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.

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Banned Books 2019…REVEALED

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Here are 2019’s books that Beth and I will be reading for our Banned Books feature that has been running since July 2014!

JANUARY: Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread Chuck Palahniuk
FEBRUARY: Northern Lights/The Golden Compass Philip Pullman
MARCH: Uncle Bobby’s WeddingSarah S. Brannen
APRIL: We All Fall Down- Robert Cormier
MAY: Crazy LadyJane Leslie Conley
JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun CultureMichael A. Bellesiles
JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak
AUGUST: Whale TalkChris Crutcher
SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain
NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee
DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

I am looking forward to reading these books and exploring/discussing the reasons why they’re challenged! Here’s to another year of Banned Books!

Banned Books #54- Flashcards Of My Life

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Welcome to the last Banned Books of 2018! This month we read Flashcards Of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper.

Flashcards of My Life

Flashcards Of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper.
First published: 2006
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: 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: I amuse myself sometimes. For me, it feels like 2006, when this book was first published was relatively recently. It’s hard to believe it was twelve years ago now! I don’t believe our attitudes were much different back in 2006 from what they are now so as always, I don’t agree with any of the reasons why this book was challenged. Once more, they actually make me roll my eyes. Sexually explicit – I mean, come on! This book is written from the perspective of a young, naive adolescent girl talking about everything that teenage girls tend to talk about…friends, boys, kissing and in no way, shape or form was there anything remotely risque about what she was discussing in her journals.

CHRISSI: 2006… I was at university. I worked with children at the time and whilst they were younger than this book is aimed at, they certainly weren’t as naive as some people believe children are. Children and young teens do talk about boys, kissing etc. etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with anything in this book. It is perfectly natural and it felt really realistic to what a young teen/young adult would write. This book is far from sexually explicit. Come on. Stop underestimating the younger generation!

How about now?

BETH: Definitely not. Unsuited to age group? Well, what age group is this aimed at? Middle grade to young adult? If that’s the case, no it’s not unsuitable. It’s normal teenage ponderings that are perfectly innocent and natural. In fact, I’d worry if a book like this was challenged/banned because I think teenagers need to read a book like this to make them realise that what they’re going through is perfectly ordinary.

CHRISSI:  The only reason this book would be unsuitable to its age group is if it’s age group was 8 years old or younger. I don’t think it is. I imagine this book is aimed at tweens to young adults. It’s certainly not worth banning- especially 12 years later.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Personally, I found myself skim reading parts of this book. At this point in my life, I’m certainly not the intended audience and because of this, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have hoped. I can obviously sympathise with all the feelings that Emily went through as of course, I went through them myself and I’m sure this book will resonate with thousands of other girls across the world.

CHRISSI: It was one of those ‘meh’ books for me. I know I’m not the intended audience, so it’s not necessarily going to grip me. I do think there is much better material out there. I did really like the flashcard idea though. I thought that was great and probably would’ve enjoyed the book more if it was just the flashcards. The stories in-between fell a little flat for me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes- I personally didn’t enjoy it but I know those that it’s intended for would get more out of it.

Banned Books #53- King & King

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month, Beth and I read King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland.

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Synopsis:

Once there lived a lovelorn prince whose mother decreed that he must marry by the end of the summer. So began the search to find the prince’s perfect match and lo and behold……his name was Lee. You are cordially invited to join the merriest, most unexpected wedding of the year. KING & KING is a contemporary tale about finding true love and living happily ever after, sure to woo readers of any age.

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

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

BETH: I was surprised to see there was only a single reason for this book being banned. Not because I think there should be multiple reasons for challenging it but because they normally come up with a few reasons, no matter how ridiculous to back up why it should be removed from a certain surrounding, like a library or a school. Now I could POSSIBLY imagine why homosexuality could be used as a reason one hundred years ago (not that I agree with it!) but to use that as a reason in the year 2000. We certainly do not live in the age of enlightenment.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can see why this book may have banned possibly way back when…but not 2000. That’s only 18 years ago. Why? It actually makes me really cross that this book is challenged. It’s nothing explicit. Just a gentle love story. The fact that it is challenged gives the impression that there’s something wrong with having homosexual characters. No, just no. That’s telling young children that a homosexual relationship is wrong. What if their parents are homosexual? Argh. It just makes me cross.

