Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Banned, Censored, Challenged: The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was on the NYT bestseller list for a while. It has also been made into a film, which is banned in Afghanistan. Ironically, the country that began the war against the Taliban has some citizens who want to follow their lead. The novel also managed to make the ALA's top ten list for banned books in 2008.

The Kite Runner involves a violent act of sodomy, an act which brings up issues of cowardice and loyalty, setting up the novel's themes of oppression and perversion.

The Okaloosa County School Board in Florida received a request from a parent to remove the book. (Story here). Parents apparently do have the right to request a substitute book (an excellent policy, I think) but the parent doesn't feel that's enough- they don't want any high schooler in the district reading it.

Have you ever read a series of books that marked a period in your life? This book was part of such a pile.
Thoreau said: "How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!"
I must write the reader's favorite cliche: I just couldn't put it down.

When I think of this novel, I remember being bundled up in bed with a hot water bottle and a mug of tea. At the time, I didn't have any heat in my house and it was freezing. What I did have was a pile of library books.

The Kite Runner does exactly what a good novel should do: disturbs, enlightens, grabs the emotions. I cried, I got angry, I was disgusted.

A student from the school said it best:
“This is like the real word. This is what goes on in other countries and it really opens your eyes with the war.”

In fact, the book is only read at the Senior level and in the 10th Grade AP classes- this parent's son was in the 9th grade.

The book was not "forced" on her child at all--in fact most public schools will allow parents (or students) to choose another book.

The parent found out that older kids are allowed to read the book because the school let parents know that two of the curriculum's books (the other was To Kill A Mockingbird) contained mature language and themes and that if parents objected they were allowed to substitute another book.

The school didn't force anything on this kid. They gave this parent the oppurtunity to exercise authority over her own child. Her position is that no high schooler should read it- but that's not her call to make.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dangerous Searching: How Do People Find My Blog?

I saw this meme on Lost in Books . Rebecca posted some of the search queries (grass soup? free post-it notes?) on her blog. The post had me cracking up, so I checked out the meme on some other fabulous book blogs: J.Kaye's Book Blog, True Crime Book Reviews, 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews , and they were all so interesting that I decided to examine my own search hits.

The bulk of the normal queries look like this:

1984 banned
to kill a mockingbird banned
huckleberry finn banned
i know why the caged bird sings banned
in the night kitchen banned
harry potter banned why
twilight feminist banned
book banning of harry potter and the sorceror's stone
all quiet on the western front banned by nazis

The most frequently searched books are I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- incidentally, these two are also ranked on many lists as the most frequently banned books in America. Harry Potter, All Quiet on the Western Front, Twilight and Romeo and Juliet bring many visitors, too.

Ever since I did a post on Vladimir Nabokov's modern classic Lolita, I've been getting hits like this:

preteen lolitas in the buff
preteen dark lolitas

Disturbing...who knew child porn enthusiasts liked to read?
The first person stayed for two minutes, which gives me hope that he- or she- read my rant about how Lolita is a novel sympathetic to the victim and how it's all about oppression.

A post about "book porn"- just pictures of nice libraries or stacks of books- brought me hits like this:

danger hot porn
hot papes porn

Then, there's the book report cheats. Is it bad that they irritate me more than the porn hits?

book report on the autobiography of benjamin franklin using quotes from the book

the pages 1-20 of black like me is about-(seriously? you couldn't read 20 pages?)

These have picked up now that some schools are back in.
Then, there are the ones that I consider normal, but now realize just how odd they are:

eggs and hash
dr seuss green eggs and ham drugs
trippiest books
vicious wolves

What do your hits look like?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Reader's Beverage

My reading beverage of choice is tea.

Tea is so...quiet. It's romantic- not the hot, red romance of wine but that comfortable, old age romance with a constant, steady warmth. "Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane," said Balzac.

Tea is so adaptable. Treat a sore throat with ginger, a depressed spirit with lavender, fatigue with peppermint. Got PMS? Drink a cup of jasmine with honey and call me in the morning.

The smell of tea gives me the same feeling my dog gets when I scratch her tummy. I may not actually roll on my back and kick my leg in the air, but I sure do feel like it.

Making tea is always a ritual. You need this pot. This amount of heat, this long to steep. "Tea...is a religion of the art of life," says Okakura Kakuzo, author of The Book of Tea (1906).

The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said "Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future."

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me" ~C.S Lewis

Celestial Seasonings
Read The Book of Tea Online

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Banned, Censored, Challenged: Leaves of Grass

I know. The above animation is awesome. There are a series of poetry videos like this posted on youtube by the user PoetryAnimations. Besides Walt Whitman, they have Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, Ezra Pound and Langston Hughes. It's genius- and ever-so-slightly creepy.

Walt Whitman's masterpiece is an 1855 book called Leaves of Grass, which he spent his whole life editing.The original publication of the book got Whitman fired from his job at the Department of the Interior. One critic named Griswold called it "a mass of stupid filth" and said that Whitman was guilty of "that horrible sin not to be mentioned among Christians" (meaning homosexuality. Historians debate whether Whitman was "guilty", but his poetry does explore the idea).

In 1882, a Boston District Attorney, goaded by the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice (I guess every city had one of these. Go figure.) demanded the removal of "Song of Myself", "From Pent-Up Aching Rivers", "I Sing the Body Electric", "Spontaneous Me", "Native Moments", "The Dalliance of the Eagles", "By Blue Ontario’s Shore", "Unfolded Out of the Folds", "The Sleepers", and "Faces" from the book.

Whitman refused to censor his work and had to shop around for a new publisher.

What I love most about Walt Whitman is the way he defined a nation. Whitman was the first real American poet- one who did not try to borrow from the traditions of Europe, who wrote about American concepts like Westward expansion, slavery and the push for equality.Whitman's poetry has been repeatedly censored. There are many editions of Leaves of Grass, and half of them leave out some of his best work.

Watch this episode of American Experience. It' s poetic, beautiful, fascinating and insightful. And you can watch it online.