BBW Book Blogger Hop: Sept. 30th-Oct. 3rd

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

In honor of Banned Books Week, what is your favorite

“banned or frequently challenged book”?

I think I’m going to have to go with Push by Sapphire. At least, looking at the list of books challenged or banned in 2010-2011, I’m going with Push. I hadn’t seen it be challenged or banned yet–that was probably an oversight on my part, because I’m sure it was challenged or banned before this past year. It is very crude and real. Push is much more upfront about what Precious experienced than, say, Melinda in Speak, which I just read this week.

Push
Challenged on an extracurricular reading list in the Horry County, S.C. school library (2011). The 1996 novel is based on the story of Precious Jones,
an illiterate sixteen-year-old, who grows up in poverty. Precious is raped by her father, battered by her mother, and dismissed by social workers. The story follows Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, through her journey of learning how to read and be on her own. The novel was made into a critically acclaimed movie, Precious, in 2009, which received six Oscar nominations,
including Best Picture, for the 82nd Academy Awards and Sundance Film Festival praise.
Source: May 2011, pp. 94–95.

On another note The Notebook Girls and The Body of Christopher Creed were on the list for 2010-2011. I read these two in high school and I don’t believe they were considered very controversial at that point in time. Either way, I’m somewhat glad that books I’ve read are being challenged. Not sure why. Maybe it makes me feel like I’ve been reading controversial books for a long time. Except what I consider controversial means there’s something there for discussion. These books are being challenged/banned merely for referencing drugs and drinking or “age-appropriateness”–isn’t that what TV is all about? Showing us lots of violence, drugs, and sex?

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The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jen at Crazy For Books. Essentially, every weekend Jen posts a topic for book bloggers to discuss on their blogs. I know sometimes I find it hard to think of bookish things to write about (that aren’t reviews), so the Hop gives me some great thoughts to ponder.

BBW 2011 Read: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

TitleSpeak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: YA fiction
ISBN: 9780374371524
Length: 198 pages
Published: 1999
Source: public library
Rating: 4.5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: none

Reason for Reading: Every BBW, I think of this book. Not because I’ve already read it and loved it. But because I know it is a frequently challenged book which many of my reader friends have read and enjoyed. So I felt it’s finally time to read it.

Summary (from book jacket):

The ninth graders are hearded into the auditorium. We fall into clans: Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash, Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chiz, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Goths, Shredders. I am clanless. I wasted the last weeks of August watching bad cartoons. I didn’t go to the mall, the lake, or the pool, or answer the phone. I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don’t have anyone to sit with.

From her first moment at Merryweather High, Melinda Sordino knows she’s an outcast. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops–a major infraction in high-school society–so her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t know glare at her. She retreats into her head, where the lies and hypocrisies of high school stand in stark relief to her own silence, making her all the more mute. But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either–there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about. Try as she might to avoid it, it won’t go away, until there is a painful confrontation. Once that happens, she can’t be silent–she must speak the truth.

My Thoughts:

I really liked this book. This is probably one of the most different “coming-of-age” stories. Not that Melinda finished growing up by the end of the story. But she definitely grew up because of her unfortunate circumstances. Melinda started off her freshman year of high school as a girl who had no friends and belonged nowhere. By the end of that year, she had learned to stand up for herself (in relation to a bad experience she had) and was much stronger. Oddly enough, she didn’t really end the year with any friends or a sense of belonging, as one might think. But she knew where she didn’t belong, and that was hiding in the janitor’s closet while at school.

I am assuming that the reason adults might challenge this book is the issue of rape that’s presented in this story. But, I don’t think that rape is an issue to ignore. It is regrettably something that actually happens. And I have to admit that I have read fiction that concerns rape, amongst other things, in a way that is much more lewd–Push by Sapphire, for example. I read Push earlier this year (on audiobook) and the language Sapphire used was so very crude and real. Anderson hardly even refers to rape directly in the book–rape actually came up probably 2-3 times in Speak. I actually think that reading and discussing both Push and Speak would be a really interesting idea. Syracuse and Harlem are both in New York, but that’s pretty much where the similarities between the two books ends.

