I’m Irritated. . .To Say the Least

Rainbow RowellI have professed my love for Rainbow Rowell and her book Eleanor & Park often, and her brand new book, Fangirl, is also great. But now, there’s something new that’s been sweeping through the book world–she’s been censored.

Rowell was scheduled to give a talk in front of students of a school district in Minnesota, and also at some libraries. Eleanor & Park has been one of the most-buzzed-about books to come out this year, as far as I can tell, but now the talk has been cancelled. Now, this angers me for a few reasons:

  1. Banning books is never a good idea in my opinion; it’s a violation of freedom of speech.
  2. Eleanor & Park is, frankly, amazing, and should be read the world over.
  3. Not only is it one of the best books I’ve read, it’s also important. So. Freaking. Important.

Eleanor & Park has just so much fantastic-ness and so many things to say. The main characters, Eleanor and Park, are both unique in their neighborhood and different from those around them. Eleanor’s fat; Park’s one of the very few Asian kids in the Omaha area they live in. Eleanor faces bullying and domestic abuse, and Park has to deal with who he really is inside and how that conflicts with what others think he should be. It portrays the lives of these two so truthfully and honestly, and the fact that is has been challenged just makes me so, so upset.

What was it challenged for? Profanity.

And yes, there is a lot of profanity. A lot. But to contest it for something like that, when what’s really in its content is so much deeper and vital and should be heard, is utterly ridiculous and, excuse me, stupid.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Another shocking thing about it? The librarians who orchestrated the event in the first place have had people advocating for them to face consequences for doing this. This horrible thing, allowing students to hear someone talk who wrote a book that has such a meaningful story. It has bad words, for God’s sake!

>TEARS OUT HAIR IN FRUSTRATION<

But that is not the only book to be challenged recently.

Meg Medina, who was also going Meg Medinato give a talk at a middle school, has had it cancelled due to her book, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, another tale that confronts bullying. She was supposed to speak at an event about bullying, but oh no! Bad words!

I understand that people can be very uncomfortable with the use of profanity, and just don’t like it. But not seeing the real meaning of these books’ stories, just the four- and three-letter words used, is ridiculous and wrong. And I have to say, if these kids are in middle school or high school, it’s highly likely they’ve heard those words used already. A. Lot.

These books are important, and lots of kids are facing challenges similar to those faced by the characters in them. And that feeling when you see yourself in a book, and realize you’re not alone, is wonderful. Or, at least, reassuring. These authors would both probably have great things to say, to the people who most need to hear them. But now, it looks like they won’t get the chance.

These challengers are missing the point, missing the meaning, and now those kids are going to miss out.

And that’s what makes me really angry.

You can read more about this news here, and the author’s websites are here and here. Another great article with thoughts on this topic is here.

My review of Eleanor & Park is also here.

(That’s way too many “here”s for one post, isn’t it?)

But anyway, this was kind of a vent-post. And a you-should-know-about-this post. And I suppose I’ll end it right here, because my mind seems to have fallen victim to the sleepiness that any rainy September day can induce.

So anything said from here on out could possibly be used against me, nefariously. Or, at least, it wouldn’t make sense.

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See?

Over and out! Have a great weekend!

P.S. Banned Books Week is next week, so mark your calenders! And also, read Eleanor & Park. And Fangirl. That’s an order, people!

P.P.S. I want to read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass now.

Literary Quote of the Day: “Censorship is telling a man he can’t eat a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” –Mark Twain

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Presenting. . .BEA!

Hi! So a couple weeks ago I was in NYC for few days. What for? BEA of course!

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BEA, a.k.a. Book Expo America, is a yearly convention attended by sales representatives, editors, book buyers, book sellers, and many other people who work in publishing. And, of course, some of my favorite people ever–authors!

BEA has taken place in the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York for the last few years, and this year was no different. I have to say, the Javits Center was kind of overwhelming to walk into. Mostly because it’s huge and I was walking into Book Expo America. So, just a little overwhelming!

So anyway, as I was getting over the entire holy-crap-holy-crap-holy-crap-holy-crap-holy-crap phase (which took a while), we (that is, my parents and I) walked the floor.

