Friday, September 29, 2017

Weekly Mews: Banned Books, Current Reads, Running Naked Down the Street

I am linking up to the Sunday Post hosted by the wonderful Kim of Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where participants recap our week, talk about what we are reading, share any new books that have come our way, and whatever else we want to talk about. As well as Stacking the Shelves hosted by the great Team Tynga's Reviews and Marlene of Reading Reality a meme in which participants share what new books came their way recently.

New to My Shelves: A surprise came in the mail this week. It is the first in a new cozy mystery series by Ellie Alexander called Death on Tap, set in the Pacific Northwest and features Sloan Krause, a beer brewer.

What I Am Reading: I am nearing the end of Teresa Messineo's The Fire By Night, a World War II novel featuring two nurses. Messineo does not sugarcoat the conditions of war in any way. It's a very real and raw look at what the war was like. I am in the middle of Miss Jane by Brad Watson, another historical novel, this one about a woman born with a genital deformity in early twentieth century Mississippi. I have shared excerpts from both novels before, but thought I would share new ones with you today instead of pulling a random book off my shelf.

A weekly meme in which readers share a random sentence or two from page 56 or 56% of the book they are reading. Hosted by the wonderful Freda of Freda's Voice.
Better force herself to get up. Or she would die, right there, in her bunk. She thought about it for a minute--or maybe for an hour--and in the end she decided she would get up. In a minute. In just a minute . . . [page 130 of The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo]
"Sometimes that dog acts like he knows as much about what's going on as we do." 
He does, Papa." 
"Dog's suppose to have it easier than that," he said. [page 132 of Miss Jane by Brad Watson]

What I Am Watching: The Voice started up again this week, and I caught the first episode of The Brave about an elite special ops unit. I hadn't even heard of it before--it was just on, and so I watched it. I also caught the season premiere of Blacklist, a show I go back and forth on whether I want to continue watching or not. I haven't gotten too excited about this fall's television selections. Usually I am all over them--at least to see what they are all about. I am looking forward to seeing The Good Place again.  Have any of the new fall line-up caught your eye? Is there anything you would recommend?

This Week In Reading Mews:

This week was all about banned books! 

Tell me about what you have been up to! What are you reading, listening to and watching? How was your week? Do you have anything planned for this coming week?


Every Friday Coffee Addicted Writer from Coffee Addicted Writer poses a question which participants respond on their own blogs within the week (Friday through Thursday). They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

Have you ever slept with a favorite, beloved book under your pillow, or cradled in your arms?
Not on purpose.

What about you?


Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Each week, Carrie at The Butterfly Reads and Laura from Blue Eye Books ask participants to list what they like and don't like about that week's topic.

This week's topic is Character Most/Least Likely to Run Naked Down the Street

The character least likely to run down the street would likely be the proper: Anne Elliot from Persuasion by Jane Austen. Or most of Jane Austen's characters, for that matter. Although maybe Lydia Bennett might . . .

The most likely character to run naked down the street is Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Why? Because he did exactly it in the first book of the series.

Which character do you think is most or least likely to run naked down the street?

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (Banned Book Week)

She is plucking her bird of paradise of its dead branches, leaning around the plant every time she hears a car. ~ Opening of In the Time of the Butterflies

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Algonquin Books, 1994
Fiction (Historical); 354 pgs
Source: I own a copy of this book, purchased in 2007.

I have had a copy of In the Time of the Butterflies sitting on my To Read shelf for quite a while now—drawn to it by the pretty cover and the subject matter. It is the story of four sisters, the Mirabels, three of whom would go on to become known as Las Mariposas, or the Butterflies, helping to lead a revolt against Trujillo, a dictator in The Dominican Republic during the mid-1900’s. Based on real people and events, In the Time of the Butterflies is a story of grief, fear and courage, and of oppression and hope.

The novel is narrated by the four sisters, some through journal entries. Julia Alvarez has given each of the sisters very distinct voices, and their stories are very compelling. They were all drawn into the rebellion for their own reasons and in different ways.

I read this novel with an online reading group, and it was interesting to see how some of our opinions of the sisters varied. Whereas I saw Minerva as courageous and admired her for her focus and dedication to her cause, a couple others saw her as reckless and without regard to the danger she put herself and her family in by her actions. Maria Teresa seemed to be more of the romantic of her sisters, hopeful and loyal to her sister Minerva. Then there is Patria who dedicated much of her life to God and family. Many of us in the reading group identified most with her, given her devotion to her children and need and desire to protect them at all costs. The fourth sister, Dede, may not have been actively involved with the rebel group, but she is the survivor who has carried her sisters’ story and memories into the present long after their untimely deaths in 1960.