How about now?

BETH: Sigh. First of all, why are people challenging picture books for children? Like another of the picture books that we have read in our Banned Books series – And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, books set in this format for the younger reader are often hugely helpful in bringing an important message to younger ears in a way they can understand and find fun. So no, I don’t agree with challenging/banning it because of homosexuality either eighteen years ago or right now. Why should sexuality be a reason to ban a book, no matter what age it is aimed at? Surely that’s more likely to enforce prejudices rather than accept the diversity of people?

CHRISSI: Definitely not. I feel so strongly about this book being challenged. 😦 I think it’s sad that in 2018, this book can’t be accepted by all. There’s nothing vulgar or explicit in this story. It’s such a gentle love story. I would have absolutely no problems reading this to young children. I think it explains that love is love no matter who you end up loving.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: As with other picture books I have read, King & King was quick and easy to read and I really appreciated the message it was trying to get across. The art was gorgeous and I found there was so much to look at, I could imagine children staring at the pages for a while, enjoying all the bright colours on offer. It felt for me like a quirky style where you could almost imagine you were seeing different fabrics – newspaper, cotton, silk etc and I can imagine this would be an interesting experience for youngsters too.

CHRISSI: It’s a gorgeous picture book with a wonderful, heart-warming message. I think it’s a lovely book to read to any child.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #52- Beloved

Welcome to October’s slightly delayed Banned Books post, where this month we read Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Beloved

First published: 1987
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, 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: I can imagine this book being quite the force to be reckoned with with it was published in the late 1980’s. Its dark elements, tragic history of black slavery and quirky, fantastical moments make it quite a unique read but as always with many of our banned books, I’m struggling to understand the reasons why it has been challenged. As you may already know by now, I do understand offensive language isn’t for everyone and I respect people’s views on that. In fact, I don’t like to use bad language in my own reviews but that’s just my own personal thing, I don’t mind it when I see it in other bloggers reviews. However, I don’t think that you can challenge/ban a book based on this reason. After all, we can’t help but be exposed to offensive language, no matter how much we may try and avoid it – on the streets, on the television, interacting with strangers in normal, social instances….you get the picture. And for me, there wasn’t a single incident in this novel where I thought the language was extreme enough to warrant this challenge.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can see that when this book came out in the late 80’s that it would have been quite a challenging and ground breaking book. Personally, I don’t think there’s any point in banning a book because of offensive language. Goodness knows, I know some of my children in my class hear offensive language so often at home that it is almost like a ‘normal’ word to them. So to have it in literature, it doesn’t bother me too much? I didn’t think anything was overly offensive. Sure, some of the language isn’t what I’d call decent language but it’s not that vile to warrant a challenge in my opinion.

How about now? 

BETH: If I don’t agree with challenging or banning Beloved back in the 1980’s, I certainly don’t agree with banning it now. ESPECIALLY for the reasons noted. Yes, sexual acts are alluded to but it’s never explicit or grossly indecent and as for “unsuited to age group” I wonder who this book is actually marketed for because I was under the impression that this is an adult novel or at least able to be read by young adults? And if it was written for the young adult market, I really don’t think there’s anything in there that the younger generation wouldn’t be able to handle. In fact, it could be a vitally important read for those wanting to learn a little something about African-American slavery.

