Bloggers Speak Out & Teaser Tuesday (7)

Bloggers Speak Out is a movement sparked by the recent article, “Filthy Books Demeaning to Republic Education” by Dr. Wesley Scroggins that was published in the Springfield, MO News-Leader on September 18th. In this article, Scroggins vehemently advocates the censorship of books in schools, and specifically requests that the following books be removed from the Republic school system: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. To show our support of these authors and to fight against book banning and censorship, we have decided to take action and speak out.
– Natalie @ Mindful Musings

Speak is just one of three books that have recently been challenged in a school district in Missouri, USA. Natalie @ Mindful Musings decided to put together an event in which bloggers write reviews, host giveaways and post about the three novels, and book banning/challenging in general. The event runs from today until October 3, one day after Banned Books Week ends. If you’d still like to sign up, e-mail Natalie or comment on her blog letting her know you’re interested. I’ve just started reading Speak and will have a review up during my own Banned Books Week event, and I’ve already written a post about the subject. The giveaway can be found below today’s Teaser Tuesday.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB @ Should Be Reading.

Speak
by Laurie Halse Anderson

I am a good girl. I go to every single class for a week. It feels good to know what the teachers are talking about again. My parents get the news flash from the guidance counselor. They aren’t sure how to react – happy because I’m behaving, or angrier still that they have to be happy about such a minor thing as a kid who goes to class every day.
– page 120

The only extra entry I am offering is a chance to spread the word about banned books, Speak, Twenty Boy Summer, Slaughterhouse Five, this event and this giveaway. No matter how many times you spread the word, only one extra entry will be given. I want this contest to be open and approachable to as many people as possible. Because of that, this giveaway is also international.

RULES
– You must be 13 years or older to enter
– duplicate entries will be disqualified
– open until 11:59 pm EST, Sunday October 3
– open to everywhere the Book Depository ships
– winners will be contacted by e-mail and have 48 hours to reply
you must fill out the form, entries in comments will not count

Fill Out The Form

Speak Loudly

Speak out against censoring books.

I came home from work today to a flooded google reader, and a busy twitter feed. The subject?
Wesley Scroggins, a professor at a University in Missouri is calling for the removal of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut from schools in his area.

You can find his entire 29 page letter to the district HERE. On top of calling for the removal of the above mentioned books (in which he equates the novel Speak with soft core porn – a book that deals with the subject of rape), he also calls for the removal of any similar books and high rated movies, the teaching of sex education to any grade, and the teaching of evolution, to name a few.

Slaughterhouse Five has already been removed, and Twenty Boy Summer is being reviewed.

I’ll say right up front, I have yet to read any of the three novels mentioned, but that all three have spots on my TBR list (in the cases of Speak and Slaughterhouse Five, they’ve had spots for some time). This news has come hard on the beginning of Banned Books Week starting September 25th, and I’m disgusted. NO ONE has the right to tell anyone what they can and cannot read (parents and their own children are an entirely different matter). Who has the right to judge what is vulgar or inappropriate for anyone?

I say that we need to SPEAK LOUDLY, read banned/challenged books, make your own decisions, reach out to others, spread the love, and LISTEN to those who do SPEAK.

Below is a heartwrenching poem that Laurie Halse Anderson wrote for the 10th year anniversary of Speak. In it, she uses words and phrases from the thousands of e-mails and letters she’s received since the book was published. It moved me to tears, and I have no doubt the book will as well.

Some links of interest:
A collection of SPEAK LOUDLY related posts from around the net compiled by Reclusive Bibliophile.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s initial blog post.
Censorship by Sarah Ockler, Twenty Boy Summer.
Sarah Ockler’s post on the subject.
A post on SPEAK by Cheryl Rainfield, author of Scars.
Speaking Out by C. J. Redwine

BBW Day 8: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Friday – Contest to win The Chocolate War
Saturday – The Giver by Lois Lowry
Sunday – Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Monday – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Tuesday – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Wednesday – 12 hour shift at work and sickness =(
Thursday – re-cap of the week so far
Friday – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Saturday – Today’s review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

 

I decided that during Banned Books Week, besides just blogging about it, I would also read a book from the banned/challenged lists found on the American Library Association’s website. After coming across The Perks of Being a Wallflower so many times, I figured that would be the one I read – especially since I’ve been meaning to read it for a while now.

