Thursday, September 27, 2018

#CatThursday - #Cats react to #BannedBooksWeek

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

Guys, I can't believe I forgot to post last week! I'm SO sorry! I've had to set a reminder on my calendar. I know, right? Wow.

It's Banned Books Week and cats are joining in and reacting. Be sure to check out my other posts from this week, including my write up on To Kill A Mockingbird.

These cats are reacting to the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2017...

Celebrate your freedom to read!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird #BannedBooksWeek #theclassicsclub

I finally read this book over the summer. Long overdue!

I'm not going to go on and on about the literary genius of this book. We already know it's a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. We also know that it is a beloved classic around the world, and it made PBS's Great American Read 100 Favorites list (voting is still open, until October 18). What I want to do is share a few thoughts about it, and what it meant to me. I loved it. I literally hugged it when I finished. Not kidding.

Lee perfectly captured small town life in 1930's America. She got the inner mechanics right and she shrewdly depicted the people. Most importantly, she brought to light the true nature of race relations of the time. It's sad think we really haven't made much progress in all these years that have passed (I don't care what anyone says, racism is still alive and real in this country).

It's my opinion that racism (and other social judgment) are learned behaviors. I believe that point is proven when reading this book with these hard issues told from the point of view of children. This quote from Jem is quite telling on the matter...

“If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time. It's because he wants to stay inside.” 

Another point touched on by Atticus regarding Christians who do not think racism is wrong. This is something that I have struggled with personally and is part of that which eventually led me away from Christianity and religion in general. How can someone profess to be a Christian and yet support some of the most abject in society (Trump, KKK, and so on)? It's truly mind boggling.

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

“They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.”

Finally, since it is Banned Books Week, I wanted to touch on some of the reasons this book has been frequently challenged over the years. In fact, it is on the list of the top 10 most challenged books of 2017. 

  • 2017: This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
  • 2011: offensive language, racism
  • 2009: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group
The challenge of To Kill A Mockingbird was a big censorship story of 2017:

After a mother told a superintendent that her son was uncomfortable with the N-word in To Kill a Mockingbird, the novel was removed from the eighth-grade curriculum at Biloxi Public Schools (Mississippi) in the middle of teaching it, without following policy. After national outcry, the book is available to be taught as an optional assignment with parental permission. Learn more on the Intellectual Freedom Blog.

The book is also on the Banned and Challenged Classics list for one of the most frequently challenged classics. Here are the list of reasons over the years (since 1977):
  • Challenged in Eden Valley, MN (1977) and temporarily banned due to words "damn" and "whore lady" used in the novel.
  • Challenged in the Vernon Verona Sherill, NY School District (1980) as a "filthy, trashy novel."
  • Challenged at the Warren, IN Township schools (1981) because the book does "psychological damage to the positive integration process" and "represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature." After unsuccessfully trying to ban Lee's novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council.
  • Challenged in the Waukegan, IL School District (1984) because the novel uses the word "nigger."
  • Challenged in the Kansas City, MO junior high schools (1985). Challenged at the Park Hill, MO Junior High School (1985) because the novel "contains profanity and racial slurs." Retained on a supplemental eighth grade reading list in the Casa Grande, AZ Elementary School District (1985), despite the protests by black parents and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who charged the book was unfit for junior high use.
  • Challenged at the Santa Cruz, CA Schools (1995) because of its racial themes. Removed from the Southwood High School Library in Caddo Parish, LA (1995) because the book's language and content were objectionable.
  • Challenged at the Moss Point, MS School District (1996) because the novel contains a racial epithet. Banned from the Lindale, TX advanced placement English reading list (1996) because the book "conflicted with the values of the community."
  • Challenged by a Glynn County, GA (2001) School Board member because of profanity. The novel was retained. Returned to the freshman reading list at Muskogee, OK High School (2001) despite complaints over the years from black students and parents about racial slurs in the text.
  • Challenged in the Normal, IL Community High School's sophomore literature class (2003) as being degrading to African Americans.
  • Challenged at the Stanford Middle School in Durham, NC (2004) because the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel uses the word "nigger." 
  • Challenged at the Brentwood, TN Middle School (2006) because the book contains “profanity” and “contains adult themes such as sexual intercourse, rape, and incest.” The complainants also contend that the book’s use of racial slurs promotes “racial hatred, racial division, racial separation, and promotes white supremacy.” 
  • Retained in the English curriculum by the Cherry Hill, NJ Board of Education (2007). A resident had objected to the novel’s depiction of how blacks are treated by members of a racist white community in an Alabama town during the Depression. The resident feared the book would upset black children reading it. 
  • Removed (2009) from the St. Edmund Campion Secondary School classrooms in Brampton Ontario, Canada because a parent objected to language used in the novel, including the word “nigger."
I'll leave you with one final thought (I feel like I'm channeling Atticus here). It doesn't matter how much of a Christian you are, or how much of a good person you (think) you are, or how good you are to your fellow parishioners, friends, family. If you harbor even a smidgen of racism in your heart, you just are not a good person. That's just the honest truth.