Alvarez takes readers into the childhood and teen years of the Mirabel sisters as well as their adult lives—their family life and eventual involvement in the resistance. Their own father,a farmer, had been quite successful in their small town. He was well-respected and liked. As the sisters got older, the truth about their country’s leader could no longer be hidden. Trujillo was a cruel leader who controlled the media and did not hesitate to order his dissenters jailed and killed. I appreciated Alvarez’s narrative in how each of the sisters felt about their government and eventually came to rebel against the suppression and oppression. They each had to make sacrifices in one way or another. The reader gets to see how the women’s actions impact their family life, the support—or lack there of—they received.

I thought In the Time of the Butterflies was a well told account of what life may have been like for the Mirabel sisters. It took a little bit to get into the novel as I got a fuller picture of each of the sisters, but once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It is an emotional read, especially in the later chapters. I couldn’t help but to see some parallels in contemporary times to the Dominican Republic at that time. I am ashamed to say I hadn’t known much about Las Mariposas before reading this novel. These woman are known worldwide for their efforts, and I found the author’s notes at the end of the novel very enlightening. The United Nations declared November 25th, the anniversary of the three sisters' murder, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to raise awareness of violence against women, including rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence, the scale of which is often under-reported.

Reason for being banned: Inclusion of a diagram of a homemade bomb. (although not a detailed or accurate one)

[I love the response after the book was banned from Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, New York in 2000. Two students from the school wrote an opinion piece that was published in the New York Times: "We believe that the purpose of education is to expose students to all areas of reality so that we can make our own judgments. Isn't that why we are able to read Romeo and Juliet without committing suicide, or The Lord of the Flies without being violent? We should not ban a powerful piece of literature just because of a diagram."]

You can learn more about Julia Alverez and her books on the author's website

A novel is not, after all, a historical document, but a way to travel through the human heart." ~ Julia Alvarez

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? 

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Banned Book Week)

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. ~Opening of Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, narrated by Michael York
Harper Perennial, 1932
Science Fiction; 268 pgs
Source: I own copies of this book in paperback and audiobook format

Goodreads Summary: 
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 harbouring 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...

Huxley's ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

This was assigned reading in one of my university courses, and it was the only book I was required in my entire school career (middle school, high school, and college included) that I was unable to finish. Somehow, I got a passing grade on the test. Years later, I would try again, thinking perhaps the timing just wasn't right. I did not get too far then either. The descriptions of the "perfect" Utopian society in the novel boring me to tears. I decided to give the audiobook a try this time around, hoping I would have better luck, and also determined to finish it this time.

Michael York's narration did appeal to me more than my own inner voice. Perhaps it was the English accent. Still, it was not enough to pull me into the book completely the way I hoped. I must admit I understood exactly what Bernard Marx, the initial protagonist, felt for much of the first half of the novel. In a society created of perfect conformity, including the people thanks to Eugenics and brainwashing, there was bound to be someone who wouldn't quite fit in. And that is Bernard Marx. I was just as bored of the society he lived in as he was.

Halfway through the book, I thought maybe things would pick up. Bernard and Lenina traveled to the Savage Reservations, encountering something--or, rather, someone--unexpected. The perfect society the World Controllers have created is suddenly tested when an outsider attempts to fit in.

Some of my thoughts as I read the novel: 

  • Who is the main character? Seriously. It seemed to be one person for the first half of the book and then the second half of the book it was another person. The first one fell off the face of the earth before the end.
  • I was bored. That's probably my biggest complaint. Maybe because so many books and movies today have been influenced by Brave New World, and so it has lost some of its originality in my eyes.
  • I never really became invested in the characters or world Huxley created. The so-called Utopia was cold and impersonal. It was far from perfect despite what was believed. Eugenics has more disadvantages than advantages. Which, of course, was part of Huxley's point, I'm sure.
  • There were two scenes in particular I appreciated in the novel. The first being when John Savage makes his appearance in the community and a pretty despicable character gets what is coming to him. The other was when John Savage and the Director meet for the first time and engage in a relatively philosophical conversation that I think really points to the message of the book. 
I wish I had liked this book more. I appreciated the satire woven throughout the novel; from the mass production of people, programming them in varying intellectual abilities depending on the role they will play in society, the soma pills to escape reality and repress emotions, the avoidance of family connections to the the sexual play encouraged among children and religion in the worshiping of Ford. I would even go so far as to say Huxley satires happiness--or rather the way people seek it out and expect it.

It's interesting how relevant this book is today as it was then. While some of the language used might be a bit dated, not much else in this novel is. Think about how technologically driven we are and how much on the rise instant gratification has become, for example. Looking at today's society, it is easy to see how, in some respects, we are constantly expecting to be entertained, sometimes at the cost of education, logic and common sense.

