Tag Archives: Harper Lee

Challenge the Banned

The week of September 27 – October 3 is banned books week. Twitter has been filled with funny tweets from publishers and readers alike. Libraries have set out the books banned in the past, front and center for you to read a “banned book”.

It seems ridiculous really, the idea of banning a book, to me anyway. In school, had I been told that I could not read a book, the first thing I would have done was have my mother find it for me so that I could read it. My mom knew better than to tell me that I couldn’t read something, because then I would have had my grandmother go out and find it for me so that I could read it.

We can look back at the past and laugh on the idiosyncrasies of the times before us. They were naïve, they didn’t know any better, or it was just the world they lived in.

But.

Even today, we have schools and parents who challenge books. You can find a list of them here. In a world that parents turn a blind eye and let kids flaunt themselves in public, on social media, they get their pants in a twist because their children could be reading something that would dirty their minds.

Preposterous.

I understand censoring for age-appropriateness, I wouldn’t read to my six-year-old a book in the age group for my 12-year-old, nor would I read a book full of sex to my 12-year old. As their parent, that is my job. Emphasis on the word my.

The world is a fishbowl of situations and people. We do not all fit into a mass mold, and we cannot expect our children to come from the same generic template either. They have to be able to read about situations that they ever never had to experience firsthand.

It seems the books on this list were banned because the subjects/topics that were written about made someone uncomfortable. Let’s take To Kill a Mockingbird for example (it is the most recent that I’ve read); it has been called degrading, full of profane and racist language and actions, and so much more.

This book was so much more than about race; it was also about the integrity of the human race – or lack of in some cases, prejudice, poverty, discrimination and the fact that we struggle to see past our own front yard some days.

But it was a good book. Not because it was full of happy go lucky times, not because it took me to a different time and made me feel good. No, in fact, many scenes made my stomach twist up in a sickening rage. It took me to a time and a place that was uncomfortable. It made me see things through a different point of view.

This hasn’t been a book that my eldest has had to read for school yet, I wonder if it will be on the list at some point. There have been others that bring light to uncomfortable circumstances. It is not taught so that they grow up and become like what they read in the book. No, it is to bring light to situations that are gritty and controversial so that maybe our kids can learn from them. Be better because of them.

I will never understand the idea of banning or challenging a book. Everyone needs to be able to read an experience for themselves. The idea of a school or a person telling me what my kids can or cannot read would tick me off.

The idea of being told what I should or should not write about would tick me off. The world isn’t a neat little package, wrapped up waiting for us like on Christmas morning. Therefore, we shouldn’t have to write like that either. And by banning a book, isn’t that what they are trying to say/do? Tell us that we shouldn’t have written about that.

Check out these websites to view the different lists of banned or challenged books.

Here is a list of Banned Books that Shaped America: (The bolded ones are books that reside on my bookshelf.)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley, 1965 (Grove Press)

Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1970

The Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903

Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, 1940

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

Howl, Allen Ginsberg, 1956In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1966

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 1906

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, 1855

Moby-Dick; or The Whale, Herman Melville,1851

Native Son, Richard Wright, 1940

Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 1971

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane, 1895

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred C. Kinsey, 1948

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein, 1961

A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams, 1947

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963

The Words of Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez, 2002

 

What is your favorite banned/challenged book? Let me know down in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,

~AJP

Check out these websites to view the different lists of banned or challenged books.

http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/books-that-shaped-america/

http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/

Are You Reading?

The MORE that you Read,
the more THINGS you will KNOW.
The MORE you LEARN,
the more PLACES you’ll GO!
~Dr. Seuss

It’s not a secret that I love to read (mentioned in a previous post). And to write, you have to read.

Here lately, I find myself reading probably more than I do anything else. While I work, I listen to e-audio books on my iPad, instead of music. I have three (very thick and large) school books that I read during my breaks, lunch and after work & class. On the nights that I do not have class, I read to my youngest – right now we are on a Halloween and Christmas kick. And then I try and get in a few minutes of non-homework reading right before bed.

I am also not one to stick to reading one book at a time either. At any given time, I could be reading one to five books at a time. This might seem like too much to some, but it works for me. There are days where a story just doesn’t hold my interest, but calls me back to it another day.

And I will admit, finding these e-book audios on the library’s website has saved my sanity at work. A person can only listen to music for so long before the singing starts to wear on ones nerves.

Right now I am listening to…

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (I have been rereading the series with a friend of mine who has never read them before! I know, I know. How could one have never read these before? It is not from lack of trying on my part.)

