A blog for all things personal, informational, educational, and fun.
Here at my personal blog Thoughts & Things, I share a wide variety of, you guessed it, thoughts and things. Anything that sparks my interest is up for discussion. For those who are uncertain of what that might cover, I'll generally talk about reading, writing, books, movies, music, games, history, current events, and feminism. I talk about my personal emotional and health struggles from time to time. I'm also a big fan of lists.|
This is the place here at WDC where you can get to know me best, as I talk about the things that interest me, impact me, and amuse me.
|We've come to the end of banned books week. I hope everyone has had it on their minds. We can always make an effort to read banned books, fight book challenges, and speak up in favour of putting books into people's hands rather than ripping the books away.
One thing that has always cut me to my core when it comes to book bans is the concept of banning memoirs, autobiographical stories, and fiction stories based on things people actually go through. The idea that a person's actual life is too graphic to be exposed to the public is absolutely absurd. If anything, it is vital that stories like this be shared so that others experiencing it have something to connect to.
It's common to see places like high schools challenging the presence of books that feature issues like racism, homophobia, rape, abuse, drugs, alcohol, war, etc. I can understand the urge to protect kids, but shielding them from issues they could very well be facing in their real lives could do real damage. A book could be the only way they learn they aren't alone, the way they come to terms with something that happened to them, the way they understand what is happening to a friend, the way they come to understand the world.
There is this constant need to protect children from learning about things they might already be experiencing. We fail to teach children how to deal with complicated situations, which leads to our failing children altogether. When children hit puberty without knowing what's happening to their bodies, we've failed them. When children experience things that make them feel alone and have no reference point to turn to, we've failed them. When children can't see themselves reflected in the books they're reading, we've failed them. We can teach children about difficult subjects without giving them age inappropriate materials. The subject being difficult does not make the book inherently inappropriate.
Books are our connection to other lives like our own. Books are a way we can forge a connection with lives vastly different from our own. When real experiences are reflected in a book, we all benefit. To say that an experience in a book is too mature for children who are already experiencing those things can only bring harm. We must spread knowledge and love through literature.
|Today is the second day of Banned Books Week. Books that are banned or challenged (a challenge is when someone attempts to have a book banned) can often be taken right from the hands of those who need them the most. Rather than thinking critically, many people choose to attack the books instead. Some authors are particularly adept at writing about ideas that make people uncomfortable, and so we end up with a number of names who consistently make lists of banned books.
To compile this list, I referenced the ALA's list of the 100 frequently most challenged or banned books for the 1990s, and the equivalent 100 list for the 2000s. While books have been banned much further back than the 1990s, and much more recently than the 2000s, these are the tidiest sources for frequently banned books. There are other authors with multiple books that have been banned, but today we will look at just ten notables.
From the very beginning of her career as an author in the 1990s until present, many people have striven towards the banning of Rowling's complete Harry Potter series, which consists of seven books. The reasons behind this seem to be frequently cited as promoting witchcraft and satanism. The challenges put up by majority Christian objectors have done little to nothing to stymie the popularity of the series.
Any child of the 90s might recall Schwartz's Scary Stories series, which started with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. In both the 90s and 00s, this series managed to make the top 100 most challenged or banned books list for being too scary for the targeted age group. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat also made the list for the 90s, as it talked about superstitions.
Morrison's books often tell stories featuring hard hitting issues, such as racism, child abuse, and slavery. Although these issues are tackled with an unparalleled literary grace, many people have attempted to have her works banned for being too graphic. The Bluest Eye, Beloved, and Son of Solomon were all among the most banned books in the 90s and 00s.
Caroline B. Cooney
Cooney has made a career out of providing darker mysteries for a younger audience (MG or YA typically), however many parents believe her work is simply too dark for a younger audience. Face On The Milk Carton has faced challenges and bans since its publication in 1990. The Terrorist, first published in 1997, faced challenges in the 00s due to allegations of racism (and acts as a fine example of banned books not necessarily making for quality literature).
Paterson is best known for her moving novel Bridge to Terabithia.Bridge to Terabithia also happens to be a target for censors, usually either because they believe death is too difficult a topic for children, or for religious reasons. The Great Gilly Hopkins, although slightly less known, makes the list for both decades as well, as the main character has a slight potty mouth.
R.L. Stine is well known for his ability to produce horror stories for a middle grade or young adult audience. Goosebumps is a childhood staple, particularly of the 90s and 00s, so naturally the series was a target for bans in both decades. Many parents believed that the entire series was entirely too frightening for children, while other parents attacked the series for featuring occult or satanic themes.
