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?


  1. I appreciate honesty in a novel, and enjoy most the stories where it is so real, I find myself questioning if the story is fact or fiction.

  2. I like when a book doesn't make life prettier than it really is. You're right. While racism is ugly, it exists in the world and should be portrayed realistically.

  3. I hadn't heard of this one before this week (I tend to stick to Paranormal Romances in general), but this book look really good. I think I'll be adding that to my TBR list. And you're right. Ugliness exists. Ignoring it in fiction won't change that. Talking about it honestly, however, may someday lessen the damages.

  4. Joanne- Honesty is a wonderful thing in books, isn't it?

    Melissa- I agree!

    J.leigh- I like that, the idea that honesty may someday lessen the damages. And I think you'd like the book, it's very good. :)

  5. Thanks for the review. I didn't know about this book.

    I also participated in Tahereh's banned books reviews if you'd like to visit my blog.


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