Saturday, October 2, 2010

Genre Reading Group recap - banned/challenged books

I thought this was one of the group’s most enjoyable discussions! The topic itself was ideal for bringing to the table a truly diverse group of books and the varying perspectives of the readers made it practically magical! Really! Doesn’t this sound like a group you’d love to join? Contact me for more information, 205/445-1117 or!

Next month’s topic is Fiction from Alabama Authors. The meeting date was moved by a few days to avoid a large children’s program scheduled on that Tuesday night, so the official October meeting date is now Thursday the 28th, 6:30pm! Please mark it on your calendars if you are planning to join us! I have a selection of books pulled for your convenience though, of course, you are free to research your own!

What we read:

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Bella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear.

The reader thoroughly enjoyed the book and has now gone on to read the entire series, which concludes with New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.

There was quite a bit of discussion about Twilight at the meeting. It is fast becoming, or more likely has already become, a solid part of popular culture and the opinions, good and bad, fly fast and furious still. My circle of friends are divided and I'm okay with that. As for my personal opinion, I am a huge fan of the saga. In keeping with that, here is an article that came out in The Atlantic magazine in late 2008 concerning the Twilight phenomena and adolescent (and some not so adolescent) girls.

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
Welcome to New York City's Upper East Side, where my friends and I live, go to school, play, and sleep--sometimes with each other. S is back from boarding school, and if we aren't careful, she's going to win over our teachers, wear that dress we couldn't fit into, steal our boyfriends' hearts, and basically ruin our lives in a major way. I'll be watching closely...You know you love me, gossip girl.

The reader did not enjoy this book and did not finish it.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
For this novel of French bourgeois life in all its inglorious banality, Flaubert invented a paradoxically original and wholly modern style. His heroine, Emma Bovary, a bored provincial housewife, abandons her husband to pursue the libertine Rodolphe in a desperate love affair. A succès de scandale in its day, Madame Bovary remains a powerful and arousing novel.

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a nearly hopeless situation, partly because they were trapped in the Dust Bowl, they set out for California along with thousands of other "Okies" in search of land, jobs and dignity.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice—but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, The Scarlet Letter tells the story of Hester Prynne, who gives birth after committing adultery and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple is the story of two sisters—one a missionary to Africa and the other a child wife living in the South—who remain loyal to one another across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Samuel Clemens
When we first met "the pariah of the village . . .the son of the drunkard" in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom was "under strict orders not to play with him", so he played with him every time he got the chance. Twain took his most outrageous and outcast character (and perhaps the one he loved the most), Huckleberry Finn, from the book and wrote his own adventures.

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
In 16th century Venice, when a merchant must default on a large loan from an abused Jewish moneylender for a friend with romantic ambitions, the bitterly vengeful creditor demands a gruesome payment instead.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Come in . . . for where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein's world begins. You'll meet a boy who turns into a TV set, and a girl who eats a whale. The Unicorn and the Bloath live there, and so does Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. It is a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist. Shel Silverstein's masterful collection of poems and drawings is at once outrageously funny and profound.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Here in the attic of Shel Silverstein you will find Backward Bill, Sour Face Ann, the Meehoo With an Exactlywatt, and the Polar Bear in the Frigidaire. You will talk with the Broiled Face, and find out what happens when someone steals your knees, you get caught by the Quick-Digesting Gink, a mountain snores, and they’ve put a brassiere on the camel.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The wickedly funny debut novel from master storyteller J.K. Rowling tells the story of Harry Potter who, having endured 11 miserable years with his hideous aunt and uncle, is invited on his 11th birthday to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he learns of his distinguished wizard pedigree—and his frightening destiny.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In The Great Gatsby's nine chapters, Fitzgerald presents the rise and fall of Jay Gatsby, as related in a first-person narrative by Nick Carraway. Carraway reveals the story of a farmer's son-turned racketeer, named Jay Gatz. His ill-gotten wealth is acquired solely to gain acceptance into the sophisticated, moneyed world of the woman he loves, Daisy Fay Buchanan. His romantic illusions about the power of money to buy respectability and the love of Daisy—the “golden girl” of his dreams—are skillfully and ironically interwoven with episodes that depict what Fitzgerald viewed as the callousness and moral irresponsibility of the affluent American society of the 1920s.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Diary of a Young Girl is the record of two years in the life of a remarkable Jewish girl whose triumphant humanity in the face of unfathomable deprivation and fear has made the book one of the most enduring documents of our time.

The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
This story was written by Bannerman, a Scot, while living in India. Although the book doesn't contain any racial overtones, it has been known as a controversial book due to the original illustrations in early European and American editions which gave the character an African look. In reality, this popular fairy tale is about a young boy in India and his adventures.

Dick and Jane by William S. Gray
William S. Gray, Professor of Education and Dean of the College of Education at the University of Chicago, began work in 1929 on a major revision of the "Elson Readers," a popular basal series published by Scott, Foresman and Company. Organized around the daily life of two ordinary children, the Dick and Jane readers ultimately became the most widely used reading books in the country.

Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor
Andersonville is a novel concerning the Confederate prisoner-of-war camp, Andersonville prison, during the American Civil War (1861–1865). The novel was originally published in 1955, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Gone With the Wind is a sweeping, romantic story about the American Civil War from the point of view of the Confederacy. In particular it is the story of Scarlett O'Hara, a headstrong Southern belle who survives the hardships of the war and afterwards manages to establish a successful business by capitalizing on the struggle to rebuild the South. Throughout the book she is motivated by her unfulfilled love for Ashley Wilkes, an honorable man who is happily married. After a series of marriages and failed relationships with other men, notably the dashing Rhett Butler, she has a change of heart and determines to win Rhett back.

Sequels sanctioned by Mitchell’s estate: Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley and Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Published in 1937, it tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California. Based on Steinbeck's own experiences as a bindlestiff in the 1920s (before the arrival of the Okies he would vividly describe in The Grapes of Wrath), the title is taken from Robert Burns's poem, To a Mouse, which reads: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry.)

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
This mesmerizing portrait of a proud man who, through three decades and successive repressive regimes, heroically braved persecution to bring books to the people of Kabul has elicited extraordinary praise throughout the world and become a phenomenal international bestseller. The Bookseller of Kabul is startling in its intimacy and its details - a revelation of the plight of Afghan women and a window into the surprising realities of daily life in today's Afghanistan.

The reader mentioned that the book does not leave a very flattering portrayal of the Afghan people and encouraged further reading about the culture and people of Afghanistan to gain a more balanced view. Greg Mortensen’s Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools were mentioned specifically.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole life has been one big non-event. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-butboring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into a new life, and steals his heart. After. Nothing is ever the same.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway's most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions.

Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Ben Wolf has big things planned for his senior year. Had big things planned. Now what he has is some very bad news and only one year left to make his mark on the world. How can a pint-sized, smart-ass seventeen-year-old do anything significant in the nowheresville of Trout, Idaho? First, Ben makes sure that no one else knows what is going on—not his superstar quarterback brother, Cody, not his parents, not his coach, no one. Next, he decides to become the best 127-pound football player Trout High has ever seen; to give his close-minded civics teacher a daily migraine; and to help the local drunk clean up his act. And then there's Dallas Suzuki. Amazingly perfect, fascinating Dallas Suzuki, who may or may not give Ben the time of day. Really, she's first on the list.

Living with a secret isn't easy, though, and Ben's resolve begins to crumble . . . especially when he realizes that he isn't the only person in Trout with secrets.

Happy reading,


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