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.” 

Banned Books Week information obtained from

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

#BannedBooksWeek - History and Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2017

The following is from the American Libraries Magazine article “50 Years of Intellectual Freedom,” written by OIF staff celebrating the office’s anniversary. 

Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

Banned books were showcased at the 1982 American Booksellers Association (ABA) BookExpo America trade show in Anaheim, California. At the entrance to the convention center towered large, padlocked metal cages, with some 500 challenged books stacked inside and a large overhead sign cautioning that some people considered these books dangerous.

Drawing on the success of the exhibit, ABA invited OIF Director Judith Krug to join a new initiative called Banned Books Week, along with the National Association of College Stores. The three organizations scrambled to put something together by the September show date and ended up distributing a news release and a publicity kit, hoping that with their combined membership of 50,000 people, they could continue to spark a conversation about banned books.

The initiative took off. Institutions and stores hosted read-outs, and window displays morphed into literary graveyards or mysterious collections of brown-bagged books. Major news outlets such as PBS and the New York Times covered the event, and mayors and governors issued proclamations affirming the week.

ALA is currently part of a national coalition to promote Banned Books Week, along with 14 other contributors and sponsors. Krug led the Banned Books Week efforts as OIF director until her unexpected death in 2009. Her legacy lives on in the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund, a grant awarded to nonprofits to host Banned Books Week events.

Today, Banned Books Week coverage by mainstream media reaches an estimated 2.8 billion readers, and more than 90,000 publishing industry and library subscribers. The Banned Books page remains one of the top two most popular pages on the ALA website.

Book Bans and Challenges still prevalent

Though books are still being banned and challenged today, it is through the constant effort of librarians, teachers, students, and community members that the majority of these books remain available. Only through our willingness to stand up and speak out will we continue to have the freedom to read. 

Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2017

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 354 challenges to library, school and university materials in 2017. Of the 416 books challenged or banned in 2017, the Top 10 Most Challenged Books are:
  1. Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher - Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie - Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
  3. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier - This Stonewall Honor Award-winning, 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.”
  4. The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini - This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
  5. George written by Alex Gino - Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
  6. Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth - This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because it addresses sex educationand is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee (I finally read this over the summer. I will post my review this week.) This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.

  8. The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas - Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.
  9. And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole - Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
  10. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas - This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.
Source (and for more information):

Report Censorship

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom provides confidential support to anyone undergoing a challenge or ban. Support can come in the form of letters, book reviews, resources, talking points or emotional support. Report censorship online or by calling 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4226.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

I apologize for forgetting #CatThursday this week...

I can't even believe I forgot to post this week! That's what happens when your life hits the stratosphere of busy. I'm so sorry, guys. I promise the cats will be back next week. Here are a couple to tide you over. 😸

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An EveryDay Thing by Nancy Richardson - #Poetry #Review

I've read a lot of blurbs and reviews on this collection. Most of them say raw, angry, etc. True. Many of the poems are angry. How can one not be angry about the Kent State shootings in 1970? There are several poems surrounding that event, and then some that seem to regard climate change, and even elections. The RESIST part of myself felt very pleased by the examination of these events in such subtle yet telling ways.

However, I must bring up the poignant and beautiful aspect of many of the poems here. I was particularly touched by the poems about her sister (or a sister?). I am very close with my sister so these really hit home. Portland, June 1991, The Fire's Edge (shared below), and Later...

The Fire's Edge

The Portland taxi wheels crunch on gravel
and I touch her as our reflections bleed down
the wet window glass. I will not see her again.
Sisters, we were born on the fire's edge
in a town of sulfur dust, metal water. At night
we sweated the uphill climb to see
the open hearth's unholy glow on the horizon.
On the old mattress with the sinking center
we talked of our futures and who would love us.
The screen door slaps. I turn, see the window,
her face melting in watercolor light.

Finally, there's the poem exquisite in its simplicity, it's one of the most beautiful poems I've ever read. It all comes back to love. No matter who, or what, you is love.


A man I knew once told me
that we are small leaves 
flowing downstream in a river
of space and time, our destination 
love--perhaps unreachable.
But now I see that the river is love
and we are words 
and the words are stones
pushed by the flow, moving,
wedged, or sinking in the silt.

I recommend this collection to anyone who loves poetry; Poetry that really makes you think.

About the Book
Nancy Richardson’s poems concern coming of age in the rust-belt of Ohio during a period of decay of the physical and political structures that made the region once solid and predictable. Her poems chart the shifting of the foundations upon which a life is built and the unpredictability of events that have profound personal and political consequences, including the shootings at Kent State University.

