Hate Book Club: Men are from mars, Women are from Venus


Yay Hate Book club! Where Brian and I read the same book we think we’re going to hate!! Read his review here!

For the second round of Hate Book Club, Brian and I decided to read the famous 90s bestseller Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, which is the name a particularly unimaginative serial killer on the lam would choose to try to start a new life as a relationship counselor. I’m not saying that’s what happened here, but I’m not NOT saying it either.

This cover is the perfect blend of pandering and stereotypes

This cover is the perfect blend of pandering and stereotypes

The book offers some pretty basic relationship advice, under the premise that men and women are actually aliens from completely different planets, and need to learn to understand each other’s language and values as such.

One rule of Hate Book Club is that we say three nice things about the book, and I like to get that over with right away so that I can forget it ever happened:

1. John Gray is super repetitive and fond of lists, which makes his chapters easy to skim.
2. Talking about “Martians” and “Venusians” instead of men and women does a little to hide the offensiveness of a lot of his blanket assertions.
3. I like that he generally encourages empathy, which I think is the key to being a good person.

In general, I think the advice to try to see things from someone else’s point of view is excellent. Everyone has different ways of coping, thinking, and communicating, and many disagreements can be prevented by trying to determine the reasons behind someone’s action or reaction rather than just getting mad because it doesn’t conform to your own expectations. Of course, I completely disagree that these differences are based on gender, and think stressing the supposed dichotomy between men and women sets relations back further than this book helps.

Men and women seldom mean the same things even when they use the same words. (61)

This is the kind of attitude Cosmo has all the time (“Decode his man brain!”), and I hate the assumption that men and women are polar opposites with no hope of ever understanding each other without the “professional” help of John Gray or magazines. This attitude tries to force the spectrum of human behavior into a strict binary that doesn’t exist. Plus, usually it is based on ridiculous outdated stereotypes:

To fully express their feelings, women assume poetic license and use various superlatives, metaphors, and generalizations. Men mistakenly take these expressions literally. (61)

Remembering that within every man is a knight in shining armor is a powerful metaphor to help you remember a man’s primary needs. Although a man may appreciate caring and assistance sometimes, too much of it will lessen his confidence or turn him off. (152)

The strange and beautiful Venusians were a mysterious attraction to the Martians. Where the Martians were hard, the Venusians were soft. Where the Martians were angular, the Venusians were round. Where the Martians were cool, the Venusians were warm. In a magical and perfect way their differences seemed to complement each other. (43)

No mention is ever made of same sex couples, of course. The main difference between men and women, as reiterated over and over, was that women show love by trying to help and men show love by fixing things without assistance. If you offer to help a man, you are basically calling him a woman! ULTIMATE INSULT

To honor him by not offering advice would have been a gift equivalent to his buying her a beautiful bouquet of flowers or writing her a love note… The next time he was lost, instead of offering “help” she restrained herself form offering any advice, took a deep relaxing breath, and appreciated in her heart what Tom was trying to do for her. Tom greatly appreciated her warm acceptance and trust. (15)

When a woman in a similar caring and concerned way says to a man “What’s the matter, honey?” he may feel insulted or repulsed. (86)

How dare you try to help me? I am insulted and repulsed! Similarly, women need men to take care of them. Otherwise they get all depressed and emotional, as women do:

To deal with their depression (without men) the Venusians were busy sharing their feelings and talking about their problems. As they talked they discovered the cause of their depression. They were tired of giving so much all the time. They resented always feeling responsible for one another. They wanted to relax and just be taken care of for a while. (47)

People like me, who have trouble envisioning themselves in the narrow stereotype he defines as “woman”, just have some weird hormone problem, probably:

Generally speaking, about 10 percent of women will relate more to being from Mars. This is often simply a result of being born with higher testosterone levels than most other women. (xix)

He doesn’t mention what it means if men identify with the women stereotypes. John Gray often reminds me of Mark Driscoll, author of the last book we read for Hate Book Club, in that a lot of the advice seems to set the bar really low. For instance, from a list of “Ways to score points with a woman”:

77. When listening to her talk, use eye contact

87. Verbally say thank you when she does things for you(208)

Does John Gray envision all men as socially inept cave people who have never interacted with another human or learned some basic manners? From the same list:

33. Wash before having sex or put on cologne if she likes that. (205)

Women love some basic hygiene.

