Sep 30, 2013

Banned Book Review

Okay, so I meant to do this Saturday, but I got distracted by cuddling with Baby E, who is in town, and spending time with Sis and Mom.

Banned Books week is over! I hope everyone read a banned book and fought for the freedom to read! Here is a little review of Looking for Alaska by John Green.

There were a lot of things I really liked about this book. One of my absolute favorites is the metaphor of the labyrinth that is introduced near the beginning of the book and is carried through until the end. The book is also organized into two sections, "before" and "after" and it's interesting to see the change between the two. It's a good look at grief, friendship, and intimacy. It also touches a bit on religion, belief, and life after death.

There was a great part that I liked in the second half of the book where the religion teacher is telling a story about a Sufi saint:

Karl Marx famously called religion "the opiate of the masses." Buddhism, particularly as it is popularly practiced, promises improvement through karma. Islam and Christianity promise eternal paradise to the faithful. And that is a powerful opiate, certainly, the hope of a better life to come. But there's a Sufi story that challenges the notion that people believe only because they need an opiate. Rabe'a al-Adiwiyah, a great woman saint of Sufism, was seen running through the streets of her hometown, Basra, carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When someone asked her what she was doing, she answered, "I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God." (p. 174)

I just thought that was thought provoking, especially as a devout Christian.

There were some things that I didn't particularly like/enjoy. I do have to admit that of Green's novels, this is probably my least favorite. There is the sex scene, as well as the use of drugs and alcohol by teens, and some language.

After I finished it, I was talking to my mom who was a middle school librarian, and, obviously, is a parent, and as such has a different perspective on things. Through talking with her I decided that I think this book would be most appropriate for 17/18+, and, if I were a parent, I would prefer to have it be a guided reading. I would probably read along with my child (though, depending on the child, I may or may not wish them to wait until they read this book). There are some pretty adult things in the book, and that requires a certain maturity. Not that I'm going to go out and ban this book (obviously, because I'm against that), but it's my own personal observations and decisions. Maybe my experience with it will help form someone else's decision on whether or not they feel the book is right for them or their child.

I'm not a parent, so I don't want anyone to think I am stepping on toes, but my advice to parents is to read whatever book you think offensive before making a final decision. Get other people's views on it (possibly even the author's, as I did for Alaska) and make an educated and informed decision about it.

Well, that's it for this year's banned book week, but don't let that stop you from continuing to read banned books! Book of the Month post will be up tomorrow!

Sep 22, 2013

Banned Book Week 2013

It's that time of year again! Banned Book Week! Join me in fighting against censorship and read a banned book. (For my thoughts on censorship and the banning of books, please read all previous posts from the years. I just end up saying the same things over again.)

 Below are a few websites with information about banned book week:

Here is the ALA's website for banned books where they discuss the freedom we have to not only choose what we read/watch/listen to, but also the freedom to express opinions "even if that opinion may be considered unorthodox or unpopular."

Here is a list of books challenged or banned in 2012-2013. This list includes the book I will be reading for BBW.

The book I'm read this year is Looking for Alaska by John Green. When this book was first banned (five years ago), Green posted a video defending his book and addressing the banning of books. He gives a lot of the same thoughts I have about it (which I will quickly sum up here in case you didn't click on the link above), which is that no one should be able to tell anyone else what not to read. This is a personal decision. It is a decision that should be made using your own moral and religious standards as a guide. I welcome people warning me about something in a particular book, but I will ultimately make the decision to read or not to read it by myself. I am not against putting a book down if I don't like it.

Green also talks about why he included the sex scene in the book. This is a perfect time to talk to teens about intimacy and what it really means. Books (and movies, TV shows, music) should open conversation. This is something my own mother did. I remember a specific time in my childhood. We had been watching a TV show (possibly "Diagnosis Murder," but I'm not sure) and it was about physician assisted suicide. The next day, Mom and I were in the car and she asked me what I thought about it. I honestly answered that I really didn't understand what was going on. So she explained it to me and we talked about. A couple of years later I was watching a TV mini series about Anne Frank. The images of the Frank family arriving in Auschwitz were so disturbing I turned off the TV and ran upstairs crying. My mom asked if I wanted to talk about what I had seen.

There was always open conversation between my parents, and part of that was that they used media to broach subjects that were difficult to understand or deal with. I totally understand that parents want to protect their own kids, but it is not up to them to make sure everyone else's kids receive the same kind of protection. There are books that I won't read. And I'm sure when I have kids, I may wait to let them read certain books until I feel that they are old enough to understand. To each their own. But don't force your views on the rest of the world, because the rest of the world sees things differently.

This ended up much longer than I meant. But choose a book from the banned book list, and fight against societal censorship!

Sep 1, 2013

August Book of the Month

Oh geez, guys. So this month I reread some really great books, but I already kind of wrote about them! But I think I just want to talk more about why I love these books so much.

So, I reread The Wednesday Wars, which I had read several times before. Then I picked up the companion novel, Okay for Now, which I'd only read once before I was worried. What if I didn't like it as much as the first time? What if I didn't have the same emotional reaction to it? And then I did and all worries disappeared!

I think . . . now that I've put some thought into, I think that what is so amazing about these books can come down to about 3 things.

1) The innocence of the narrators.
I think there is definitely a difference between innocence and naivete, and this book really does show that difference. They tell the story in simple terms, bringing you into their lives, but not revealing anything they don't want to until they feel like it. They portray growing up in the 1960s so clearly, without a lot of thought about the outside world, because, let's face it, they are 12. But at the same time they are completely aware of what is going on with the Vietnam War, and everything else going on at that time period. It's amazing.

2) The presence of good adults who are not parents.
Usually one of the main factors of the YA "genre" is the lack of adults/adult interaction. But what makes these books so good is that there are good, caring adults, and that they come in the form of teachers and librarians. I think it's great to show teens that there are people that they can trust and that will help them, even when it seems like everyone else isn't there.

3) The deliberate writing of Gary D. Schmidt
It is so obvious while reading these books that Schmidt (tangent: anyone think it's a little unnatural to have so many consonants in a row? Seven letters and only one is a vowel? Sorry, I was just looking at it and thinking, that is such a weird name.) wrote everything so deliberately. I guess a lot of what I wrote on number 1 can apply here. The way these books are written, they are written to show you exactly everything that you need to know to emotionally connect to these characters. Schmidt is a master of showing, not telling. And it seems that every character grows and changes throughout the books, even the minor ones. There is no character that remains the same from beginning to end, even though it might seem like it at first. The relationships between the main characters and their siblings, and between their friends, their parents, their teachers, mentors, etc., are all very carefully crafted.

I'm a little bit of a hypocrite because I hate people giving me expectations, because then I feel disappointed if those expectations aren't met, and here I am going on and on about how much I loved these books. But there you go. I'm a hypocrite. :)