 

perks of being a wallflower The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ISBN – 13: 978-0-671-02734-6
Published: 1999
My edition: published in 1999, 213 pages long, Simon & Schuster

Standing on the fringes of life offeres a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
Since its publication, Stephen Chbosky’s haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion has received critical acclaim, provoked discussion and debate, and grown into a cult sensation with over half a million copies in print.
It is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. The worl of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where all you need is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

 

REASONS FOR CHALLENGES/BANNING

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been on the Top 10 Challenged Books in 2004 (#5), 2006 (#8), 2007 (#10) and 2008 (#6). The book was on the list in 2005-2006 (lists prior to 2004 are unavailable). Stephen Chbosky has been on the Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century in 2006 and 2008. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not found on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990-1999 due to being published in 1999. We’ll have to check back in 2010 to see what number it comes in at for 2000-2009.

Most common reasons that were noted in suggestions for banning were: homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group, drugs, nudity and themes of suicide.

 

REVIEW…beware of possible spoilers

I’m not usually one to pick up life stories. I tend to pick up a book because I want to escape life, not live it through other people in the pages of a novel. I like my stories to have fantasy elements to them, be it through fantasy, sci-fi, apocalypse, the future, etc. I avoid coming-of-age, real life, fiction – I usually just have no desire to read novels like that (this is not to say I haven’t. Scribbler of Dreams, Lombardo’s Law and My Sister’s Keeper are good examples of life stories I have read and loved). I can add The Perks of Being a Wallflower to that list, now.

The novel, written through letters that Charlie is sending to an anonymous friend (presumably you, the reader), the story is an engaging telling of one boy’s journey through freshman year of high school. Charlie’s letters walk us through his first dates, kisses, girlfriends, drugs, alcohol, sexual encounters and more. Through Charlie’s voice, we come to realize that there are things going on in his world that we are unaware of, and the big reveal at the end of the novel, though surprising, really isn’t, in the fact that we should have known something like that was coming.

I can understand why parents may take offence to some of the subject matter in Perks, but the writing style and characterization of the novel is brilliantly done and this novel deserves to be read and not locked away from libraries or school reading lists. Most teens will encounter at least one, if not all, of the things that Charlie talks about during their high school career, and maybe this book will help them see what not to do, or what to do in certain circumstances. Maybe it will help them avoid situations they don’t want to get into, but can’t recognize the signs. Maybe, it will just be a great book that they read one weekend.

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And with this review, Banned Books Week comes to an end. The contest will continue to run until midnight tonight, and I’ll announce the winner tomorrow evening after 5:00pm AST. I had fun this week and I will definitely continue reading banned books. I don’t let people tell me what to eat, or wear, why would I let them tell me what I can read?

BBW Day 7: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Friday – Contest to win The Chocolate War
Saturday – The Giver by Lois Lowry
Sunday – Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Monday – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Tuesday – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Wednesday – 12 hour shift at work and sickness =(
Thursday – re-cap of the week so far
Friday – Today’s review of The Handmaid’s Tale

 

The only non-young adult book of the bunch, The Handmaid’s Tale was my first encounter with the works of Margaret Atwood. I read it because the novel was assigned in my grade 11 (I believe, or grade 12. I can’t remember) advanced English class. I liked it, but I don’t think I really got it. Never-the-less, I went on to read her novel Oryx and Crake (probably my favourite non-YA book ever) and was blown away. I once again encountered The Handmaid’s Tale in my ENGL 2232 (Fantasy and Sci-fi class) in my third year of Uni. I got it this time.

