Banned Books: Two Boys Kissing


Title: Two Boys Kissing
Author: David Levithan
Challenged in: Fauquier County public high school library, VA
Because: homosexuality, condones public displays of affection

I was wary starting this book given my previous disagreements with David Levithan. Luckily this book was okay. It’s narrated by the collective “we” that is the chorus of gay men two generations ago, who died of AIDs and lived in fear. They’re looking on from the grave at the current generation of gay teens with compassion. It’s a narrative choice that I thought would work really well in a short story but not so much in a novel. Then at the end I found out–surprise! Levithan wrote this book to expand on a short story he’d done, kind of cramming in the plot around the conceit. That’s why it reads so disjointed. The plot itself I enjoyed: it follows different gay teens for a few days, two of whom are trying to break the world record for longest kiss. It showed the variety of experiences, like accepting and supportive parents, angry and denying parents, or parents who are just whatever. One of the boys was also transgender, which was cool. Levithan also doesn’t shy away from the negativity that is a very real part of being a gay teen today. Even if it’s better than when his collective narrator lived, it’s still here: bullying, abuse, isolation, self-hatred, self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide. Even though he includes these aspects, he also doesn’t dwell on them, making the book uplifting and hopeful over all. In the end, this book is expressly not for me, so it doesn’t matter what I thought of the narrative choices.

As to the complaints, homosexuality and public displays of affection are what this book is all about, so if you hate either of those, you probably won’t like this book. But not liking something and trying to save the rest of us who don’t share your beliefs from it are two different things.

Previously: I Am Jazz

Banned Books: I Am Jazz


Title: I Am Jazz
Author: Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Challenged in: Mount Horeb Primary Center, Wisconsin
Because: Inaccurate, sex education, homosexuality, religious viewpoints, unsuited to age group

This is a picture book about Jazz Jennings and her life–how she likes dressing up as a princess or a mermaid, how she has two best friends, how she has always felt that she is a girl even though the people around her didn’t always agree. It explains what being transgender is in a way kids can understand, and shows that Jazz is pretty much like any other girl you would meet, except that sometimes people are mean to her for who she is. The book doesn’t dwell on this, though, and the illustrations are very cute. It’s the perfect book to read to a class, for instance, when one of their classmates is transgender to forestall any bullying that may occur. Which is exactly what was going to happen in Wisconsin until a hate group and some parents complained. It’s a pretty innocuous book, unless you don’t believe that transgenderism is a thing, and then I guess it’s a sadistic attack on everything you hold dear or something. You can tell that from the vague accusations against it.

Inaccurate: Hard to be inaccurate when it’s just one person’s experience. Unless you’re taking issue with the fact that she is a girl.
Sex education: Of course these are the same kinds of people that see sex education as a bad thing. The closest this book comes to it though is the sentence “I have a girl brain in a boy body.”
Homosexuality: This is a children’s picture book, so no sexual preferences are referred to at all.
Religious viewpoints: Religion is never discussed at all.
Unsuited to age group: This is only the case if you think elementary school is too young to know that transgender people exist, a hard argument to pull when one of their classmates is transgender.

Kids seem to freak out about this stuff way less than their parents, and it’s really sad that all of these adults are setting out to bully a child.

Previously: Looking for Alaska
Next: Two Boys Kissing

2016 Goals: Home Stretch!

I’m a little late checking in with my yearly goal progress, since we’re already well into October. I was trying to give myself a little room to catch up on some things, but I’m finally calling it.

1. Cook Every Recipe in Sally’s Baking Addiction: 89%
I have 8 more to go! Unfortunately I haven’t been taking as many pictures, but here’s one:

Chocolate swirl pound cake

Chocolate swirl pound cake

I was really proud that this pound cake turned out because I have a terrible history with quick breads and pound cakes where the middle will be a soupy mess and the sides will be burned. Probably my favorite of the recipes I made this time was Maple Pecan Granola. I was expecting it to just be kind of whatever, which is how I usually feel about granola, but when you home make it and eat it fresh this “kind of whatever” food turns to AWESOME! It’s so much more flavorful and delicious than kinds of bought before.

