Monthly Archives: September 2014

Banned Books Week

Today is the last day of Banned Books Week.  Coincidentally, I’ve been having trouble deciding on topics to blog about, but if there is anything I’m practiced in writing on, it’s books.

America’s Library Association makes a list each year of the top ten banned books.  Their website has the lists from 2001 to 2013.  Of those, these are my top six, in no particular order.

1. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

I hated Steinbeck in high school.  That may have something to do with reading The Pearl twice back when all I wanted out of a book was a happy ending.  Spoiler alert: neither The Pearl or Of Mice and Men has a happy ending.

What Of Mice and Men does have is a layered relationship, a tragic series of events, and questions about power and mercy.  It is generally challenged for three things: offensive language, racism, and violence.

That is my main problem with this book.  If I recall correctly, the racism present in this book was casual and never truly addressed by tone.  It’s simply…there.

I did enjoy the book though.  His writing is between Fitzgerald and Hemingway in flowering level.  And the story is layered, with simplistic language but well-formed metaphors.  (Although the absolute best Steinbeck book is The Moon is Down. Just fyi.)

2. Looking for Alaska by John Green

John Green’s Looking for Alaska is an excellent example of the narrative refuting its subject matter.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.

The book has been challenged due to sexual content.  One scene has two teenagers engaging in “sexual acts.”  But, as the author himself said in one of his Vlogbrothers videos, it is the most awkward sex scene in the history of bad smut.  It’s sex without intimacy, and it doesn’t work for them.

There is also underage drinking, smoking, generally shenanigans…but it is an honest look at first love and grief, friendship and tough times, and how suffering can change you and strengthen your relationships.

3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Huh.  Would you look at that…  Another example of the narrative refuting the horrors therein.  Imagine that.

My aunt once said she refused to see the movie because the idea of kids killing each other is sick.  Which it is.  But that’s the point.  That’s why (maybe this whole post should be tagged as spoilers) the rebels fight a war to stop it.  Because it’s a terrible thing.

One of the reasons it was challenged was because of “religious viewpoint.”  I’m not sure I see where that comes into play.  “Anti-family,” sure.  Considering the amounts of children having to care for themselves and their siblings, child abuse, and the families in career districts who believe honor is more precious than their children’s lives, I can see “anti-family.”  And yet, the entire revolution is begun due to the love Katniss has for her sister.

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Of all the books on this list, this is the one I read the longest ago.  My recollection of it is a little fuzzy, so this may be the shortest entry of the list.

It was my first “post-apocalyptic” novel, and it’s something to think about because of the traits it magnifies from our current society.  Materialism, separation of social statuses, people being destined from birth for whatever they are expected to do: these are all things that exist in our own societies to varying extents.  Obviously it’s not “as bad,” but perhaps the point is that once these things are present, they have the potential to grow until they are out of control.

I actually need to reread this book though.  It was my favorite novel I read in high school.

5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I lied.  This one will be my shortest, because I’m running out of time to finish this post before we leave.

According to the ALA website, one of the reasons this book has been challenged is because of sexual content.  But one of the things I love about this book is that the “sexual content” is so subtle, there are discussions about whether it actually even occurred.

I understand that people don’t want their children reading about sexual content, violence, molestation, racism, sexism, etc.  But the truth is that these things exist in the world.  It’s important that people see those things in a safe context so they can recognize them if they happen in their real lives.

There are other books on the list that I love.  Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson are also challenged.  And the latter does contain (spoiler) a child’s death, which is terribly tragic.  But I don’t believe censorship is the answer.  The best solutions (personal opinion time) involve open discussions that allow these issues to be visible for what they truly are.

That, and authors who know how to write bad things in a way that show they are actually bad.

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Two Minute Ramble and the New Job

If you know anything about me, and I mean anything, you know how I feel about Chipotle.

Spoiler alert: big fan.  (Why don’t you have a loyalty card, Chipotle? Huh?)  Right now, they have this series on their bags and cups, and most of them begin with “Two minute…” something.  Since it’s been so long since I’ve done this, I thought maybe that would be a good way to get started.  A two minute ramble.  And…go.

Hmm…you know, I don’t know what the problem is with me and writing this blog.  On the one hand, is it because I don’t have anyone reading it? No active commentors? No one expecting an update at a previously appointed time?  That’s how I usually get work done.  Deadlines.  Without deadlines, nothing gets done.  Of course, without coffee, nothing gets done either.

Then again, it could be the opposite problem.  The people who are reading this are people I know.  Which means maybe I don’t feel like I can say everything that pops into my head…like I’m used to doing.  Or like I want to do.  One or the other.

…Okay, that was really short.  I’m going to try one more time, but this time, with a specific topic in mind.

(Please note, that while I technically work for the county, I work for the library, and as such my opinions are only mine.)

I started working at the library last Wednesday.  My first day (in a library instead of at the Administrative Offices) was at the quieter of the two branches I work at.  It’s kind of shaped like a circle, and I hadn’t been there before.  Its collection isn’t the largest, but it’s a nice little place.  In fact, while I was there, I saw a book on the Golden Age of Superheroes.  I remember once we were at a comic store and my boyfriend was leaving through a copy of it and lamenting the fact that it was a thirty dollar book.  So, since libraries are free, I grabbed it for him.

It’s a really good thing I work at a library and not a bookstore, because I do things like that.  My mom has been reading Jon Scieska lately (he wrote The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, which is a fantastic children’s book) so I keep grabbing those for her.  And don’t get me started on the list of books I wrote down for myself.  If I worked in a bookstore, I would never get a paycheck.  They’d have to pay me in credit.  Which would be useful, but I wouldn’t be able to eat Chipotle.

And there.  Two minutes on my new job.

Now the question is: if I say I’m going to update every Tuesday, will someone actually check next Tuesday?

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