 

Handmaid's Tale The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ISBN – 13: 978-0-770-42820-4
Published: 1985
My edition: published in 1998, 416 pages long, Doubleday Canada

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, once the United States of America. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets, where pictures have replaced words because women are fobidden to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.
Offred can remember a time when she lived with and made love to her husband, Luke; when she played with an protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

 

REASONS FOR CHALLENGES/BANNING

The Handmaid’s Tale has not been on the Top 10 Challenged Books since at least 2001. The books was on the list in 2005-2006, and 2006-2007 Margaret Atwood has not been on the Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century yet (hopefully never). The Handmaid’s Tale came in at number 37 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990-1999.

Most common reasons that were noted in suggestions for banning were: sexually explicit, offensive to Christians, occult, and anti-religious, mistreatment of women (and men), language, murder, and prostitution.

 

REVIEW…beware of possible spoilers

The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those fiction novels that, besides being an amazing story, manages to be a social commentary as well. Margaret Atwood as said that she sees her work more as speculative fiction rather than science fiction, because she takes todays innovations and then picture where they end up years in the future – and that future is usually not very pretty.

In The Handmaid’s Tale, women have been relegated to the status of property once again, only this time it’s worse. Something happened in the United States that left the ability to give birth a rare thing. Somehow (Atwood is notourious at leaving questions unanswered) this situation excelated and evolved into a society where women are in strict classes – the Wives, who have status, if very little; the Handmaid’s, who have viable ovaries and are used as baby-factories; the Marthas, cooks and maids; the Econowives, who get to be Wife, Handmaid and Martha all in one; and the Aunts, who run the centers that “educate” the Handmaid’s. In this new society you’ll also find the Angels, an elite unit of the army that police the nation of Gilead.

Women, besides being second class citizens, have no access to money. They do not hold jobs, they are not allowed to read. The Handmaid’s cannot go anywhere alone, they must always walk about in pairs. Outside of each other, they speak very little. Handmaid’s have no names. The death penalty is rampent in Gilead, and take place during what are called Salvagings – the first we see of this is when Offred and her companion for the day come across a Man’s Salvaging. Doctors who had been hung for performing abortions, even though it was legal at the time they performed them. Later in the novel we get to participate in a Woman’s Salvaging through Offred’s attendence.

Atwood flashes back to the past often, letting us see glimpses of how this new world came about, to see what Offred went through, to see how her story unfolds. Her writing is engaging and smooth and pulls you into the story. She manages to make you scared, angry, sad, hopeful and joyous throughout the course of the novel. Offred, through we never really know who she is, is a character that you feel immense sympathy and compassion for. You want her to escape her life, you wish you could just shout at people for her. She’s real and raw and sometimes you just want to shake some sense into her, even though you mostly just wish you could make things better for her.

Sexually explicit? I suppose. There are definitely scenes that detail what Offred as a Handmaid is required to do, as well as scenes in a “sex club”. Nothing I wouldn’t let anyone over the age of 15 read. Anti-religious? perhaps. There are no churches, there is no religion in Gilead anymore. I don’t necessarily see that as being anti-religious but rather another facet of control that the government as placed on this society. The Handmaid’s Tale is a wonderful novel, and definitely makes you think and feel.

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BBW Day 6: Re-cap

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A twelve hour work shift (9am-9:30pm) yesterday, plus the first case of strep throat I’ve had in a year have pretty much kept me away from the computer. Unfortunately, this means I missed yesterday’s planned review of The Golden Compass and today’s review of Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging. So I don’t completely miss two full days of Banned Books Week I thought I’d just do a re-cap of the books I’ve talked about so far this week.

Chocolate War Friday – Contest to win The Chocolate War

Open to all residents of Canada and the United States. Contest close midnight September 3, 2009.

 

The Giver Saturday – The Giver by Lois Lowry
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ISBN – 13: 978-0-440-23768-6
Published: 1993
My edition: published in 2002, 179 pages long, Random House Children’s Publishing

 

HP Philosophers Stone Sunday – Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Published: 1997 (HP:PS), 1998 (HP: CS), 1999 (HP: PoA), 2000 (HP: GoF), 2003 (HP: OotP), 2005 (HP: HBP), 2007 (HP: DH)

 

Brave New World Monday – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ISBN – 13: 978-0-307-35654-3
Published: 1932
My edition: published in 2007, 272 pages long, Random House of Canada Publishing

 

Bridge to Terabithia Tuesday – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ISBN – 13: 978-0-064-40184-5
Published: 1977
My edition: published in 1987, 128 pages long, HarperCollins Publishers

 

Coming tomorrow: review of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Saturday will see a review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I’m actually reading Perks for the first time this week; I figured I won’t just blog about banned/challenged books, but read one. Since I have been meaning to read Perks for ages, I decided now was a good a time as any! So far I’m liking what I’ve read.