CHRISSI: I don’t agree with it being challenged now. Language is heard so much more these days that some of the words don’t have as intense of a meaning as they do back then. I’m not sure who this book is aimed at, if it was teenagers I don’t think I’d use it educatively, but for young adults/adults, I really don’t see a problem with it. It touches on some very important moments in history so it SHOULD be read in my opinion.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’ve already read two books by Toni Morrison – A Mercy before I became a blogger and The Bluest Eye, (which Chrissi and I covered on our Banned Books series way back in 2015!) the latter of which I thoroughly enjoyed. As a result, I was really looking forward to Beloved, particularly when I discovered the subject matter, a topic which I’m always happy to educate myself on a bit further. I’m sad to say that I have really mixed feelings about this book. There were points when I wanted to rate it four stars, others when I wanted to rate it two stars and generally, I was left somewhere around the middle. There were heart-breaking parts of the narrative and some moments of truly beautiful writing but overall, I was just left feeling a bit confused and underwhelmed. I’m not sure if the more fantastical side of the story really worked for me personally and consequently, my enjoyment of the novel as a whole suffered.

CHRISSI: I have to admit that I didn’t quite ‘get’ this book which does make me feel sad as I know that so many people love Toni Morrison. Like Beth, I did think there were brilliant moments, but on the whole I felt a little flat after reading it. There’s no denying that this is a beautifully written book and I can see why Toni Morrison is a popular author. I just didn’t feel like there was enough going within the story line to keep me enthralled. I am certainly a reader that loves a plot driven story and I feel like Beloved is more character driven. I didn’t connect with the characters like I wanted to and this affected my enjoyment of the story.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Maybe!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- I wasn’t blown away by this book. Perhaps my expectations were too high?

Banned Books #51- Taming The Star Runner

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Taming The Star Runner by S.E. Hinton.

Taming the Star Runner

Taming The Star Runner by S.E. Hinton
First published: 1988
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2002 (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: As one of the older releases on our list this year, you might hope that opinions and prejudices about certain things in books diminish as we become more enlightened as a society. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. I think there are always going to be a group of individuals that are easily offended, over-protective of children’s sensitivities or sometimes, they just want something to complain about. There could be valid reasons for monitoring children’s reading, within reason, if they may be reading something a bit too adult for them and this is a decision parents and librarians can make but challenging/banning books for a silly reason? I don’t agree with that at all. Back in 1988, our use of profanity wasn’t that different from what it is right now so I don’t think the reason for challenging this book was the right one either back then or now.

CHRISSI: I really don’t understand the reasons why this book is banned. Offensive language? Hm. Yes, there is some bad language in the story, but nothing worse than children might hear on TV, from peers or even from parents. It wasn’t as if this book was written in a time where bad language wasn’t used as frequently as now. I actually thought it might have been the drug mention that tipped this one into a banned/challenged book, but I was wrong.

How about now?

BETH: The reasons for challenging/banning a book ALWAYS manage to surprise me and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t look at the reason until I’m writing this review so that I can try and guess what might be so offensive myself. In Taming The Star Runner, I thought – “Okay, they might have a problem with underage teenage drinking, the smoking and the incidence of violence in the novel.” Then I went to the website (link above) so certain I was right and saw one reason only – offensive language. I just can’t call this anymore, it’s far too unpredictable! As the book was challenged in 2002, which feels relatively recently in my eyes it’s obvious some people will pick on anything and have issues with the smallest things. I don’t remember any incidents of offensive language in this novel but if there was, I feel like it was very minor? Furthermore, I think this is a book aimed at the young adult market who would probably be hearing a lot worse language in everyday life than what they read in this book!

CHRISSI: I have to agree with Beth, there are far worse incidences of language in everyday life than in this book. It’s actually a bit of a joke for me, to know that this is challenged due to its language. Really?! Children/young adults here much worse than what was in this book. *sigh* I feel like most of the books that we read have ridiculous reasons for banning a book. I feel like we need to be more open minded and accepting that children/young adults are exposed to much worse things than in some of these challenged choices.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I enjoyed it for the most part. I thought it was an engaging story with an interesting male lead who was so broken at the start of the narrative that I was constantly compelled to read on, invested in his journey to become a writer and deal with his personal issues. I have to admit, I didn’t like the “horsey” bits as much but I think this is a personal preference, I’m not really a “horsey” girl. I feel like the story would have been just as good without the inclusion of Star Runner but I do understand why he was there, as the animal representation of Travis.