Horror for adults is not off the hook when it comes to censorship either. King has found himself subject to book challenges and bans for most of his career. In the 1990s, he actually had four books make the top 100; Cujo, Carrie, the Dead Zone, and Christine. Reasons for challenges often seem to come down to "filthy" language, and his content being "inappropriate" for children.
Lowry has written many books for middle grade and young adult audiences, many of which deal with serious issues. The Giver is one of her best known books, and it was among the top 100 banned or challenged books for both the 90s and the 00s. Typically it is challenged because people believe it is violent or inappropriate for children. Lowry's Anastasia series (starting with the first book Anastasia Krupnik) also faced censorship due to references to beer, Playboy, and suicide.
Roald Dahl is one of the classic authors of children's literature, so naturally many of his books faced book challenges or bans, and they did so many times. In the 1990s, two of his books managed to make the top 100 list of the most challenged or banned books of the decade. James and the Giant Peach was challenged for teaching children to disobey their parents and using the word "ass." The Witches was challenged for promoting misogyny by depicting witches as women / women as witches.
Judy Blume has a rather impressive record of writing books that middle grade and young adult readers connect with that adults can't help but attempt to censor. In the 90s, Forever, Blubber, Deenie, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, and Tiger Eyes were all listed among the top 100 most challenged books. In the 00s, all of the previous books, except Deenie, made the top 100 list for the decade. Although the books deal with issues that kids face in their real lives, those who challenge the books deem them age inappropriate because real issues are too emotionally challenging for children to read about.
|September 24 through to September 30 allows us to celebrate Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week is not about celebrating the concept of banning books, to be clear, it is about celebrating our freedom to read whatever we should choose to read. Books are primarily challenged when the ideas within the books themselves are challenging ones. I have spoken out about the concept of banning books in the past ("Celebrating The Freedom To Read" or "Banned Books Week" or "Banned Books Week: Five Awful Reasons Books Are Banned" ), because it is a topic that is very dear to me, and I genuinely believe that if we all spoke out against book bans and challenges, the world would be a better place. With that in mind, today I share a list of ten quotes opposing the banning of books in some way, all said by people far more eloquent than I.
“A dangerous book will always be in danger from those it threatens with the demand that they question their assumptions. They’d rather hang on to the assumptions and ban the book.” - Ursula K. Le Guin
“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame." - Oscar Wilde
"Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear." - Judy Blume
“A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.” - Albert Camus
“The burning of a book is a sad, sad sight, for even though a book is nothing but ink and paper, it feels as if the ideas contained in the book are disappearing as the pages turn to ashes and the cover and binding-which is the term for the stitching and glue that holds the pages together-blacken and curl as the flames do their wicked work. When someone is burning a book, they are showing utter contempt for all of the thinking that produced its ideas, all of the labor that went into its words and sentences, and all of the trouble that befell the author...” - Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril
"Because if you don't stand up for the stuff you don't like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you've already lost." - Neil Gaiman
"But censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them." - Laurie Halse Anderson
"We have always liked banning. And Hitler and his cohorts started banning books and then to killing people. You have got to be very careful of banning. What you ban is not going to hurt anybody, usually. But the act of banning is.” - Madeleine L'engle
"“Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”" - Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala
“These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors." - John F. Kennedy
|For the third year in a row, I have attended Forest City Comic-Con in London, Ontario. It's a fairly decent sized convention, especially given that it is outside of the Greater Toronto Area, and especially given that it is not the city's largest annual comic-con (that would be London Comic-Con). For the third year in a row, I have had an absolute blast, despite how physically draining they can be for me.
The three guests I was most excited about were Amber Nash (the voice of Pam Poovey in Archer), Billy Boyd (Pippin in Lord of the Rings), and Jeff Lemire (comic writer and artist, best known for works such as Sweet Tooth, Descender, and Essex County). Amber Nash was absolutely hilarious, with numerous stories to tell as she drank a glass of wine. Billy Boyd is a childhood crush of mine, so it was quite the novelty to see him in person; as well, he was charmingly hilarious, and was served "second breakfast" by the convention. Jeff Lemire's panel was much more low key, but he answered all of the questions well, and he later signed my copy of Descender (addressed to Eliza-Bot, as it is a comic with robots).
