Banned Books #45- Fallen Angels

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers.

Fallen Angels

First published: 1983
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2001 (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’ve mentioned before how I like to go into our banned books completely blind about what the reason for challenging/banning it were and I always like to try and guess why people might not have deemed it appropriate. Well, when I looked at the reason for Fallen Angels being banned in 2001 (still can’t believe that was 17 years ago!!) I had to rub my eyes and look again to see if they’d missed anything. Yup, just offensive language. I have to admit, yes there was a tiny little bit of bad language in this book. It didn’t offend me however and it seemed realistic given the traumatic circumstances that the soldiers found themselves in at times. I’m going to draw from personal experience now and tell you about this lovely older lady I used to work with. Instead of swearing, she would substitute the word for a plant beginning with the same letter. For example, I’ll use the relatively tame: “Damn!” Instead of “Damn!,” she used to say, “Dandelions!” It used to make me smile, bless her heart. Anyway (and there is a point to this little tale) I can’t really imagine very young soldiers i.e. seventeen/eighteen year old getting in a horrific mess and saying “Oh, Fuschia!” or “Buttercup!!”It felt real to me anyway and the utterances of “bad words,” was so few and far between that to be honest, I barely noticed it. I don’t personally make a habit of swearing on my blog, I know that some people would be offended by it and I would hate to offend anyone but I really do think teenagers/children hear worse things out on the streets/at school/on television than anything written in this book.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I don’t really read up on the reasons why a book has been challenged. I just read it for myself and then try and work out if I knew why it was challenged. I did think the reason this book was challenged was because of the violence and racism casually littered into the story. Offensive language? Teenagers (and unfortunately younger children) hear much worse in their family homes/media/from their peers/music!

How about now?

BETH: As there’s only one reason why this book was challenged/banned, I want to just touch on reasons that I was surprised didn’t come up. We’ve been doing this Banned Books feature for a little while now and a lot of times, the theme of violence, overt sexuality or racism comes up as a reason for the book being thought inappropriate (by some!). Now there was less sexuality (although quite a bit of homophobia) but there was quite a lot of casual racism in Fallen Angels and definitely A LOT of violence. I mean, it’s set around a group of young soldiers in the Vietnam War so if you were expecting anything different, you’d be sorely wrong. As this book was mostly war and soldiers getting injured/dying, I have to say I was really surprised that this didn’t come up as a reason for challenging it? Not that I’m complaining, I don’t agree with banning any books of course, but if you were going to choose a reason…..CONFUSED.

CHRISSI: I’m confused too. I really didn’t think the swearing was that bad. I’ve read a lot worse language in some books. Of course, this book was about soldiers in Vietnam so there was bound to be violence, but I thought that was going to be the reasoning behind it. I’m genuinely baffled as to why the subject matter wasn’t questioned. If you’re going to challenge a book, challenge it for something more substantial than language. Pfft.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately, I didn’t get on with this book too well. Some of the scenes are incredibly powerful, especially when Perry and his friends are in the midst of fighting and generally, I find war horrifying anyway so it was always going to be quite an emotive read. However, I just felt like I wanted a bit more character development. I didn’t feel like we got to know any of the boys as well as we could have done if they weren’t fighting all the time. Yes, I get that it was meant to be about the Vietnam War and their traumatic experience of going to war so young but I just feel more could have been made of their characters.

CHRISSI: I was not a fan. Despite there being a war going on, I didn’t feel like much happened in the story. I don’t feel like I got to know any of the characters. I found myself skim reading it which isn’t a sign of a wonderful book…I do know that others would enjoy it. It just didn’t work well for me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

Advertisements

Banned Books #44- Twilight

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

Twilight (Twilight, #1)

First published: 2005
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2009 (source)
Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, 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: Ahhh, Twilight, what a blast from the past! I read it when it first came out to see what all the fuss was about but was interested to see what my thoughts would be over ten years afterwards. Now, I never look at the reasons why it was banned until I’m writing the post, I like to try and figure out the reasons for myself and once again, with this one I was completely wrong. Let’s start with religious viewpoint. Er, where was that exactly? Are they talking about the pagan practices of vampires or something else? Because seriously, I have a bit of an issue when religion is forced down my throat but I like to learn about other religions generally and I can’t recall a single incidence where religion is pushed. This certainly didn’t offend me. Let’s also remember that we were a fairly enlightened race in 2005 and there was no need (especially this reason!) for this book to be banned/challenged.

