Banned Books Week!

Hello everyone! I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I’m back! Today I actually have something that I want to talk about, something that I’ve recently learned about and just can’t understand: banning books.

Throughout America there is currently a bit of an uprising in the reading community. Different places throughout the country are attempting to ban books from schools and entire cities, and sadly it seems like there is a decent amount of support to make it happen. Fortunately, the last week of September is known as Banned Books Week, where people can show their support of keeping these books somewhere with immediate access, and promote the education of long-time masterpieces in the American culture.

One of the most controversial books right now is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Why? Because it uses the word “nigger” frequently throughout the book. While I want to stress that it is never okay to use that word, ever, I also don’t think it’s a word that we, as a society, should pretend never existed. For hundreds of years black people were brought from their homes in Africa to a place where they were treated less than animals. They were called “nigger” and they were oppressed, beaten, and turned into slaves.

When the 15th Amendment was passed, these slaves were legally created equal, but they were not socially created equal. They were continually called the “n” word and they were treated as inferior humans. Even today the “n” word gets thrown around like it’s nothing. In regards to Huck Finn, it’s important to remember that everything said in the book was not meant to insult the reader, but rather educate the reader on what happens and what is said in 1880’s daily life.

Another book that is constantly under fire is The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920’s book about rich partying socialites has been under scrutiny for its content on alcohol and sex. This particular ban irks me to my core because the entire 1920’s was exactly that: booze and sex. In the mid 1920’s Prohibition was in effect. All of New York City is said to have had at least 100,000 speakeasies (give or take the thousands that were shut down by Prohibition agents). The 20’s brought another kind of excitement for young adults as well: sex. It’s said that during that time “men found the clitoris.” Basically, the majority of cities in America were completely alcohol dependent, and sexual activity was at an all-time high. Haven’t you seen Boardwalk Empire??

The thing to remember with books written a long time ago, is that they were NOT MEANT TO OFFEND they were simply meant to bring awareness to the public by writing about what happens in daily life, while still adding a fun fictional flair to the work. But the thing that upsets me the most is that these books are part of our history they are written by people who experienced these lifestyles and wanted to tell others about it. It’s written to bring light to fact that young white people just called black people “niggers” not even because they hated black people, but because that is what they were told was the acceptable behavior.

It’s bringing light to the fact that even the richest, most affluent and respectable families in the 20’s were fueled by illegal alcohol, affairs, and often cruelty. That is what was acceptable. Fitzgerald was not saying that partying all the time is the right way to live your life, he was simply telling a fictional story of what he believed happened during the Roaring Twenties.

The thing to remember is that all of this is history. No one is saying that everyone should forget slavery happened, because it did! It did, and it was awful, and cruel and just plain wrong. And yet, people are saying that a fictional book should be forgotten because it uses a word that was used every single day for hundreds of years in the book. No one is saying that we should forget that there was a ban on alcohol for years and it drove people to do horrendous things, and yet they’re saying to forget this fictional book because it glorifies partying, drinking and sex.

It’s hypocritical and it’s wrong. That’s why for the last week of September the American Library Association is challenging readers to read and understand as many banned and challenged books they can. To prove that no one can tell you what you can and can not read. No one can tell you that you are not allowed to have opinions or the right to freedom of speech.

So for the last week of September, choose a book and read it!. I’ll list a bunch of books that are currently banned in cities or that are being challenged (almost banned) in cities. You can read as many as you want, or as little as you want. Just spread the word! Exercise your right to read what you want to read.

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak

The Call of the Wild – Jack London

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

The Jungle  – Upton SInclair

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

1984 – George Orwell

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Ulysses – James Joyce

AND SO MUCH MORE!!! This is only a fraction of the banned and challenged books! Visit http://www.ala.org for more information on banned books and to see what books are banned and being challenged.

Until next time! Happy reading!

Rachel

email: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

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Book vs Kindle

My obvious love of books has kept me from accepting the fact that people don’t read physical books anymore: they use e-readers like Kindles or Nooks. Like most book lovers I regard them as something to dismiss, something that takes away from the fun of reading. But here’s the thing: I had never actually used one before. So I decided to conduct an experiment and read my boyfriend’s kindle for a week to give it a try.

But as chance would have it, I only made it through 48 hours before giving up on the thing. I did genuinely try to give it a shot, and I have to say that it exceeded my expectations. I was expecting something more like an iPad – with bright lights that make your eyes go weird after looking at it for more than 20 minutes, and the on-screen-scrolling like an endless news article. Instead, it has a dulled screen that looks more like a page in a book than an actual screen; It has that “used page” look. And to my surprise, you don’t scroll, it has these big buttons on both sides that go forward or backward from page to page.

Other than that, though, I had a really hard time getting into it. My theory was that I would choose a book that I had already read in paperback and read it for exactly one week (unless I finished it sooner) and then write the comparison between a Kindle book and a physical copy of a book. Seems simple enough. So, I found a book that was already on the Kindle and tried to read it like I normally would a hardcopy (for me normal reading is a lot of pages in a short span of time, and almost too much concentration — someone could nearly hit me with a football and I probably wouldn’t even notice.) That first night I read four chapters of the great classic Pride and Prejudice. They’re not long chapters, but it took me a pretty decent chunk of time just trying to focus.

There were a few annoyances. Those big buttons on the side of the Kindle that I mentioned before? Well they take up the majority of each side of the Kindle, making it nearly impossible for me to hold the e-reader like a normal person without going a few pages ahead of where I was and ruining any surprises. I also had such a hard time concentrating on the story. Because it’s a Kindle and quite small, I didn’t need to use both hands to hold it and ended up having an extreme case of restless arm syndrome. I kept checking my phone, grabbing some water, constantly stretching my arms and just basically doing everything but keeping my eyes on the page. I took that as a lesson learned, and the next night I put my phone out of reach, and just tried to sit and focus on the story. I never made it past chapter 5.

About a page into the fifth chapter I managed to figure out the “lazy person’s guide to reading a Kindle” which was basically me laying on my side in bed with the Kindle propped up so I could lay down and read without having to hold it. I fell asleep. I tried one more time the following day to make the Kindle work for me. I sat down in a chair and was all set to read. But when I sat down, I held the Kindle a little too hard on the side and went six pages ahead. That was when I just put it down and said, “nope. This isn’t working. I’m frustrated, I’m bored, and I already want to look at my phone.” And thus concluded my Kindle experiment.

I know a lot of people really like e-readers, and I can completely understand that position. It’s convenient — especially if you’re going on a trip. You can have hundreds of books at your disposal at all times, with a little square that weighs probably less than a pound. It also gives you all the comforts of a real book with a screen that looks like the yellowed, paper pages in a hardcopy. It’s also easy on the eyes, which makes things much better if you were at the beach, or if you even just have bad eyesight (guilty.)

However, I really don’t like it. I tried to find some common ground, and I tried to make it work as best as possible for me, but I just couldn’t get into it. I missed the feeling of turning a page. You know that feeling you get when you’re on the last paragraph and you get ready to turn the page with your one finger on the following page? I missed that. I missed being able to slide a bookmark in and close the book to see how far I’ve gotten, and how much I have left. And as convenient as it is, I’d rather load up my suitcase with books and have to check my bag, than have to read off of a Kindle on a plane. I just get too restless and frustrated. I can’t concentrate.

So for me at least, a hardcopy of a book will always win in a battle of book versus e-reader. If you guys like Kindles or Nooks, let me know in the comments and tell me why you like it. I’d love to hear your thoughts and see if maybe there was something I was missing in the experiment!

Until next time! Happy reading!

Rachel