Words Have Power: Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week 2017 Official Words Have Power Twitter Image

This week (September 24-30, 2017) is the annual Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and others.  The ALA has a department called the Office for Intellectual Freedom, which records “challenges” to books in public schools, libraries, etc. every year.  Last year in 2016 there were 323 challenges.

Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2016 GIF

There are many reasons why books are challenged; here’s the list of the ten most frequently challenged books last year, along with why they were challenged.

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Several of these are YA books; several are graphic novels.  The only book I’ve read is Eleanor & Park, which is a truly wonderful book that really touched me.  You can read my thoughts on it here.  It was challenged for its “offensive language,” which I honestly don’t remember.  Maybe there were some kind of slurs in it?  I don’t believe the book portray this language in a positive way, but rather as a realistic part of the sometimes harsh lives of these teenagers.  Here’s an interesting article on the challenges to Eleanor & Park, as well as the author’s reaction to them.

Several of these books I can understand may not be appropriate for certain age levels.  I always support parents taking an interest in what their kids are reading.  However, that does not give someone the right to determine what other parents’ kids are reading, and that is what censorship does.  Banning or removing books takes away our freedom to information, our freedom to read what we want.

Have you read any of the top ten banned books?  Any other challenged books you are reading?  Here’s some more info about book challenges in the US.

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Book reviews: Rainbow Rowell edition

I mentioned previously how blown away I was by Eleanor and Park, a book which totally eclipsed The Fault in Our Stars for me in terms of high school love stories.

After that, I had to read all of Rainbow Rowell’s other books.  So I did.  And I loved them all.  They cover a wide range of life situations, and Rowell’s Jane Austen-type insights into her characters’ psyches help them transcend their chick lit origins.  Also, I just love their covers.

Here’s a quick run-down on each:

landlineLandline (3/5 stars)–Rowell’s most recent novel goes a little speculative with a phone that lets busy comedy writer Georgie McCool talk with her husband Neal…in the past. Georgie is a very relatable character who I think will resonate with any adult looking back on her choices in life and wondering “what if?”  I like how she owns her choices, and chooses to make the best of everything.

The story’s resolution was happy and (mostly) realistic, but (*SPOILERS*) I admit I was a bit disappointed that Neal was not secretly in on the magic phone thing all along.  Like, at some point he figured out that he had talked to a future version of Georgie that week in the 90s, so then he purposely didn’t call her so she’d be forced to talk to his past self, because he didn’t want to disrupt the timeline.  Hey, if you’re gonna do sci-fi, do it all the way!

 

fangirlFangirl (3.5/5 stars)–A college student tries to save her fanfiction writing career while dealing with complications from her family, her English classes, and of course boys.  Cath is a lot like I was in college: she’d rather stay in her room writing than go to parties.  I also wrote fanfiction in high school, so I loved the excerpts from Cath’s story as well as those from the Simon Snow books (think Harry Potter).  The fanfiction angle also allows us to explore this “genre’s” legitimacy as literature, which I find very interesting.

The romance aspect was sweet, but my favorite character was actually the roommate Reagan.  I didn’t much care for Cath’s sister Wren and felt her subplot was the weak point of the story.  The setting was great for me, as I also went to college in the midwest, and around the same time period (pretty much contemporary, maybe a few years in the past).

 

e&pEleanor and Park (5/5 stars)–Jumping back in time a little, this charming novel is the story of how two high school outcasts fall in love.  I loved how it switches back and forth between Eleanor and Park’s perspectives, sometimes even within the same page.  Its use of 80s music, comics, and other pop culture will probably resonate with readers (just as with Ready Player One).

The plot of the story is more realistic than Rowell’s other novels, and it’s perfect because it doesn’t distract from the true heart of the book.  Even if you are not poor/half-Asian/Midwestern/a fan of The Cure, this book perfectly describes how it felt to fall in love as a teenager.  It felt very personal to me.  The ending is more of a whimper than a bang, but I like the ambiguity and find it hopeful.

 

attachmentsAttachments (4/5 stars)–I didn’t think anything could unseat Eleanor and Park in my Rainbow Rowell top spot, but somehow I loved this book just as much, if not more.  Honestly, as a novel, it is not as good as E&P.  This was Rowell’s first book, so many of the things I liked here went on to be further refined and perfected in E&P.

But for some reason I really related to the main character, Lincoln.  Maybe it’s because he’s the same age as me, dealing with similar issues, with a similar personality.  Maybe it’s because in my head I pictured him looking like Chris Pratt (I read this around the time Guardians of the Galaxy came out).  Maybe all the descriptions of how newspapers worked in the late 90s triggered nostalgia about my own childhood spent in my mom’s newspaper office.  In any case, it was a perfect storm, and I re-read the book twice in a row.  The ending is just a bit too neat and tidy, but it’s a happy one.