just what it sounds like…reading as a religion

Archive for September, 2010

#SpeakLoudly about Censorship

Beware: There are spoilers as to the plot of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson contained within this post.

So, anybody that’s pretty deep in the book blogging community knows about what’s been going on today–the controversy surrounding an opinion piece by a Republic, MO man in the News-Leader of Springfield, MO.  You can read his article here: http://www.news-leader.com/article/20100918/OPINIONS02/9180307/Scroggins-Filthy-books-demeaning-to-Republic-education

Dr. Scroggins questions the use of/access to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five in the public schools of Republic, MO.

Anderson and Ockler have both taken to their blogs in response:

http://madwomanintheforest.com/this-guy-thinks-speak-is-pornography/

http://sarahockler.com/2010/09/19/on-book-banning-zealots-ostriches/

I am going to do the same and here are my thoughts.  Of these three books, I have only read Anderson’s Speak.  I can certainly say that this is one of the most moving books I have ever read.  Dr. Scroggins has taken scenes and dialogue from the book out of context to portray this book as what he calls ‘filthy’.  A lot of what he says is the way the book depicts high school life, is actually dialogue by the main character, Melinda, and is colored by sarcasm and negativity, due to the intense trauma that she has experienced at the hands of her classmates.  Those of us who have actually read the book and taken the time to understand what it means know that this book about learning to speak up for yourself, to value yourself as a person, and to seek help without fear of embarrassment or retribution.  The main character, Melinda, suffers the unspeakable–date rape at a party.  After calling the cops who break up the party, Melinda is ostracized by her friends and classmates.  She didn’t say anything about the rape, so nobody knows that she is suffering.  Melinda withdraws and refuses to speak, as she fears that she will only make matters worse for herself.  As the novel progresses, readers watch Melinda deal with her inner struggles and find her inner voice.

While I have never personally experienced something so horrible as Melinda has, there are teenagers for whom Melinda’s story is reality.  This novel has and will continue to help many teenagers deal with the things that they are experiencing.  It is depressing to consider that any school may ban this book and possibly prevent it from helping even one teenager who is suffering.  Even teens who have not suffered any great trauma can learn a lot about valuing themselves and speaking up, even when their opinion might not be what people want to hear.

Dr. Scroggins is certainly entitled to his opinions, but I have a problem with one person trying to dictate what information all students have access to.  Just like he is entitled to present his opinion, others are entitled to a different opinion.  Students should have access to all opinions, so that they may make thoughtful decisions as to their personal values.  In this same vein, students should have access to information and books concerning all different life experiences.  (And if one person has a right to censor at all, it should only be for their own children.)  Dr. Scroggins is attempting to level his own Christian agenda upon the public school system in his community.  Don’t even get me started on what he thinks is ‘Christian’.  Myra McEntire is a really cool Christian, who discusses this in better words than I could ever hope to (http://writingfinally.blogspot.com/2010/09/speak-loudly-in-defense-of-laurie-halse.html).  The issue, at hand, is whether Christianity should even be brought up to the school board.  There’s a little thing called Separation of Church and State.  That means religious values have no place in dictating the workings of our public school system.  As well, people of all religious ideologies should feel welcome in a public school.  So, in summation, Dr. Scroggins should not expect his personal religious values to dictate what any child besides his own has access to or to dictate how his local public school system operates, no matter what the religion of the school board members.

A lot of people of spoken out on this topic and the general focus is on speaking out against censorship.  One of my favorite bloggers, Liz over at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy, takes this opportunity to raise a larger question: For those of us who book blog, have we said things in our reviews that could be used to help ban a book?  Read her take here: http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/teacozy/2010/09/19/tool/

After reading Liz’s article, I immediately thought , have I written anything that can be used in such a way?  I was ready to read through my past reviews and change things I had written so as not to allow book banners this opportunity to use my words in a negative way.  And then, I thought, wait, how terrible is this? I am about to censor myself and what I write so others cannot use my words out of context to censor access to a book.  How much does that suck? Making censorship a nasty cycle.  It really saddens me to think that in this world, we have to be careful about how we present a book, so people won’t take offense to it and try to censor it.  My goal with this blog is to let people know about books that I liked, books that moved me, books that I think can make a difference.  The last thing I want is to prevent access to books.  Take heed book banners: If you ever try to use my words to support your causes, I will not react lightly.