My favourite part of any and every gathering of nerds, is talking to other nerds, and being able to support lesser known projects. I have talked, on more than one occasion, about how much I enjoy supporting lesser known writers and artists (for example, "Supporting the Underdog Books" or "Supporting Local Talent" ), and conventions are one of the best places to do this. Small local vendors are selling their products (usually with good deals on), independent artists and writers are there to represent and sell their work, and there always seems to be a little something for everybody. I was able to find comics and art that I might never have found on my own, and buy it for an affordable price, all while interacting with the creators of those projects. I was able to see friendly faces that I recognised from previous conventions, such as artists and writers that I had bought books or art from before. It's an amazing way to connect with creators, find something new and amazing, and get some good deals along with it. It's also something to consider for any writers or artists who might be considering making an appearance at conventions as a creator. For some of us, that is among the best part of the day.
Although I ended up having to leave earlier than I wanted to for health reasons (and I had really been hoping to see the 404s improv comedy group again, but had to leave before their show), I had an absolutely wonderful time. It feels so good to connect with like-minded people, discover new books and art, see a few famous faces, and come home with some new swag. If you've ever wondered if a comic-con is for you, I personally can't recommend them enough.
|Late last night, September 19, my baby sister (age 21 to be clear) gave birth to her first child, my only niece! I couldn't be more thrilled to have this sweet baby girl in my life. She's such a small thing, not quite six and a half pounds, but she's absolutely gorgeous and perfect. I started spoiling her months ago, but I look forward to spoiling her more now that she's here. I adore babies, and I adore this one even more since she is family. My poor sister had to go through thirty hours of contractions, and I'm hoping she feels better soon.
I got her bottles, pacifiers, cute outfits, a grooming and healthcare set, baby shampoo/body wash, etc. I also took my sister out for lunch, a movie, and a pedicure, because mums deserve some spoiling too. Mostly though, I am a total dork, so I actually bought her a baby bookshelf, complete with dozens of baby books. DC superhero board books, classic Robert Munsch paperbacks, dinosaur books, bedtime stories, half a dozen Beatrix Potter tales, and all sorts of books that my sister and I remember from childhood like Franklin, Berenstain Bears, Curious George, Paddington, and many others. I still have a few things on order. I'm waiting on Stolen Words by Melanie Florence (which is brand new and seems quite wonderful), a board book copy of Are You My Mother? by PD Eastman (one of my personal favourites from childhood), and a lovely plush bunny, all of which I am eager to gift to the sweet sugar plum that is my niece.
The chaos of this week has led to some decreased writing time between new baby and doctor's appointments, but I hope you lovely folks will hear lots from me in the weeks coming. One of my city's comic-cons is on Saturday, and Banned Books Week starts Sunday, so I will undoubtedly have lots to share. I am also working on some more sizable projects that I hope I can share with you soon.
|When I was in high school, I moved around a lot. That meant that I switched schools a lot. There was little consistency between schools regarding what books were being taught and when. What I'm trying to say is that I formally studied Romeo & Juliet four times. I have read it repeatedly, watched several film adaptations, and seen it performed on stage. This has led to some less conventional, warped opinions of Romeo & Juliet.
First off, while the classic definitions of comedy and tragedy marks this as a tragedy because the characters don't receive their happy endings, the modern definitions of comedy and tragedy mark Romeo and Juliet as a comedy. Seriously. It's hilarious. The opening scene features rude gestures and virginity jokes. Jokes abound throughout. Then everyone dies. You can't tell me that wasn't meant to be at least a little bit funny on an intentional level. Everyone. Everyone dies. It's surely a blacker variety of comedy, but comedy nonetheless.
Then take a look at Romeo. Romeo is a teenage boy who kicks off the play in love with someone other than Juliet. Then he decides that the younger Juliet is the girl for him, abandons all thought of the previous girl, and elopes with Juliet. Then he murders her cousin, like any true hero of the story would. He is banished for his crimes. Juliet fakes her own death, but not before sending word to Romeo. Of course, Romeo doesn't wait for official news statements or anything, he listens to gossip, and buys up some poison. Then he kills people on the way to Juliet's crypt (because killing people is the one thing Romeo is competent at), and ultimately poisons himself. Juliet wakes up to her dead husband on the floor, and as any emotional thirteen year old widow might, takes her own life. Everyone is sad. Romeo's mother also commits suicide. Romeo is ultimately responsible for a dozen deaths. "Everything is Romeo's fault" was the thesis of my ninth grade paper (which I aced, by the way).
Of course, the whole thing is only able to happen because of teenagers being teenagers. They jump from one love to the next with little thought. They get married in a fit of teenage rebellion so they can get laid (which the 1968 film--the only Romeo and Juliet film worth watching--actually addresses). They fall in and out of love with little thought, they act impulsively, they do things without thinking, Romeo gets into fights, and so on. They couldn't act more teenager-y if they tried.
