Thursday, September 30, 2010

Giddy About Banned Books

I confess to having reached a point of hilarity on the subject of banned books. (Exacerbated by reading an unrelated comment thread in which a Turkish woman noted several errors in a book that takes place in Turkey and was told she was wrong. Clearly she does not know her country.)*
So, there's another list of banned and challenged books here, in some cases with links to the parts the parents don't like (woot! - although some of the links within seem to be broken).
Lois Duncan's Daughters of Eve has been challenged (in fairness, these parents wanted it marked as PG-13 rather than removed) due to profanity and sexual content. I confess I read this book a really long time ago (in fact, I think I was in middle school) so I do not recall any profanity or sexual content (darn it) but, as several folks in the story point out it is a great story with an important lesson in it. A teacher, under the guise of enlightening the female students, turns out to have far more nefarious plans than education and it's a good story and an intriguing look at how sometimes platforms that start with some great ideas can get twisted. (And now I have made it sound boring and lessony. It's better than that.)
Lois Lowry's Anastasiawas challenged because a character stuffs her bra.
Lois Lowry's The Giver was challenged because it was depressing. (Seriously.) The parent in question believes that books should be historical or positive, so dystopian is apparently off the table. (There is apparently also some sex.)
And my new favorite challenge may be Louise Rennison's On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God not for the content (so, kudos to the parent for reading it before challenging it) because the title contains the words sex god which may lead to statutory rape.
Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were both challenged because they depict racism. Sadly, that suggests the challengers didn't get very far into either.
H/T to the tweetverse for the you don't know Turkey link here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

10 in '10

I am soooooooo far behind on talking about this 10 in '10 Challenge. Fortunately,I am ahead of the game in finishing. Yay!
So, I realize the lovely creators of this challenge were super liberal in their determination, but here's how I decided what counted.
-It had to be in first person (there is one book in there that has one tiny scene in third and whatever, I decided that counted.)
-It had to be from the viewpoint of a girl. (Chick lit, people.)
-It had to be contemporaryish. Ish because I did count fantasy and dystopian as long as they weren't supposed to be historical.
The final list was:
1. Breathing by Cheryl Rene Herbsman
2. Ninth Key by Meg Cabot, both talked about here.
3. Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs
4. How to Salsa in a Sari by Dona Sarkar, both of which I spoke about here.
5. Rachel Vincent's My Soul to Take the tale of a teen banshee, who doesn't know she's a banshee, until, well, until she does.
6 & 7. Rosemary Clement-Moore's Prom Dates From Hell where Maggie Quinn suspects something weird and possibly supernatural when accidents start happening at school and Hell Week the second Maggie Quinn book, in which Maggie goes undercover as a sorority pledge, to discover there may be more than just popularity at stake.
8. Ally Carter's Heist Society a tale of a teen trying to escape her family history of thieving, who ends up having to break into a museum.
9. Caren Lissner's Carrie Pilby about a super smart teen who already has her college degree and yet can't quite figure out the social aspect of life yet.
10 & 11 & 12. Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy - Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, which I have described to people as "American Idol" crossed with The Lottery.
13. Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall which is a tale of a self-absorbed popular high school girl who gets trapped "Groundhog Day" style in a day of her life.
14. Lauren McLaughlin's Cycler, the story of a person who is a girl most of the time, but once a month turns into a boy. (How's that for a monthly cycle?)
15. Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You the story of a girl at a school for young spies.
So, a little different from my original list, but totally fun.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Books, They are Legion