2. Finish All my 2014 Goals: 95%
The biggest development here is that I finished Brewer’s!!!
2a) Read T-Z in Brewer’s: 100%
For some reason it took me forevs to power through those last 30 pages, so I live-tweeted it a little bit.
2b) Make 7 Pies: 100%
Yep, still 100%
2c) Make a new fancy drink every month: 75%
This is the only one I’ve got left, but I think I’ll be fine. Last month I made a punch for my book club from my international cookbook. It’s called Gnamacoudji and is popular in West Africa. You make it by boiling pineapple skins with ginger and lemon grass. It was kind of weird but also kind of good? It received mixed reviews from my book club.
2d) Get everything then on my to-read list off it: 100%
I know I keep repeating the ones I’ve done every time I do these updates, but I like to inflate my own sense of accomplishment, okay?
2e) Update my blog 7 times: 100%
3. Finish all my Craftsy classes: 80%
I tackled the Sewing Vintage class. I learned a lot, but apparently not enough, because the bodice part of the dress I constructed ended up being horribly deformed due to my attempts at adjusting the pattern for boobs. So instead I ended up with a nice skirt:

4. Complete a temperature scarf: 79%
I was behind on this for a while, until one day I binge watched all the Harry Potter Musicals and knit like two months worth. Now that the temperature isn’t the same hot nonsense every day it should be more interesting to knit.

That big orange swath is the summer that wouldn't end

That big orange swath is the summer that wouldn’t end

5. Read at least one book a month someone else recommended: 83%
I had a lot of Shakespeare in my recommended books this time! In July I read:

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson

This was recommended to me by someone on facebook, and I really liked it! A short book about basically everything we know for certain about Shakespeare and then all the different theories people have proposed over time. It’s really interesting to me how little we do know about him–even what everyone “knows” about what he looked like may or may not be right.

In August I read:

The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan

The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary who Became an American Hero by Timothy Egan

Timothy Egan is a really engaging writer–he’s won both a Pulitzer and a National Book Award–so it’s no surprise that this book has a very compelling sense of story despite being non-fiction. It’s about Thomas Francis Meagher who was transported for life to Tasmania for his part in a failed Irish uprising during the potato famine. He eventually escaped to America where he fought in the civil war and became territorial governor of Montana. He was a supremely interesting person who never stopped fighting for what he believed in despite truly insurmountable odds. This book was recommended to me by a coworker at the library and I really enjoyed it!

In September I read:

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Juliet by Anne Fortier

This book is two stories interwoven: the “historical Juliet” and her modern-day descendant trying to uncover the truth about her and escape some bad guys who want to steal her ~buried treasure~. The historical Juliet story was a pretty interesting take on life in Italy in what would have been a plausible setting for the Shakespeare play. The modern Juliet was an idiot bumbling around various historical buildings and falling for a random hot guy who of course turned out to be ~Romeo’s descendant~ blah.

As always, time to check in with Steven about his goals for the year:

1. Cook one vegetarian meal every week
“Yeah that’s fucking lost”
2. Learn a new violin piece every month
“Also lost. Although I suppose some of the stuff for orchestra kind of counts? It’s still not really”
3. Finish all craftsy classes
4. Make at least once case or bag out of leather
“The plan is there I haven’t done it yet. I need to get on that. I’m thinking a knife roll. It’s an extremely simple case but a great piece of practice work.”