“Without poetry there would be no history,” wrote Paz, and Nancy Richardson superb book is proof enough. Anchored in the tragic events of Kent State, but radiating out to examine other forms of violence and relationships, Nancy Richardson’s poems speak eloquently and superbly to our own times. To do this she counterpoints the “everyday” whether that be an apt observation or a family event and its unique quality. So for instance, in “Queen Anne’s Lace,” set suddenly in the midst all this, she understands its “Delicacy / in the midst of loss,” but does not stop there, rather moves on to what good poetry should do—heal—as she ends it by noting “these petals of silk, this snowflake of stars,” an image that lets us transcend but not avoid the real world she describes. This is an important book, deftly written, a must read.

–Richard Jackson, UTNAA Distinguished Professor of English, Vermont College

These terse, understated poems pack a great emotional punch. Unerringly, Nancy Richardson hits the mortal vulnerabilities and the socio-political ones. This book is a history of the grievous wastefulness of a post-WWII United States that in many ways has gone to hell; yet there is no accusation here. Rather, there is the poetry of what has been shattered—be it in a motorcycle accident or voter fraud or the Kent State killings—and cannot be put back together.

–Baron Wormser, Author of Tom o’ Vietnam and former Poet Laureate of Maine

Nancy Richardson‘s voice is clearly heard through this beautiful and insightful collection. She makes the ordinary extraordinary with her choice of rich images.

–Madeleine Kunin: Author of My Coming of Age: My journey through the Eighties

About the Author
Nancy Richardson’s poems concern coming of age in the rust-belt of Ohio during a period of decay of the physical and political structures that made the region once solid and predictable. These are poems that chart the shifting of the foundations upon which a life is built and the unpredictability of events that have profound personal and political consequences.

Nancy Richardson’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies. Her first chapbook, Unwelcomed Guest, was published in 2013 and concerned coming of age in the rust-belt of Ohio and the shootings at Kent State University. The second chapbook, The Fires’ Edge, extended that subject matter in elegies and reflections of living in that place and time. Her latest book, An EveryDay Thing, carries her previous narratives into adulthood with a look back at her history and what that history has created in her. Nancy has an MFA in Writing from Vermont college where she focused on poetry in response to injustice. She has served on the Board of the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire.

Purchase copies here from Finishing Line Press:

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

#CatThursday - #Authors and #Cats (76) Andrzej Stasiuk

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and Cats Thursday. Each time I will feature an author with their cat(s), pictured with a cat(s), or guest posts by cat loving authors who also (sometimes) write about cats.

Andrzej Stasiuk, born September 25, 1960, is one of the most successful and internationally acclaimed contemporary Polish writers, journalists and literary critics. He is best known for his travel literature and essays that describe the reality of Eastern Europe and its relationship with the West.

After being dismissed from secondary school, Stasiuk dropped out also from a vocational school and drifted aimlessly, became active in the Polish pacifist movement and spent one and a half years in prison for deserting the army - as legend has it, in a tank. His experiences in prison provided him with the material for the stories in his literary debut in 1992. Titled Mury Hebronu ("The Walls of Hebron"), it instantly established him as a premier literary talent. After a collection of poems Wiersze miłosne i nie, 1994 ("Love and non-love poems"), Stasiuk's bestselling first full-length novel Biały kruk (English translation as "White Raven" in 2000) appeared in 1995 and consolidated his position among the most successful authors in post-communist Poland.

Long before his literary breakthrough, in 1986, Stasiuk had left his native Warsaw and withdrew to the seclusion of the small hamlet of Czarne in the Beskids, a secluded part of the Carpathian mountain range in the south of Poland. Outside writing, he spends his time breeding sheep. Together with his wife, he also runs his own tiny but, by now, prestigious publishing business Wydawnictwo Czarne, named after its seat. Apart from his own books, Czarne also publishes other East European authors. Czarne also re-published works by the émigré Polish author Zygmunt Haupt, thus initiating Haupt's rediscovery in Poland.

While White Raven had a straight adventure plot, Stasiuk's subsequent writing has become increasingly impressionistic and concentrated on atmospheric descriptions of his adopted mental home, the provincial south-east of Poland and Europe, and the lives of its inhabitants. Opowieści Galicyjskie ("Tales of Galicia"), one of several works available in English (among the others are "White Raven", "Nine", "Dukla," "Fado," and "On the Road to Babadag") conveys a good impression of the specific style developed by Stasiuk. A similar text is Dukla (1997), named after a small town near his home. Dukla achieved Stasiuk's breakthrough in Germany and helped built him the most appreciative reader-base outside of Poland, although a number of Stasiuk's books have been translated into several other languages. (from Goodreads)

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

#CatThursday - Even more mischief! #cats

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

I just love all the mischief!

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