If I could share one piece of advice regarding this issue, it would be the following: Don’t let one person or one group of people dictate how you feel about a book.  Discussing books is one of my favorite things to do, but don’t let anyone force your judgment of a book.  And parents, before you write a book off, pick it up and read it.  Don’t censor things from your children just because someone told you it was ‘bad’.  And then, if you don’t think it’s right for your child, leave it at that.  Please don’t go and try to make decisions for other people’s children.

Lastly, when it comes to anything that causes you harm, be it abuse, rape, inequality, or even censorship: #SpeakLoudly.  We can’t change things if we don’t try.

P.S. Best thing to come out of this is inspiration to read great books.  I’m going to the library to check out Twenty Boy Summer and Slaughterhouse Five.  If you know me and want to read Speak, I’d be glad to loan you my copy.

UPDATE:

Here’s a post that I thought was cool:

http://www.greenbeanteenqueen.com/2010/09/speak-loudly-when-book-bannings-hit.html

Thank goodness, someone finally sat down and dissecting the literary issues here:

http://www.philnel.com/2010/09/20/speaking-out/


The Following Book is NOT, I Repeat NOT About Vampires

So, I went on a little bender….a v-bender that is.  To be more specific, I dropped out of the realm of the living to read all the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris.  I will admit that they got to me.  I am definitely hooked.  I will also admit that I am one of those foul people who watched True Blood long before she ever picked up one of the books that it’s based on.  Better late than never though, right?  Anyways, I won’t get into them too much here because they aren’t a YA series, which is mostly what I write this blog about.  Don’t get me wrong….everyone who knows me can tell you that I will not stand for any kind of censoring of any sort.  Truthfully, I very well could have read these books in high school, but I grew up in a pretty liberal household.  I just want it to be clear, for those young adults who prefer literature of a higher moral code, that these books were not written for a YA audience.  As such, objectionable language and sexual content abound.  But, for those of you who don’t mind such things or who relish this kind of literature, I say DIG IN!

So, if I’m not gonna write about the SoVampMysteries, what am I gonna write about? Something that is NOT, I repeat NOT about vampires.

I just want to make sure we’re clear about this, the following book is NOT about vampires.

Why am being so adamant about this, you may ask?  Let me explain.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Earlier this year, I heard a lot of talk about Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  Everytime I heard someone talk about this book, it was in the context of a discussion about vampire books.  Add that to someone telling me that this is like Twilight, but the girl is the vampire–and I built up this whole notion of what I thought this book was.  Finally, this weekend I sat down and read it.  Guess what?  It’s not about vampires, at all! What were all those people smoking?

What is it about, then?  Well, I don’t want to tell you because it’ll ruin the fun of discovering it for yourself.  I will concede that is about something supernatural…but not vampires.  LOL

Ethan Wate grew up in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, just like his father before him and all the Wates before him.  They live in the same house, surrounded by the same people, living the same life.  Nothing ever changed, until now.  After Ethan’s mom dies in an accident, Ethan’s dad locks himself away in his office writing and Ethan succumbs to terrible nightmares.  Every night he dreams the same thing.  A girl is falling, leaving him, and he can’t save her.  When his dream girl shows up in Gatlin, Ethan thinks that maybe his life is gonna turn around.  But when unexplainable things start to happen and Ethan’s housekeeper Amma, the one person he feels like he can always trust, tells Ethan to stay away from the new Lena, Ethan knows that change might not always be good.  Still, Ethan knows that he has to look deeper, that everything must be happening for a reason.  Can Ethan and Lena learn to trust each other so that they can figure why they are so powerfully connected?  Will change mean a new future or no future?