BBW 2011 Blast from the Past: The Kite Runner

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

In honor of BBW, I am including a Blast from the Past book which is on the ALA’s list of frequently challenged books. Unfortunately, all I wrote down about this book were quotes from it that I liked. But it is one of my favorite books and, by far, the best book I’ve ever read as required reading for school.

Winter/Spring 2006
“…the past claws its way out.” (p1)

“When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.” (p18)

“Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.” (p21)

“…better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.” (p58)

“…what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.” (p142)

“…it always hurts more to have and lose than to not have in the first place.” (p211)

“…time can be a greedy thing–sometimes it steals all the details for itself.” (p214)

“The desert weed lives on, but the flower of spring blooms and wilts.” (p249)

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Blast from the Past is a weekly post I write that focuses on a book I read long before I ever had a blog about books. While I didn’t “book blog” until a couple of years ago, I’ve kept a reading journal of sorts for about 6 years. Blast from the Past is essentially just my way of digitalizing my old book journals–and reminding me what I thought of books long since read. I think it will be a fun way to look at how my reading selections have changed and what I like most in the books I read.

BBW 2011 Teaser Tuesday: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

I just need to hang on long enough for my new skin to graft. Mr. Freeman thinks I need to find my feelings. How can I not find them? They are chewing me alive like an infestation of thoughts, shame, mistakes. I squeeze my eyes shut. Jeans that fit, that’s a good start. I have to stay away from the closet, go to all my classes. I will make myself normal. Forget the rest of it.

~Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, p125

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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 teaser

BBW 2011: Requiring Banned/Challenged Books in School?

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

Required reading.

It is something every American high school student knows well. I am unaware how native language classes work in other countries, but English classes in America most often focus on reading over grammar–something I never liked. And if my own high school experience was pretty normal in comparison to all other Americans, I’m not the only one who had 1 or 2 books required each year I took an English class in high school.

One thing I find very interesting about my past experience with required reading in high school is that most of the books required of me are often challenged/banned, according to the ALA. Here are some books that were required for me as high school reading:

  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
And, upon looking through the list, I realized there were other books that were “required reading” for me at an even younger age. Of course, I didn’t really think of them as “required reading” when I was in elementary school. But we did read books as a class from 3rd grade on, so here are some books I remember reading for school and the grade (I think) I read them in:
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London (8th grade)
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (3rd or 4th grade)
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (4th grade)
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl (3rd grade)
  • the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (4th grade)
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
These last three are books that were actually read to me by my teachers!
And, last but not least, books that were required reading for other people in my high school, who took the regular English classes (I was in honors):
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
But the point of all of these little lists is really a question I have lurking in the back of my mind.

Why do some people want books banned and others want their children/teenagers to specifically read them?

I find this very amusing. Is it the same things in the books that make some dislike it and others find it interesting enough for discussion? I don’t think that these questions have an easy answer. Unless, that is, you’re an English teacher deciding to assign the book to students. And, if the ALA actually revealed why they are all challenged so much. I mean, the more classic books on the lists have reasons on the ALA website for challenges–but the more recent books from the 1990s and 2000s aren’t given any explanation as to why they are challenged. (Maybe they think it’s just obvious or something 🙂 )

BBW 2011: “Bad” Books I’ve Read Since BBW 2010

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

In the past year (since Banned Books Week 2010), I have read ten books that have made the Top 100 Challenged Books for 1990-1999 and 2000-2009.

1) James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

2-6) five of the seven Harry Potter books by JK Rowling (#1-4, 7)

7-9) the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (the site only said The Hunger Games, so I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be the first or all three books)

10) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I know some of the challenges to To Kill a Mockingbird, as they are listed here. And I discussed them at length in my previous post, “BBW 2011: To Kill a Mockingbird thoughts.”

And I can guess that the reason a lot of adults challenge Harry Potter is because of the wizardry/witchcraft aspect; and maybe the dangerous situations Harry gets into, even fatal for some characters, aren’t “okay” for younger readers. I know my mom banned them in my childhood house because she apparently thought my sisters and I were too dimwitted to understand that Harry Potter is a boy from a story and that stories aren’t real.

