Banned Books #60- In The Night Kitchen

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books! This month, we read In The Night Kitchen.

In the Night Kitchen

First published: 1970
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2004 (source)
Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Trying not to scream at this moment in time. I’ve just finished this book (as it’s a picture book it took me about 30 seconds!) and sat down to collect my thoughts on why it might be banned. As always, I don’t like to read the reasons until I’ve finished the book and I had a sneaking suspicion nudity might be in there but as for the others? I just can’t deal with it. This book is one of the less recent banned books in our challenge so far, being published in 1970 and although I wasn’t around back then, I’m struggling to understand why a children’s picture book could cause such offence. Especially for the reasons mentioned! Let’s go back to the nudity thing. Yes, there is a cartoon picture of a naked little boy. It’s not gratuitous or explicit in any way and I really can’t comprehend why an innocent drawing could cause a furore. Answers on a postcard please.

CHRISSI: I thought it would be nudity when I saw the pictures. As Beth said, it’s a cartoon naked boy. It’s not an explicit, detailed picture and it’s not on every single page. So do I agree with any of the reasons? No. There really isn’t a reason that I could get behind for challenging this book. Would I read it to my class? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s a great story in my opinion. No other reason than that!

How about now?

BETH: Sigh. A challenge on this book was raised as recently as 2004 which means for me that some people somewhere are still having an issue with this book. Okay let’s take nudity out of the question because that might be just some people’s personal preference – which I can kind of understand, innocent though it is. But sexually explicit and offensive language? Was I reading a different book?! Has it been re-published and watered down for the noughties children, amending some lurid details from the seventies? Please can someone enlighten me because if it hasn’t, I don’t understand where the sexual explicitness and offensive language came from. In my eyes, there was none! Ridiculous.

CHRISSI: I honestly can’t see anything wrong with this book. I, too, understand that naked children is a bit of an issue, but it’s a story. There’s nothing sexually explicit about it whatsoever. I’m a bit baffled by it. Like Beth, I’m wondering if the story has been changed?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I understand that Maurice Sendak is a beloved children’s author however for me, this book didn’t quite work. I appreciated the fantastical, whimsical elements but I sadly didn’t connect with it on the level that I wanted to. Perhaps because I’m not the intended age group for the book? It has fans all over the globe though and was nominated for the Caldecott Medal in 1971 so it’s obviously a treasured piece of children’s literature.

CHRISSI: It was very, very odd. I do like whimsical stories but this one didn’t really work for me. I actually finished it and wondered what on earth I’d been reading!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

 

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Banned Books #60- Arming America: The Origin Of A National Gun Culture

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Welcome to the 60th edition of Banned Books! Wow. 60! This month we read Arming America: The Origin Of A National Gun Culture.

Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture

First published: 2000
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)
Reasons: inaccuracy

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Full disclosure time – I haven’t had a chance to finish this book. To be perfectly honest, I did give it a shot and found it so dry and difficult to read. Additionally, even if I was reading this off my own back and not for our Banned Books Challenge I would have still DNF’d it halfway through the first chapter. I have however done a little bit of research on this book as I was still intrigued to find out why exactly it was banned. Like all of our banned books I go into it blind without finding out the reasons for challenging but you always have preconceptions about these kinds of things and initially I was certain it was going to be because of the mention of guns and potentially, violence.

Once again I was completely wrong – the actual reason is inaccuracy which has to be one of the most curious arguments I’ve heard yet for challenging a book and definitely made me want to find out more! Of course, inaccuracy in a work of non-fiction is never a good thing, especially when you’re writing information for your reader that they presume to be entirely factual. As I’m not an expert on this field though, I’d hesitate to offer my opinion on the matter.

CHRISSI: I have to admit, like Beth did, I didn’t read all of this book. It was a beast of a book at over 600 pages long. I was really confused to find out the reason why it was banned was inaccuracy? What? I thought it would be because it was violent subject matter. Very confusing. If you’ve read this book all the way through, please tell us if there’s something that we’re missing?

How about now?

BETH: The uproar behind the publication of this book appears to centre around parts of the author’s research being completely fabricated. It certainly has one of the lowest readings I’ve ever seen on Goodreads – 2.89 which made me slightly concerned to read it before I had even begun, I have to admit. It seems that the original Bancroft Prize which was awarded to this book was taken away, the first time in the prize’s history that it has been revoked and Bellesiles had to resign from his post at Emory University after “blistering criticism by a blue-ribbon panel.” The edition of Arming America I read had a new introduction by the author where he offered explanations behind his research in the original edition and that he had made changes in this edition where necessary. As I mentioned before, I’m not an expert in this field so can’t possibly comment on what he did or didn’t do wrong but I could understand readers becoming angry if they felt they were misled or in receipt of false information. For further information, I found this article quite interesting: http://hnn.us/articles/1185.html

