction book about sex.  So, yeah. It’s going to be in there.  I love that someone picked this book up and then freaked because it was sex education. That is kind of the point.  That’s like ordering halibut in a restaurant and griping because you hate fish.

6) Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.

I haven’t read this one but it’s an adult graphic novel.  I really do wonder about the anti-family bit since the description reads like interracial Romeo and Juliet in space.  So, you know I’ve requested it.

7) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence.

Again, it is an adult book.  We assign them all the time.  But it has some pretty hard to handle stuff in it — stuff that we don’t seem to be concerned about weeding out of the real world. Ahem.

8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky  Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.

9) A Stolen Life Jaycee Dugard. Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.

10) Drama by Raina Telgemeier.  Reasons: sexually explicit.

The only objection to this one is that it’s sexually explicit but it is a graphic novel for middle graders.  Hmm.  Not going to pass judgement without seeing it for myself so I’ve requested this one too.

There are some amazing reads on this list!

–SueBE

February 3, 2015

American Library Association Awards

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Yesterday the American Library Association named the latest recipients of their various medals.  I’m not going to duplicate the entire list here — the announcement is something like 2600 words long.  If you want to see the entire list, you can view it here.  I’m just going to give the Newbery and Caldecott and then comment on a few others.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for illustration to The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend written and illustrated by Dan Santat (Little, Brown and Company.)  I have to admit it — I started with this one because I’ve met Santat.  He was a keynote speaker at the Missouri SCBWI conference about two years ago.  If you have the chance, even if you’re a writer, hear him speak.  He is amazingly inspirational.

Caldecott Honor Books:
Nana in the City written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo (Clarion Books)
The Noisy Paint Box: The  Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art illustrated by Mary GrandPré, written by Barb Rosenstock (Alfred A. Knopf).  A most excellent picture book.  I highly recommend it to authors who do not illustrate.
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett (Candlewick Press)
Viva Frida written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Roaring Brook Press)
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).  I love Eerdmans and this one is conveniently sitting on my desk, waiting for me to read it.
This One Summer illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki (First Second)

John Newbery Medal for writing to The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Newbery Honor Books:
El Deafo written and illustrated by Cece Bell (Amulet Books)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for an author or illustrator whose US books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children to Donald Crews.  I had to say something abut this one because Crews’ book, Freight Train, a 1979 Caldecott Honor Book, was one of my son’s favorites.  So glad to see Crews and his body of work for very young readers honored.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for nonfiction to The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).  I love seeing nonfiction titles honored especially when  they are honored for being great books and not simply great nonfiction.  Yes, nonfiction can holds its own!

Sibert Honor Books:
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin)
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade Books).  I haven’t read this one yet but Russian History was by far one of my favorite classes in high school.  Eager to read this.
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson (Chronicle Books LLC)
Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy (David Macaulay Studio).  I loved tihs book in spite of the fact that it is about sharks.  Yes, sharks are fascinating by they also freak me out.
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

Definitely some great books on this list and I hope you will check out the ones in your category.  Keep your librarians busy!

–SueBE

September 22, 2014

Banned Books

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BannedBooksWeek1 Texas Pastor Attempts to Ban “Twilight” from Austin Memorial LibraryJust last Friday, I posted about banned books. But this story is a must hear on why it is so important to be aware  and of the important work that our librarian do.

In Texas, a Cleveland pastor demanded that the Austin Memorial Library remove all books from the shelves that are occult in nature.  According to Pastor Missick there are 75 such books.  I couldn’t find a complete list but according to an article in The Advocate, the list includes Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, the P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast’s House of Night series, and all other teen books that include romance with vampires.

Personally, I’d rather eat a raw steak than read a vampire romance book, but that’s me.  I’m not interested in forbidding everyone else from reading them, because I’d rather they read something than nothing.

For me, the icing on the proverbial cake was his additional complaint about “a demonic stuffed doll and a witch’s hat” sitting on one of the shelves.  Think about it.  A witch’s hat and a demon?  Have you figured it out?  That would be the Sorting Hat and Dobby from Harry Potter.  Talk about a day late and a dollar short.