And I am reading…

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

So what are you reading right now? Let me know down in the comments, I love seeing what others are reading.

Till next time,
~AJP

Unemotionally Attached

I am sitting here with absolutely nothing to post about today. My mind has been preoccupied with new and old story lines, trying to edit something for an upcoming workshop, and dealing with Month End issues at work. So as I sit here, wracking my brain with something – anything- to blog about, my mind keeps going back to CJ’s post yesterday.

It was a good post, and I loved reading her point of view on the matter regarding the recent publication of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. CJ linked to some great articles giving you an insight on the drama that has been circled around Ms. Lee here of late.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that a lot of people hold dear, something they remember fondly reading while growing up. So the idea of this new book painting Atticus as a different man than he was in TKAM is unfathomable to some.

But what if you don’t hold To Kill a Mockingbird dear?

I don’t.

Up until a year ago, I never put much thought into the book other than it was a classic that I would get around to reading someday. Then last year at the end of a writers meeting with my group, Joe mentioned that his favorite novel of all time was To Kill a Mockingbird, we discussed it for a minute before departing and that was it.

Then over the holidays, I was out with my grandfather and we were browsing the books when we came across a used copy for a dollar and he said he remembered reading it when he was younger. I asked what he thought about it and he encouraged me to buy the book and find out for myself. So I bought the book and proceeded to shelve it.

Now I am not sure if he came across one of the many news articles about Harper Lee and her books recently or not, but he asked the other day if he could borrow the book from me. Seeing as how I still hadn’t read it, I figured I needed to do so quickly so that he can have a go. Then I mentioned to my grandmother about Go set a Watchman being released and all of the negativity surrounding it. We decided to read To Kill a Mockingbird together since she hadn’t read it in so long and, well, since I still hadn’t read it at all.

After we finish TKAM, we will probably read Go Set a Watchman together.

If the articles are true and that Ms. Lee was not of sound mind in letting this “draft” be published, then that’s a damn shame. But. What if she was? None of us really know except for Harper Lee herself.

I am not emotionally attached to either of these books in any way. After all is said and done, I probably will be, but come on, I am reading them with my grandparents – who both read To Kill a Mockingbird willingly as adults when it was first released. How cool is that? And now I will get to share Go set a Watchman with them too. We might hate it. We might not. No one can find out until they read it.

So now that I’ve got CJ and JesiKay shaking their heads at me… What are your thoughts on the matter? Share with us in the comments, we’d love to hear what you have to say.

~AJP

(Once I finish To Kill a Mocking bird AND Go Set a Watchman, I’ll let you know if I loved/hated either of them.)

Leave Well Enough Alone

Have you read To Set a Watchman yet? I haven’t read it yet, and the more I read about it the less I think I’d like to read it. I was excited when I first heard the possibility that Harper Lee would be releasing another book. I was To Kill A Mockingbird fangirling out, for a moment, until suspicions of possible irresponsibility of those who should be protecting the author began to arise.

Lee famously only wrote the one book (before this one) and had said she wouldn’t publish another.  The new book, Go Set a Watchman, was released on July 14th to massive sales but the reviews have been largely disappointing. One review I read in Entertainment Weekly suggested that if you love To Kill A Mockingbird, you may want to do yourself a favor by not reading this new book. The Atticus Finch we loved in Mockingbird is not the Atticus we see in Watchman.

Beyond the bad reviews though, there have been accusations of a blatant disregard for the author.  In a recent NY Times column, The Harper Lee ‘Go Set a Watchman’ fraud  Joe Nocera claims this publication “constitutes one of the epic money grabs in the modern history of American publishing.” He goes on to detail examples of how those responsible may have taken an early draft of what turned into the beloved To Kill A Mockingbird and have published it as a lost gem.

One review from the Wall Street Journal by Sam Sacks said, “For millions who hold [Mockingbird] dear, Go Set A Watchman will be a test of their tolerance and capacity for forgiveness. At the peak of her outgrage, Jean Louise (adult Scout Finch) tells her father, “You’ve cheated me in a way that’s inexpressible.” I don’t doubt that many who read this novel are going to feel the same way.”

Whatever the reason for the publication of this novel, it seems a disappointing legacy for an author whose novel has meant so much to so many. I’ve chosen not to read it both because I wouldn’t want to add to the publisher’s bottom line if it is indeed a manipulation of the aging author, but mainly because I would like to keep my love of Mockingbird untainted by the new book.

What about you? Have you read it? Do you plan to read it? What are your thoughts on this new book? How do you feel about sequels in general? Are there ever any good ones? Please share with us in the comments.

Have a great week.

~CJS