There was a definite message in the novel about the stunting of creativity living in a society like the one the World Controllers have put together. Where people do not think much for themselves and are supposed to avoid strong feelings--or feeling much at all other than happiness. How much of it is a false happiness though? Marx and Helmholtz, in particular suggest that it is.

And what of religion? This book has come under attack for supporting atheism, which I have to say I didn't notice as I listened to the novel. Huxley does draw religion into the novel, suggested that people need to be mindful and think for themselves. It is too easy to fall into step and stop thinking for oneself where religion is concerned. This comes out even more so in the way the people in Huxley's Utopia live their lives.

While I did not enjoy reading Brave New World, finding it a chore to get through, I do see the value in it--and why it is a Classic today. Looking over my review, I see I got more out of it than I realized!

Reasons Challenged and Banned: Insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, drug use, and atheism

Have you read Brave New World? What did you think?

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: The Top Ten Banned/Challenged Books I Want to Read (Banned Book Week Edition)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

I would likely want to read each of the below books even if they hadn't been challenged or banned at some point in history (including recent history), but there's something to be said for putting a big NO! sign on a book that only increases my curiosity. Especially since my experience with challenged and banned books has been very positive. Here is this week's Top Ten Tuesday list, the Top Ten Banned/Challenged Books I Want to Read:

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky  ~ A novel about an average teenage boy maneuvering his way through his teen years as he comes of age.

Reasons for being banned and repeatedly challenged: masturbation, sex, drugs and suicide

2. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley ~ At once a horror story and a tragedy about a scientist and his creation whose innocence turns to destruction. 

Reasons for being banned: obscene and indecent

3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer ~ A young boy works through his grief after his father is killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack of the World Trade Center by solving the mystery of a key he finds in his father's closet. 

Reasons for being banned and challenged: profanity, sex, violence

4. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan ~ Trying to break the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss, two boys set out on a 32-hour kissing marathon. This novel is uniquely narrated by a Greek Chorus of a generation of gay men who lost their lives to AIDS.

Reasons for repeated challenges: GLBQT characters, sexually explicit, public displays of affection

5. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende ~ A family saga spanning decades and lives, with the personal and political, and full of love, magic and fate. 

Reasons for being repeatedly challenged: sexually explicit language, intense violence and cruelty

6. Native Son by Richard Wright ~ Goodreads describes this classic set in 1930's Chicago as being "an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America."  

Reasons for being banned and challenged: violence, sex and profanity

7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. ~ An alien abduction, and jumping through time, particularly during World War II, this is the story of the fictional Billy Pilgrim's life. Although at times comical, the novel tells a tragic story and has a strong anti-war message.

Reasons for being burned, banned and challenged: referenced religious matter, bestiality, explicit sexual scenes, violence, and obscene language

8. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman ~ A fantasy trilogy about parallel universes and a young girl who goes on a rescue mission. This is a trilogy that has been said to make you question what you know. (Oversimplifying, I know).

Reasons for repeated challenges: anti-religious, drinking wine and eating poppy with meals

9. A Wrinkle In Time Madeline L’Engle (reread) ~ A childhood favorite of both mine and my husband's. The story of a girl and her brother who set off with a friend to rescue their father who has slipped into another dimension in time. 

Reasons for being banned and challenged: offensive language, undermines religious beliefs and challenges the idea of God, being too Christian, Satanic undertones

10. Junie B. Jones Series by Barbara Park ~ This series is toted as teaching children about morals and positive experiences from every day situations.

Reasons for being banned and challenged:  bad grammar and language, questionable decisions made by the main character and the messages the book sends.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Are there any banned/challenged books you would like to read? If so, what are they?

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mouse's Corner (Banned Book Week Edition): Banned Picture Books

Going through lists of banned and challenged books in preparation for this week, I kept coming across children's picture book titles. Many of them, admittedly, Mouse and I haven't come across or read. Three titles in particular kept popping out at me because they are, in fact, sitting on Mouse's bookshelf.  We may have more, but it is hard to find one comprehensive list of children's picture books banned or challenged--at least in my search (if you have one, please let me know!), and add to that how mixed up Mouse's bookshelves are right now; I am not always sure what we have and don't have.

I almost wish I had a book like I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas on my shelf so I can talk about the importance of having books out there representing marginalized people. A transgender child benefits from reading a book about him or herself--seeing that they aren't alone. It and books like Heather has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Diana Souza helps me open the discussion with my daughter about the different types of families out there, especially now as she's much more curious about why the twins have two moms but no dad, and why her friend has a mom but no dad. Just because our families or how we identify ourselves may be different, makes them no less normal.