Previously: Halfway

Banned Books: Looking For Alaska


Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Challenged In: Marion County, KY; Sumner County, TN; Lumberton Township, NJ; Waukesha High School, WI; Verona High School, NJ; Knox County High School, TN; Depew High School, NY; probably more
Because: sexual content, “too racy to read”, inappropriate language, it might tempt teens to “experiment with pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol, and profanity”

This book is the second I’ve read by John Green, the first being An Abundance of Katherines. That one was alright. But my previous John Green knowledge allowed me to accurately predict everything about this book because it’s the same but more pretentious and insufferable. Here’s the plot: a scrawny teen boy without any personality besides one twee-as-shit quirk that stands in for one (in this book it was memorizing famous people’s last words; in the last it was math) finds himself in a new place for vague, Eat-Pray-Love style reasons (in this book it was going to a new boarding school to “seek the great perhaps” ugggggh; in the last it was going on a destinationless road trip waiting for a “eureka moment”). His best friend is always short, stocky, and funnier than him, and exists in the text solely to give him succinct but poignant life advice and generally be the common sense brains of the outfit. Bland Nice Guy (TM) falls in love at first sight with the most beautiful and amazing Manic Pixie Dream Girl in the entire world, but she has a boyfriend so he has to pine for her from the friend zone and angst about it in his internal monologue whenever her beautiful perfect elbow chances to brush against his or whatever. She never really has a personality either, besides being fun and random but also ~dark and mysterious~ because all hot girls have a secret sadness that only a bland Nice Guy (TM) can see and understand. Then later he learns lessons about life, usually that he’s not the center of the goddamn universe, which is a tough lesson for an entitled white dude with no personality to learn, so no wonder it takes a whole book. Usually his stupid quirk ends up tying into some Great Gatsby-style smack you in the face symbolism too.


Anyway, despite all those problems, I would never challenge this book, and I can see why teens might be into it. They probably haven’t encountered these stereotypes as often as I have to be frustrated by them, and maybe they might identify with the ~angsty~ protagonist’s unrequited love. Also all the characters are well-read and reference classics in their Deep and Meaningful Life Conversations, which I find tiresome but Teen Me would have found exciting and comforting. And yes, the characters smoke, drink, think about sex, and say “fuck”, but in that regard it’s a somewhat accurate portrayal of high school. Granted, I didn’t smoke or drink in high school, but I knew people who did. Seeing it in a book wouldn’t have opened up A Whole New World of vice to me that wasn’t already available if I wanted it. And if seeing people I knew in real life do those things wouldn’t change my mind about my own choices, random book characters certainly wouldn’t. Luckily, most of the challenges above kept the book in libraries, at least. Maybe next year I’ll challenge a bunch of books for Manic Pixie Dream Girl portrayals of women. Since we can just do that for anything in books we disagree with now.

Previously: Habibi
Next: I Am Jazz

Banned Books: Habibi


Title: Habibi
Author: Craig Thompson
Challenged Because: Nudity, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

This graphic novel is set in what turns out to be a post-apocalyptic Middle East where the only source of non-polluted water is controlled by a decadent sultan and the majority of the populace is starving and living in piles of trash. The main characters are two escaped child slaves doing anything they can to try to survive. Which mostly involves lots of prostitution.

While the art is lavish and beautiful, I don’t know enough about Islam to critique this book effectively. All I know is, it made me uncomfortable. Craig Thompson has clearly researched the Qur’an, Islamic folktales, and art styles, but the main character’s time in the sultan’s harem complete with bitchy concubines, eunuchs, and opium addiction seems straight out of a bad 1970s romance novel. I guess when your book is set in a ~fantasy future~ you’re not really worrying about historical accuracy, but employing these tired stereotypes seems sketchy at best. Plus, every man is a rapist who sees women solely as sex objects! The only man who is not portrayed as such is a eunuch, and became one specifically to escape his desire.

So I didn’t like this book, but of course that’s not a reason for it to be taken off library shelves. As to the complaints against it, there’s a lot of sex in it, and, since it’s a graphic novel, the visuals always get people more riled than all the sex in, say, Shakespeare. I think “unsuited to age group” pops up in these challenge reports anytime a parent realizes that there’s not some gate that keeps kids out of the adult stacks where ~they might encounter a book with boobs in it~ and freaks out. The answer to that, of course, is to watch your fucking kid since librarians aren’t babysitters or the Book Police.

