Banned Book Week, review 3: Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

Summary:  Whale Talk is a novel by Chris Crutcher about "T.J." Jones, an adopted Asian/African/European-American teenager living in the Pacific Northwest. Motivated partly by his teacher and partly by his desire to upset the status quo, T.J puts together a swim team of school outcasts on a quest for respect, dignity and letter jackets. It won the 2002 Washington State Book Award.

~ Whale Talk is on the ALA's list of Top Banned/ Challenged books for the last decade.

~ It has been challenged for language, racial slurs and content.

My Take: I don't think this book should be banned. Yes, there is swearing and racial slurs, but here's the thing. Most of the profanity used is spoken by people who are racist and angry.

In other words, this book paints a very realistic picture of the impact of racism and other kinds of prejudice. It tells the truth about the words and actions that go along with rage and ignorance. And it tells that truth in a very well-written and surprisingly uplifting way.

You don't ban books for telling the truth.  And this is why.
"I realized I had reached adulthood without even knowing what it is to be human. Nobody ever told me how dangerous it is, how risky...  My parents were wonderful people, I suppose, but they didn't want me to know what was out there. They didn't want me to know the real skinny on sex or love or disappointment. They sold me their wishes as if they were fact," ~ from Whale Talk
Racism is ugly. Violence is ugly. Prejudice is ugly. Loneliness is ugly. They are ugly and they are common, for teenagers and adults alike. All the wishing and book challenges and political maneuvering in the world will never change that.

What do you think?

Still more Banned Book Week fun

 1. Story Snoops is doing a series of interviews with librarians and authors this week, including Judy Blume and Meg Cabot.

2. YA author Maureen Johnson started an entertaining Twitter game with the hashtag #bannedbookbingo to see if the Internet could come up with outrageous and ridiculous reasons to ban books. Much hilarity ensued. (Ban the Very Hungry Caterpillar, it promotes obesity!)

3. The League of Extraordinary Writers, a group of debut dystopian authors are reviewing banned books all week. So far they have reviewed To Kill a Mockingbird, The Handmaid's Tale and The Outsiders.

And finally, my brother-in-law sent me this:

I personally hate the phonebook...


1. If you're posting a banned book review this week, please leave the link here so I can collect them.

2. Also, come back on Thursday, when I join a whole lot of other people in posting banned books reviews on the 30th.

3. This looks like entirely too much fun. And has anyone else read Mr. Popper's Penguins?

See you tomorrow!

Banned Book Week stuff.

Hey look, an extra post! *grins*

There are SO MANY THINGS going on this week that are full of awesome, that I just had to share with you.

~ Tahereh and The Rejectionist are challenging everyone to review their favorite banned book on Thursday the 30th.  They want to fill the Internet with amazing, dangerous disscussion. If you want to play, enter your blog on Tahereh's master list.

(And then wander over and drop the link at the Banned Book site so I can add it to my collecition as well!)

~ The Mundie Moms are putting up author interviews all week about banned books. The thread is here.

~ Also, the lovely Amy is giving away a gift card in honor of Banned Book Week, so that we can buy even MORE banned books!

There's more, and I'll keep posting links as I find them. See you later and enjoy the week!

Banned Book Week, review 2: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Summary: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is about a teenager who is an outcast as a high school freshman because of a rape she can't talk about. The novel was a New York Times bestseller and was also named a Printz Honor book in 2000.

~ Speak is on the ALA's list of Top Banned/ Challenged books for the last decade.

~ It has been challenged numerous times for content and subject matter.

~ Speak was recently challenged in Missouri. The challenge was accompanied by an editorial in which Speak was grouped with other books referred to as soft pornography. The editorial sparked a blogstorm about both censorship and rape and a Twitter conversation tagged as #speakloudly.

My Take:  Speak has been on my to-read list for quite a while, but the Speak Loudly movement bumped it straight to the top. And I'm glad it did. I've been a Laurie Halse Anderson fan ever since I read Catalyst and Speak is even better. What was interesting to me was that I read the editorial about Speak before I read the actual book. So I was activly looking for any parts that might be offensive.

