I eat censorship analysis for breakfast and serve it with a pink, buttercream trimming. That’s why I am writing this article. Happy Banned Books Week.
The opening sentence of a book can determine a lot of things (including whether or not you decide to keep going with said book). It’s the author’s first invitation into a world of their own creation. They can be long, descriptive, run-on sentences that prepare you for everything you’re about to see; laying it all out on the table. Or, they can be short, concise, small, quiet yet poetic sentences; not revealing much, but urging you to read more. Opening sentences stick with you in a way unlike any other quotes because they are forever the first words you associate with reading that specific work. They’re the first things you see when you open the pages to chapter one. (Bonus points: they’re also the sentences you’ve read more than any other sentences if you’re at all like me and like to start re-reading books you love a lot, but never quite get around to finishing your re-reads because there are too many books and so little time.)
A good opener embeds itself in your memory; arising to your conscious at the most obscure times. They are the lines we scribble in our journals, slur to strangers when we’re tipsy at the bar, recite to ourselves when we’re sleepy on our long commutes home, quote in our poems and wedding vows, tattoo onto our bodies to prove our love of literature, and share with those closest to us in the middle of the night while we bare our souls.
And, personally, if there’s one thing I love (almost) as much as some good quotes, it’s lists of good quotes. Yay, words! Yay, opening sentences! Yay, lists!
1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
2. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
“A screaming comes across the sky.”
3. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
“Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.”
4. Blue Nights by Joan Didion
“In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue.”
5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
“It was a pleasure to burn.”
6. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
7. The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
“Forty minutes later he was up in the sky.”
8. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
9. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”
10. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
“The sun had not yet risen.”
11. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
“The time traveler (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.”
12. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”
13. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
“All this happened, more or less.”
14. Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs
“You exposed your penis on national television, Max.”
15. The Trial by Franz Kafka
“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.”
16. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
17. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
“You’ve got to climb to the top of Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls.”
Featured Image via The Reading Room
As we’re all aware, the United States prison system is a mess with no clean up in sight. If you’re disillusioned with the prison system as of current, I’m sorry to say, this article will only depress you further.
A prison in southern Mississippi and the Mississippi Department of Corrections are being sued for restricting inmates’ access to free books. Law firm DLA Piper is arguing that a relatively recent policy change at the South Mississippi Correctional Facility violates the inmates’ First Amendment rights: only religious books are freely accessible to the inmates.
Big House Books is a nonprofit that sends books and other educational materials to inmates in the Mississippi correctional system, but the prison has been marking the books “return to sender.” When questioned by the nonprofit, the facility said only religious books could be mailed for free to the inmates, while all other books should be donated to the prison library or purchased by the inmates themselves.
If you ask me, knowledge should be available to all, regardless of religious affiliation. Additionally, how much do you want to bet that in this case, “religious” means specifically “Christian”?
Featured Image via WUNC.
In 2017 we’ve seen progress of acceptance and representation of gay and lesbian individuals. When it comes to accepting and representing transgender individuals, however, there’s a lot more progress to be made.
One author is seeking to bridge the gap between the LGBT community and the public through representation, using the transgender protagonist in the children’s book, George.
Image Via Amazon
Gino’s book follows a transgender child who tries to find a way to help others understand her true identity as a female and shed the perception of gender that is ingrained in her community. Gino effectively dives into the discussion of gender, expectations, and reality with this moving tale. While the book is targeted towards an audience of ages eight to twelve, every reader can take something away from the story.
Unsurprisingly in the modern age when even classic novels are banned by schools, Gino’s book about a transgender character was kept off the list of required texts in Wichita schools at the beginning of the 2017 school year.
While the decision was left up to the librarians at each school in regards to whether or not George would be included on shelves, (only 4 out of 57 elementary and middle schools carry the book), the lack of encouragement from school distracts can have very real effects for readers who can benefit from the exposure.
Gino, who identifies as genderqueer and prefers to be addressed as “they” in place of typical he/her gender pronouns, believes the representation of transgender youth is beneficial to readers of all demographics.
Image Via World Magazine
Some adults get all sorts of nervous when they think about how to talk about trans and queer issues with children. But the thing is, kids don’t have a problem until they learn to. The question of whether stories like George are age-appropriate are ridiculous, because there is no age before which it is appropriate to be compassionate.
Gail Becker, supervisor of library media for the Wichita school district, defended her decision to leave George off the master list titles.
She told The Wichita Eagle that the mature language in the book led to her decision.
“When I read this book, I kept reminding myself to look at it through the eyes of an eight-year-old, because that’s the intended audience,” Becker said. “I made the decision that … the maturity level of third grade was not appropriate for that book.”
While the book does include some mature language, including mention of sex reassignment surgery, by disregarding the book entirely it effectively closes the conversation about transgender youth. Yes, mature language can, at times, be uncomfortable. However, I would think that the inability to understand and empathize with others simply because of their gender and/or sexuality would be much more uncomfortable.
Image Via Daily Hampshire Gazette/Jeffrey Roberts
Ignoring differences related to gender and sexuality doesn’t help encourage understanding and recognition. Just as the discussion of sex, race, religion, and so on needs to be discussed in order to create an informed and understanding community, so does the discussion of gender and sexuality.
As Gino emphasizes, “access to validating stories saves lives. If younger folks learn to talk about queer and trans people in the world, the more we can hope to grow into a society in which queer and trans people are not only accepted, but celebrated.”
While school districts will continue to resist books like George in the upcoming years, it’s up to the public to encourage and participate in the discussion of gender and sexuality. Resistance and censorship won’t create understanding and change, it will only lead to ignorance.
“It’s not just trans kids who need trans stories,” Gino continues, “we all need to see each other as people if we have any hope of getting through the next century.”
Featured Image Is Book Cover Courtesy of CSDOLA
Seven days. 16 cities. Countless books and plays.
Banned Books Week is an event to celebrate all the books and plays that almost got the boot throughout history. There’s no doubt we’ll be taking part in it. This month, from September 24th to 30th, organizations will be paying homage to the books that faced challenges, bans, or censorship while being released.
The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund (DLDF), which fights for the First Amendment as well as funding for the arts. Their commemoration to those badass books will be a show called ‘Banned Together: A Censorship Celebration Cabaret‘ that will consist of readings from songs and plays with various acts and scenes that have been disapproved of in the United States. The DLDF’s show will play around the country in 16 cities and at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York City on September 27th.
Image Courtesy of Banned Books Week
This event was first created in 1982 when there was a sudden resistance to certain books entering schools, bookstores, and public libraries. Banned Books Week has a list on their site with all the books the Library of Congress says “had a profound effect on American life.” They’d all been banned or challenged in some way. You may be surprised to find novels like The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee are on the list. When we think of the books that are saturated in U.S. history and book culture, these are usually some of the first we think of. If they, along with others, had been banned, it would have profoundly changed U.S. education. Some of history’s most monumental moments might’ve been altered. The world wouldn’t be quite as we know it.
Basically, it would be a big deal.
To honor these books and plays, Banned Books Week is creating all sorts of events and ways to get involved for readers and the book community. This is the 35th year that Banned Books Week has been observed and we are so ready to celebrate something we love. So grab your bookmark, find a comfy spot, and give these books the attention they deserve.
Feature Image Courtesy of Luke Palmer