Previously: Nasreen’s Secret School
Next: Looking for Alaska

Hate Book Club: The Eyes of the Arab Boy


In an improbable turn of events, I got an email earlier this month from an author volunteering his book for Hate Book Club. I dutifully explained the point of Hate Book Club and how it would take a dangerous amount of optimism or a fair level of masochism to volunteer your own work for it. But the author was undaunted! So that’s how I came to read this book:

The Eyes of the Arab Boy by Rod Lamirand

The Eyes of the Arab Boy by Rod Lamirand

I guess I should preface with the disclaimer that Rod Lamirand sent me a copy of his book for free, but the opinions below are my own. Obviously. As always, I’m going to start by saying three nice things about the book.

1) I knew almost nothing about Oman before reading this besides where it is and the capital. Now I know a little bit more (assuming Rod Lamirand did his research, I guess), so that’s cool.
2) There was more than one baby turtle!! My favorite character was the baby turtle.
3) I’m strangely comforted by the fact that Americans aren’t the only ones who travel abroad as ignorant, arrogant asshats.

Yes, friends. I too always assumed that Americans had this shit on lock: exoticizing other cultures and then being angry and disappointed at their realities, arrogantly expecting people in other countries to cater to your whims and needs without bothering to learn their customs or language, or just blithely assuming you have diplomatic immunity because HELLO I AM WHITE. But not so! Apparently our Canadian friends stand with us in stupidity, at least according to this book.



Also, before we get into a deeper discussion about why this book sucks, we just have to get this out of the way. The main character’s name is Stash. STASH. I mainly finished the book in the hopes of getting an explanation for this but, spoilers, there isn’t one. Is it short for something? Stashopher? Mustache? Does he HAVE a mustache? Why isn’t it spelled Stache? Did he have some kind of epic stash of something at one point that warranted a nickname? WHY DOES EVERYONE CALL HIM “Mr. Stash” (despite having a last name) LIKE THIS IS A NORMAL THING? Rod Lamirand, I vow to buy the sequel to this book with my own money if you promise to explain this mystery in it.

So Stash and his wife Anna are in a deeply troubling relationship built on manipulation. Anna works hard to become a teacher because Stash tells her she’d be good at it despite having no obvious desire to do so. Stash and Anna MOVE TO OMAN because Stash “wants an adventure”. Anna convinces Stash to have a kid because she’s worried about her biological clock (lol) and Stash’s lackluster response is:


Just the kind of spontaneous, undependable person you want to have a kid with, right? Later on they have similar arguments about having a second kid, including ultimatums, secret vasectomies, and Anna insisting that the second kid Stash doesn’t want is “exactly what [he] needs.” While Anna whines about how she wants more kids, Stash whines about how he wants more exciting sex. He explains that for men sex “is a daily want, a never ending powerful need” and that if HE were the wife in the relationship he would “make it my goal to weave my magic in a million ways for you, every single day of your life… until you died from pleasure.” So, yeah, this book has the sexual politics of a Victorian novel where men are filled with base urges for “sex all the time and if at all possible with variety” whereas “even the liberal, modern, educated,[sic] women, are probably sexually conservative”. LOL OKAY STASH although I question your data. Maybe he’s just pissed that no one really wants to sleep with some skeevy dude named “Stash.” Even in college.