Just like Mark Driscoll wanted us to think he was superior because he decided not to cheat on his wife (“become the adultery guy”), John Gray explains what a great guy he is when he decides not to “head for the door” (xxvi) after getting into an argument with his sick wife after she’s taken care of their newborn all day. You didn’t leave your wife and child to fend for themselves while still weak and semi-helpless? Good for you, John Gray, someone give this man a medal. Clearly he is a more empathetic human than the rest of us. We have much to learn from his wisdom.

Every time their favourite Martian went into his cave, they would go shopping or out on some other pleasing excursion. Venusians love to shop. (81)

So wise

My final reaction to this book:


And, because, every Hate Book Club review has to have a graph:

Hatejoyment over time

Hatejoyment over time

Don’t forget to read Brian’s review too!

Previously: Real Marriage

Brewer’s Dictionary: G-M

Okay, so I’ve been really falling behind on posting about Brewer’s. And reading it. I just finished M this morning and it’s already October 27th. Whatever, more than halfway there, I can do this!!! Anyway, here’s what you missed while you were not spending your 2014 reading a reference book:


Giotto’s O.The old story goes that the pope, wishing to employ artists from all over Italy, sent a messenger to collect specimens of their work. When the man visited Giotto (c. 1267-1337), the artist paused for a moment from the picture he was working on and with his brush drew a perfect circle on a piece of paper. In some surprise the man returned to the pope, who, appreciating the perfection of Giotto’s artistry and skill by his unerring circle, employed him forthwith.

Goddam. A name given by the French to the English at least as early as the 15th century on account of the favourite oath of the English soldiers. Joan of Arc is reported to have used the word on a number of occasions in contemptuous reference to her enemies.

Grammar. Suetonius writes that Tiberius was rebuked by a grammarian for some verbal slip, and upon a courtier remarking that if the word was not good Latin it would be in future, now that it had received imperial recognition, he was rebuked with the words, Tu enim Caesar civitatem dare potes hominibus, verbis non potes (‘Caesar, you can grant citizenship to men, but not to words’).

Great Bed of Ware. A fourposter bed 11ft square and capable of holding 12 people. It dates from the late 16th century and was formerly at the Saracen’s Head Inn, Ware, Hertfordshire.

Sleeping in style

Sleeping in style


Haha. A type of ditch found in the grounds of country houses and perhaps so called from the exclamation of surprise when coming across it or of malicious pleasure when another is seen to fall into it.

I knew what hahas are, but am really gratified to learn that the origin of the name is as silly as you think.

Hats It was a point of principle with the early Quakers not to remove their hat, the usual mark of respect, even in the presence of royalty. The story goes that William Penn once entered the presence of Charles II and kept his hat on, whereupon Charles removed his own hat. ‘Friend Charles,’ said Penn, ‘Why dost thou uncover thy head?’ ‘Friend Penn,’ answered Charles with a smile, ‘it is the custom here that only one person wears his hat in the king’s presence.’


I guess there were no standouts under I? I didn’t write anything down.


Ditto J. In reality, I think I lost my Brewer’s notebook for a while.


I must have found it in time to record this gem of Brewer’s understated sass:

You know something (or) what? I am going to tell you something.


One of the best things about Brewer’s is learning interesting word origin stories, like:

Lady: Literally ‘bread kneader’, from Old English.


in-laws A way of referring to one’s relations by marriage: mother-in-law, brothers-in-law and so on. The law is that of canon law, and it refers to the degrees of affinity within which marriage is allowed or prohibited.

And other times there’s an entry that shows slang has always been cray. I mean, wtf:

Lead apes in hell. The depressing consequence of dying an old maid. Hence ape-leader, an old maid.

Also, folk beliefs are always amazing:

Lick into shape. To make presentable; to mould into a satisfactory condition. The expression derives from the widespread medieval belief that bear cubs are born shapeless and have to be licked into shape by their mothers.

Love spoons. The giving of elaborately carved love spoons by a lover to his lady as a token during courtship was common in 18th-century Wales.

Get with the program, Steven

Get with the program, Steven


Apparently Magenta is named after a battle!

Magenta. A brilliant red aniline dye derived from coal tar, named in commemoration of the bloody Battle of Magenta (1859), when the Austrians were defeated by the French and Sardinians. This was just before the dye was discovered.