When I look at the three books I am featuring here today, I see books that are not even all that controversial. Well, okay, I discovered that one of them is--even in my own circle, but still. It's hard to imagine how any of these can be harmful to young minds.


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated Eric Carle (1967; 20 pgs) ~ This is a relatively easy book for my daughter to read nowadays, especially given how repetitive the text is. It starts with a brown bear being asked what he sees, each page with a different animal being asked what he or she sees. Each animal is a different color as well, giving children a chance to identify their colors. The illustrations match the text perfectly and are in bold colors that draw the eye. Mouse likes that she can read this book on her own. She is often shy of doing so because she doesn't yet trust herself to know the words, and so any book that brings her reading confidence up is a winner in my mind.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was banned by the State Board of Education in Texas in 2010 for the simple fact that one of the board members confused the author with another author with the same name. The other Bill Martin had written a book about Marxism. Even if the authors had been one and the same, I do not understand what one book had to do with the other--other than it being clear that the board members did not approve of Marxism. If it were the 1950's I could maybe see it being an issue, but in 2010? Not so much. Anyway, it was a mistake. The two authors with the same name were in fact different men. They corrected their error a month or so later. But it still goes to show how easily people can get carried away and what happens when no one does adequate fact checking.


Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (1960; 62 pgs) Green Eggs and Ham is one of the most popular books in our house, and my daughter very nearly has it memorized. This is a favorite from my childhood as well, and so I am glad to see my daughter's enthusiasm over the book. Although my husband and I have tried to use this book to nudge my daughter to be more open to trying new foods, she is extremely stubborn and remains as picky as can be. Still, she loves this book with its rhyming and sing song quality narration as well as the funny scenes depicted in both words and illustrations. This is such a fun book to read, and a great book for early readers.

While not a book that was banned in the United States, fortunately (considering Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? though I am kind of surprised that Texas Board of Education still allowed it), it was banned in China for a number of years (1965-1991). The book was banned at the start of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and, according to some, is believed to be more a ban on the author than the book itself (since it was lifted after Seuss died in 1991).  The author was known for his anti-authoritarian stance and themes in his writing. Green Eggs and Ham was reportedly banned for depicting early Marxism. The arguments tend to revolve around this book being targeted because of its popularity and the author's own political and philosophical leanings. There are other theories out there too. Even so, I am hard pressed to see any connection between Marxism and Green Eggs and Ham.

On the subject of Dr. Seuss, another book my daughter enjoyed immensely which we also have in our personal library is Hop on Pop (1963), which was challenged in the Toronto Public Library in 2014 because it was believed to encourage violence against fathers.


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964) ~ My daughter and I recently read The Giving Tree for the first time. It's the story a little boy and his tree. It opens with him and the tree playing together, the tree's goal to make the boy happy. The writing is relatively simple and my daughter was able to read along for most of it. When we got to the end, I asked my daughter what she thought of it along with other more specific questions. She said it was a "good book" and she liked the end best, when the tree and boy were together again. She said parts made her sad. When the boy didn't visit his friend the tree more often. She wished the artwork was more colorful. The illustrations are very simple, as they often are in Silverstein's books. I actually like the simplicity, but I can see why a six year old might not appreciate them as much. I actually got teary-eyed as I read the book, finding it a rather sad story. My daughter came away from the book with a different impression. She thought it was a happy book because they were finally together in the end. I found it interesting, although not surprising, the difference in our opinions, however slight. She's coming at the book from a foundation of innocence and her own expectations. Whereas, as an adult, I bring to the book all of my own life experiences and expectations. Though she told me she liked The Giving Tree, I do not think she was particularly excited about this book. It will likely go on the shelf and be forgotten until she rediscovers it again when she's a little older. 

If you mention the title of this book, The Giving Tree, in my office, a heated debate will ensue. One of my coworkers will sing this book's praises from sunrise to sunset while another claims this is the worst book ever: the story of a selfish boy who takes and takes from the tree until there is nothing left. Not once does he say thank you. She argues that he has no respect for his environment. Despite her dislike of the book, she would never condone book banning. Not everyone agrees. The Giving Tree was banned by a public library in Colorado in 1988 for being sexist. The tree represents a female figure who gives and gives to the boy, only to have him demand more and more with little given in return. He is described as some by being selfish and predatory. The book also has been challenged by various schools accusing it of criminalizing the foresting agency. I guess it is all in the perception? Or are people reading too much into it? Whatever the reader takes away from the book, The Giving Tree is certainly a book that is open to interpretation.


Have you read any of these books? What banned children's picture books have you read that you would recommend?