Here’s basically what BEA looks like: Everywhere there are booths. Booths, booths, booths. HarperCollins booths, a McSweeney’s booth, Scholastic booths, here a booth, there a booth, everywhere a booth-booth. So yeah, there were A LOT of booths:

The Smithsonian Books booth.
The Smithsonian Books booth!
A Scholastic booth--one of several, I recall.
One of the Scholastic booths.
Welcome to the Chronicle Books Empire of Booths: Way More Advanced Than The Romans. Cuter Logo, Too.
Welcome to the Chronicle Books Empire of Booths: Way more advanced than the Romans. Cuter logo, too.

There were also a few stages for special presentations, etc. And then there was the Autograph Area, where authors would sign their new books (!!!):

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Which, of course, didn’t make me happy at all. You can see some of said authors below!

The really amazing and nice Walter Dean Myers, author of many, many books for children and teens. See that medal he's wearing? He's the Ambassador for Young People's Literature!
The really amazing and nice Walter Dean Myers, author of many, many books for children and teens. See that medal he’s wearing? He’s the Ambassador for Young People’s Literature!
Kate DiCamillo, the awesome author of "Because of Winn Dixie," "The Tale of Despereaux," and (this is a particular favorite of mine), "The Miraculous Jounrey of Edward Tulane"!
Kate DiCamillo, the awesome author of “Because of Winn Dixie,” “The Tale of Despereaux,” and (and this is a particular favorite of mine), “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were also authors signing in their publishers’ booths, such as. . .

Larry Kane, famed journalist and broadcaster. This is him with his new book, "When They Were Boys," an account of the Beatles' rise to fame. Kane was the only American journalist with the Beatles at every stop on their '64 and '65 tours of America, and is referred to as the "dean of Philadelphia. . .news anchors.
Larry Kane, famed journalist and broadcaster. This is him with his new book, “When They Were Boys,” an account of the Beatles’ rise to fame. Kane was the only American journalist with the Beatles at each stop on their ’64 and ’65 tours of America, and is referred to as the “dean of Philadelphia television news anchors.”
Brandon Sanderson, the hilarious author of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians! (Which I loved. And reviewed. Forever ago, but still!) He was signing copies of his first novel for teens, "The Rithmatist."
Brandon Sanderson, the hilarious author of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians! (Which I loved. And reviewed. Forever ago.) He was signing copies of his first novel for teens, “The Rithmatist.”
Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, an online comic, during the signing of his book “My Dog: A Paradox,” which is SO TRUE. WARNING: NOT appropriate for kids, and only some of his other comics are appropriate for teens.
This is congressman John Lewis, a really, really, really, REALLY amazing guy who was one of the most avid and foremost supporters of the Civil Rights Movement, during which he sustained more than 40 attacks, injuries, and arrests. He was there signing a sample booklet featuring an upcoming graphic novel called "March: Book One,"an account of his experiences with the Movement, which I am very much looking forward to reading.
This is Congressman John Lewis, a really, really, really, REALLY amazing guy who was one of the most avid and foremost architects of the Civil Rights Movement. He was there signing a sample booklet featuring his upcoming graphic novel, titled “March: Book One.” This is an account of his experiences during the Movement, which I am very much looking forward to reading.
Ransom Riggs, author of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," a really cool and creative book that is, yes, rather peculiar. The sequel comes out in January 2014!
Ransom Riggs, author of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” a really cool and creative book that is, yes, rather peculiar. The sequel comes out in January 2014!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, BEA isn’t just for freaking out about the authors there. Those attending it exchange business cards, talk about work, and, you know, actually DO work–that’s what most of the people there are sent to do! Of course, a lot of the time, people are also finding their friends and catching up.

This might seem kind of obvious, but there is just so much to see at BEA. SO MUCH. The presentations, the authors, the booths. (Which, by the way, I don’t even feel like I should be calling booths. Some of those things are HUGE. They’re like Booths 2.o.) Anyway, it’s A LOT.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s stuff like this:

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And this:

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AND this:

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A truck. Full of books. With penguins all over it.

Which is probably one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. It’s like someone just took everything awesome in this world, mashed it together, waved a magic wand over it and POOF! Book truck!

Also, BEA doesn’t always end when the center closes its doors for the day. Sometimes there are events set up for afterwards, too. One of these was We Are Young: Tumblr Does YA at BEA, a party and reading at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe featuring Eliot Schrefer, Ruth Baron, and. . .Rainbow Rowell! Who, if you’re not sure, is the amazing author who wrote the equally amazing Eleanor & Park. (Which you should go read. Like right now.)