CHRISSI: I can understand why this book has been banned if there was stuff in it that is fabricated and that could cause more damage. I doubt anyone wants untruths out there in a work of non-fiction. So although I don’t think inaccuracies is a good enough reason to ban a book, I can see why they did?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’m afraid this book just wasn’t for me. I have quite strong opinions on guns anyway as a pacifist, but do respect other people’s points of view if they differ from my own. I’m a fan of non-fiction generally but sitting down with this book unfortunately felt like a chore rather than a pleasure. It’s a shame to say that I was quite relieved to make the decision to DNF it.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, this book wasn’t for me. I wasn’t impressed with the writing and it didn’t grip me like I wanted it to. The size of the book was intimidating and I found the writing was rather dry for my liking.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

Banned Books #59- Crazy Lady

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month, Beth and I read Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly.

Crazy Lady!

First published: 1993
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2005 (source)
Reasons: offensive language.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I don’t know why I put myself through this each month – as soon as I see the reasons for books being challenged/banned, I get cross! Haha. This book was originally published in 1993 which feels occasionally like a million light years ago but strangely enough, at the same time, it feels not long ago at all for me, it’s a year I remember quite well. Attitudes have changed quite dramatically from the nineties, especially regarding children with special needs (thank goodness!) but as for the reason this book was challenged? I just don’t get it. It states offensive language and well, there are many moments in this book where the characters “cuss,” but no mention is ever made of the particular words they use. All that is said is the word “cuss,” which isn’t offensive by itself – not to me, anyway. So I’m left feeling slightly confused as to where the offensive language was?!

CHRISSI: We never agree with the reasons for things being challenged and I really don’t see the problem with any language in this book. As I’ve said before, children and young adults hear and see much worse in their family home. Even in the 90s! I don’t think offensive language is reason enough to challenge a book. I really don’t!

How about now?

BETH: Nowadays I would hope that the mere mention of the word “cuss” or “swear,” wouldn’t send people running for the hills but sadly, that still appears to be the case. Well, when it was challenged in 2005 that is! Fair enough, not everybody appreciates bad language, I personally don’t use it in my reviews because I don’t want to offend anyone but I understand and enjoy the fact that everyone is different. However, I don’t understand why when the “bad words,” aren’t even mentioned that some people still have an issue with this book? Perhaps I’m being incredibly naive.

CHRISSI: I can’t believe that this book was challenged in 2005, especially when TV and the media have much worse language occurring. I mean, seriously?! If the language was more explicit, then I could probably get why it was challenged, but it’s really not that bad at all. I’ve read worse and I’m sure teenagers/young adults have heard worse too. I think we can censor our children/young people too much and it makes them curious to seek out what is being challenged.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Crazy Lady was a quick and easy read for me but nothing I really want to shout from the rooftops about. It was interesting to see the depiction of a special needs child written in the nineties (but set in the eighties) and how far we’ve come as a society since then in our attitudes and treatment. I thought the alcoholic character of Maxine was an interesting addition but I have to admit, she frustrated me slightly especially as it seemed like she wasn’t making any effort to really help herself or her son Ronald.

CHRISSI: It has an interesting story-line and one I’m pleased is represented in children’s literature. It wasn’t a book that I’d rave about. I found the ending to be a bit of a let down. Mainly, like Beth, it made me appreciate how our treatment with people with special needs has progressed. We still have a way to go, but we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction. I liked how it didn’t try and talk down or be condescending.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Banned Books #58- We All Fall Down

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier.

We All Fall Down

We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
First published: 1991
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, sexual content.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I never usually understand any reason for a book being challenged/banned, no matter what year it was raised in. I can think of occasional books where access should perhaps be restricted in a school library setting for very young children but generally, I think people should be free to read whatever they like, particularly if there’s not a solid reason for the challenging or banning. This book was published in the early nineties and although it’s slightly dated, I feel that it could still be read right now without any difficulty. As always, I get a bit dumbfounded about the issues that were raised. I think this is meant to be a work of young adult fiction, so for the age group it’s aimed at, I do think there shouldn’t be too many problems. I don’t think there’s too many incidences of offensive language – certainly nothing I found offensive anyway but I do appreciate that people are different and may be more sensitive to those aspects.

CHRISSI: I didn’t think the language in this book was overly offensive. When it’s aimed at young adults, we really need to stop thinking that they can’t handle offensive language. I’m pretty sure most young adults use offensive language. It’s everywhere! Film, TV, books, family members and peers… why should we challenge a book due to offensive language? I do think there are some moments in the book that is quite heavy going, so I think if this book was in a school library, it should have an age range on it. It’s really down to individual discretion, I think and guidance from teachers/librarians if it’s in a school.

How about now?