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Banned Book Week: On Banning Books

Banned Book Week came into being in 1982 because of a influx in banned and challenged books in our schools, public libraries and bookstores. The list of books challenged each year is likely under-reported, but even so it is extensive. With the number of challenges made to books continuing to this day, it is still a problem worth paying attention to. One might argue a challenge is not a ban, but if no one opposes a challenge, the chance of a book being banned goes up. And then where does it stop?

Growing up, whenever I had a question, my father would point me to our home library and tell me to look it up. I grew up in a family that valued books, ideas, and education, and encouraged my reading. I feel very lucky that my parents let me read what I wanted, helping to foster my love for reading. They were always there if I had questions or needed to discuss something. My dad and I had numerous discussions about some pretty deep issues I encountered in books. He and I may not have had the best relationship all around, but that was one of the things I most loved about him. 

I had not intended to write this post, but I was inspired by the comments of a fellow blogger who feels that banning books on a school level is not bad, but, in fact, is a good idea. I think her heart is in the right place, but I could not disagree with her more. The argument made to ban books from schools is often, if not always, that it is to protect children from harmful content, whether that be offensive material or beliefs and ideas that go against the parents' or guardians' personal beliefs. 

I was really drawn to Charlie of Girl of 1000 Words comments about how fear is at the root of those who wish to ban books. Fear of what they do not know or the unfamiliar. Fear that their own beliefs are possibly being questioned. Fear of change. Fear their children will be tainted or harmed, fear of not being in control. Ideas can be frightening. Especially ideas that aren't our own. 

One concern  that often arises is that children may have access to books in schools and the school libraries which their parents won't be aware of or be able to control. I don't know about your school library, but my daughter is only six. And I'm pretty sure all her library time is well supervised. They spend an hour once a week in the school library, and while they are allowed to check out books, much of their time in the library is spent under instruction by the librarian. Even as she gets older, I am not sure just how much time she will have in the library on her own to roam the stacks. Even if she does, if she chooses to hang out in the library and read books like Speak,  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,  Looking  for Alaska, or Catcher in the Rye, I will be happy. It means she isn't behind a bush smoking weed or sexting a stranger. And let's face it. If you tell a child, however nicely, that they cannot read a particular book, it only raises the appeal of that book more. If a child or youth really wants to read a book, they'll find a way. 

What of the argument that some books should be banned but not others? Where do we draw the line? For example, let's say you like Harry Potter and see nothing wrong with it; does that make the parents' who want it out of the schools and libraries opinions are less valid than your concern over Catcher in the Rye or Lord of the Flies, books you might not have liked and you yourself find offensive?  What makes your opinion more valid than someone else's? It doesn't work like that. It shouldn't work like that. Then do we ban every book that is challenged? How many books will be left in the schools and libraries?  

In today's day and age, with the internet and social media, television and movies, children and youth are exposed to much more than they ever were when I or my husband were children. As a parent, you can limit your child's access, but unless you forbid the child from going to school, to a friend's house, or really, anywhere public, you will not be able to control everything your child is exposed to. It's scary, I know. I worry about outside influences on my daughter too. We only have so much control.

Keeping our kids in the dark is not the way to help them grow up into productive and insightful adults. Study after study shows that in areas where abstinence only programs are in place and sex education in schools is prohibited, the teen pregnancy rate actually goes up. There is a reason abortion rates go up when alternative sources of birth control are forbidden or not accessible to teens (and adults). By trying to "protect" our children by keeping information away from them, we are in fact causing more harm.  Teens are having sex. As young as 12, and sometimes even younger. Not educating them as to the consequences, thinking they are too young and can't handle it . . . It doesn't work. Books that deal with topics of teen sex, rape, masturbation even, drug use, and all those topics we want to protect our kids from are realities kids face today. Saying they cannot read books that discuss those matters is not going to keep them from trying them. In fact, they probably are more likely to try them. Ideally, there is an involved parent or adult in the kid's life that the youth can turn to to discuss the book. That isn't always the case. 

Suicide rates show a decline when books about GLBQT children and youth are available. And yet there are those who want to keep  books featuring characters who are gay or transgender off the shelves--including, and especially in our schools. Do you know how many kids come forward about being abused because they read about it in a novel? Quite a few. Even if it was just one kid though, it would be worth it.

Some people would like to think that teenagers should not be allowed to read disturbing subject matter or that they can't handle it. Some cannot, it's true. What I've learned from my own experience and in my interactions with teens is that the are a lot more aware and capable than we adults give them credit for. I was reading Harlequin romances during my teen years as well as John Saul horror novels. I wasn't scarred or damaged from the experience. Most of the readers have similar stories.