Anyway, Eliot Schrefer was reading from his book Endangered, Ruth Baron was reading from her book Defriended, and Rainbow Rowell was reading from (of course) Eleanor & Park. I didn’t take many pictures, but this is what it looked like from the front door:

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We didn’t get to stay for the actual reading, BUT. . .

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AND. . .

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She was at BEA the next day, signing ARCs of her newest book!*

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So those two occurrences made me rather giddy.

Really, probably the best thing about BEA and all the special events that come with it is the fact that so many of the people there actually care about books. No one is going to scoff at you for loving what you love, no one is going to say books are dead, no one is going to say they much prefer video games (I think), etc. For once, it seems like the world thinks books are important, while too often, it appears otherwise.

Remember earlier, when I said authors are some of my favorite people ever? It’s not just authors. It’s all the editors, agents, sales reps, book sellers, book buyers, and everyone else at BEA who help keep the book world moving. And, of course, the readers. The fourth grader engrossed in Percy Jackson at the library. The nurse rereading Great Expectations during his lunch break. The teenager staying up way too late to finish the The Diviners. They help too!

Also, some of these people work largely behind the scenes, and I mean LARGELY. Without a dedicated sales rep, an agent, or a good publicist, a book may never make it to your shelf. So they deserve some credit!

But I digress. The point I’m making is that at BEA, it’s like you’re living in some surreal universe where books are actually given their due, as valuable facets of our world. And that’s pretty freakin’ amazing.

Although, you know, I could be exaggerating. I did spend the last two years of my life trapped in the dismal depths of middle school, after all. (Although I did meet a lot of great people there. . .but again, I digress. I need to stop doing that.)

Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll be making it to BEA next year, but here’s a tip for you: One day each year, it’s open to the public! You’ll have to pay, but still! It’s BEA, after all!

I suppose that about winds it up for this post. That took a while! Everyone have a great Monday! (And don’t tell me that “great Monday” is an oxymoron. There are exceptions!)

P.S. Here’s the BEA website, and here’s their blog, The BEAN.

*An ARC is an Advance Reader’s Copy, or the nearly-final stage of a book before it’s published. They’re very very close to what the book will be when it’s actually put on the shelves, but they usually have a few typos or maybe a slightly different quote. They’re also called Advance Uncorrected Proofs, Advance Uncorrected Galleys, etc.

Literary Quote of the Day: “We walked silent/to the buses, awed by the power of words.” —How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson

Author Tidbits: John Green

Yay! It’s the first author tidbit since. . .the last author tidbit! (Which was actually all the John Green!way back in June 2012. Oops.) And today’s subject will be (drumroll, please). . .John Green! Although you probably already knew that, but you have to allow me my drumroll. Anyway.

John Green is the author of several books for teens, one of which was awarded the Printz Award in 2006. He was raised in Florida, but later attended a boarding school in Alabama, which influenced his book Looking for Alaska. Since then, he has written four other books, one of which (Will Grayson, Will Grayson) was a collaboration with fellow author David Levithan. After John graduated college, he began working as student chaplain in a children’s hospital, but later worked for Booklist and also wrote for NPR’s All Things Considered, before becoming a full-time writer. His latest (and awesome) book, The Fault in Our Stars, spent seven weeks on the NY Times Best Seller List, and is one of the best books I, personally, have ever read. But that’s not all of his achievements.

Starting in 2007, John and his younger brother Hank stopped communicating through text and instead started talking through video blogs, with one doing a video one day and the other doing another one the next. For a whole year. After this first year, they continued vlogging, and have since started a community of nerdfighters (before anyone asks–they don’t fight nerds, they are nerds who fight to decrease world suck), who have done several things to make the world a better place, such as starting the Project for Awesome.

John now lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife Sarah and their son Henry. All in all, I think he’s a pretty awesome writer and a pretty awesome guy all around. Plus, whenever I read one of his books I’m like, “Oh my god, I would never have thought of something like that.” And then I spend this time trying to figure it out because his books just make you think, which, contrary to what the anti-nerdfighters would have you believe, is a good thing. I love what he and Hank do for everyone, and they’re made of awesome. So, yeah, that’s about it. Oh, and one other thing. . .John got to interview President Obama in a Google hangout this week. And President Obama told his not-yet-born second child to not forget to be awesome.

