Banned Books Week: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic



Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
By Alison Bechdel

Reasons for Challenges:  Violence and other (“graphic images”)

This is a graphic-memoir exploring Alison Bechdel’s relationship with her father alongside her personal exploration of self.  It’s a pretty quick read, and very powerfully done.

A number of the challenges to this book have been on the College and University level. When the book was placed on the summer reading list for Duke University, there were a number of students who opposed it being on the list (an opted not to read it).

I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,” wrote one student in a Facebook page discussion.  Several students argued that it would help to expose them to new perspectives, but the students who opposed the book were quite vocal, claiming that the book was pornographic. This is a reflection of some of the challenges the book has faced at in higher-education.  The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a nice case study of the history of challenges of the book.

Here’s the thing that gets me – we’re talking about college students. Adults. And in all cases it was optional reading or the student was offered an alternative reading. It’s not a “save the children” call, but clearly due to the content of the book itself. Yes, there are drawings of violence, there are illustrations of naked bodies, there is talk of homosexuality (because, while not blatently stated in some of these cases it’s pretty clearly part of the concern).  But this is a book for adults to read – and reading a book you disagree with hardly means it is going to compromise your values… if a simple book can do that perhaps you don’t hold those values too tightly?

I can understand the concerns by some parents when looking at public libraries and being concerned that the book – due to the fact that it’s a graphic novel – might be miss-shelved in a place where children’ would think it’s for them (because it certainly isn’t a children’s book). But to try and remove it from the hands of college students is much harder to put into an understandable framework.

 At the College of Charleston, in South Carolina, the House of Representatives cut funding due to the inclusion of the book on their summer reading list.  

“…the book asks important questions about family, identity, and the transition to adulthood…. These are important questions for all college students…. I’m concerned that some members of the (L)egislature believe their duties include deciding what books should and should not be taught in a college classroom…. I believe that 18-year-olds benefit directly from reading and discussing difficult topics in their courses.” – Professor Christopher Korey, head of the summer reading program at College of Charelston.”

The government stepping into a higher education setting and trying to dictate what can and cannot be taught… it’s painful that such things are still happening.


Banned Book Week: Nasreen’s Secret School

6379158Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan

By Jeanette Winter

Reasons for Challenges:  Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to age group, Violence.

This illustrated children’s book tells the story of Nasreen, a young girl living with her grandmother in Afghanistan during Taliban rule.  Narrated by the grandmother, it’s a very honest story about the challenges the girl faced and about the power of having access to education.

Nasreen’s father is dragged away, her mother goes searching for him and never returns, and Nasreen withdraws from the world. Her world darkens and she stops smiling, she stops talking. Her grandmother finds a secret school for her, and there Nasreen finds a friend….

This is a powerful book, and presented in a very appropriate way for the target age audience.  But, it is a story about an Islamic girl during war, there is mention of the Koran, there is a prayer said by the Grandmother and it ends with the phrase Insha’ Allah (translation: God Willing).

This book is features on some Common Core curriculum for 3rd grade so it is in a number of schools and physically put in the hands of children.   This is a problem for some because they feel the topics of war are too much to expose children to at that age.

The claims that the story is too violent for children in third grade is the primary one put forth, but there is clearly also arguments against the religion of the characters.

“We are walking up a slippery slope when we start to decide what books we are going to ban from the curriculum.” – Nikolati Vitti, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools

There are statements made that it’s requiring the reading of a book “promoting prayer to someone other than God.” and that Christianity isn’t allowed in the school so why should any other religion (one, of course, doesn’t have to look very far to find examples and references to Christianity in any public venue in the US but, again, that’s another post altogether).  One school district found parents claiming that their children were being made to remember a Muslim prayer due to the grandmothers prayer when she drops Nasreen off at school the first time.

“Please Allah, open her eyes to the world.” – Nasreen’s Grandmother

The story is about the power of knowledge, of learning.  It’s about countering the removal of rights and freedom… and it’s a story I highly recommend reading.  I’m glad that it’s in the curriculum so many places, that it’s being read by children in their schools.

Banned Book Week: The Bible

download-1The Bible.
By… it’s complicated 

Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

For the first time The Bible made it on the list of the most frequently challenged books.  It’s interesting to think about why this has made the list.  James La Rue, from the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom speculates that it was “people who feel that if a school library buys a copy of The Bible it’s a violation of church and state…. And sometimes there’s a retaliatory action, where a religious group has objected to a book and a parent might respond by objecting to The Bible.”

Deborah Caldwell Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association thinks that it shows that faith is “very present on the minds of many people in society.”

I’ll admit this one stumps me a bit.  Yes, it’s a bit of a gross generalization but most of the books that make it to the top of this list are because of people who claim themselves as Christian (I would argue that they aren’t actually being very christian, but that’s a whole other post).  The Bible rising to the list means something, I’m just having a hard time articulating my thoughts on it.

So, I wonder what your thoughts might be.   What does it mean — that The Bible made the list this year? Where do you think the challenges came from?

If you want to read some more (and for the resources that the above quotes came from) here are some articles with more information about the Bible making the list.

Banned Book Week: I am Jazz


I am Jazz
by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Reasons for challenges: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.

This children’s book is the story of Jazz Jennings, a transgender young woman, who knew from a very young age that the body she was born with was not the right body for her.  Her doctor diagnosed her with Gender Identity Disorder, and her life as Jazz began.

It’s an important book, and the topic is well handled in a sensitive and very age-appropriate way.  But that hasn’t stopped the challenges, in Wisconsin an elementary school canceled their reading of the book because of the threat of a lawsuit from the Liberty Counsel- a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group.