Milo. A celebrated Greek athlete of Crotona in the late 6th century BC. It is said that he carried through the stadium at Olympia a heifer four years old, and ate the whole of it afterwards. When he was old, he attempted to tear in two an oak tree, but the parts closed upon his hands, and while he was thus held fast he was devoured by wolves.

That escalated quickly.

Mohocks. A class of ruffians who in the 18th century infested the streets of London. They were so called from the Mohawk Indians. One of their ‘new inventions’ was to roll people down Snow Hill in a tub. Another was to overturn coaches on rubbish heaps.

I’m on page 805 of 1298, so only 493 more to go! I can do it!! I’ve just got to believe in myself.

Previously: E and F

Hate Book Club: Real Marriage


Welcome to Hate Book Club!! A book club Brian Reinhart and I formed to read books we think we’re going to hate, and then review them on our respective blogs. Here are the rules of Hate Book Club:

1) We have to choose books neither of us have read before
2) We have to say THREE (3) positive things about the book
2a) They can be sarcastically positive
3) Each review must include one graph
4) Final opinion of the book must be summed up in gif form

Hopefully this project will also allow me to poach some readers from Brian’s seriouspants blog. Hello, Person Who Probably Has An Opinion About David Foster Wallace! Let me show you what a gif is:


It’s basically the same as the postmodern art you enjoy, you’ll be fine.

Anyway, the first book we chose for Hate Book Club was Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll. If the name “Mark Driscoll” sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you remember the controversy recently when he referred to women as “homes for penises.” Definitely a guy you want to take relationship advice from!!

Spoiler alert: my marriage isn't real

Spoiler alert: my marriage isn’t real

Let’s get the compliments out of the way so I can begin to block out the memory of thinking anything nice about this guy:

1) He uses the Oxford comma throughout his entire book.

It's important

It’s important

Working in the academic publishing industry has taught me that serial comma use is far from universal, despite the fact that not using it makes you seem like an illiterate assface (YEAH, I SAID IT, New York Times stylebook, BRING IT). If you don’t use the Oxford comma, I hate you. It’s pretty much that simple.

I just want to save you from yourself

I just want to save you from yourself

I still hate Mark Driscoll, but I have other reasons.

2) He taught me a story about Martin Luther I didn’t know.

In the early morning hours one Easter, twelve young runaway nuns climbed into empty fish barrels and were smuggled out of their convent. Their unlikely hero was a renegade monk they had written to, imploring him to rescue them so they could marry and one day become mothers. The escape was a daring and successful adventure, and it led to a most unusual friendship and marriage. The hero monk? Martin Luther. (19)

Okay, to be fair, I didn’t fact check this story at all, because I was afraid I’d then have to think up another compliment for Mark Driscoll and I have a lot of other things to do right now. So, regardless of this story’s veracity, it is fun and would make a great historical action movie.

3) He stresses that friendship is the basis of marriage.

Well, it is

Well, it is

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to my hates:

On the first page of the preface, Driscoll pretty much sets the tone for how you’re supposed to take his marriage advice:

Don’t say, “I [we] tried that, and it did not work.” If it’s rooted in biblical wisdom, keep trying until it works or you die. (xi)

OR YOU DIE. His marriage advice will either work OR KILL YOU. No other options.

This book has a lot of advice you’d expect from an evangelical Christian, including a staunch adherence to traditional gender roles:

Admittedly, a wife working before kids are born, or who finds a way to make money from home without neglecting her first God-given responsibilities of Christian, wife, and mother is acceptable. But men, you should make money. You should feed your family. (52)

Stay-at-home Dads are truly an abomination in the eyes of God.

These gender roles are totally legit because women are the weaker sex, and therefore need to be protected by men from the harsh realities of the world outside the home:

But since a husband is one with his wife her weakness is his weakness, which means he needs to honor and protect it rather than exploit it. Because she is a crystal goblet and he is a thermos means she is not only delicate but also precious. (49)

The difference between men and women, according to Mark Driscoll

Do you not remember the Bible talking about thermoses? It’s in Acts somewhere.

But, don’t worry, all this lady-oppression is totally rooted in the Bible so you can’t argue with it.