Watching Ethan and Lena learn to trust each other and fall for each other is breathtakingly beautiful.  The connection between them, with its supernatural appearance, also seems to resemble the nature of true love–powerful beyond all things, even when it might mean danger or heartbreak.  At times, it was slightly frustrating watching Lena continue to distrust Ethan and push him away.  But, while this is painful, it lends a nice touch of a real relationship.

While many powerful and heartbreaking things ensue, this book also provides its share of lightness and humor.  I think it’s mostly due to the badass female quotient.  Amma, the Wates’ housekeeper, is tough as nails.  It is amusing to watch her as she lays into Ethan with the tenacity only true caring and love can create.  You know in an instant that no one crosses Amma because she does what she does for your own good.  Ethan’s three eldery aunts, the Sisters, are just as endearing.  At times slightly off-kilter and at other times just plain stupid, the reader knows the Sisters’ way and word are law–even it means there are only 11 true states (the Confederate ones) and itching is spelled ichin’.  There’s just something you have to love about women who think that being buried with your recipes so as not to share them is a sin of the highest order.

There’s also a badass supernatural quotient in this book.  I told you before, I’m not gonna give too many details here.  Let’s suffice it to say that Garcia and Stohl have built a pretty enchanting world here.  You are gonna love unraveling it.  Wrap up all that supernatural goodness and put it in a nice package with a southern drawl and you are gonna be instantly charmed.

I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Beautiful Darkness.  I’ve got an advance reading copy from ALA sitting right next to me.  I think I’m gonna take a night off and enjoy a chick flick though.  I could do with a little light to balance out the dark.

As always, happy reading!  And if you’ve read Beautiful Creatures already, I wanna hear from you.  Did I miss something?  Did you think it was about vampires?  Cause, I’m still mulling that one over. 🙂


And So, We Reach the End.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Note: You may find spoilers here.

Recently, I proclaimed my excitement over receiving my copy of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the final installment in the Hunger Games Trilogy. I have been waiting in anticipation for this novel to be released because I became so deeply attached to the characters and the story in the previous two novels in the series. I was certainly not disappointed by this last chapter. Collins writes this novel with as much intrigue and emotion as the previous novels. I will say, however, that this one depressed me. I think the only reason I came away from the book feeling less than satisfied was due to the level of sadness in this novel. I’m a sucker for happy endings. However, I found that the emotional nature of this book made it far more realistic (given the content), than if the novel had been a happy fairy tale ending to the series.

Katniss does not live in a happy fairy tale world. The future, dystopian society in which she lives is full of very real problems and struggles. The point of this novel, and the series thus far, has never been about giving Katniss her fairy tale ending, in my opinion. Sorry, if that spoils something for you. However, if you’ve read the first two novels, you probably aren’t expecting this one to be all rainbows and sunshine. Katniss has always been on a journey to find herself, to decide what she values, and to determine what she wants from life. She has struggled in determining her views of right and wrong and in developing her sense of trust.

I don’t want to give away too much plot detail, as I am forever encouraging people to read this series from the beginning. I will just say that this third installment, Mockingjay, is superb. It is suspenseful and gut-wrenching. You won’t be able to put it down. I will warn that it is considerable more violent than the first two installments IMHO. However, it may just be that the violence is of a grander and more random scale, more so than it being more graphic, which gives it such an intense feeling. Also, though you may have already picked this up, this one is sad. Be prepared with a large box of Kleenex!

Finishing a book series is always a bitter sweet moment. One is anxious to see how their favorite characters end up, but is sad to know this is the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the Hunger Games Trilogy as a whole. It is one of the best things I have read in some time, for its emotional qualities and its detailed content. I urge you to read this series if you haven’t and I look forward to seeing what comes next from Ms. Collins.