What’s beautiful about this particular challenge is the community response. This is such an affirming and wonderful way to respond to the restriction.

I think about the people I have known in various points during my life who are born in bodies that don’t fit who their real identity.  People who could really have benefited from having books to read when they were kids that they could see themselves in.

Representation matters.  Being able to see yourself in the books that you read is important, and being able to hear stories like this can go a long way for helping to encourage compassion and care for others.



Banned Book Week 2016 – Diversity

Time for another Banned Book Week.
This year I’m taking a look at some of the most frequently challenged books of 2015.


Are books that you’ve read on this list?  I’m looking forward to exploring more of them — I had only read one of them before I started looking at what I was going to do this week, I’ve now read a few more of them, and made the decision not to read a few others… but I’ll talk about them still!

The focus of banned book week this year is Diverse Books. The ALA has a bit of an exploration about what they mean by “diverse” that is worth a read.

Censorship thrives in silence; silence is its aim.

This year’s top ten list is very much the tip of the iceberg, with a lot more going on outside our field of vision. But it could be that the shape and composition of the iceberg can be discerned from what we can see.  – James LaRue, director of the Office for Intelletual Freedom, ALA.

One great resource for more about diverse books is We Need Diverse Books – I’ve been a fan since they started out. There is a deep need for diversity in the books we read – diversity of all sorts. People need to be able to see themselves in what they read, and there is a severe lack of diversity out there. So when diverse books are being challenged… It is a sad reflection of what is happening in our world right now.


If We Were Having Coffee – Blog Posts and busy times!

weekendcoffeesharelogoIf we were having coffee I’d be quite happy to curl up with a big cup of coffee for a nice chat.  It’s been a pretty busy time, and I’ve been fighting what I think is the usual round of season-change-ick. A bit of tummy upset, a bit of runny  nose, tiredness… the usual.  The pile of ick has made it a little bit harder to focus on the projects I have going, but I tried to get some things done.  I welcome the short respite of a quiet visit!

Today I am at Comparative Geeks again – continuing to explore season 1 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.  And I have a post that went up last night for the Princess Bride Party with Write on Sisters!  It was fun to get to revisit the story and reflect a bit.


And… this is banned books week! Once again I’m putting together some things for it!  It snuck up on me this year (yes, I’m going to pretend that it hasn’t done that every year….)  but I have a few things that I’ll be finishing up this weekend to share with you — and encourage you to browse around the previous posts I’ve done for Banned Book Weeks.  It’s so important to pay attention to what is being challenged in the libraries and schools, and this year there are some interesting ones in the mix.  I’m looking forward to getting to write about them (and, I’ll admit, I’ve got a bit more reading to finish up in order to be able to write about some of them!)


If we were having coffee I’d ask if you wanted to play a board game while we chatted – I’ve been trying to add more fun-play into my life thanks to the Go Play challenge with Nerd in the Brain.  Honestly, this may be one of my new favorite blogging things.  Last weekend I managed to get out and play in the rain some and do some geocache searching.  Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in any of my searches, but we had fun anyhow!


This weekend is going to continue the crazy-fun.  I’m going out for some Karaoke for a friends birthday today – it should be fun! Though, I will admit, I’m looking forward to mid-October, my first weekend where I don’t have to leave the house!  Of course, I am kind of expecting that things will change before then… it’s strange for me to have so much social going on – but I’m glad for it!

How are you doing?  What’s been happening with you lately?

The Princess Bride – As You Wish.


I don’t remember when I was first introduced to The Princess Bride.  I know the movie was my first exposure to the story – and it was likely right when it came out on VHS. I was 7 years old when that happened. (as my mom said, “it was one we enjoyed…”) so the exposure to the story was about as early as it could have been for a non-movie-theater-going family.  

The poster that didn't bring people into the theaters.
The poster that didn’t bring people into the theaters.

I’ve continued to love the story, and somewhere in high school or college I decided to read the book that it was based on. I was hesitant and worried, having had plenty of exposure to the ways that movies ruined perfectly wonderful books and I had a fear of reading the book and discovering that a beloved movie was actually the ruination of a good book.  That would have been heart-breaking.


But I was in luck.

It was one of those rare instances (the only one that I can readily call to mind) where the book and the movie are both spectacular.  Each with their own character and quirks, their own feel and power – but each enjoyable on their own merit.  

What a rare treat it was to watch that!  And it has become one of my tried-and-trues, a movie I can re-watch over and over again (though I’ll admit I’ve only re-read the book 2 or 3 times).

To celebrate the anniversary of the Princess Bride’s limited release in theaters back in 1987 (it did not become a hit until it was released on VHS) Write On Sisters is hosting Princess Bride Blog-party!  I had been looking for an excuse to get Cary Elwes As You Wish, a memoir about the filming of the movie, and what better excuse?  Yay!


The book was a light read, very personably written, and I had fun getting a peek into the background of the filming of this movie, and it helped to solidify some answers for me.

I’d always been curious what kind of magic had happened to allow the movie to be as good as the book.   It turns out that the movie had been trying to get produced for some time, but the right mix of people needed to make it had to come together for that to be so. Many of those behind the movie, crew, cast, producers and directors, were fans of the book. The author was on set for some of the filming, and invited to be highly involved. It was his baby, and it was handled with great care.

There were so many little insights, moments of feeling like I was getting to know these actors better, building a sense of connection with these actors who were able to bring these awesome characters to life.  

This book is a fun addition to the Princess Bride story – a bit of behind the scenes that made me just enjoy the movie even more.  I highly recommend that you read it!

Be sure to stop by Write on Sisters and join the party!  I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences with The Princess Bride — which characters particularly appealed to you?

A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.

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