Wow.

OK, guess I’m done now. I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Literary Quote of the Day: “How improbable is that, Hank? How improbable are we? How strange and how lovely it is to be anything at all.” –John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, among others.

A Random Rant About James Patterson

Okay, so a few years ago, a bunch of my friends and I started reading the Maximum Ride series. And I really liked it. I thought the characters were pretty cool, Maximum Ride Coverand so was the plot, and the actual writing was awesome. And usually, now that the final book has been out for a while, I would have already read it. But I didn’t because I forgot everything that happened in the series before and I didn’t get around to it. And now I honestly don’t think I’ll ever read it, because after some research, I’m definitely thinking much less of James Patterson as a writer. Or whatever you want to call him.

James Patterson started out writing his own books, it’s true. But he’s taken to having several co-authors do the writing, while he provides the outlines and such. But here’s the thing–to me that’s not writing. Writing is doing the parts you like–like coming up with ideas–and then actually writing the story, even if maybe you don’t like that as much. That’s what writers do. And the fact that James Patterson is one of the most popular writers today (he holds the record for the most books on the New York Times bestsellers list) just annoys me, because what he does seems to take away from the writing process overall, and take for granted what so many fabulous and not-so-fabulous authors go through daily: The pulling of the hair, the writer’s block, and the great moment when you realize you’ve gotten something just right. THAT’S writing.

Patterson has described what he writes as “commercial fiction.” But that makes books sound all fake and shiny and gives me a bad taste in my mouth. Commercial fiction? What’s wrong with regular fiction? If someone feels they know, please enlighten me.

I also feel that those who write the book, using James Patterson’s guidelines, don’t get a lot of the credit, which is too bad, considering how good the writing can be.

Anyway, basically I’m just saying that I’m pretty letdown by the fact that one of the most popular and richest authors in the world doesn’t seem to really be a full-fledged writer. That’s just disappointing, and the honor ought to go to someone else.

Oh, I nearly forgot! Literary Quote of the Day: “It kills me sometimes, how people die.”  —The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Banned Books Week: They Banned WHAT?!

Well. . .here we are again. . .>clears throat awkwardly< Okay, fine, since I can FEEL you all glaring at me through your computer screens (or iPads, or whatever), I’ll just say it–I HAVEN’T POSTED IN FOREVER AND I KNOW I REALLY SHOULD HAVE BUT TIME GOT AWAY FROM ME AND I FEEL BAD!! Ahem. Okay, then. Can I get on with it now? Right.

So, I know that I’m really late talking about this, but this week is (drumroll please) Banned Books Week! So rather than blather on with all the same stuff I said last year, I’ve decided to write a bit about some books that have been banned that will probably (hopefully) make you shake your heads and mutter, “Dang idiots.” (The ones that banned the books, not the authors.) But first, a little background. . .

Banned Books Week is a celebration of the right to read. Across the US, many books have been banned (taken out of libraries, schools, etc.), mostly because they’re considered inappropriate for young readers, and are therefore made unavailable. A couple of the more frequent offenders are To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Now, personally, I see the banning of books as unfair and unconstitutional, both to the authors and their readers. And might I also add that some of the boards who ban the book have not read it, and probably don’t know their true merits? Just saying. But some of the books being banned are particularly surprising.

Harry Potter. They really tried to ban Harry Potter. I kid you not. The reason? It encourages kids to believe in Satan, you know, what with all the ghosts and witches and wizards–thank goodness people tried to protect us from this awful influence! They also believe that it sets a bad example for young children, considering all the rule-breaking Harry and his friends do. Because there are so many protagonists out there that are absolute angels.

Next up: The American Heritage Dictionary. Huh? Why would people want to ban something that can be deemed so educational? Well, the thing is, it included entries that were considered “objectionable” and inappropriate. So let’s just ban the whole darn thing! But really, I would think the good outweighs the bad where this is concerned. Why cut off a good and reliable reference for kids just because of some entries?

