Banned Books Week 2015: September 27-October 3

Banned Books Week starts today and ends on Saturday.

Every year, people attempt to ban books from the shelves of libraries or schools, to keep other people from enjoying material they feel is bad in someway.

The website of the American Library Association lists some of these books. The top ten books challenged this past year are:

  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. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
  2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi                                                                   Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”
  3. And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell         Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”
  4. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison                                                              Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”
  5. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris                                                          Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”
  6. Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples                                                        Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  7. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini                                                              Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky                                                                                                                   Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”
  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


I have only read Persepolis before, and only the first part at that. I suppose it was only a matter of time before this book showed up on the top ten banned list. I don’t recall gambling. Some of the language is strong, but not gratuitously so. But the political viewpoint – well. Politics is all over Persepolis. You take it out, there is nothing left. So, yeah. The politics cannot help but make it controversial and I suppose that means someone will try to ban it.

As far as I know, Persepolis is new to the top ten banned books list. Also: It’s Perfectly Normal, Saga, A Stolen Life and Drama are new to the list as well. Basically, half the list. Some of them probably appeared on the list, but not in the top ten.

Also, is Saga a YA book? It’s a comic, yeah, but I don’t know if that automatically makes it YA.

I haven’t read any of the others. I usually pick a banned book to read this week, but life snuck on me and I haven’t picked one yet.

There are lists of banned books: by decade and GoodReads and classics. I am sure there are other lists that I haven’t found!


General · reading

Banned Books Week 2014

Banned books week starts September 21−27, 2014, about a month from now.

I’ll read something from the top ten list of last year’s challenged books to celebrate. I should something about the sorts of books that are getting people all riled up anyway.

The list, from the American Library Association:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group 
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

Before now, I’d heard of only seven of these books: Captain Underpants, The Bluest Eye, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Bone. Looking for Alaska, too, if only because it also appeared on last year’s list.

The only one I’ve read is The Hunger Games, but I’m not really sure how anyone could challenge it over Religious Viewpoints. It has hardly any religious viewpoints.  I almost get how people can challenge it over Unsuited to Age Group – it is very violent. If the movie had been nearly as violent, it would not have gotten the PG13 rating. But I think teenagers can handle it. Older teenagers especially. Younger kids? Maybe not. Or maybe they could. Probably depends on the child.

Books In the Top Ten Challenged List of Both 2013 and 2012: Captain Underpants, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Fifty Shades of Grey, Looking for Alaska.

Fifty Shades of Grey was challenged for new reasons this past year: nudity, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group. If nudity was a reason to challenge a book, you could challenge the whole romance genre. Most of urban fantasy, too. And a good chunk of science fiction/fantasy as well.

As for unsuited to age group – really? Really? The book is meant for adults. How can anything be unsuited to age group for adults? I don’t get it. It’s baffling.

I am going to read one of these books to celebrate. I don’t know which one yet. Maybe Fifty Shades of Grey, if only to discover how anyone could think adults are not old enough to read it.

Who else is reading a challenged book? Tell me!

Book Review · reading

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

I never had to read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school. Just as well. The bulk of the books I was forced to read in high school were boring. To Kill A Mockingbird doesn’t really have the blood and mayhem like the Anita Blake books or the In Death series or David Weber’s books.

But, for banned book week, from September 30 2012 to October 6, 2012, I decided to read To Kill A Mockingbird.

It’s not as boring as I expected. It doesn’t have nearly the same level of suspense and tension as my preferred reads, but it wasn’t boring. Having said that, I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again.

To Kill A Mockingbird is supposed to be a first novel. Frankly, that’s hard to believe. It may be the first (and last!) novel published, but that doesn’t mean it’s the first novel Harper Lee wrote. To Kill A Mockingbird is written very well. It shows the growth of Scott – yes, despite the reviews stating none of the characters grew at all, there is character growth. It is gently shown, gently depicted, so gently you hardly notice it at all. It is all so well-done I can’t believe this is a first novel. I can’t even believe she stopped writing after she finished To Kill A Mockingbird.

I knew from the first sentence that the book took place during in the Depression. The family must have been truly rich before the Depression, to be able to afford a cook and housekeeper during the Depression.