This brings up another issue I have with the banning of books though. I get the whole age appropriate argument. There's a reason Fifty Shades of Gray will likely not be found in any high school and middle schools (it's been challenged in public libraries, but not schools, as a matter of fact). Children mature at different rates and what one child can handle, another can't. And just as adults vary in degree in what they can and cannot handle, so do kids. My daughter's friend is really into zombies and loves The Walking Dead. My daughter has no interest in it because she says it is "scary". This isn't something that came from me. Not that I watch it in front of her. She just knows it would be too scary for her.

When kids are my daughter's age, I have a lot more say in what she is exposed to, at least at home, and I have learned that, even at six, she already is able to say what is too much for her and what isn't. I do believe in letting my daughter make her own choices, but it doesn't mean I am not there to guide and discuss things with her. This goes for books or television shows and movies or what have you. For years she's been asking where babies come from and about death. I am one of those parents who believes in honesty--age appropriate honesty, but honesty nonetheless. And so, each time she asks, I answer her questions openly and honestly. 

While I do believe a parent has the right to limit what their own child reads or watches, I do not believe that denying all children, even in a school, access to a book is okay. It sets a bad precedent, especially here in the United States where freedom of speech and access to information in not only valued. Banning books teaches our children that if you are afraid of something, if something offends you, if you disagree with it, you can shut it down and pretend it doesn't exist. It discourages our children from thinking for and expressing themselves. It discourages open discourse about ideas that may be different from our own. It promotes isolation, ignorance, and raises the risk of history repeating itself. 

Banning books in schools may not seem like a big deal to some. It only impacts the children, right? However, often movements like this start at the grassroots level and gain in traction if allowed to go undeterred. If it is okay for a school to ban a book, then maybe  the next step is to ban it at the district level. Heck, let's keep going. Let's stir up enough animosity toward a book that respectable Christian churches are telling people not to read the book (think Harry Potter). If enough people get up in arms over a book, the local government might too. It's happened before. And from there . . . I live in a country where there is enough awareness about the dangers of book banning, and there are organizations and people who are willing to fight tooth and nail against it, that the chances of it turning into a national ban is very slim. Unfortunately, people continue to wish to take away our Constitutional rights, even if by targeting our children. 

Because really, isn't that what it comes down to? We want to protect our children because of our own fear of what our children might read or take away from what they read. It is not really about what the children actually do take away. It's that what they are reading goes against what the challenger believes or finds offense.

I personally believe that schools are one of the best places to read many of the books that come under fire. The classroom offers students an opportunity to discuss and grapple with controversial content, ask questions and practice critical thinking skills.

Do you read banned books? Do you think banning books in schools, libraries and bookstores is every acceptable? 

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Weekend Mews (09/23/2017)

I am linking up to the Sunday Post hosted by the wonderful Kim of Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where participants recap our week, talk about what we are reading, share any new books that have come our way, and whatever else we want to talk about. As well as Stacking the Shelves hosted by the great Team Tynga's Reviews and Marlene of Reading Reality a meme in which participants share what new books came their way recently.

Happy autumn! It is now officially fall. My daughter was getting out the car the other day, and I suggested we go leaf stomping as there were some brown leaves scattered on our driveway. She took great pleasure in turning them into dust, hearing them crunch beneath her feet. Most of our trees' leaves are still green. Another sign of fall came by way of my needing to cover up at night these last couple of nights. I noticed the neighbors one street over have hooked up their Halloween lights (Christmas lights, but for Halloween) and the dance studio Mouse takes classes was decorated with ghosts, and spiders and jack-lanterns this week. Soon we will be planning our trip to the pumpkin patch, I imagine. 

What are you up to this weekend? Mouse had an early morning soccer game today (another win for their team-yay!). As is becoming our tradition this soccer season, we followed it up with breakfast out. Then it was off to the library. We have settled in for the afternoon. Mouse and I made a blanket fort, which she said turned out pretty awesome. But only one person can fit in it at a time. A small person at that. We also did a little science project. Now we are trying to decide what to do about dinner. I voted for ice cream, but I do not think my husband and daughter will go for that. Well, maybe my daughter will . . .

Thank you to everyone for their kind thoughts and well wishes for my senior cat, Parker. He is scheduled for an ultrasound this coming week. The fur on his belly has just barely grown back after the last one. Poor little guy.

New to My Shelves (book covers are linked to Goodreads page for each book, with the exception of the library books)

Thanks to Alicia of A Kernel of Nonsense, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli finally made it off my wish list and onto my TBR pile. I am looking forward to finally reading this one!

I am very picky about which books I select to read for Penguin's First to Read program because I am not a fan of reading books in PDF format. Occasionally, a book is offered though that I just cannot resist. Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay is one such book.  Although I haven't read any of the other books in the series, cozy mysteries tend to be suitable for stand alone reading, and so I'm going to give the series a try with this one. 