I, for one, definitely liked this book as a kid. It’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble! (Written by Willliam Steig.) Honestly, I think it’s an enjoyable story for kids, but twelve states objected to its subject matter. More specifically, the part that portrays police as pigs. I can see why they might be offended, but really?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Wow. I mean. . .just wow. This book is the popular children’s story that is a collaboration between Eric Carle and Billy Martin Jr., and was removed from libraries in Texas by the Texas State Board of Education. The reason was that Billy Martin Jr. happened to have the same name as Marxist theorist who has written a book that is anti-Capitalism. Then–whoops! Wrong person. Luckily, the book was instantly made available again for the public’s enjoyment.

And, finally: The Diary of a Young Girl, the famous record of Anne Frank’s family and their confinement to an annex in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. Now, it isn’t particularly surprising that this book would be banned. The subject content would definitely make some parents prefer not to have their kids read it until they’re older. I respect that, and in some cases, maybe it’s a good idea. But what I don’t agree with is having a book with such valuable insight into World War 2 being made completely unavailable when it has such an important story within it. Anyway, the surprising part of it is that there was an attempt made to ban it because people just considered it “a real downer.” Sigh. That’s all I have to say.

So, anyway, let me finish with this: I understand if a parent wants their child to hold off on reading something because they don’t think they’re old enough. But there is no guarantee that all parents are going to feel this way, so please don’t try to silence an author’s voice when it could prove beneficial (or enjoyable) to someone else. I don’t think anyone has any business doing that. Seriously, bug off.

Phew. So there you go. Now we just have to wait until next year. Oh, and in closing, if you’re feeling all depressed because so many great stories are being banned, click on this link to read some of the authors’ responses to it. I especially liked Ray Bradbury’s.

P.S. Feel free to leave your views on this issue in the comments!

Author Tidbits: Sharon Creech

I realized that it’s about time for another Author Tidbit. This one’s subject is Sharon Creech, author of Granny Torelli Makes Soup, Love That Dog, The Castle Corona, and others. Sharon Creech was born in South Euclid, Ohio, where she lived with her large family. They often went on trips, and some of the places they visited worked their way into her stories, such as Quincy, Kentucky, which became Bybanks, Kentucky, and was featured in three of Sharon’s books. She has lived in not only America, but also England and Switzerland. Sharon did not immediately want to be a writer. She had several things she wanted to do when she was a child, such as be an ice skater, but ultimately studied stories and writing in college. She then went on to become a teacher in these subjects herself. It was through these experiences that she became what she is now, a published author. Although Sharon at first started out writing for adults, she soon moved on to writing for kids, and her first book geared towards this younger audience was Absolutely Normal Chaos. A later book, Walk Two Moons, which was the first to be published in America, succeeded in winning the Newbery Medal. Lots of Sharon’s books are about kids going through tough times, but others are more fantastical. However, speaking as one who has read nearly all of them, I would recommend any that catches your eye. I know I’ve read a few more than once, and with good reason. Sharon Creech lives with her husband in Chautauqua, New York, and has two grown children.

Happy 200th Charles Dickens!

Today, the great author Charles John Huffman Dickens turns 200 years old. Seriously. His story is one that started out with a poor boy working in Warren’s Shoe Blacking Factory, but gradually rose to immense fame and wealth through his words. You’ve probably heard of his works: Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol and more. Who would have thought the twelve year old boy who had to work to support his family would rise to such greatness? Being poor had a lasting effect on Dickens, and shows itself in many of his stories. He worked as a clerk, a court reporter, and published a number of sketches in the Morning Chronicle under the name Boz. Dickens published The Pickwick Papers when he was 24, and soon his popularity was soaring. He embarked on numerous book tours, and was a magnificent speaker. He was the 1800s version of a superstar celebrity. Think of him as one of the Beatles. That’s how huge he was. By this point he was married to Catherine Hogarth; they had ten children, and they also lived with her sister, Mary, until her death, which had an enormous effect on Dickens. Later, Dickens and his wife were separated, and he fell in love with an actress called Ellen Ternan. Dickens was also what you could call extravagant; he dressed in bright colors and jewels, and loved his hair. His book David Copperfield is thought of as a sort of autobiography. It contains a large number of the elements from his life, and Dickens himself called it his personal favorite. His final home was Gad’s Hill Place, where he died when he was 58 years old, and he was later buried in Westminster Abbey. Thousands mourned his passing, both in Europe and overseas. Charles Dickens was undoubtedly one of the most amazing and gifted authors in history. Happy birthday!