Anyway, in an attempt to liven up this joyless hostage situation of a marriage, Stash and Anna try out sex on the roof of their building, sex with another ex-pat couple, and role play. And, what the hell, taking naked pictures. IN OMAN. Why the fuck not. Oh right, because they are seen and arrested. As you would expect when you live in a country under Sharia law. I don’t know dick about Sharia law, but I DIDN’T VOLUNTARY CHOOSE TO LIVE UNDER IT like these idiots. Plus, they don’t speak any Arabic, just assuming that everyone in Oman will be able to speak English with them. Luckily one of the police officers interrogating them points out how incredibly arrogant this assumption is:


At various points in this ridiculous process they 1) wish they had registered with their embassy (?? You didn’t??) 2) wish they had the phone number for their embassy (??????? Did you prepare for this trip AT ALL?), and 3) expect the legal system to work the same way it does at home (“Where’s my lawyer?” “Where’s my phone call?” YOU’RE IN OMAN YOU TWITS). Their weird regressive sexual politics aside, it’s impossible to feel any empathy for these two because they are so incredibly dumb. Eventually they are saved by a random Italian diplomat they met who is the only competent character and helps them because of friendship or whatever. Also, the police didn’t really care about their random crimes against Omani law–they were really after their neighbor who turned out to be a pedophile, a plot twist that seemed kind of thrown together. Maybe someone can shed some light on this dude, because even before the DRAMATIC REVEAL I never understood his character at all:


So… he’s gay? Or he’s not gay? Are we talking General Patton? Was HE gay? This simile honestly means nothing to me, and there are no further context clues besides the big Pedophile Reveal. Is this implying that gay men are pedophiles? WAS General Patton gay? I feel like I am not old enough to understand this book, both in references and weird attitudes about sex and other cultures. Plus, the writing is sometimes ELJames levels of bad:


Wow, wow, wow!


My note on the above just says “What?” I have no idea what this is referring to at all.


I tried to give this one the benefit of the doubt, thinking it might be like Canadian Dad Slang, but Google couldn’t help me out either:

Unless you can only find it on Canadian Google. Canoogle.

Unless you can only find it on Canadian Google. Canoogle.

Since every Hate Book Club review must include a chart, here’s one I made about the types of notes I wrote to myself while reading this ebook.


Most of the “lol” was laughing AT the characters, not with them. And, as always, here is a gif to sum up my review:


Previously: Eat, Pray, Love
Next: Depends on if anyone else really wants to VOLUNTEER

Banned Books: Nasreen’s Secret School


Title: Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
Author: Jeanette Winter
Challenged In: Duval County, FL public schools; Eau Claire, WI public schools
Because: Violent subject matter; “promotes a religion that is not Christianity”; contains an Islamic prayer

This book definitely contains all the things the complainants list, but I don’t really see any of them as a problem, especially since it also contains courage, feminism, and the importance of reading and education. This book is awesome. It follows the story of a young girl named Nasreen whose parents are “taken” by the Taliban. Rather than simply give in to despair, her grandmother enrolls her in a secret school for girls. Since the Taliban have banned all education for girls and women, the girls must be sneaky and use cunning to meet and learn despite the danger. The story is truly inspiring and shows how education can improve life even in the harshest conditions.

True, Nareen’s parents are taken by the Taliban (the book doesn’t show anything beyond that), and I wouldn’t read it at storytime. This is for a slightly older child, or at least one who is more mature. Most libraries that own it shelve it in the non-fiction section (along with the same author’s other awesome title The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq). The circumstances of the story are sad, but so is the world. The book’s message turns that sadness into strength, which is a good lesson at any age.

As to the “challenge” that it features a religion that’s not Christianity and how that’s somehow perceived as a problem, fuck you.

Previously: Banned Books Week 2016
Next: Habibi

ABC DVD: Arrested Development 1.3

Episode 15: Staff Infection
Michael discovers everyone in the family has been on the company payroll and so puts them all to work. Buster and GOB get into a fight at the construction site, which the other workers insist they settle with a construction-equipment duel. The feds do a subpar job of installing new lighting in the Bluth offices while scoping out the place.