I was slow about getting around to choosing my Kindle First book for September. I went with Teresa Driscoll's I Am Watching You. It feels like it's been a while since I lost myself in a good thriller, and the premise of this one appealed to me.

Little Britches and the Rattlers by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Vincent Nguyen
The Magic School Bus: Comes to Its Senses by by Kristin Earhart, illustrated by Carolyn Bracken, created by Joanna Cole
Jane vs. the Took Fairy by Betsy Jay, illustrated by Lori Osiecki
Frozen Fever: Anna's Birthday Secret adapted by Jessica Julius
Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale, illustrated by Guy Francis
Rulers of the Playground by Joseph Kuefler

What I Am Reading: I am a good way into The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo. Set in World War II, the novel is about two nurses stationed on different fronts of the war, one in Europe and the other in the Pacific. I suspected I might like the book given my attraction to WWII fiction, but I find I am enjoying it even more than expected. I plan to finish it soon, and then dive back into Brad Watson's Miss Jane. I seem to have let that one fall by the wayside this month somehow.

What I Am Listening To: My cat, Gracie, purring on my lap as I type this.

What I am Watching: The Magic School Bus. Oh, and I took Katherine of I Wish I Lived in a Library up on her recommendation to see a Hallmark Aurora Teagarden movie, Real Murders. I thought it was a lot of fun.

What My Week Was Like: It was a typical week in the Literary Feline household. I found myself with a little extra reading time a couple times this week, which was nice. Homework went a little more smoothly this week--we're starting to find our groove. This school year, Mouse is much more talkative about her school days, which is nice. I get more than an "I don't remember" out of her when I ask her questions about it.

It was a rough week at work. The kind of days that make me come home and hug my daughter close and thank my lucky stars.

We got a flyer about the upcoming Holiday Showcase for Mouse's dance studio. It only took a couple hours for my eyes to return to their sockets after bulging out at the cost of the costume.

What I Am Worried About: I am still worried about Parker. And with another earthquake hitting Mexico (my prayers go out to those impacted), I am making more of an effort to make sure we are prepared in case we get one here. The last big one I went through was the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. I have felt several more since then, of course, but none of those have caused that much damage.

What I am Grateful For: This beautiful day and being able to spend it with my family. Oh, and also to Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches.

This Week In Reading Mews:

Around the Blogosphere:

Tell me about what you have been up to! What are you reading, listening to and watching? How was your week? Do you have anything planned for this coming week?

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Friday Fun: Good Food, Banned/Challenged Books & Authors I'd Like to Meet--or Not

A couple days ago I started reading Teresa Messineo's The Fire by Night for an upcoming book tour. I could not resist this one after reading the blurb.

 Snippet from Goodreads Summary:  
 A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.

A weekly meme in which readers share a random sentence or two from page 56 or 56% of the book they are reading. Hosted by the wonderful Freda of Freda's Voice.

She was cleaning his wound now, patting at it with gauze in the half-light, washing it with the cold water she had boiled earlier, still sitting in its freezing teapot. He kept getting the gun between her and the light. Exasperated, she grabbed the Luger from him--but just to thrust it back into his other hand, pushing both up against her head. "There, fine, shoot me if you have to, but just stay out of my light." [56% from uncorrected proof, e-copy of The Fire by Light]
She certainly has moxie, doesn't she? It may seem a bit reckless on her part to grab the gun away from him and give it back, but given what she's been through and where she is in that moment . . . I would say she doesn't have much to lose. At least, she doesn't think so. As a result, she resorts to the one thing she does have control over. Putting her nursing skills to use.

What do you think? Is this a book you would continue reading?


Each week Maureen from Maureen's Books asks participants to share a favorite on the weekly designated topic.

This week's topic is my favorite restaurant.

I am not really sure I have a favorite restaurant. Red Robin perhaps because I love their Whiskey Barbecue Chicken Wrap. Or it could be Romano's Chicago Pizzeria, whose pizza I have been favoring lately. Even my daughter likes their pizza, which is saying something because she hates almost everything. Then there is Don Jose's (now Rodrigo's, although I haven't been there since they changed their name), when I'm in the mood for some good Mexican food. Joe's Italian Restaurant is a favorite place to take out of town guests who like Italian food. It's on the smaller side and plays the old oldies-- and it is a nice cozyatmosphere.

Do you have a favorite restaurant? 


Every Friday Coffee Addicted Writer from Coffee Addicted Writer poses a question which participants respond on their own blogs within the week (Friday through Thursday). They then share their links at the main site and visit other participants blogs.

In regards of Banned Books Week (, what are your favourite books that has been banned or challenged?