CHRISSI: I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. It didn’t take me long to read at all and I was interested enough in the story to keep turning the pages. Again, like Beth, I wasn’t keen on the horse elements of this story. I’m not a horse fan.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Banned Books #50- I Am Jazz

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books feature. This month we read I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.

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I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings and Shelagh McNicholas (illustrator)
First published: 2014
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint and unsuited for age group.

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

BETH: I Am Jazz is quite a new release compared to the books we often discuss, being first published in 2014 a mere four years ago as I write this post. Now I like to think we live in enlightened times and as a result, there will be far fewer recent releases that will be challenged/banned but unfortunately I Am Jazz seems to have the censors all fired up. The reasons as you can see above, make my blood boil. I can’t imagine what it’s like personally to go through the transgender experience but just because you don’t have much personal knowledge on it doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself and that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few years whenever possible i.e. watching documentaries, reading memoirs, discussing the issue with open-minded friends. There ARE individuals out there who feel as if they have been born in the wrong body which quite frankly, must be terrifying and horribly confusing and to have this book challenged/banned is just fanning the flames and the self-righteous attitude of those other people who don’t believe that being transgender is “a thing.” This is particularly true when I consider the reasons – inaccurate and homosexuality. At what point does this book scream inaccurate can I just ask?! That’s a person’s LIFE you’re talking about there. Also, homosexuality which I’ve covered in other banned books posts, which makes me roll my eyes and get a bit cross is NEVER a reason to ban a book. Plus, I don’t believe there was even any mention of homosexuality in this picture book for children anyway. It’s about a little girl who was born in the body of a boy and who is telling us her story of how she longed to be a girl so much, including how there are some people that don’t really understand but how she has super duper supportive parents. Sacrilege! (*in my best sarcastic voice.*)

CHRISSI: The fact that this book is banned is absolutely ridiculous. It really is. I think the most offensive reason for me is inaccurate. INACCURATE? How on Earth can Jazz’s feelings be inaccurate. Only she knows how she feels! As for religious viewpoint? Well… I understand that some religions may not ‘believe’ in people being transgender, but guess what? Some people are. Even if you don’t agree with it, I strongly believe that we need to be more tolerant. There are some parts of other religions that I strongly disagree with, but I’d never slate them for it, because it’s THEIR belief and they’re entitled to it. Much like I Am Jazz deserves a place in the library, in schools and in homes.

How about now?

BETH: As the book was only published about four years ago, I’m sad to say I don’t think attitudes will have changed too much from those who wanted to challenge/ban this book but hopefully we can still encourage people in the community to talk and to better inform those of us who are interested and willing to listen, including myself. As for the final reasons, sex education, religious viewpoint and unsuited for age group – well, I’m sure you can imagine what I think of those! Firstly, this PICTURE book is written in such a way that makes it suitable for children of any age and it’s certainly very scant on details which make it “sex education” in my eyes. Where was the religious viewpoint? I must have missed that but even if there was, I’ve already gone into detail on other banned books posts about my views on religion and how I enjoy reading about other people’s viewpoints on this, even if they don’t match my own.

CHRISSI: Sadly, I think some people would still have an issue with this book which is worrying. It is certainly not a book offensive to the age in which it is intended for. It’s a picture book with a gentle story that definitely needs to be explored. As a teacher, I would certainly use this in the classroom. I know that there’s a girl that comes to mind that I taught in my first year of teaching that would have loved this book. I’m not saying she’s transgender, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she was in the future.  NOTE- This book has been challenged again in 2016… reasons:  because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints and 2017: This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.

Urgh. 😦

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This was a very quick, sweet and hopeful read that I think will be very informative for curious children but especially transgender children who it might finally help to realise that they’re not completely alone. I was also thinking it might be a great tool to use for parents at home if children have a transgender member of their class at school to help them understand what their classmate might be going through and to hopefully, iron out those prejudices before they have a chance to develop.

CHRISSI: I thought it was an adorable read. I think it’s important that there are picture books out there aimed at this subject. It’s an educative tool to use in the classroom to help other children to understand. I think this book is needed and the fact that it is challenged upsets me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!