Episode 16: Missing Kitty
Michael fires Kitty, the secretary, for being awful, but George Sr. insists she knows too much. She flashes him a lot. GOB tries to get on a Girls With Low Self-Esteem video by “magically disappearing” i.e. blowing up his family’s yacht. That Kitty happened to be inside?!


Episode 17: Altar Egos
GOB convinces Michael to have a one-night stand (no real names!) and ends up sleeping with a blind woman while pretending to be a pirate lawyer. Surprise! She turns out to be the prosecutor on George Sr.’s case. GOB’s night also didn’t go as planned when he accidentally got married to Amy Poehler (RIP Will Arnett and Amy Poehler’s love).


Episode 18: Justice is Blind
Michael feels guilty about trying to one-night stand a blind girl, so he continues to pretend to pursue a relationship with her. He feels even more guilty about being Michael Bluth and eventually confesses. He takes her dog Justice to the vet and discovers that JUSTICE IS BLIND meaning that Maggie could see that whole time. Maeby is scamming her school out of my money by pretending to be her own sickly twin sister, Surely.


Episode 19: Best Man for the GOB
GOB is still married to Amy Poehler so Michael offers to throw him a bachelor party. George Sr. decides to throw one instead, using it as an opportunity to frame his accountant for murder to prevent him from testifying. Buster gets hopped up on juice.


Episode 20: Whistler’s Mother
George Sr.’s twin brother Oscar shows up to ask for money and pursue an affair with Lucille. He convinces Michael to buy his useless lemon grove and lets George Sr. take the fall when it turns out to be a bad deal. Eventually Lucille saves the day with her geriatric sexual allure.

Episode 21: Not Without My Daughter
Michael takes Maeby to Take Your Daughter to Work Day and makes a deal with her that the first of them to lie will pay the other $50. Then the police show up to question him about Kitty’s disappearance, since he was apparently the last one to see her ALIVE. Maeby snoops around the police station and finds Kitty very much alive and helping the police attempt to coerce Michael. Lindsey lies rather than confess she has a job at the mall, and ends up getting fired when GOB and George Michael release a bunch of mice.


Episode 22: Let Them Eat Cake
Kitty attempts to seize control of the Bluth company with the info she knows. She thinks it’s only unpaid taxes, but George Sr. confesses the Bluth company had been building houses in Iraq despite sanctions against doing business with Saddam. George Sr. fakes a heart attack during a polygraph test and subsequently escapes from the hospital.

Trish’s Review
Once again this disc was a mix of episodes I really like (“Not Without My Daughter”, anything with Maggie) and ones I would skip over if I could (“Best Man for the GOB”). This disc also saw the introduction of the Overly Literal Doctor who announces George Sr.’s escape to the family by saying, “He’s gone” and “We lost him”.


Rating: Four out of five blind seeing-eye dogs
Kill/Fuck/Marry: Kill Kitty (by blowing up a yacht she was on), Fuck Maggie (while using a false name), Marry Amy Poehler (on a dare)

Steven’s Review
I absolutely love Overly Literal Doctor, who is one of the best running gags in the show, so this is an awesome time to be alive/watching the series. Maeby also starts getting more screen time and character development, which I’m anxious for as we get closer and closer to bigshot studio producer Maeby (one of my other favorite features of the show). Also tons of great Barry time, woo! He reminds me more and more of Jim Rash’s Dean Pelton from Community.

Poison oak, Laker's tickets. He's a busy man on the dating scene.

Poison oak, Laker’s tickets. He’s a busy man on the dating scene.

Rating: Four out of five Girls With Low Self-Esteemâ„¢.
Kill/Fuck/Marry: Kill George Michael, because it’s becoming clearer and clearer here that he’s some kind of shell of a human made of equal parts Tobias and his father (Tobias once more in second place here, fighting hard to win). Fuck Kitty, because we all know what happens to those who don’t by now… Marry Maggie. For Justice!

Next: Arrested Development 2.1
Previously: Arrested Development 1.2

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