At first, I thought Scout was a boy. Scout isn’t a name I associate with a girl. Plus, it’s the 1930’s, and she doesn’t act the way I imagined girls in the 1930’s acted. She’s a tomboy. I only realized Scout is a girl when someone says her full name. Than I thought: wow, she’s a girl. How wonderful.

I found a couple of things odd in To Kill A Mockingbird:

1)      Scout and her brother call their Dad by his first name: Atticus

2)      On her first day of school, Scout’s teacher is upset because she can already read and write. Part of me is not surprised because I, too, had a teacher who told me not to write in cursive since it hadn’t actually been taught yet. But I don’t understand a teacher who would be upset because her student could already read.

To Kill A Mockingbird is known for being a coming-of-age novel and it is banned for offensive language and racism.

I don’t think anyone can deny there is racism in the book, but the main characters are not racist. Quite the opposite. Many of the other characters are racist, and yeah, that undoubtedly influences the feel of the book.

Scout’s aunt’s group of ladies are supposed to be good, Christian women but in one breath they praise god, the next breath they make racist comments. They don’t see it, and yeah, I think that’s deliberate. I am not sure how Calpurnia (the black cook) stood it. I suppose she wasn’t causing waves, doing her job, stuff like that. Still. I am surprised Calpurnia was able to hold her tongue.

Then there is the whole trial involving Tom Robinson. It was a real trial, and the some of the characters say that was odd. Still. Apparently Tom Robinson never stood a chance. That’s probably what prompted his escape attempt – he didn’t believe justice was possible. The white girl was clearly lying, possible being molested by her own father (she did say kissing her father didn’t count, didn’t she? I don’t know. Possible child molestation there. Not sure.) But lying for sure and no one on the jury cared. It’s not hard to understand why Tom Robinson didn’t believe justice was possible for him.

So, yeah, there is racism in the book. But it’s not really depicted in a positive way. More tragic and sad. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book.

Offensive language – yes, there is offensive language in To Kill A Mockingbird. Most of them involve race. Many times they are directed at Scout’s father for actually defending a black man. Scout uses offensive words to try and get out of going to school. (She fails in this attempt.) The offensive words don’t show up for no reason, and they don’t show up all that often, either. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book, either.

I’d heard To Kill A Mockingbird is a coming-of-age novel, but I don’t think it is. At least, it doesn’t go far enough. To me coming-of-age means you are growing up and going through the worse trials of growing up. It’s the transition from childhood to adulthood.

At the beginning of the book Scout is 6 years old and 9 years old at the end. She grows a lot, learns a lot in those three years. 9 isn’t grown up. She still’s a child. At the end of the book, she’s puts herself in Boots’ shoes and regrets she never paid him back for all the little gifts he gave them.

But she still has a lot of growing left to do. She still has to go through the teen years, still has to go through High School. High School will likely be more difficulty than her life so far. Not least, because she still has to yet learn girl skills. Or maybe she doesn’t. But in the time she is living, being a tomboy will only draw criticism. Which sucks, yeah, but gender roles were a lot more fixed back then. I suspect stepping out of gender roles would be very very difficult and likely require all the wisdom she learned from her father. (He raised her to be who she is.)

General · reading

Banned Books Week 2012

Banned books week starts tomorrow, September 30 2012. It ends next Saturday on October 6, 2012.

There is even a youtube channel:

The point is to celebrate books that people want to ban. This year that list includes:

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
  4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
  7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
  9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
    Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: offensive language; racism

The Hunger Games, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Brave New World and What My Mother Doesn’t Know appear on last year’s list, too. I suppose people felt threatened by them two years running.

I have only read Brave New World and The Hunger Games. For Hunger Games, the only reason I can understand is violence. The other reasons – anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic – baffle me. Occult? Satanic? I must have missed the occult and the satanic. Offensive language? I don’t remember any. At least not a lot. Anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity? I am baffled.

Also, as an aside, last year Hunger Games was challenged for: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence. Sexually explicit and unsuited to age group are no longer on the reasons list. I wonder if people suddenly decided it is suited to the age group? A little confusing . . .

People want to challenge Brave New World because of insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoint and sexually explicit. There is probably a certain amount of nudity in the book and I remember sex, too . . . but that’s doesn’t explain why people have banned it! If that was enough, the whole romance genre would be banned. And as for the others – insensitivity, racism, religious viewpoint – I don’t understand them at all.