CHRISSI: Twilight! The book many bloggers hate to admit that they read. I’m not ashamed that I read it. When I did I was totally intrigued by the hype. I was in my teens. I don’t understand why it’s challenged on the sexually explicit and unsuited to age group reason. Huh? I mean, seriously! There’s nothing sexually explicit in Twilight. Attraction, sure, but no sexy times. Unless they mean later on in the series? But still… teenagers/young adults read and see worse in the media. As for religious viewpoint, I’ve been thinking about this one. Does it mean that it might offend some religions that don’t agree with the practice of vampires? I’m a bit flummoxed.

How about now?

BETH: It’s been over ten years and attitudes haven’t changed this much but again no, no, no. When I first thought about the reasons why someone might challenge this book, I immediately thought vampires in the same way that people are against Roald Dahl’s The Witches and Harry Potter for the whole witchy/wizardy aspect. If religious viewpoint DOES mean this, it’s still ridiculous in my opinion. For goodness sake, it’s just fantasy…it’s called “using your imagination,” and last time I checked on my childhood, that’s ALL I used to do! Also, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group? Don’t make me laugh! Okay, so Bella and Edward occasionally touch lips and brush faces (a lot!) and shock horror, sleep in the same bed where nothing sexual happens! This is saucy stuff, right?! Wrong. I read a hell of a lot worse as a teenager. I would actually say it’s perfect for the intended age group, which is probably teenage girls apart from the minor issues I have about Bella and Edward’s relationship.

CHRISSI: I honestly don’t see why this book is challenged when it’s really a supernatural love story. You don’t need to believe in anything to read this. You use your imagination. The only issue I have about it is Edward being a bit of a tool. I can’t believe that so many swoon over him. He’s possessive and controlling. No thank you!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Okay, this book is in no way literary genius and as I mentioned, I do have a few issues with the main relationship as an adult. I believe he’s far too possessive and a bit controlling which isn’t the healthiest type of relationship to portray to a vulnerable teenager. However, for the target age market, I think it’s probably an exciting, romantic story that young girls would enjoy. I can remember being a teenager and would have adored a boy to be that in love with me like Edward is with Bella. Therefore, I think if they understand that it’s just fantasy and a good relationship is always two people on an equal footing, there’s no harm in it. It was a very interesting experience re-reading it and trying to see why some may have issues with it.

CHRISSI: Twilight is incredibly addictive and so easy to read. I can appreciate it’s not the best writing ever. I don’t think it needs to be though. There’s definitely room in the market for books like Twilight. So many enjoy it and why shouldn’t we enjoy what we read, even if it is a bit of fluff?

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Banned Books #43- Summer Of My German Soldier

Welcome to 2018’s first edition of Banned Books. Each month, Beth and I review a book that has been on the Banned Books list. This month’s read was Summer Of My German Soldier by Bette Greene.

Summer of My German Soldier (Summer of My German Soldier, #1)

First published: 1973
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2001  (source)
Reasons: offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

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

BETH: Summer Of My German Soldier was first published in 1973, before I was born and it’s one of the older titles on the ALA’s top ten of banned/challenged books, challenged in 2001 which I still think of as fairly recent, I’m not sure about any of you? I was intrigued to read this book, especially when I found out that it was about a young girl and a German Nazi soldier and as with many of the books on our Banned Books list, I don’t agree with many of the reasons for challenging it. For example, I don’t remember any incidences of offensive language (perhaps I just glossed over them?) but I’m actually sitting here, racking my brain right now and I really don’t think there were any “bad words,” that shocked or offended me. Eye roll.

CHRISSI: I was really interested to see why Summer Of My German Soldier was challenged. As Beth mentioned, it is one of the older titles on the list. I didn’t find any of the language offensive in the slightest. There were some moments that were racist, but given its subject matter and the characters, it wasn’t really a surprise to me? I certainly don’t think it’s something that we should shy away from.

How about now?

BETH: As I mentioned, I still think of 2001 as being fairly recent (that probably shows my age!) but it was in fact seventeen years ago. I would have hoped attitudes have changed for the better in those years in that a lot of us are more tolerant and accepting and less racist but sadly, this is not true in all parts of the world or for all groups of people. In 2001, I would not have described this book as sexually explicit in the slightest and I certainly wouldn’t now. Excuse me while I rack my brain once again for even a slight mention of graphic sexual content because there wasn’t one! The only thing I am a little uneasy about in this novel is the racism, which I do agree is there and I don’t particularly like it or condone it. However, I think everyone should have access to all kinds of books, with some stipulations for younger or more sensitive children and in one way, it might educate people about how terrible people of another race were (and still) continue to be treated.