Ultimately, Romeo and Juliet were impulsive teenagers who were never meant to be together at all (star-crossed means that they went against fate to do so, and they paid the price for that). Rash actions lead to over the top consequences. It is darkly hilarious. I have no idea how it ever came to be considered a great romance.
|Everyone loves to cheer for the underdog. I think it makes us feel like we can make it in our own endeavors too. The success of a regular person feels like our own success. The best way to cheer for an underdog is to actively support the underdog. With a "do unto others" mentality, we can support each other, support other writers, by carefully choosing what books we buy, what we talk about, what we share, and so on.
One of the best ways to support the underdog books is by starting with local talent. I previously wrote a post about this, "Supporting Local Talent" . Many independent book stores will sell books from local writers, and I have personally found that this is particularly true of comic book stores. Some local libraries will also offer displays of local writers' books, or feature the books with a sticker indicating that they are local. Some libraries and book stores, independent and chains, will also feature local writers for a Q&A and/or book signing. Conventions will also often feature local writers who offer up copies of their books, as well as signings.
We can also support underdog books on a global scale. Small, independent publishers typically have websites where you can purchase the books directly from the publisher. Many websites will feature lists of small presses or of books published by small presses to give you an idea of where to start, such as lists found here , here , and here . There is also a whole new market for self-published books, which can be purchased with ease through websites like Amazon.
On an even more specific level, we can support the underdogs by going through websites like Kickstarter and Patreon. Patreon is best used to support writers who release ongoing work, such as through a blog, website, webcomic, etc. Kickstarter is a wonderful place for you to back works that have yet to even be released. You can find unique projects for specific fiction, nonfiction, comics, magazines, poetry, and more (such as non-book items, but that's not what I am speaking of at the moment). You can find projects with unique ideas, projects from people of diverse backgrounds, and even projects that are for charitable causes (such as the kickstarter right now for a comics collection to benefit Planned Parenthood).
We can also pay close attention to sites like Writing.Com, other writing sites, or writing facebook pages. This allows us to take note when other writers we may have connected with happen to be getting published. This allows us to support those within our own community. We can all help each other succeed simply by paying attention.
We can also all contribute in ways that are not financial. We may not always have the means to buy a new book, but we can always share links, let our other friends know what's up, borrow the book from the library or request that the library purchase the book, and so on. When we do have the chance to purchase or borrow a book, we can rate and review that book to let others know about it.
There are so many ways that we can contribute to helping out the underdog books. Whether this is financial or word of mouth, we can all lend a hand to our fellow writers and bolster our own community. Even for folks who are not writers, this is a way to help out the underdog in general. We've all been the underdog at one point or another. Let's do what we can to help each other out.
|Many nonfiction books fail to be engaging. Anyone who reads nonfiction has definitely come across this. Even those who don't read nonfiction by choice have likely come across a school book that failed to engage them. Subjects that are considered "boring" are even more likely to fall into this trap. That said, young adult nonfiction specifically has vast numbers of authors who understand that to engage most teenagers, you need to do more than simply state the facts. Fortunately, this makes non-fiction more readable for people of all ages.
To make nonfiction work for a broad audience, you have to captivate them. There will be people who are already interested in the topic, and will read because of that interest, but a quality nonfiction book should manage to make people who are unfamiliar with the topic newly interested in it. Young adult books specifically are geared towards those who have limited background knowledge on the subject at hand. In addition, teenagers can be acutely aware when someone is speaking down to them. Young adult nonfiction has to captivate a new audience, without making them feel stupid or uninformed. Poorly done young adult nonfiction can drive an entire audience away from the category, but well done young adult nonfiction can educate an audience while also bringing teenagers towards a genre they might not otherwise read.
There are two ways that YA nonfiction can best capture the attention of its audience, in my opinion. The first is by creating an introductory list. I am a big fan of lists (see: "Five Reasons I Love Lists" ), personally, so I may be slightly biased, but lists can introduce an audience to a topic to a new audience in an interesting and concise way. Books such as Fight Like A Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed The World or Scandalous!: 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About present multiple ideas in interconnected ways at an introductory level. These types of books are often written in an almost blog-like style that targets younger audiences specifically, but also works well for anyone looking for something a bit more informal. The facts are straightforward, and the overall books give you the chance to become interested in a topic you might not otherwise have heard about. If something catches your eye, you have the chance to find a book about that topic specifically.