BETH: The fact that this book was still on the list for 2003 blows my mind a little bit. There is a bit of sexual content (although it isn’t graphic) but could still upset readers so they should perhaps be aware of that. I find it very strange though that I always try and guess the reasons for challenging a book and more often than not, I’m usually wrong. I anticipated that people would have problems with the level of violence that is used in this novel and that isn’t mentioned at all. However, I do stand by what I said in my previous answer – it’s meant to be young adult fiction and I think it is probably okay to be read by that particular age group.

CHRISSI: I have definitely read more explicit books in the YA genre than this. Like Beth, I thought the violence would be a bit of an issue, but it’s not mentioned in the reasons for challenging this book. I don’t see why it was challenged in 2003. There’s definitely more to be worried about than a book like this. As I mentioned in my previous answer, it should be restricted access to the YA age range.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book left me a bit surprised, to be honest. It’s only 200 pages so didn’t take me that long to read and I fairly flew through it as it was quite action-packed. I was intrigued by the story-line, the devastation that a family go through after their property is violated, leaving one of their daughters in hospital. I was also curious about the part of the plot that involved The Avenger and how that ended up being resolved, which was very much “heart in the mouth,” kind of stuff. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did!

CHRISSI: I flew through this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It does seem a little bit dated having being published in the 90s, but it was still highly enjoyable and so easy to read. There was a great amount of intrigue that kept me turning the pages!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #57- Uncle Bobby’s Wedding

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen.

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Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen
First published: 2008
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: homosexuality, unsuited to age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: No, no and no some more. I get so wound up when a book as sweet and inoffensive like this is challenged on grounds of homosexuality. I don’t understand it that as recently as ten years ago (which still feels to me like yesterday!) that individuals were challenging books for children because it featured gay characters. I think I would understand (but definitely NOT accept) the challenging if it was in less enlightened times when homosexuality was illegal and a lot of people had a problem with it. But to use it as a reason to restrict access to a book in the 2000’s. Really?

CHRISSI: What Beth said. I actually find it offensive that this book was even challenged! It is such a sweet story and it’s told in such a gentle way. What message does it send young children if a book like this is challenged/banned? That’s it wrong to have a homosexual in your family? Argh, it makes me so cross. I know a lot of children who do have two mothers and my heart hurts to think that they would believe it’s ‘wrong’. Children should see a representation of every type of family to open their minds and address stereotypes.

How about now?

BETH: I think you can already see from my previous answer that I very much disagree. Since 2008, I would have loved to believe we are becoming more accepting of individuals beliefs and desires but sadly, although I think there has been a lot of progress, there is still a lot more work to do. There will always be people who have quite extreme ideas about what is right and what is wrong and they’re entitled to their own opinion but when they use it to try and change other people’s minds/hurt the target individuals that they have a problem with, that’s when I have a problem too.

CHRISSI: I think there’s so much work to be done. Children are so much more accepting than adults and I wonder when that acceptance starts to get lost, or why it gets lost. When is it that we begin to judge so much? I know children don’t. When I get asked why a certain person has two mothers/fathers in class, the children accept it without questioning. Books like this NEED to be about so children know that it’s not abnormal to have a different family set up.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I found this book to be a very adorable and informative read, especially for younger children. It’s a fantastic way of introducing children to LGBT issues and the fact that people should be free to love/marry whomever they want. I would be happy to read it with any children I come across and would be delighted to see it in schools, available for children to enjoy.

CHRISSI: It’s adorable and I’d be happy to read it to any child in my school!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #56- Northern Lights/The Golden Compass

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials, #1)

First published: 1995
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Of course not. I’m one of those people who never experienced reading the His Dark Materials series as a child so I only came to it with an adult mentality. Either way, I think I would have had the same opinion. There is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned, ESPECIALLY for the reasons mentioned. As always, I tried to guess the reasons why this book, the first in the series, might have been difficult for some people to stomach and once again, I was completely wrong. I assumed that the fantasy/magical aspect might have offended a few people (even though children clearly love a good, imaginative narrative that doesn’t necessary have to be believable!).

CHRISSI: I have to say no. It’s a load of poppycock. I have no idea why this book was challenged. Like Beth, I thought it might be about the fantasy elements, I know some of the parents of children at my school don’t like fantasy because of religious reasons and I wondered whether that could be it. No. Political viewpoint? Religious viewpoint? This confuses me.

How about now?

BETH: Northern Lights was challenged over ten years after it was published and to be honest, I’m struggling to see why if there were challenges from concerned readers, they didn’t appear prior to 2008? If anyone has any ideas, please do enlighten me! Additionally, it really does irritate me when the reasons for challenging a book point towards a political or religious viewpoint. Now, I’m not a particularly political or religious individual BUT I do like to learn about different attitudes/cultures and viewpoints and I very much enjoy it when there’s a difference of opinion to my own in a novel, unless I feel like I’m being preached to. Saying that however, I really didn’t think there was a strong viewpoint either political or religious in Northern Lights and I’m a bit confused as to where this reasoning has come from?