BBW Day 4: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

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Friday – Contest to win The Chocolate War
Saturday – The Giver by Lois Lowry
Sunday – Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Monday – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Tuesday – Today’s review of Bridge to Terabithia

When I found out today’s book was on the banned/challenged lists? I stared at my computer screen in disbelief. Bridge to Terabithia is seriously one of the least controversial books I can think of; apparently some people don’t agree with me.

Bridge to Terabithia Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ISBN – 13: 978-0-064-40184-5
Published: 1977
My edition: published in 1987, 128 pages long, HarperCollins Publishers

Two lives are bridged – and nothing will be the same.
Jess Aarons’ greatest ambition is to be the fastes runner in the fifth grade. He’s been practicing all summer and can’t wait to see his classmates’ faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new kid, a new girl, boldly crosses over to the boys’ side of the playground and outruns everyone.
That’s not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. It doesn’t matter to Jess that Leslie dresses funny, or that her family has a lot of money – but no TV. Leslie has imagination. Together, she and Jess create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits. Then one morning a terrible tragedy occurs. Only when Jess is able to come to grips with this tragedy does he finally understand the strength and courage Leslie has given him.

 

REASONS FOR CHALLENGES/BANNING

Bridge to Terabithia has made the Top 10 Challenged Books in 2002 (#8) and 2003 (#10). The book has not been on the list since at least 2004. Katherine Paterson has been on the Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century in 2003. Bridge to Terabithia came in at number 8 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990-1999.

Most common reasons that were noted in suggestions for banning were: occult/Satanism, offensive language, and violence.

 

REVIEW…beware of possible spoilers

No lie, I have read Bridge to Terabithia at least once every year since I was first given it, around 1994. I don’t think I will be able to accurately explain the reasons I love this books so much, because how can you accurately articulate feelings with just mere words? During my childhood I lived on an acre and a half property that was surrounded by woods on three sides. My brother and I spent the majority of our time outside, playing in the woods and using our imagination to play games and make up worlds and stories. I think Bridge to Terabithia appealed to me so much at the beginning because Jess and Leslie were involved in acivities I myself was. Now, the book still appeals to me because reading it brings back found memories.

The main character of the book is Jess, the only boy of five children, and the middle child – he has two older sisters and two younger sisters. The only thing that Jess feels he has that he can really make his own is his running. But Leslie shows up and ruins that. What starts off as animosity quickly turns to friendship, and Leslie introduces Jess to so many new ideas and possibilities. Katherine Paterson’s characters are memorable, 3-dimensional and realistic – they behave like children, they react like children. The plot is wonderful and the twist at the end? Had me in tears. Bridge to Terabithia is the first book I ever cried over. I have no idea where people got the idea that the book promotes the occult/Satanism, unless they don’t like that the children use their imaginations. As for violence and language? I can’t even think of any particular instances – and this is a book I’ve read a lot. Maybe Jess or one of his older sisters (or a kid at school) says damn or hell once, but I can’t think of when.

Now that I’m older, I can appreciate Katherine Paterson’s writing style. Her writing is fluid, discriptive and engaging. She draws you in to Jess’ and Leslie’s world easily. Even just reading the teaser at the front of the book fills me with a sense of calmness and joy. What do you make of it?