CHRISSI: I could kind of see why it would be banned or challenged but that’s not to say I agree with it. The racism did make for some uncomfortable reading. I know it’s not something that has been eradicated. Goodness knows we still have racism around in 2018, but it’s something that does make me uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s a book that should be banned though because it’s a good talking point and could potentially be educative. It just has to be used with sensitivity and with caution with impressionable readers.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  This is such a difficult one. Parts of it I really enjoyed, I loved Patty’s relationship with the housekeeper, Ruth and conversely, absolutely hated her relationship with her parents which made me incredibly uncomfortable and uneasy at points. The thing I had most problems with in this novel however was Patty’s relationship with the German soldier, Anton. She is twelve at the time when she meets him and he is twenty-two. She falls in love with him quite quickly, which is fine and he never outwardly reciprocates her love but there is hints that he feels the same way and that just feels very, very wrong to me. This book is also quite bleak at points so don’t go into it expecting a great resolution and a happy fairy-tale ending.

CHRISSI: Unfortunately, it’s not a book that I enjoyed. I didn’t like the relationships in this novel and it made me feel rather uncomfortable over all. I wouldn’t describe it as a pleasant reading experience!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me- I didn’t enjoy reading this book and I think there are better ones out there with the same subject matter.

Banned Books 2018…REVEALED

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Here are 2018’s books that Beth and I will be reading for our Banned Books feature that has been running since July 2014!

JANUARY: Summer Of My German SoldierBette Greene
FEBRUARY: TwilightStephenie Meyer
MARCH: Fallen AngelsWalter Dean Myers
APRIL: Saga Volume 3Brian K.Vaughan and Fiona Staples
MAY: Blood And ChocolateAnnette Curtis Klause
JUNE: Brave New WorldAldous Huxley
JULY: Julie Of The WolvesJean Craighead George
AUGUST: I Am JazzJessica Herthel
SEPTEMBER: Taming The Star RunnerS.E. Hinton
OCTOBER: BelovedToni Morrison
NOVEMBER: King & KingLinda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My LifeCharise Mericle Harper
I’m looking forward to seeing if I agree with the reasons for these books being banned. If you want to have a look at the previous books (42 of them!) that Beth and I have read for this feature, check out the page for Banned Books here on my blog!

Banned Books #42- The Agony Of Alice

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month we read The Agony Of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

The Agony of Alice (Alice, #1)

First published: 1985
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)
Reasons: offensive language and sexually explicit

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

BETH: This is one of the older releases on our Banned Books list for this year (not quite as old as me but nearly there!) and comes with a fantastic vintage eighties cover that did bring a smile to my face. On reading the synopsis and seeing the front cover, I was intrigued as to why this book might be challenged/banned. I think I’ve mentioned before that I deliberately try to avoid seeing the reasons until after I’ve finished the book. Probably so that I can get even more outraged at them but that’s besides the point. I finished The Agony Of Alice at a bit of a loss to understand what problems people could have had with this story and on reading the reasons why I have to admit I’m at even more of a loss.

CHRISSI: This book is older than me! 😉 It was a really interesting one to look at, especially because it made the challenged list in 2006. I was really intrigued to see why this book could be banned. Quite often I can see why a book may have come into some trouble, but I’m completely stumped with this one. I have no idea why it was challenged. Genuinely. I didn’t find anything offensive about the language and as for sexually explicit? Pah!

How about now?

BETH: This book was first published in 1985 and you might think that some attitudes have relaxed over thirty or so years? However….this book was put on the challenged/banned list in 2006, just over ten years ago so that doesn’t really make very much sense. More importantly, I see no reason at all why this book stirred up so many obviously negative feelings towards it. Offensive language? Sexuality explicit? Give me a break. This book is a story of a normal (sometimes slightly annoying) young girl on the cusp of puberty going through normal emotions and struggling with daily life without a mother figure to support her on the journey. If sexually explicit means sharing an innocent first kiss on a piece of cardboard whilst playing a game of Tarzan oh my goodness please ban every single book in the world because they are all bound to have an offensive scene like this! The only way I can get my head round this is that on the list, it says the series of Alice books has been questioned and perhaps further books in the series, as she becomes a teenager have more explicit material in them that has ruffled a few feathers? I’ll just be over here in the corner, rolling my eyes.