Saturday was the National Book Fest in DC. For whatever reason, I read the list of authors every year and always notice a new name time I every reread it. No idea why, but it happens this way every year.
Since Suzanne Collins was speaking, I finished off the Hunger Games trilogy (literally the night before) not because I thought she would spoil anything, but I figured I would need to be there early and knew that there was some controversy on the interwebs about the ending, so didn't want to have to cover my ears for fear someone would be discussing it with their friends. (And of course, because I was done, no one did in my earshot, although one person tried to ask a question in the Q&A about the end, and was warned off.)
So, I got downtown early enough to stop at Starbucks before I headed to the tenets, which led to two people asking me where was the Starbucks. I was there early enough to hear most of Brad Meltzer's talk about the heroes book he wrote for his son, which was really interesting. He is working on a book for his daughter also. During the Q&A a gentleman came up and said his wife had heard him speak about "Never take no" and as a result she finished her book, and he handed Mr. Meltzer the manuscript. Meltzer told the story of his first book being universally rejected and how he decided he wasn't going to stop, wasn't going to take no for an answer, he was going to keep going and keep writing and people have told him that touched him, but no one had ever brought him a book.
Suzanne Collins spoke about how being an Air Force brat in a family that was big into war history, and remembering watching her dad go off to(and thankfully return from) Vietnam made her understand and appreciate that war is not something we can keep kids separate from, that they are already involved in a myriad of ways, so her books reflect that. She was asked about advice for young writers, and she said read. She also said, if they were already writing they were ahead of her, since she didn't start until her twenties.
Martha Grimes was asked about how much time passes between her books, since she has so many related stories and she answered that well, she wasn't getting any older, so no reason her characters should. And more seriously, that no, she felt the related books generally occurred close together even if it took her several years to write the next one. And one woman got up and told her she had thirty weeks of bedrest to get through and Grimes's books had gotten her through that.
Peter Straub talked about figuring out how to read on his own, and then being annoyed when he hit kindergarten and they wanted him to cut out elephant shapes - mentioning his real life had never once called for such a skill. And in response to a question, talked about how he got a great blurb from Stephen King that just really seemed to get him, and then reading his stuff and being blown away and sending him a letter and finally meeting him and they got along and wanted to write together and figured out between their two contracts they would be able to do that in four years. He also said most people can't tell which part each wrote, except Neil Gaiman apparently has the gift.
Karin Slaughter spoke of how libraries are in crisis, and libraries provide books, book recommendations and access to technology to a lot of areas and if we lose that there is nothing else that will provide that. In response to a question, she said she researches all the sex in her books herself and then watch the sign language interpreter closely adding, she just wanted to know what the sign was for sex. She also spoke of going on exercises with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and how her conversations with female cops found that conditions have not changed much for them. Slaughter also talked about her sister being diagnosed very late in life with dyslexia and researching that and discovering a lot of the qualities that folks with dyslexia have, sounded like a great detective so dovetailed with her desire to create a character who had a learning disability but was the hero, not the villain or sidekick. And also Lena, (oh, Lena) that in most books the girl who was sexually assaulted is either just a victim in one story, or, if she comes back it's so the love of a strong, virile man can heal her. And she wanted to look at a more natural progression of recovery.
Slaughter (yes, I really enjoyed her talk, not that the others weren't fabulous too) also talked about people saying she seemed super nice for someone who wrote books with dead people, and she said thriller writers in her experience were all pretty goofy, and she thought maybe they got their angst out (as opposed to the nasty romance writers or the drunken kids authors - kidding!)
They have started putting up videos and podcasts from this year here. Take a look!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's Banned Book Week!

Yippee! Of course, I look forward to the time when we celebrate this as a historical event, but let's move on. Taking a gander at the books racking up a lot of challenges there are some things that make me wonder. (You know, other than why some parents find it easier to have a conversation with the library or school board about not letting anyone read a certain book, rather than just telling their kids why they don't want them to read it.)
The ALA makes the point that the reported information on challenges is decidedly low, since they estimate they hear about a tiny portion of challenges, but nonetheless the reported information still intrigues me.
So, Pillars of the Earth was challenged for sexual content and I have to say, I think I only made it to the second chapter before the density of the prose made me put it aside, so if some kid read that, more power to them!
I am amused to read that Nickeled and Dimed was challenged in part for promoting economic fallacies, because, goodness knows we wouldn't want kids to get bad messages about money. (I mean, yes, I'm being facetious, because we don't, but, um do you let your kids watch commercials?)
PC and Kristin Cast's entire House of Night series has been banned for sexual content and nudity in one school which is notable for two reasons. One - nudity, in a non-graphic novel is a problem because I guess kids might discover people have body parts? I assume it is naked body parts being revealed in a sexual context, but then wouldn't that be sexual content then that was bothering them? I mean, I assume if the characters had clothed sex, this would still be a problem. Anyway, more interestingly the series has not yet been finished, so they are taking the notable step of banning books that have not yet been written. Lest you think this unique, the Vampire Academy series has also been banned.
Intriguingly, the Twilight series has been banned for sexual content (and having read the whole series, my response is where?) and a school in Australia went so far as to suggest students should not be allowed to have them on school grounds, because clearly we should equate books with things like guns.
Living Dead Girl was challenged in part for having an unsatisfactory ending. That's okay Lord of the Flies was challenged in part for being depressing.
The Egypt Game was challenged because it, in part, depicts Egyptian worship rituals. Yes, certainly wouldn't want people to know that other people might worship differently.
So, clearly I have some reading to do, and the banned books seems like a great place to start. The top ten list is here for 2009.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seriously, People

So, there's a guy who is unhappy about many things (including comprehensive sex ed, because if we don't tell the kids about sex, they will, of course, never know, but that's another post). In particular he mentions unhappiness, with some books the kids are reading or going to read in school.
Yes, in particular he singles out Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak because of it's inclusion of two rape scenes and bad adults. He compares the book to soft porn. Yeah. Okay, um, no.
According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Think of your high school class, and figure out how many people that is. Sure, that's not a perfect application of statistics, but the point I'm getting at is even if they have not told you, there is no way you don't know someone who is/was/will be a victim of sexual assault.
Books like Speak are not glorifying sexual assault. They are acknowledging it as an unfortunate reality, and then showing that people, even fictional people, can and do survive. They can recover. Talking about it in school in the context of a book or movie, allows the discussion to happen in a different way. Sure, this school in Missouri, or other schools probably also have an assembly about rape, but this is another way to present the information.
Laurie Halse Anderson has asked that folks who feel moved to do so, speak out, so that folks will know that her book is not porn. (I cannot tell you how sad writing that sentence makes me.)
Fellow YA author Caridad Ferrer has written about it here. Author Myra McEntire speaks passionately here. And author Veronica Roth, disagrees as a Christian. A
And CJ Redwine has a heartbreaking post here, that says, in part: "Books can give children the language they need to be able to describe themselves and the things they're facing. To silence the book could be to silence the child." (Go read the whole thing.)
I suppose the good news is that my own reading list just got longer.
h/t to the tweeps who let me know about this.