The plan was to read a banned book this week, but I don’t know which. Truthfully, none of these books appeal. Anyway. Maybe To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a classic; I should probably read it at some point.

Book Review · General · reading · science fiction

Book Review: 1984

From Bookreads:
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.:

I read 1984 for Banned Book Week. It is a pretty horrifying dystopia.

1984 is so well detailed, it’s easy to believe in. But at the same time, it’s hard to believe anyone swallows the Party’s lies. In fact, the love interest doesn’t believe half of what the Party says. But she doesn’t care, either, and that is very hard for me to credit.

The main character, Winston Smith, works as a clerk in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. His job is to revise historical documents to reflect the current Party line.  If (when?) newspapers go completely digital, this would be scarier, because someone could come along behind you and change an article. You would never know.  The idea is pretty damn scary.

Julia, the love interest, is a practical and live-in-now sort of young woman. The Party approves of sex only for reproductive purposes, but she indulges in it for pleasure. She’s better at getting around the Party than Winston, but that’s because she grew up with its restrictions.

The world is shown through Julia and Winston’s love affair. The constant threat, the constant surveillance and the necessary secrecy of their trysts.  The TVs have microphones; if they had personal computers, it would be monitored, too.  Even the décor is bugged.

The characters are who they are. You could call them cardboard characters. Their whole purpose is to show the horror of their world. If the characters were more real, better rounded, I think 1984 would be a lot scarier. Maybe scary enough to tip the book into horror.
The last line stands out in my mind:

He loved Big Brother.

After being caught and tortured, after knowing the Party is lying to him, he learns to love Big Brother. But that’s the point of torture and re-education: to love Big Brother. I think that’s Stockholm syndrome at its finest. 😉

Winston gets out, but he only goes to work a couple of days a week. He drinks morning, noon and night. He’ll probably drink himself to death.

General · reading · science fiction · Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday: 1984

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Reading this for Banned Book Week!

My Teasers: 

He had given a quick glance up and down the street and then had slipping inside and bought the book for two dollars fifty. At the time he was not conscious of wanting it for any particular purpose. He had carried it guiltily home in his brief case. Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession.

– 1984 by George Orwell

Interesting Links
Book Review — 1984 by George Orwell (caffeinesymposium)

George Orwell’s manuscript for 1984 (thefictiondesk)


Banned Book Week

Banned Books Week starts today and goes on until October 1, 2011.

I decided I should honor it by reading one. There are probably some in my TBR list anyway and I won’t have to break my rule of no more books until the TBR list is in single digits.

I started by looking up lists of banned books and discovered the American Library Association (ALA) has some excellent lists. They keep track of this stuff.

For 2010 the top banned/challenged books are:

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
    Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit
  4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
    Reasons: drugs, offensive language, and sexually explicit
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
  6. Lush, by Natasha Friend
    Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
    Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint
  9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
    Reasons:  homosexuality and sexually explicit
  10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
    Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence

I’ve not read Revolutionary Voices or And Tango Makes Three, but they were banned/challenged because of homosexuality. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. I mean, there was a recent furor over agents rejecting books because of gay characters. In this day and age, when people are still trying ban/challenge books because of  homosexuality, it’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

I’ve only read three of these books: Brave New World, The Hunger Games and Twilight.

I can kind of understand of Brave New World and The Hunger Games. I don’t agree with it, but I can kind of understand it. A little. Brave New World’s use of science is pretty scary, not that it’s cited as a reason, but I imagine that’s why someone would ban/challenge it. The Hunger Games are pretty violent, but it fits the book and I am not sure I agree it’s “unsuited to age group”.

But Twilight? Seriously? What’s there to object to in Twilight? I don’t like Twilight, mind, but what about the religious viewpoint and violence? It’s not even that violent. And the religious viewpoint thing is pretty out there. I don’t get it. I really don’t get it. Maybe someone can explain it to me?

Also, for this past decade, from 2000-2009, the top banned/challenged book is the Harry Potter series. I look at that and laugh. It makes less sense than objecting to Twilight (which at least has vampires. Even if they are sparkly.) Harry Potter has the classic fantasy quest thing going on, some of the best world building around, great characters. How can anyone object to it?

Also, I still haven’t decided on a banned book to read, but 1984 appears on the ALA’s list of banned and challenged classics. Should be good.