CHRISSI: As before, I don’t really understand. I really am at a loss. There are a lot more explicit pieces of literature out there and nothing that happens in this book would be offensive to our modern day young ‘uns. It’s about a girl who is just about to go through puberty. It’s normal. I don’t see why it was challenged. I really, really don’t. I think it’s so dangerous to challenge books such as this!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  I can’t lie, it wasn’t the best book in the world for me but I’m obviously not the target age range. I swayed backwards and forwards over Alice as a character but loved the relationships she ended up developing. It’s a quick, easy read and a good introduction to adolescence for those children teetering on the edge of being a teenager. I also enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t a conventional family set up and the author explored what it was like for Alice to be in a family without a mother.

CHRISSI: It’s an okay read, but I didn’t connect with it very much. Baring in mind, I’m not the target audience I think others might really enjoy it. Alice annoyed me a little as a character and I don’t think I’ll be continuing her story, but many others will and have done!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Thank you so much to everyone who has read and enjoyed our Banned Books posts in 2017, we’ve really enjoyed doing them. Join us again on January 1st 2018 when we’ll be revealing our Banned Books list for 2018! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Banned Books #41- George

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month we read George by Alex Gino.

Note: This month’s book was supposed to be The Color Of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa but unfortunately we have not been able to get hold of a copy for a reasonable price so we’ve had to make a last minute switch!

George
First published: 2015
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2016 (source)
Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”

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

BETH: I’m really looking forward to hearing Chrissi’s thoughts on George, she said to me she had “a lot to say,” and I’m very intrigued! I found out about this book a while ago through my sister who has already read and done a full length review of it on her blog. I could have already guessed why the book might be challenged but I was really hoping that it wouldn’t be for the reason stated. *Sigh* of course it is. I was really hoping that in 2016, when this book was originally challenged (published in 2015) we were much more enlightened as a species about transgender issues and a book aimed at children about this subject would not be a big deal. Sadly, I was wrong.

CHRISSI: It actually hurt my heart that this book was challenged. It’s aimed at elementary children and in my eyes isn’t inappropriate at all for that age group. It actually makes me mad that it is challenged. The reason why it’s challenged was because ‘the sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.’ I mean WHAT? Many children know from an early age if they feel like they’re in the wrong body that they were born into. It’s told with a child’s voice. How can it be challenged? I really, really don’t get it.

How about now?

BETH: As George is a very recent release, I’m sure attitudes have not changed very much in the year that it was first challenged. I’d be upset to see it appear again when the list for 2017 comes out but you’re always going to get those people that feel uncomfortable with children’s sexuality, particularly if it happens to be a child determined that they are the opposite sex from the body they have been born into. I think this book is entirely appropriate for the elementary level as it is handled in a very intelligent and sensitive way. In fact, I think children definitely shouldn’t be shielded from these things because in a way, isn’t that confirming to them that being transgender might be strange/wrong (when obviously it is not?!). Of course, if it can help a child that is struggling with their gender assignment and can see themselves in George then that can only be a good thing, I think.

CHRISSI: It definitely has a place for elementary aged readers and those beyond. I think it’s such an innocent read about a topic that isn’t talked about enough. I have experienced teaching a child who is absolutely determined that she’s a boy. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was transgender. I know a lot of people think it’s just a ‘stage’ and for some children it is, but we’re devaluing those for which it’s not by challenging a book like this. Argh, it makes me mad. Children should read books like this, so they know they’re not alone and that people are different. Such a valuable lesson.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a sweet, quick and easy to read novel. I loved the characters and the message it conveyed although I was quite cross for a little while with a couple of the characters which you might understand if you’ve read this book yourself!

CHRISSI: I think it’s an inspiring read. I’m really pleased I’ve read it and I’d certainly recommend it to elementary aged children!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #40- ttyl

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read TTYL by Lauren Myracle.

ttyl (Internet Girls, #1)

Synopsis:

Audacious author Lauren Myracle accomplishes something of a literary miracle in her second young-adult novel, ttyl (Internet instant messaging shorthand for “talk to you later”), as she crafts an epistolary novel entirely out of IM transcripts between three high-school girls.

