Many of you may already know this but this week (Sept. 24 – Oct. 1) is Banned Books Week – one of my favorite weeks of the year (after Shark week natch;) So many classic, amazing books have been challenged in schools, public libraries and bookstores due to some perceived detrimental effect on society. Banned Books Week is all about remembering to fight for our freedom! To highlight this week I wanted to post the top ten challenged books from 2010 :
1) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson – this is a sweet story of two male penguins who fell in love and took care of an adopted baby together is partially based on fact! This is my pick this year for my banned books read.
2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
3) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
4) Crank, by Ellen Hopkins;
5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (Who would want to miss out on this awesome book?!)
6) Lush, by Natasha Friend;
7) What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
8 ) Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
9) Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
10) Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (I could almost get behind this one but only for horrendous writing…)
So take some time out this week to pick up a banned book and see what all the fuss is about. For more information about Banned Books Week check out the ALA’s page on it (http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm ). They are holding a virtual read out and asking people to record themselves reading from banned books. Thanks for letting me get on my little soapbox.
Now on to my review…. Every once in a great while, I get this urge, which is mostly based on guilt of being a librarian who doesn’t particularly go for the literary stuff, that I should be more “well read.” I go to all of these lists and review sites and torture myself with counting how many of the book I have not read so I can point to obvious evidence that despite my reading 1-2 books a week consistently for a good 20+years that I am not “well read.” In doing this recently I kept seeing all this stuff about Jeffrey Eugenides’ new book (the soon to be released The Marriage Plot) which included EVERYBODY saying how amazing and life changing blah ba doo blah ba doo Middlesex is. This peaked my interest so I decided to actually read a literary novel despite my worry that it would be slow and boring and deal with maybe existentialism or surrealism or some other -ism. And guess what? It was a little slow, but definitely not boring and mostly just made me think about what it means to be a woman and to be in a family. Middlesex is all about Cal Stephanides born Calliope who is genetically a hermaphrodite. In order to really understand his life, Cal takes the reader all the way back to his grandparent’s generation as they are escaping from war-torn Greece to show how this genetic mutation happened. We follow the Stephanides through their escape to America, survival in the Depression in Detroit through Cal’s awkward adolescence as a girl and eventual discovery of his condition. It is only through understanding the WHOLE family history that we can appreciate his decision to become a male and the book’s final scenes.
As I said, this book can be slow and deals with some serious issues but it is an interesting and detailed journey through this family’s history. This is a super well-written book filled with awkward, fabulous and emotionally filled moments. Being the genre reader I am, a part of me would still like that excitement you get from reading an enthralling fantasy or mystery novel but I would definitely recommend this book. I give it seven shoes because it wasn’t my absolute favorite but it was pretty darn good…a pair of clogs comfy but maybe not super fashion forward. BTW – this was a Pulitzer Prize winner if that means anything to you 😉
Three Appeals : Literary style, amazing family history, unusual subject matter
Red Flags : Sexual Situations and descriptions, some language
If you want to read more stories dealing with hermaphrodites or people dealing with bodies that feel foreign to them try :
1) Annabel by Kathleen Winter
In 1968, into the devastating, spare atmosphere of the remote coastal town of Labrador, Canada, a child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor fully girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret–the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbor and midwife, Thomasina. Though Treadway makes the difficult decision to raise the child as a boy named Wayne, the women continue to quietly nurture the boy’s female side. And as Wayne grows into adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting society of his father, his shadow-self, a girl he thinks of as “Annabel,’ is never entirely extinguished. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)
2) Sacred Country by Rose Tremain
This novel begins in rural East Anglia in 1952. At the age of six, Mary Ward has the revelation that she is in fact, someone else and will grow up to be a man eventually. One, tragic, ineradicable belief alters a life in ways unimaginable to the rest of humanity, safe within fixed genders. (taken from Fantastic Fiction)
For similar literary quality and writing styles try :
1) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
In the years just before World War II, the beginning of the Golden Age of comic books, native Brooklynite Sammy Klayman, a Jew, teams up with his cousin Josef Kavalier, newly arrived from Nazi-occupied Prague. Together they create a magnificent comic-book hero, the Escapist, who battles Hitler and his minions on the printed page. At the same time, Joe tries unsuccessfully to rescue his
family from Prague. Pulitzer Prize Winner. (taken from Reader’s Advisor Online)
2) The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
Genre-bending” is an understated description for this novel: Chabon has written an alternative history featuring a murder mystery plot with elements of a noir thriller, and thrown in a good deal of Yiddish terms and phrases to boot. The novel takes place in modern day Alaska, in a settlement of Jewish residents who were displaced there when the separate state of Israel failed to become a reality in 1948 (this concept is grounded in historical fact), and follows the actions of Meyer Landsman, a cop trying to make sense of a neighbor’s murder. (taken from Reader’s Advisor Online)
3) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Enid, the mother of a quintessentially dysfunctional Midwestern family, struggles to reunite her three adult children with their ailing father for “one last Christmas,” in this darkly funny postmodern novel. (taken from Reader’s Advisor Online)
So there you have it, my stalwart readers. As always let me know if you have read this or any of these books and how you like it. If you haven’t already– take some time and subscribe to my blog.