I found nothing.

Here's a deep dark secret about me and books. When I was in fifth grade, I became fascinated with adult romances. The juciy paperback ones, where all the really good parts are somewhere in the middle. I read them at the library and a few years later actually brought them home.

To be honest, it wasn't a great reading choice for me. I would probably have a serious conversation with my niece if I ever saw her reading things like that while still in elementary/junior high, but here's the thing: I got past it. I figured out that it wasn't realistic, that too much of it wasn't healthy and eventually I moved on to other material.

So to hear books like Speak characterized as filthy makes me laugh. It's actually one of the cleaner YA's I've read this year. And bear in mind, I discovered "adult" books in the early nineties, before the Internet really took off AND I was a pretty sheltered kid who went to mostly private schools. If I can get a hold of that kind of thing, anybody can. It doesn't have to be in the schools or the school library.

And scrubbing anything that disturbs us from the school library is not going to make it go away.

What does need to be in schools are books that sensitively address issues that teenagers face more and more, like rape and drug abuse. Books that reassure hurting teens that they are not alone. Books that tell the truth about life and love and the painful, wonderful weirdness of being a flawed human being in a broken world.

I call no-banning on this book. We need it right where it is.

What's your take?

Banned Book Week, review 1: Night by Elie Wiesel

 Summary: Night by Elie Wiesel is a memoir about his experience in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, toward the end of the Second World War. Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

~ Night is on the ACLU's list of bannned and challenged books for the year 2001-2002

~It was challenged in Texas for profanity, violance and horror.

~As a result of challenge:, use of the book in the curriculum was restricted to select students.

Review:  Allow me to indulge in some profanity of my own. Although this is also a prayer.

Oh. My. God.  This is one of the most simply and gracefully written punches in the gut I've ever read.  And it rings completely true. Yes there is some profanity and violence. Yes, it's horrifying. But we're talking about the HOLOCAUST here, one of the most horrifying events in human history.

People need to know about this. They need to know what humans are capable of, what can happen when fear and ignorance and injustice rule a society.

My take: I call shenanigans on banning this book. There is nothing gratuitous or inappropriate about it, only heartbreaking, difficult truth.

Have you read it? What's your take?

A little fun for Wednesday

 After so many serious posts, I thought it was time for a some random fun. So when I found this little game of tag on the awesome Coffey, Tea and Literary blog, I thought I'd pass it on.

The idea is that you answer eight questions about yourself and then tag eight people to do the same. Instead of choosing between all the interesting people I know, I'm just going to tag all of you who read this.

Tag. You're it.

(And no tag-backs. That's not cool.)

Racism and the Spider Theory: part 2, The Theory

To read the background on this post, go here.

This past month, there was a spider in my kitchen. I picked up a bag of trash to take it out and a large, black spider ran out from under the bag and across the floor.

I tried to stomp it. Without thinking, without guilt, and without any overt feelings of hostility. I didn't hate the spider, I just didn't want it running in my house.

Then I remembered this picture from Tea Party Jesus:

And I realized something. I'm a total racist when it comes to spiders.

Racism and the Spider Theory: part 1: The Background.

First off, thanks to everyone for the awesome Mockingjay discussion this past week! I never feel like I can properly process a book until I talk about it with other people.


And now for something completely different.

This year there have been several events and conversations that have made me think very hard thoughts about the topic of racism. Before I get into the thoughts themselves, I want to show you what prompted them.

1. Cover Discussions.

In the past year, there's been a lot of cover controversy in the world of young adult books. Books with main characters who are darker-skinned or Asian have been released with covers that do not reflect the characters. Sometimes the initial cover was inaccurate, and then changed after people protested.

 In one instance, a book initially released with a culturally-appropriate cover was changed for the paperback version, in order to draw more sales.