Far from being precious, the format proves perfect for accurately capturing the sweet histrionics and intimate intricacies of teenage girls. Grownups (and even teenage boys) might feel as if they’ve intercepted a raw feed from Girl Secret Headquarters, as the book’s three protagonists–identified by their screen names “SnowAngel,” “zoegirl,” and “mad maddie”–tough their way through a rough-and-tumble time in high school. Conversations range from the predictable (clothes, the delicate high-school popularity ecosystem, boys, boys in French class, boys in Old Navy commercials, etc.) to the the jarringly explicit (the girls discuss female ejaculation: “some girls really do, tho. i read it in our bodies, ourselves”) and the unintentionally hilarious (Maddie’s IM reduction of the Christian poem “Footprints”–“oh, no, my son. no, no, no. i was carrying u, don’t u c?”).

But Myracle’s triumph in ttyl comes in leveraging the language-stretching idiom of e-mail, text messaging, and IM. Reaching to express themselves, the girls communicate almost as much through punctuation and syntactical quirks as with words: “SnowAngel: ‘cuz–drumroll, please–ROB TYLER is in my french class!!! *breathes deeply, with hand to throbbing bosom* on friday we have to do “une dialogue” together. i get to ask for a bite of his hot dog.'”

Myracle already proved her command of teenage girl-ness with Kissing Kate, but the self-imposed convention of ttyl allows a subtlety that is even more brilliant. Parents might like reading the book just to quantify how out of touch they are, but teens will love the winning, satisfyingly dramatic tale of this tumultuous trio. 

First published: 2004
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2011 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, 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: If you’ve been following our Banned Books series for a while now, you might remember that I don’t see any reason for a book to be banned outright. Handled delicately in certain situations – yes, of course but banned? Never! Then there’s the other books that pop up on our list where I can see no reason on earth why they should be banned/challenged and ttyl is one of those cases. I don’t remember there being much offensive language to be honest, but if there was it wasn’t overly offensive to me if I didn’t even notice it. Certainly, it’s no worse than what teenagers would hear on a daily basis – at school, on the streets, on the television…need I go on? And excuse me, we are challenging a book for having a religious viewpoint now?! I’m not particularly religious myself but I quite enjoy reading about different religions (especially if it’s done in a non preachy type way) so I could never accept this as a reason for preventing access to a book.

CHRISSI: I don’t agree with any of the reasons for this book being challenged at all. To me, it just read like a realistic conversation between three teenage girls. Challenging it doesn’t sit well with me because it’s completely sending the wrong message. Why should normal teenage conversation be censored? It’s not a surprise to me that teenagers discuss sex and swear a little. As for the religious viewpoint, that’s ridiculous. Religion isn’t a strong topic within this book!

How about now?

BETH: It’s been thirteen years since ttyl was first published and I don’t think attitudes have changed extraordinarily in that time. When I first came to this book I thought the reasons for challenging it would be entirely different and I was surprised to read what they were. I guess because this book is written as a series of messages between a group of friends and a small portion of it is written in “text-speak” or acronyms like ttyl (talk to you later), I assumed that the main complaint would be that it encourages poor communication between teenagers! Imagine my surprise when instead they quote sexual explicitness and inappropriate for age group reasons! I don’t believe that you’re going to find anything in this book that is shocking or not what normal, healthy fifteen year old girls talk about with their close friends.

CHRISSI: No. This book should not be challenged in my opinion. Like Beth, I could understand if there was a problem with communication/text speak as that’s something that does annoy me (not enough to challenge the book!) I actually wondered if it might be about internet safety and that something terrible might have happened (even then those books have a place, an educative place!) but no… it was normal teenagers speaking about normal things in their lives as they grow up.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I have to say, I approached this book with slight trepidation – I wasn’t sure I would enjoy an entire novel written in message format and I definitely wasn’t the target audience for this book! It’s not really for me, to be honest but I can see why teenage girls would love it and I really appreciate the strong female friendships that the author wrote about which are so important in the turbulent time of adolescence.

CHRISSI: I wasn’t a fan of this book. It took me a while to get through and I found it a little bit tedious in places. Remember though, I’m not the target audience for this book. I can totally see why teenagers would enjoy this book though. I love that the characters have such strong friendships. So whilst it wasn’t for me, I’m sure others would love it!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes! (to teenagers)