This assignment of the husband to the role of covenant head is not something rooted in culture that can be changed, but rather something rooted in creation that is unchanging. (54)

His list of Biblical evidence for that begins with:

1. God called the race “man” and “mankind” 2. By naming Eve, Adam was exercising authority over her as God commanded (55)

Ah yes, basing sweeping theological arguments on the exact vocabulary in a document that has been translated so many times it is basically like playing a 3000-year game of telephone. “It’s called MANkind.” This argument brought to you by the same people who brought you “Adam and Eve, NOT ADAM AND STEVE.” Classic.

Of course, like any adherence to strict gender roles, men are treated as equally infantile, with a lot of urging to MAN UP and provide for your family economically, emotionally, and spiritually. Driscoll wants us to return to a simpler time when boys became men by achieving important life hurdles in quick succession:

1. leave your parents’ home
2. finish your education or vocational training
3. start a career-track job, not a dead-end-Joe job
4. meet a woman, love her, honor her, court her, and marry her
5. parent children with her

Then he poetically sums up how the “invention” of adolescence and socio-economic circumstances have LED OUR CULTURE ASTRAY:

But the fools’ parade hijacked the march to manhood. (42)

Come on, sixteen-year-olds, why are you wasting your time on the JV soccer team, when you should already have married and impregnated your junior prom date?? GET WITH THE PROGRAM. The MAN program.

Naturally, Driscoll has to caution his readers to follow his advice, unless you want a horrifying secular marriage:

For many men and women, the questions are: Is my spouse keeping up his/her looks, making his/her share of the income, doing an equal amount of the chores, and having enough sex with me, or not? And if at any point I do not believe my spouse is keeping up his or her end of our business arrangement, I simply nullify the deal and file for divorce to the terms of a prenuptial agreement in which the divorce was organized before the marriage began. (54)

I mean, really, he’s got me there. The second I suspect I’m doing more dishes than Steven I whip out our prenup, which, because I’m a feminist, just says “I get everything, sucka!”

But you pretty much expect all this in an advice book about marriage written by a hardcore Christian, right? Perhaps more interesting was Driscoll’s discussion of his own background:

Growing up, my goal was to get out of my neighborhood and enjoy a new and better life… I did not want to get trapped by gangs, drugs, alcohol, crime, or manipulative women. (6)

Hmm… one of these things is not like the others.

He started dating his eventual wife Grace in highschool, who somehow found the courage to be with him though, at the time, she was a Christian and he was not. Then Driscoll undergoes a dramatic conversion after God prevents him from going to a frat party. But just because they were both Christians doesn’t mean the Driscoll marriage was all Happily Ever After. For instance, both seemed to have trouble overcoming pesky secular ideas about equality and getting back to basics, gender role wise:

Grace was pregnant with our first child and suffering… which culminated in me apologizing for not bearing the entire financial burden for our family. She gladly came home from work(11)

Making issues even worse, I (Grace) realized I hadn’t really followed the Genesis command to leave my family and cleave to Mark as my new family… I called my parents “my family,” which made Mark feel as if he and I weren’t family. I had to learn to pray and work through our conflict differently, plan some of our own traditions and memories, set healthy boundaries of privacy, and refer to Mark as “my family” and others as our “extended family”.(10-11)

Sorry, Mom and Dad. I have to cleave to Steven. You’re my extended family now. No word on if the dude’s parents are family or “extended family” though.

Sometimes Driscoll’s treatment of his wife is disgusting, but the reader is clearly meant to side with him:

In this season we shifted into ministry-and-family mode, neglecting our intimacy and failing to work through our issues. This became apparent to me when my pregnant wife came home from a hair appointment with her previously long hair (that I loved) chopped off and replaced with a short, mommish haircut. She asked what I thought, and could tell from the look on my face. She had put a mom’s need for convenience before being a wife. She wept. (11)

Yep. SHE’s wrong for cutting her hair and putting “mom” before “wife” or “my happiness” before “being attractive to my husband.” Your short hair is why you can’t keep a man, ladies. You are right to weep.

Then God grants Driscoll a vivid dream about his wife cheating on him when she was 17, and she later admits that IT WAS TRUE. Then he shuts her out for ten years as punishment for something she did when she was 17, repeating multiple times that, had he known, he would never have married her. Driscoll paints himself as a victimized martyr through all this:

So I put my head down, kept my pants on, and decided not to be the porn or masturbation or adultery guy (13)

Props for not becoming “the adultery guy,” Driscoll. That was so big of you.