A few years ago for Banned Book week, I read a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson called Speak. The book had a profound impact on me. I saw myself in the main character Melinda. It was like looking at myself in a mirror, despite our circumstances being somewhat different. Parents over the years have challenged the book, calling it pornography (Melinda is raped) and arguing that it deals with too difficult issues such as bullying, depression, rape, and harassment which they believe aren't suitable for their teens to read about. And yet these are very real issues our kids face. Pretending they don't by not letting them read about it, can have the opposite intended effect. Had this book been around when I was in school, would it have changed anything for me? Maybe not. But at least I would have known I wasn't alone.

On a less serious note (sort of--because trying to ban books is just wrong), I couldn't help but think of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, which have been accused of glorifying witchcraft. The fear is that these books will lead our children to practice real-world witchcraft. I adore these books. In fact, I love books about magic in general. I have since I was a child. My daughter likes to play pretend and will cast spells and such. Those against Harry Potter would likely call me a bad parent. Let them. I like to cast spells alongside my daughter. This last time, we turned the cats into a prince and princess.

Another favorite, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has been banned in multiple places over the years, believed to be anti-religious, anti-Christian, and promoting witchcraft. Anyone who knows Tolkien's history knows how ludicrous this is. The author, in a letter to his friend and fellow writer C.S. Lewis, acknowledged that The Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit) had elements and themes of Christianity throughout. He himself was a devout Catholic.

It makes me sad and angry that in today's day and age books still face being pulled off the shelf because someone feels threatened by a book that goes against their personal beliefs. It is one thing for a person to choose not to read a book him or herself--or even to make that decision for their own children. It is an entirely different one when someone wants to take that choice away from everyone else.

Next week I will be focusing some on banned books for Banned Book Week, including children's picture books, including one by Dr. Seuss that is a household favorite.

What about you? What are your favorite banned or challenged books?


Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Each week, Carrie at The Butterfly Reads and Laura from Blue Eye Books ask participants to list what they like and don't like about that week's topic.

This week's topic is Author You'd Most/Least Like to Meet

Author I would most like to meet:

I can think of a number of authors I would like to meet: Juliette Cross, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Neil Gaiman, Sue Grafton, Karen E. Olson, Lisa See, Stephen King, just for starters. But if I have to chose the one I most want to meet, that would likely be J.K. Rowling. Not only has she demonstrated that she is a brilliant story teller in multiple formats, but she also seems like a smart and courageous woman. She has come a long way in her life to make her dream become a reality. She stands up for what she believes and is not afraid to speak her mind. I have a lot of respect for J.K. Rowling, not only as a talented author, but also for the person she is.

Author I Would Least Like to Meet:

Whereas it was hard to narrow down my list of authors I would most like to meet, I found it particularly difficult to come up with ones I would least like to meet. I can think of a few people who have written books on the political spectrum I would like to avoid like the plague, but I really didn't want to go there. So, instead, I am taking the easy way out. The author I would least like to meet (at least for the sake of today): J.D. Salinger. Not just because he is dead and either a) I'd have to be dead to meet him or b) he would be a ghost and there's no telling if he would be a friendly one. No, I simply would not want to meet him because he likely wouldn't want to me. Or anyone for that matter. He was a recluse for a good part of his life. And as such, I would respect his desire for privacy.

Which author would you most like to meet? How about least? 

 I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Be sure and tell me what you are reading and are up to!

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: I Want My Epidural Back by Karen Alpert

Before I became a mom, I used to hear people say that having a kid is hard. ~ Opening of I Want My Epidural Back

I Want My Epidural Back: Adventures in Mediocre Parenting by Karen Alpert
William Morrow, 2016
Nonfiction; 309 pgs

Goodreads Summary: 
Now that I m a mom, I know the most painful part isn't getting something giant through your hooha....

As someone who often considers myself a mediocre parent, I was quite eager to give Karen Alpert's book, I Want My Epidural Back, a try. Besides, as tough as parenting can be sometimes, it is necessary to find the humor in it. I don't often indulge in books like this, admittedly, but it sounded like fun. The author blogs at Baby Sideburns, a blog, I was not aware of before reading this book. I found the best way to read this one was in small doses, a section or two at a time in between the more serious books I was reading at the time. While there were some over the top moments in the book, overall, I found myself laughing and nodding along often. The chapter about becoming a Girl Scout Leader? I can relate! I've been known to wash all my clothes in cold water so I can do fewer loads of laundry. It's clear the author loves her children. While there is colorful language and a cringe-worthy nickname or two for her kids (it's probably just me), I found Alpert's book entertaining and relatable. I appreciate her honesty and humor.

You can learn more about Karen Alpert and her books on the author's website

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.