If they don’t remove the books completely, Messick requested that the libraries force the parents to check the books out for their teen readers.

Said library director Mary Cohn, “Since the majority of the children using the library come with their parents, I believe this is a moot point.”  Furthermore, the materials will not be removed.

If you don’t want to read about magic or vampires or purple tutus, that is strictly your business.  But don’t try to tell me what to read.  I’ll just have to pick it up and read it. Speaking of which, I have to go accompany a boy wizard on a quest for a special stone.

–SeuBE

September 19, 2014

Book Banning

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey for offensive language, unsuitability for age group, and violence.  These books have been around since my son was of the inappropriate age group.  He was never interested.  
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sex, unsuitability for age group, and violence.
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie for substance abuse, offensive language, racism, sex, unsuitability for age group.  I adore this book for the honest portrayal of the characters.  No, they aren’t always spotless, but they are real.  Honestly, this should be required reading for . . . people.  I mean it. 
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James for nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sex, unsuitability to age group.  Have I read this?  No.  Did I read an excerpt?  Only part of it.  I simply was not impressed.  I did have to laugh when I saw “nudity” on the list.  Seriously?  Every time a character takes a shower, the reader can assume there is nudity.  I did see a student carrying this book at the high school today.  Would she have voluntarilly picked up Tom Sawyer?  Probably not.
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins for religious viewpoint and unsuitability for age group.  Again, loved them.  Loved.  Them.  I can’t decide.  Do people who want to ban this book not get the statement it makes about the world we live in?  
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone for substance abuse, nudity, offensive language, and sex.  Honestly, I don’t remember seeing nudity before this year.  
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green for substance abuse, sex, and unsuitability for age group.  Another truly amazing book.  Why don’t they ever ban the boring books?  Oh, wait.  They do if someone is nekked.  
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky for substance abuse, homosexuality, sex, and unsuitability for age group.
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya for occult, offensive language, religious viewpoint, and sex.  Makes me wonder how “offensive language” differs from “swearing.”  
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith for political viewpoint, racism, and violence.

If there is something on the list that I haven’t read yet, I always try to get ahold of it.  Off to search my library for Bless Me Ultima or Bones.  

–SueBE

April 22, 2013

Most Challenged Books

alexieThe American Library Association recently published their lists of most challenged books for 2012.  The list is compiled from “464 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.”  This year’s winners are:

  • Captain Underpants series, by Dav Pilkey
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  This is one of my all-time favorites and should be required reading in my not-so-humble opinion.  The banning issue usually comes down to the fact that Alexie unflinchingly portrays real teen age boys.  Want to ban the book?  Then you probably can’t handle teen-boy-unfiltered either.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  This too is an amazing book and I can see why it would make people squirm but sometimes squirmy is a good thing especially when we are forced to examine the implications of letting certain things take place.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.  
  • And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.  Another thought provoking favorite of mine.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.  This one is an adult book so I can see it being inappropriate for younger readers but I would have no problem with my son reading it in a highschool lit class.  
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

I’m not saying that all book challenges are unfounded.  If someone was requiring my 12 year-old to read The Kite Runner, I’d have something to say about it, but that’s a curriculum issue because it is an adult book and not a get-this-book-out-of-the-library issue.

For those of you who may not have figured it out, I’m against book banning.  Yes, some of these books are about bad things, but sometimes a kid needs to read about another kid who survived something bad.  That way, they’ll see that they too can survive.  Not all of these books are those kinds of books.  Some are simply irreverent and silly.  I may not like the individual books, but kids need to laugh and they often laugh at things I find disgusting.  That’s life.

How many of these books have you read?  If the answer is zero, I’d definitely encourage you to pick up a few of them.  See what is setting people off.  If you are writing for kids, you need to know.  Me?  I’ve requested Looking for Alaska.  It’s a book I’ve heard great things about but simply haven’t gotten to yet.  I think it’s about time that I did.

–SueBE

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