The second way is through a complete narrative. A single book can cover a full event, person, concept in a narrative fashion, often in a short time frame. Using first hand accounts, photography, art, graphs, etc, a story can connect to an audience in a way that feels involved. This type of nonfiction can cover the roots of a particular event, person, concept, thereby introducing the audience to the full picture. You don't need background information for these types of stories, which makes them ideal for a younger audience, or even simply a person who is new to the topic. Books such as Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy or They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group show stories from their roots, through their events, and into the future. Although the audience may be entirely new to the story, this type of introduction gives them a full look into the information at hand, without ever making them feel like the author has over-explained things to them.
Whether you are part of the core target audience of young adult nonfiction, or you are simply looking for a way to learn about something you are unfamiliar with, young adult nonfiction can open new doors. I genuinely believe that schools, libraries, the internet, everything should do a better job of promoting young adult nonfiction, which is under-read. It is a true opportunity to present new information to teenagers who might otherwise be bored by their topics. It also simply makes for enjoyable light reading of nonfiction for adults.
|I enjoy reading about odd things from history. It's a hobby I have always enjoyed, as there are a great many weird things that have happened over the years. After all, truth is stranger than fiction. I have been reading my way through the book 100 Fascinating Londoners (referring to citizens of London, Ontario, Canada, rather than London, England), and I came across a story I absolutely had to share.
In 1866, a mysterious person began breaking into houses on a regular basis. Although this person was breaking and entering, they did not steal anything from any of the homes they broke into. After going through many nicknames for this person, the press decided upon referring to them as "Slippery Jack." After several months of the crimes taking place, they stopped as suddenly as they started.
In 1867, an anonymous person claiming to be Slippery Jack made a claim in the Weekly Advertiser that he had made, and won, a wager of $500 (worth thousands of dollars in today's money) that he could break into sixty homes within the span of a year without anyone ever suspecting his true identity.
In 1888, another entry in the Weekly Advertiser, posted by an anonymous informant, revealed that Slippery Jack was, in fact, two different people. Bill Simmons and John Talbot Darnley Talbot-Crosbie would take turns breaking into the homes, that way each of them would have an alibi for at least some of the break ins. Neither man appears to have confirmed or denied these allegations.
This is honestly one of the best historical tales I have read in some time, and I absolutely had to share it. I actually have my eye on another book that mentions the same story. This has also given me some ideas for some historical fiction characters, because what better place to create fiction from than reality?
For those of you who are visual learners, or for those of you who might get some enjoyment out of a very Victorian villain, here is an image of a sketch of Slippery Jack:
|You may have noticed I had taken a bit of a break from my blog. It wasn't fully intentional, but it was absolutely necessary. I am hoping I will be able to keep it updated more regularly going forward. My primary reasons for taking this slight break are my health and activism.
As far as my health goes, I have been feeling like absolute garbage lately. I have had the worst time trying to take care of myself over the last couple of weeks, and all of my regular symptoms seem to be amplified. Today I has a gastroscopy done, which went smoothly, although I still feel pretty messed up from the sedation. I have an arrhythmia specialist appointment coming up soon, along with my annual physical with my GP. I just want to know what's wrong with me. I've been off of work for some time, and I feel more and more awful emotionally for being off work as more time passes. I feel like I am not contributing to society in any way. I feel like the longer I am off of work with no answers, the more people (my doctor included) think I am just faking it. I just want to be believed, and to have the chance to feel better, even if I can't be cured.
As far as my activism goes, I have been making more of an effort to make a strong stand in my community, despite my health making it difficult to do so. I attended an anti-hate rally in solidarity with those in Charlottesville, which featured speakers, poetry, and a pair of lovely older women leading us in 60s protest songs. This also prepared us for a more important gathering, a counter protest. Several hate groups (particularly anti-Islam hate groups) have been making a stand in my local community. A counter protest was arranged for one of their gatherings. They had about forty people show up. We had about five hundred. We were able to drown out the sound of their hate speech, even when they had a microphone. Unfortunately, it didn't stop us from seeing their signs, many of which were incredibly vile. There was a strong police presence, which ended up being fortunate as one of the people in my group was punched in the face. The day was otherwise a resounding success. Unfortunately for me, my body doesn't care if it was successful, I paid the price physically. I only wish I could attend such events without having to take specific health precautions, and without paying the price in pain, exhaustion, and loss of functionality for the days following. Despite the price I pay to be there, I will attend the next march/rally/protest happily if I am well enough to on that day (and right now that would be Take Back the Night).
The last few weeks have amounted to a lot of very necessary self-care. This has mostly been reading, with a little bit of television, film, and gaming thrown in for good measure. It has been a rough couple weeks, and I don't know that I am doing much better, but I am taking care of myself and my community. I am seeking out answers for my health, and trying my best to contribute locally while I do so. All I can do is hope for the best, but self-care for the worst.