Also, my favorite thing I learned from this book:

Emotional adultery is having as your close friend someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. (25)




Near the end of the book, Driscoll addresses the most common sex advice questions he gets from Christians, asking whether certain things (porn, sex toys, etc) are okay or not from a Biblical standpoint. This section was surprisingly boring, and I can sum it up in chart form:


All in all, this book was fun to read aloud, especially to an engaged couple I was counseling as a dutiful wedding officiant. This book didn’t really shock me with its contents, I guess because I kind of knew what to expect going in. Sadly, nothing about it really lived up to a “penis homes” level of ridic, so my reaction was just generally:


Don’t forget to read Brian’s writeup here.

Yay Hate Book Club!!!!


Challenged Books: The Popularity Papers

Hey team!

Sorry I have been failing at my 2014 goal of posting a blogpost every week. Moving is stressful and I’ve lacked the internet for 5 days now (currently at the library like a cool kid)! And I’m mainly posting this just to prove that I did in fact read a challenged book each week of September.

The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

This book was super cute!! It reminded me a lot of the Ameila’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss I remember buying from my elementary school book fair, full of hand-drawn pictures and text to look like handwriting. The story chronicles two 5th grade girls’ attempts to watch the popular girls and figure out how to become popular themselves. It’s pretty standard older-elementary/early-middle school themes about friendship and acceptance and maybe just discovering some boys are not gross (maybe). The only reason it was challenged was because one of the protagonists has two dads.

Previously: The Bluest Eye and The Color Purple

Challenged Books: The Bluest Eye and The Color Purple

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Recently East Wake High School, about 30 minutes from my apartment, banned the use of The Bluest Eye in English classrooms after parental complaints, and relegated The Color Purple to alternate assignment lists. I hadn’t read either of these before, and I was excited for the excuse to get some more Toni Morrison in my life. In the end, I think I liked Alice Walker better, but I can see why these books are often taught together, as they treat similar themes in different ways.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I get why some people objected to these books. They deal with serious topics and harsh realities that we wish didn’t exist. You should feel uncomfortable reading these books, because the reality experienced by the characters is upsetting. It’s not the kind of book someone picks up for a fun escape, and therefore might be largely ignored for the majority of casual readers outside a classroom context. And I think that’s why it’s important for books like these to be read. For anyone dealing with the issues of poverty, racism, and abuse in their own lives, it’s important to see themselves in literature, realize that they’re struggles aren’t their’s alone. Breaking free of the isolating nature of these problems is the first step to overcoming them. For any of us lucky enough not to have to face those issues firsthand, books like these teach us empathy. It’s one thing to read statistics or factual reports about other people’s problems, but works of fiction can get us to feel for them and really understand their lives in ways that news reports often can’t. I really think the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position is one of the greatest assets to becoming a compassionate human, and reading literature outside of our comfort zone is an important way to gain that skill. That’s why I’m grateful to my high school curriculum, for assigning books I definitely would not have picked up on my own even though I’m an avid reader, about characters whose lives were so distant from mine that their struggles shouldn’t have been able to touch me. Good writers can take us outside our own narrow experience and broaden our worldview in a way that’s needed more than ever as society becomes more interconnected and global.

So, I’m sad that these books won’t be able to change lives, but I’m happy that the controversy at least let them change mine.

Previously: A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl

Challenged Books: A Bad Boy Can be Good For A Girl

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

I thought I’d start my Banned Books month with this book, because it was a quick read and challenged right here in North Carolina! A mother wanted it removed from the Currituck High School library because of its “pornographic” nature. By that I assume she means that some people have vague sex. The challenge went all the way to the Currituck County Board of Education, which voted 4-1 to retain the book.

I’m really glad, because I think some girls truly need this book. It’s not just about sex–although, really, what teen hasn’t felt pressure to have sex/not have sex and wondered the best way to deal with it? This book shows three different girls dealing with the same player senior boy in different ways. All of them get hurt, but all of them also come out stronger. That’s why a bad boy can be good for a girl.