But, as far as The Hunger Games goes, I’m really have a hard time trying to figure out what’s wrong with them. Katniss does find herself in some perilous situations and there’s that teenagers-all-trying-to-kill-each-other bit, which can be graphic. Now that I think about it, those “graphic” situations are quite worse in this than in Harry Potter. But I would have to say that I think the picture of the future of the world from this perspective would be the most controversial thing (at least in my mind). I mean, if I didn’t realize the difference between fiction and reality, I would be pretty worried that the world would come to the conditions described in this dystopic novel–moreso because those conditions led to all that violence. Okay, I can see that some adults might feel this is inappropriate for some younger readers. But, you know what? Worry about your own young reader, like my mom did when I was young. Ban it in your own house. It’s not your duty or right to keep someone else’s child/student from reading a book you think isn’t right. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system… 🙂

Oh, and I honestly don’t know what could be bad about James and the Giant Peach. Anyone want to enlighten me as to what could be wrong with such a fantastical story as living in a peach. If you don’t think it’s possible to live in a giant peach, you’ll probably understand any of the bit of violence towards James mentioned at the beginning of the story isn’t a violence in reality.

BBW 2011: To Kill a Mockingbird thoughts

~~Banned Books Week (BBW) 2011 takes place September 24th-October 1st~~

In August 2011, I listened to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee on audiobook. I admit that I did not read this American classic until I was 24. Not that I’m ashamed of that. It was required reading for my high school’s regular freshman English courses–I, however, took Honors English, meaning my required reading was The Odyssey. (Having read both, I much prefer The Odyssey.)

Regardless of my dislike to the book, To Kill a Mockingbird is often referred to as a “controversial” book and I will never like it if people attempt to censor books. According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) website, it is a book that is constantly asked for removal from school libraries and reading lists. Here are a few examples of the challenges towards to book, from this page on the ALA website:

Challenged in Eden Valley, Minn. (1977) and temporarily banned due to words “damn” and “whore lady” used in the novel. Challenged in the Vernon Verona Sherill, N.Y School District (1980) as a “filthy, trashy novel.” Challenged at the Warren, Ind.Township schools (1981) because the book does “psychological damage to the positive integration process ” and “represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature.” After unsuccessfully banning Lee’s novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council…Challenged at the Santa Cruz, Calif. Schools (1995) because of its racial themes…Banned from the Lindale,Tex. advanced placement English reading list (1996) because the book “conflicted with the values of the community.” Challenged in the Normal, ILL Community High Schools sophomore literature class (2003) as being degrading to African Americans. Challenged at the Stanford Middle School in Durham, N.C. (2004) because the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel uses the word “nigger.”

I cannot help by comment on some of the grounds people have used for challenging this particular book. Firstly, I will never understand why a book should be challenged because of certain words between its covers. A single word is hardly reason enough for anyone of a “certain” age to not be allowed a book. Damn. Whore lady. Nigger. There, I’ve said them. While the last of these three words is a word I would never use except to quote a person, all three are hardly reason for banning. I wonder if the people who challenged the book on these terms were just too worried about having to explain the meaning to their own children/students.

Secondly, I suppose I could see a little weight to the challenge that the book does “‘psychological damage to the positive integration process ” and “represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature.”‘ For readers of a certain age, the comprehension of the story might be a little above them. So, as far as worrying that the book hurts “positive integration” or promotes the racism that was considered normal and appropriate for the 1930s in the Deep South, I can see a bit of weight to their concerns. But even if a reader isn’t mature enough to understand that that isn’t the intention of the story, their questions would be a great way for parents/teachers to address that the time the book was set in was different from when it was written and even read by the reader. I can see so many opportunities to discuss the Deep South in the 1930s in response to questions a younger reader might bring about.

Finally, I have to say that the challenge I have bolded upsets me most. The fact that a book can be banned from an advanced placement reading list is the first thing that I find wrong. For those of you who don’t live in the US, advanced placement (AP) courses offered in high schools can count towards university credit if the test at the end of the year is passed. So, banning a book from an AP class is like saying you also thing it is inappropriate for the scholarly walls of the universities! But to be so bold as to assume the “values of the community” are the same amongst all people–well, that I just can’t believe. Seeing as there were about 5,000 people living in Lindale, Texas when they banned the book, I fervently doubt they all had the same values.