       Jess and Leslie turned and ran up over the empty field behind the old Perkins place and down to the dry creek bed that separated the farmland from the woods. There was an old crab apple tree there, just at the bank of the creek bed, from which someone long forgotten had hung a rope.
       They took turns swinging across the gully on the rope. It was a glorious autumn day, and if you looked up as you swung, it gave you the feeling of floating. Jess leaned back and drank in the rich, clear color of the sky. He was drifting, drifting like a fat white lazy cloud across the blue.
       “Do you know what we need?” Leslie called to him. Intoxicated as he was with the heavens, he couldn’t imagine needing anything on earth.
       “We need a place,” she said, “just for us. It would be so secret that we would never tell anyone in the whole world about it.” Jess came swinging back and dragged his feet to stop. She lowered her voice almost to a whisper. “It might be a whole secret county,” she continued, “and you and I would be the rulers of it.”
– © Katherine Paterson, 1977

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BBW Day 3: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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Friday – Contest to win The Chocolate War
Saturday – The Giver by Lois Lowry
Sunday – Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Monday – Today’s review of Brave New World

Today’s review of a banned/challenged book is for Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I had managed to somehow avoid reading this novel right up until my third year of university, when it was assigned as one of the novels to read for ENGL 2262 – my Sci-fi/Fantasy class. I was actually worried about having to read this book – I had heard some not-so-good things about it. I’m glad I was ‘forced’ to read it, though. I ended up loving it! ENGL 2262 really cemented my love for post-apocalyptic, dystopian literature.

Brave New World Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley

Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it
ISBN – 13: 978-0-307-35654-3
Published: 1932
My edition: published in 2007, 272 pages long, Random House of Canada Publishing

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone in feeling discontent. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, and a perverse distaste for the pleasure of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress.

 

REASONS FOR CHALLENGES/BANNING

Brave New World has not been on the Top 10 List since 2001. The book was on the list in 2008-2009. Aldous Huxley has not been on the Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century (2001-now). Brave New World came in at number 54 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990-1999 and can be found on the Banned and Challenged Classics list.

Most common reasons that were noted in suggestions for banning were: made promiscuous sex ‘look like fun’, language, moral content, sexual content, depictions of ‘orgies, self-flogging, suicide’, contempt for ‘religion, marriage and the family’, and drug use.

I don’t know if Brave New World hasn’t been on the lists in recent years because it’s 77 years old and people have newer books to object to, or just because it’s been challenged in so many schools and libraries there are none left.

REVIEW…beware of possible spoilers

I re-read the reading response on Brave New World I wrote for class two years ago, and I call the world that Aldous Huxley created “horrifying”. And it is. People are born into a caste system and they stay there. There is no possibility of moving up a caste. There are no families – people are conceived and grown in test tube-like eggs. Their formative years are spent in nurseries where they are routinely brainwashed with societal norms. They work, they play games, engage in recreational drugs and sex and form no monogamous relationships. To me, that is horrifying. But I absolutely loved the book. I’m a sucker for the end of the world and for horrifying worlds – they give me shivers.

While I may agree that the book does contain all the reasons people have stated to try and get Brave New World banned, it’s no reason to ban it. Personally, I think by the time we’re in high school we wouldn’t bat an eye at the book. And if people think other adults shouldn’t even read the book? Obviously they’re a lot more sensitive than most people. I read Brave New World when I was 21 and my reaction was not that promiscuous sex, orgies, and drugs were fun. It was not that the author showed contempt for religion, marriage and the family. I didn’t blink at the language (since we hear just as bad, is not worse, every day in school, in malls, on the streets, maybe even at home). I thought it was horrifying, which is what I believe Aldous Huxley was actually going for. I doubt he wrote this book hoping people would be like “oh yes, let’s go have sex with as many people as I can while hoped up on drugs”.

The main character in Huxley’s book, Bernard, seems to realize that his world is not perfect. He wants a monogamous relationship. He thinks the drug use and entertainment is getting boring. The book is about Bernard’s journey to try and figure out why his society is like it is, and if it’s really the best way – if the old way was not better after all. Brave New World makes you think, and wonder if “perfect happiness” is really perfect, or happy. The novel starts with a tour through the plant where children are made and grown, and the nurseries – it thrusts you into the science and disbelief immediately. I really enjoyed this book, even more so because it was written in 1932. Huxley’s mind was obviously a brilliant place.