CHRISSI: I am utterly confused by the reasons for challenging this book. I didn’t think it had a particularly strong political or religious viewpoint. Even if it did, why does it matter? Why should it be banned? Shouldn’t we be allowed to make our own minds up? Shouldn’t we open our minds a little to other’s views?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really love His Dark Materials as a series but particularly this first novel, Northern Lights. Lyra is a wonderfully rich character who never fails to make me laugh, the world-building is imaginative and thought-provoking and I adored the adventure aspect of the entire novel. Plus, I absolutely love the idea of having a daemon companion as a unique part of your personality. I’d love to know what yours would be in the comment below if you’ve read this book? Mine would be a ring-tailed lemur!

CHRISSI: Ooh. This is a toughie. Whilst I appreciate that Philip Pullman is a talented writer and that this story is fabulously creative… there’s something about it that I don’t connect with. I have a disconnect with it and I can’t tell why. I usually like fantasy/magical reads but this one leaves me quite cold. I know I am in the minority with that. I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it! Oh and my daemon would definitely be a lop eared rabbit!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Banned Books #55- Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahnuik.

Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread
First published: 2015
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2016 (source)
Reasons: profanity, sexual explicitness and being “disgusting and all around offensive.”

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As this collection was first published only a few years ago now, my answers for the first two questions in this post are going to be similar as it’s a relatively recent release. I have to be honest and say I had a really hard time reading this book and am now having an even tougher time trying to answer these questions. If you follow our Banned Books series I think you’ll probably realise that I don’t think any book should be challenged or banned however if it were a situation within a school library, perhaps access should be monitored when we think about more controversial books. However, I haven’t read that many banned books in this series so far where I think access should be limited – perhaps apart from the graphic novel Saga in a primary school situation. This is one of those cases where I think (in my personal opinion) that Stories You Can’t Unread isn’t particularly suitable in an educational setting. That is not to say I agree with it being challenged or banned, I think I’ve already made my opinion clear on that but with this collection, I can unfortunately see why parents might have issues with it if their child brought it home from the library.

CHRISSI: In an educational setting, I can totally understand why it’s challenged/banned. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with teenagers reading this book. I, myself, felt very uncomfortable through several of the stories. I think the author has an incredibly aggressive writing style, that I couldn’t get on with. Would I want it to be banned in general? No. The author clearly has an audience and I imagine so many would enjoy his writing. Me, however? No. It’s certainly not for me. I could barely read some of them because they were incredibly twisted. I like twisted but there’s a line, for me personally, and I think this book crossed that line.

How about now?:

BETH: Should Stories You Can’t Unread be challenged/banned? Well, no I believe people should be able to access all works of literature if they want and not be subject to rules or regulations that prevent them having that freedom of choice. Do I agree with the reasons that it was challenged? Well, not agree but it’s one of those rare times that I do understand the potential problems that this collection has raised. I don’t have a particular issue with profanity but I know a lot of people do and this collection doesn’t hold back on that count. The same is true for sexuality which can be incredibly graphic in some of the stories and not necessarily to everyone’s taste as some of the tales are quite twisted regarding sex. I’m not easily offended and the stories in this book didn’t shock me so as to speak but I did find myself reading some of them with a little bit of a grimace nevertheless. Especially the stallion story – say no more!

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I’m not easily offended. Yet, there’s something about this book that didn’t sit right for me. There’s too way much content that could offend others and the writing style just made me feel uneasy. I know the author makes you want to feel that way and he was highly successful with this book. I don’t think any book should be banned because I believe every person should be able to read what they want. However, challenged in education? Yes.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I think the thing is with Chuck Palahniuk is that he likes being shocking and deliberately controversial. You have to take the stories you read in here with a pinch of salt, open your mind as wide as it could possibly go and prepare to be a little bit grossed out by what you’re about to read. If that’s not your thing and you are sensitive or easily offended, this collection definitely isn’t for you. I like to think of myself as quite open-minded and I only had a very strong reaction to a couple of the stories in this book but my problem was that there only seemed to be a few pieces that I genuinely felt interested in. The rest of the stories just didn’t seem as well constructed and none of them (even the intriguing ones) ended satisfactorily which was just frustrating for me as a reader. I’ve still to read some of the author’s novels but as a short story writer, I just don’t think he’s for me.

CHRISSI: I didn’t like it at all. I don’t often come out and say that. I usually look for positives, however, for me, I felt too uncomfortable and I didn’t enjoy the author’s tone.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- I couldn’t get into the author’s writing style and certainly won’t be reading more from him.