People are Still Fascinating

This weekend I was at the Maryland Wine Festival and then various places in DC. Still found a lot of strange comments, although, yes, some were alcohol enhanced.
I watched one woman pull her car to a dead stop on the highway. She hopped out and dragged her kid out, yanking clothing off and holding the kid over the grass to pee. While I understand it was a more rural highway, it sure seemed like there had to be a safer place to pull over.
-So, you have red hair. Is that why they made you serve red wine. (I answered yes. Seemed useless to explain that I was serving both red and white.)
-Give me your favorite wine. (Which is really code for, I'm just getting drunk now.)
-Pinot noir, please. (Ever since "Sideways", I get asked this once per festival. Even though the winery I volunteer at does not have a Pinot of any kind. Nor do we have anything close, unless by close you mean red.)
Also, (and yes, this turned out much more wine fest focused) somebody had the brilliant idea to make the wristbands gold, which of course meant they were a dingy color that blended in with a lot of people's wrists. Next year I vote for neon pink.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

People are Fascinating

This weekend I was at a congregation event so I was hanging with teens, hanging with adults, eating possibly more garlic bread and ice cream that one should in such a period, and knitting. Now I want to stress, while I am finding amusement in some of the things people said to me, everyone was totally lovely (especially and including the teens).
About me:
"You waiting for your teen?" (Ah yes, just two weeks ago one parent thought I was a teen. Now they think I am a parent. Yes, I know the latter is far more likely.)
"Bread makes you fat."
I responded, but it's yummy. And then the teen patiently explained to me that she was quoting from Scott Pilgrim. Pop culture fail. I did then re-answer, "Bread makes you fat?"
About knitting:
"So what are those really neat things you have there?" (Stitch markers. The Clover kind.)
"So this might take you weeks to finish?" (I should note that last year a small child saw me knitting and saw me again a few hours later, looked and said, "You're not done yet?" So, this is an improvement.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Dewey's back!

And he's so cute! Or something. Anyhoo, this year's recipient is the Village Learning Place in nearby Baltimore. There are several ways to donate. And if you scroll down through the comments here - Pamie's giving away copies of her Going in Circles which I read and adored.
So, I went to the teen list (yes, I know you are all very shocked) and found a banned book or two to donate. (It might have even included an author that caused a little contrversy not too long ago in Texas.)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Impatience and Excerpts

I am an impatient person about some things. (Shocking, I know.) Books in particular. I hate excerpts, sample chapters and the like and avoid them like the plague because - unless the book is already out - if it’s well done, I have to wait for the next page. Sure, sometimes when waffling on a particular choice I’ll skim some pages, but that is again on books already out. I don’t like waiting more than I have to to read the good stuff. And publishing is a whimsical business. That’s why of the five pieces we heard at Cherry Con, two of them are (freaking, finally) coming out this year. I may have told a person or twenty about my excitement about this. But that is an interminable (in my opinion) amount of time to wait. I accidentally read the excerpt for the next of Eilieen Dreyer’s historicals, and I have no idea how I’m going to wait for April. (Better be April or sooner people, or I’ crankier.) I have been known to peek at an excerpt in an ongoing series to get a sense of who the next book was about. And sure, once, I read the whole freaking excerpt on purpose because in my excitement about the resolution the next book was going to provide my peek turned quickly into reading the whole darn thing. But generally, while I absolutely see the value in having excerpts and sample chapters, I don’t read them. Nope, not at all. So, now you know what I’ll be doing November. And April.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Best Fiction or So They Tell Me

I was going to wade in on the whole debate that emerged on twitter and across the internet about the New York Times Book Review’s coverage (or lack thereof) of genre fiction, and how it raised some intriguing points about coverage of female focused or penned books and whether a book review should focus on the very highest quality* of books or if it should pay more than nominal attention to the the books more people read, but I am now exhausted having read so much of the coverage so, should you have missed this, I shall point you here, to Jennifer Weiner who kicked this off (as a long time reader of her blog, I will point out she has been talking about this for a long time, it just seems to have sparked something this time). She also provides links to some of the resulting articles and to Laura Lippman’s thoughts. And I will point you to the brilliantly named Monkey See post. And I will point you to the lovely Caridad Ferrer’s thoughts here.

*And yes, I know that assuming that the only quality stuff occurs in non-genre fiction is hugely wrong but that is a whole other rant.