I hope
next time
(because, unfortunately, you know there’s going to be
a next time),
I’ll be smarter.
Oh god, please let me act
as smart as
I am. (67)

I really like this message. Yeah, you fell too hard for a guy who didn’t deserve you. He took advantage of you and then left you. Maybe that was a mistake, but you’ve just got to learn from it and move on. I really love how Stone captures perfectly the feeling of being emotionally manipulated:

but also how totally
he made me feel.
I’m hoping that by remembering that,
as much as I’d like to forget it,
it’ll help keep me from ever
letting a boy
make me feel like
again. (71)

By describing the experience so poignantly, and then showing a character moving on and becoming stronger from it, Stone hopefully gives other girls hope. You are not alone. You’re not “stupid” or wrong because some guy manipulated you. Even if he was just using you for sex but you liked the sex, that doesn’t make you a bad person:

Am I a whore because I like sex? Or because I did it too soon? Or too much? Nobody ever calls boys whores. Why is that? (141)

I think this is why the book was challenged. Not all of the girls give in to the “bad boy”‘s manipulation and agree to have sex with him. Not all of them really regret the sex either. Calling out this double standard of male player/female whore is so important to avoid a lot of unnecessary angst, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction.

The book also has some surprisingly real Real Talk about this, the difference that still exists between societal views of men and women as sexual creatures. How men and boys are encouraged to be predatory, viewing women as sexual objects instead of people to connect with:

“What, it’s a sin to tell a guy how you feel?” I’m really crying now.

“No, of course not, but you really should wait for him to say it first,” she says.

“Why? That’s so stupid! And I don’t even know if I meant it, it’s just–how do you make love and then not say ‘I love you’?” I blubber.

“Sweetie, we call it making love, they don’t,” she says.

The phrase “nail her” flashes
like a huge neon sign in my brain.

I definitely think I’m going to throw up.(205)

Ahhhhhhhh this really happens so often, especially to girls just discovering their sexuality or first relationships, before experience makes them wary. And it sucks that we need a whole book to warn girls and help them deal, but you know this has helped so many readers, just like the girls help each other in the story:

“Can I help you?” I say.
“No, but I’m hoping I can help you… because it wasn’t your fault,” she says.

I try to say “I know that,”
but I’m choking on my words through the tears.
She definitely hit a nerve.(215)

The girls in the book gain a sort of camaraderie after seeking each other out and seeing that the same boy used the same techniques on all of them before dumping them immediately after getting what he wanted. Seeing that they weren’t alone, and that “it wasn’t your fault”, is incredibly important because society tends to put the majority of blame on women, even when they are the victims of sex crimes. Though this book doesn’t address rape, it definitely includes emotional and sexual manipulation, and a boy spouting off the normal bullshit boys this age always try. “I need it,” “we’ve been together so long,” “you can’t just leave me like this”… all to say, one way or another, “you owe this to me.” And then, whether she gives in to the guilt or not, she ends up abandoned and usually shamed by the rest of the school for being a “slut”. This bullshit happens all the time, and the only way to make it stop is to address it honestly, in conversations and in books like this.

The more I read, the more I realize
I’m not alone.
And it helps.
It really
helps. (217)

That’s why it’s important for this book to stay in the library. Not talking about these problems only makes them worse.

Also, my copy of this book had an amazing commentary someone has written in after Part 1:

Seeing someone called A BUT is like a flashback to Middle School Patricia. Although she knew how to spell it

Seeing someone called A BUT is like a flashback to Middle School Patricia. Although she knew how to spell it

this is a bout a gril Named Josie going out with a guy and he is jest useing Josie. So he is a toldle but!!! then they Break UP. the End

Previously: Banned Books Week 2014

Banned Books Week 2014!

You know I am already getting pumped for Banned Books Week September 21st-27th. It’s the only thing that reigns in my Halloween enthusiasm till a more appropriate time. I think I’ve shared the 2013 Most Frequently Challenged Book List with you before, but here it is again:

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

Each year the ALA also puts out a more informative list with examples and more details about the cases as part of the press kit. This year’s list concerns challenges from May 2013 to March 2014, and I went through and listed them all out in spreadsheet form to see how many I had already read (you know I love a good spreadsheet). This year, I’d already read 10 of the 28 titles listed, and here they are:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I listened to the audiobook (read by the author) which I still think is the best way to enjoy this book. My writeup of it is here.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
We read selections from this book in 7th grade, but, like most of the girls in my class, I ended up checking the real book out from the library (particularly after hearing about how there were BOOBS in it–the very section usually brought up in its challenges)
Bless Me, Ultima by Rodolfo Anaya
I read this in a young adult lit class during a section on banned books. I guess because if you practice a religion other than straight-up, mainline Christianity, someone’s going to have a problem with it.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I read this last year as part of my 200 books! It even made the Pretty List! Rainbow Rowell’s depiction of an abusive stepfather and poverty are scarily real. So by all means let’s restrict access for kids it might actually help.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I read this in Scotland when I had copious free time, little money, and access to only an academic library.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
I HAD A TEST ON THIS BOOK ON THE 3RD DAY OF SCHOOL, 11TH GRADE. Because St. Pete IB was hardcore about their summer reading list, once upon a time. House of the Spirits is my go to book for “naughtiest thing I read for school” due to all the sex and rape and reanimated mummy porn and whatnot. I usually follow this with “… and if I’m not scarred for life, I think whoever is reading The Awakening right now will be fine.” I was SO THRILLED to learn that other schools are getting their magical realist game on. This was the first magical realist text I ever read. Never looked back
Intensely Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
I read the whole Alice series two years ago because they end up on these lists so often. I can’t say I found any of them very shocking, but a bunch of them did end up on my Ugly List that year.
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
This is a picture book about an Iraqi librarian trying to save the books in the library from fire/bombing during the Iraq War. The illustrations are beautiful! And, of course, it’s a true story.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I read this for this project like four years ago before it was a movie or anything! Remember how we had a heart to heart about it? And Brian’s comments were flagged by my homophobic spam filter? Truly a simpler time.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I think I read this for a graphic novel project? This was actually my favorite case I read about in the press kit this year. Here is the quote of the story:

Removed, via a district directive, from all Chicago, Ill. public schools (2013) due to “graphic illustrations and language” and concerns about “developmental preparedness” and “student readiness.” Seventh- and eleventh-grade students study the graphic novel about the author’s experience growing up in Iran during the Iranian revolution as part of Chicago Public Schools’ Literacy Content Framework. As the news spread of the directive, students mobilized a media campaign in opposition to “banning a book that’s all about the freedom of speech.” Students took to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, checked out all library copies of the book, wrote blogs, sent e-mails, wrote investigative articles for the student newspaper, contacted the author, staged protests, and appeared on local radio and television programs. Eventually the school issued a letter telling high school principals to disregard the earlier order to pull the book.

I love this one the most because when you research cases of books being challenged, you hear a lot from angry parents, some from defensive librarians and teachers, and, most of the time, absolutely nothing from actual students. I love that these students recognized this hypocrisy, and cared enough to do something about it! But I also love hearing their opinion about the book challenge in general, since the literature’s effect on them is the whole point of all of this.

Anyway, of the challenges I read about this year, I decided to concentrate first on those challenged around here, in North Carolina. Which is timely because there was just an article in the paper about The Bluest Eye being pulled right here in my county! Stay tuned.

Library Book Drop: A Magical Portal

Yesterday I was emptying the library’s outdoor book drop when I found a mysterious folded paper:

What could be inside?

What could be inside?

I started to unfold it:

A promising beginning

A promising beginning

And a little more:

Oh my god yes

Oh my god yes

Husky and Timber Wolf of Mine, come to me as a tiny pup. I summon my newborn companion creature SO MOTE IT BE.

I am ALL ABOUT this.

Some more deets on this "companion creature"

Some more deets on this “companion creature”

NAME: Atlas
Height: About 2 1/2 feet
What he eats: Sunlight; his fur absorbs the sun’s energy, turning it into food
Temperament: Playful
Personality: He is very friendly, yet brave; he is also very curious
Eye color: Light blue
Breed of wolf: Timber wolf and husky hybrid
Powers: his saliva can heal things very fast; he can fly w his wings; He can become a spirit so that no one can see him but me.

Timber husky hybrid that eats sunlight??? YES But the best part:

Someone worked way hard on this!

Someone worked way hard on this!

But why did I find this in the library book drop? Was it thrown in there by accident? Or did this hopeful wolf-hybrid-owner think that the best way to seal a ~mystical spell~ was to toss it in the library book drop? For all I know, it is, and she is even now cavorting with a flying wolf. You heard it here first: library book drops are magical portals to awesome.

Related: That time a witch wrote me a letter

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