Category Archives: Books and Reading!

Book Reviews, Reflections on Reading, all things reader/book related!

Banned Book Week: Little Bill

 

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One of this years top challenged/banned books stands out as being a bit different from the others that typically make it onto the list — it was challenged not due to the content itself, but because of the author.

The Little Bill series of books, a children’s series written by Bill Cosby and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood (which was also an Emmy Award-winning cartoon that ran for 10 years) was challenged because of the criminal sexual allegations against Bill Cosby.

James LaRue, the Director of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, notes that “I think it’s our fascination with celebrity. If we love the person we love everything about him. If we hate the person we hate everything about him. We don’t seem to be able to separate the message from the messenger.” (Citation)

This appears to be the first time a book is challenged due to the author, rather than story content itself. Though the question surrounding the seperation of artist and their artwork is certainly nothing new.  As the ALA blog notes, “there are other authors who are criticized for their behaviors and beliefs. Among the classic authors – revered for their writing but despised for their bigotry – are T.S. Eliot, Roald Dahl, Edith Wharton and Dr. Seuss.” (Citation)

I’ve always been fascinated by the question of if you can separate the work from the artist. What do you think?

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Top Ten Banned and Challenged Books of 2016

This year there were 323 challenges recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom in 2016 – but it’s noted that 82-97% of book challenges are unreported and receive no media. And did you know that five of the top 10 titles this year were removed from the shelves?  Approximately 10% of challenges result in the removal of the challenged book.

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This year saw some of the same books making it onto the list as in previous years, but also there were some new ones.

I am Jazz and Two Boys Kissing were both ones I looked at last year, this year I’m aiming to read George and Eleanor & Park (but I’m getting a late start on them, so we’ll see how it goes!)

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The Top 10 list, according to the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom:

  1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes
  2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
  3. George written by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
  4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
  5. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
    Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
  6. Looking for Alaska written by John Green
    Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
    Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
    Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
  9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
    Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
  10. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
    Reason: challenged for offensive language

 

 

Reading Without Walls

I know, I know, I don’t really need to add another reading challenge to my list. And, yet….

The Powell’s Reading Without Walls challenge just seemed perfect (and I can even write about one of the books I already had on tap to read for something else)! 

The Reading Without Walls challenge is very basic, and I would highly encourage you all to give it a go! Powell’s has even compiled a list of young reader options.

There are three chalenges:

  1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t live or look like you.
  2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
  3. Read a book in a format you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a graphic novel, a book in verse, etc.

What books can you think of to read in these categories?

Reading GOALS for 2017

That’s right… I’ve got GOALS for reading this year.

Because, why should this year be any different from the previous ones?

Of course, this year I intend to actually meet most of these goals — which I didn’t manage last year. Of course, I did take half the month to even get this posted so, I’m totally on track to for this… really I am….

readmyowndamnbooksbuttonThis year the top challenge is that I’m going to aim to not spend money on books. I don’t expect this to really happen — not sure I’m actually capable of not buying ANY form of books for a whole year — but I am going to make a concerted effort to use the library and read through a lot of the books that I already own.  Because I do own a great many that need to be read. I managed to find someone who is actually hosting a challenge of this, so I’ve decided to join up on that.

 

rhc_cover_pinterestI’m also going to attempt the Book Riot Read Harder challenge again this year — and am starting to brainstorm what books I’ll read for what topics. Because I was at a total loss I decided to start with the first one (probably one of the hardest for me) and tracked something down at the library that will count as a “Sports Book.” I think, for the most part, this wouldn’t be too hard of a challenge this year, if I weren’t trying to also combine it with the “Read My Own Damn Books” Challenge and….

Classics Club LogoTrying to knock more books off of my Classics Club list! I’m totally behind on this, and would like to make some real progress on these books! I stacked up a pretty hefty list but didn’t get through any of them last year.  The Classics Club is a cool group – you should check them out!

I will also, of course, be doing some reading for Banned Book Week again this year  – looking forward to the updated list of most-challenged books of 2016 so I can get started on reading.

What are your reading goals for the year? What kind of books are you hoping to read?

Banned Books Week: Two Boys Kissing

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Two Boys Kissing
By David Levithan

Reasons for Challenges: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection.”)


This is one of the most beautiful books that I’ve read in a long time.

The language use and way the story is structured are very poetic, a style of writing that I admire and would love to be able to emulate. Based on a true story, it is, at a very basic level, about two boys trying to break the world record for the longest kiss, but it is about far more than that. (There’s a good review of the book here)

Told through the haunting voices of those who have died from AIDS. It creates a sense of hopefulness and regrets – the reflections and comments in the story are worth paying attention to.  

We wish we could show you the world as it sleeps. Then you’d never have any doubt about how similar, how trusting, how astounding and vulnerable we all are.

We no longer sleep, and because we no longer sleep, we no longer dream. Instead we watch. We don’t want to miss a thing.

You have become our dreaming.  -Two Boys Kissing

This book has faced a few challenges, with the arguments that it is obscene.  One case in Virginia saw an argument arguing that cited the Virginia Code, which “defines obscene as materials that as a whole appeals to an apparent interest in sex and excites lust,” and claimed that the book fell into this category. 

The school board voted (unanimously) against banning the book.

One of the things that is always reassuring about looking at books that have been challenged is when the community responds in a positive way.  When they stand together against the challenges and present arguments about the importance of freedom of speech, about the importance of representation, and don’t allow the important voices of the story to be oppressed.

Banned Books Week: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

 

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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.