The hardback for the sequel is planned to look more like the second version than the first.

I have personally read all of these books, and they were all fabulous. I even did a wildly enthusiastic review of Silver Phoenix last year on this blog. I know that none of this is under the author's control, and I encourage those of you who love to buy books to buy these books and share them. They are all worth it.

That being said, the whole topic of race, both in books and in cover art, has been a huge ongoing discussion in my corner of the world. You can read many opinions here, here and here. While there are a lot of complicated reasons for this sort of thing, it certainly made me think.

All About Mockingjay, part 2: Snippits edition

 Apparently this is Miriam-posts-late Week. Sorry about that....

Hey, you!

Yeah, you. The person who hasn't read Mockingjay yet. Why are you reading this post?

Don't get me wrong. I love that you're here and all, and I would love for you to come back again. Just... not today. Browse the archives, or go explore Garfield Minus Garfield or sign up for the Banned Book Challenge. Anything but reading this Mockingjay post.

Seriously. If you haven't read the book, you shouldn't read this post.

This is my serious face.


All About Mockingjay, part 1:


Seriously, if you have not read Mockingjay yet, DO NOT READ FURTHER. If you ever think you want to read the Hunger Games series, don't read further. If you think you might want to see a movie based on the Hunger Games, do not read further.  Just don't do it.

And for everyone who can't read further based on those things, here's a fun little website called What Should I Read Next. And here's a web comic that always makes me smile. And here's a picture of a fox.

Now please, unless you've already read Mockingjay, go away.

The Waltons speak up about book burning.

Don't worry, I will do a Mockingjay post, but organizing my thoughts was a lot harder than I thought. Come back on Saturday for the first of a two-part Mockingjay discussion.

In the meantime, I'd like to remind you of the Banned Book Challenge, which is still going on. Here's the invitation from the website:

Since 1990, according to the ALA Challenge Database, over ten thousand books have been challenged in our country. These include The Diary of Anne Frank, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien,1984 by George Orwell, the Bible, and the dictionary.

The last week in September is Banned Book Week, a way to celebrate and highlight these and other censored books.
In honor of Banned Book Week, a community of writers and readers have decided to be part of the Banned Book Challenge.

 The Challenge is simple: Read one or more banned or challenged books during the month of September, and post reviews  of them. The reviews will be collected and posted to a central site so that people can find out more about these books.

If you're interested in being part of the Challenge, you can sign up HERE. 

Please join us to spread the word about these books. Thank you.

I could go on all day about what it means to limit people's access to books. But I don't have to, because an old TV show called The Waltons does it for me. This is the scene I always think of when people talk about  banning (or burning!) books.

(The book scene starts about 1 minute in.) 

Ugh, the video was taken down and I can't find a transcript of the speech he gives. But part of it can be found here. 

The appropriate or inappropriate content of books is a sensitive issue, I know that. But taking away other's freedom is a very slippery slope.

Any thoughts?

Monday Snippits: Labor Day and Mockingjay poll

Happy Labor Day!!!

I hope those of you with a long weekend (like my husband) are having fun. And I hope those of you who have to work today (like me) are getting holiday pay.

Since I do have to run off to work, I just have a quick question. How many of you have read Mockingjay so far? I'd love to do a post discussing the book, but if most of you haven't read it yet, I can wait.

Who wants to talk about Mockingjay with me?

Why librarians are awesome.

Whoa, sorry about the late post folks! Long story, but I just now got to my computer to put this up. Enjoy.

As we have said many times, September is devoted entirely to books on this blog. But books do not exist on their own. For the poorer masses, like me, books will forever equal libraries. And libraries mean librarians and librarians are awesome.

Librarians are cool for many reasons. For one thing, they are on the front lines of the debate on banned and challenged books. (You see what I did there?)

For another, they can find ANYTHING.

And the third reason...  Well, if you haven't seen this by now, it's high time you did.

I'm pretty sure this proves it. What do you think?
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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.