Banned Books Week: Be Proud to be Banned

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Today, I’d like to highlight one of my favorite authors: Toni Morrison.

Toni Morrison’s work to me has been these haunting tales of loneliness, sacrifice, desperation, and turmoil. Set during some of the most difficult times for black Americans, Toni Morrison has this incredible way of making you feel and understand what it must have been like for black and African American people. You’re transported there and you gain more consciousness.

And obviously, her works have been banned or challenged.

I absolutely love banned books week. I think it’s because I’m a perpetual questioner of the rules of engagement. I always have to test things out for myself and go against what the popular thinking is. I blame my mother, who has been subversive my entire life.

But I love banned books week and I love checking out all the books that have now been banned. Can you imagine in 2017 books are still being banned because they have themes like homosexuality, teenage girls getting pregnant, drug abuse, mental illness, and…magic?!

I’ve been going through the list of books and there are so many favorite authors where everything they write is banned or challenged. Toni Morrison happens to be one of them where most of her books have been challenged or banned in some way.

I thought to myself what must authors think to see every single book they’ve written is challenged or banned?

In my mind, I hope it’s a state of pride. I imagine them puffing their chest and standing very tall knowing that they challenge something for people. They make adults uncomfortable. Their books are deemed inappropriate even if they’re written for children. And not just one book. All of their books.

Authors like JK Rowling who’s books were deemed too magical and magic is some form of satanism so that’s bad. John Green’s books are also banned or challenged too. It’s probably all those kids dying of cancer and falling in love in the final days of their lives. Who knows?

It must give them a sense of pride to know their books challenge the way people think.

And if they aren’t proud, they should be. We’re creating a world where what we say can influence what other people think. It’s a massive form of power and while not every book needs to hone that power in, those who have been judged and misunderstood should continue to do what they do.

Keep pushing the envelope and talking about those taboo topics people are so keen on sweeping under the rug. It’s important to the kids in the world and the adults who are interested to know that someone is speaking up.

Be proud of your work! Be proud to be banned or challenging. Continue to challenge the social norms of this country or your country and hopefully we’ll be all proud to say they’re not longer challenged or banned books.

Welcome to Banned Books Week!

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Happy Banned Books Week and it’s going to be a good one.

This year’s theme is “the freedom to read,” which feels oddly relevant given that everyone has been talking about. Censorship is always around us telling us what to do and what to think and how to say things. It’s the faceless folks that tell us that something is too edgy and pushes the envelope. It’s the inability to discern for yourself if something is good or bad for you. It’s the fodder for amazing books that make you think for yourself and that’s a wonderful feeling (as long as you can cope with the anxiety).

On Instagram each day this week, I’ll be posting a book that’s been consistently banned or challenged in the past. While I’ll be highlighting one book, they’re representative of the many books in that genre that undergo scrutiny everyday. I know that the people who make these decisions aren’t doing it to harm young readers. In fact, they would argue that they are protecting them from it.

The choice for children to stay children, but sometimes you have to understand that children grow up. When they grow up without exposure to these banned and challenged books, then they face a world where it isn’t friendly and it isn’t kind and what they think could possibly be more dangerous than helpful.

Of course, I come prepared with an infograph from the American Library Association website on who these big whigs tend to be:

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Freedom should be celebrated. We do it every year in July where we remember our fore fathers who came to this country to free themselves from the censorship and persecution. We can pray to whatever God we want, but we can’t read books? Bit of a double standard.

So let’s celebrate our freedom to read! We’re one of many countries that allow it, but I do want to remind people that that’s not the case for a lot of people and still a concern for us as a country. So let’s ring those bells of freedom and get to reading.

If you’d like to participate in Banned Books Week with me, here’s some ways you can easily join in!

1. Read and share a banned book

While for some people this is easy as pie, for others it might not be that easy. It could be because their families don’t like it when you read these kinds of books or it could be because you don’t know what books are on the banned books list.

If you’d like to read a book that’s been banned or challenged in the past, check out this comprehensive list of books provided by the American Library Association.

The most important part about this one is to share those reads. If you learn anything from the book you choose or if it opens your eyes in ways you didn’t think it would, then share that love! Books aren’t meant to be stuck on a shelf and kept to yourself. They’re like living and breathing animals that need to let go and available for someone else. Don’t let what you’ve learned only stick with you.

2. Donate to ACLU or to ALA

While you may not be a reader, reading is considered one of the many freedoms protected by our first amendment. If you believe that we should have the freedom to read or even the freedom of speech, then donate whatever you can to the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU is doing everything they can to ensure that we, as a people, continue to speak freely, practice religion without any issues, and always always read books that may make you look at your world a little bit differently.

If you’re not into civil liberties, then perhaps you’ll be into reading books. The American Library Association is also always taking donations to help with keeping libraries across America open. If you ever complained that you don’t have enough money for books, then obviously you haven’t been to a library. Free books! All you need is a plastic laminated card.

3. Share with the bookish community

I emphasized this once, but I’ll emphasize this again. We should all be sharing our love of books with each other. It’s so important to share especially when it’s considered a community. Don’t be afraid to read your books and don’t be afraid to talk about them.

I hope that we’re loving and open enough to accept anyone and their beliefs. The only way our community will be able to make a difference is to share these reads and be empathetic to those who don’t want to read them and hope that they will.

Don’t keep your books locked up on a bookshelf. These may be yours, but the written words are for everyone. Buy another copy of your favorite banned book and leave it on the train or in the park. Donate your old copies of banned books to the local library. Books are physical copies of an amazing journey and you can always take that journey again. Let’s let someone else walk down that path for the first time.

Celebrate Black History Month with Some Amazing Fiction

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Welcome to February! What is with February and being all romantic and lovely and all those good things in the world? It’s like December is all about Christmas even though there’s so much more going on in December than just Christmas.

But February is also Black History Month and being an advocate for diverse reads, I’ve got to put in a plug for some of my very favorite reads. You can go hardcore and read Frederick Douglass or Malcolm X. You can listen to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on repeat. Do whatever it is you want to do, but do it in celebration of black culture.

Before I get into my quick list of recommended reading for the month, I want to mention (as I tend to do from time to time) that diverse reads are so important. Many people (including myself) believe that racism is an extension of fear and ignorance. Why not break that stigma and read about other cultures!

Books about cultures aside from our own (or even our own, let’s not forget we come from somewhere!) opens up our minds to how other people live and exist in the world. We are humans and each of us holds traditions and heritage and culture different from the person you’re sitting next to. Why not celebrate our differences, learn a little bit about being someone else, and spread the good love across this universe.

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Anyway, here’s a few of my favorite books to read during this month as well as a few I’ve got on my TBR for the rest of February. Let’s celebrate diversity and learn more about what it’s like to be on the other side of the pendulum OF LIFE!

Continue reading “Celebrate Black History Month with Some Amazing Fiction”

September 2016 Wrap Up

I can’t believe that it’s already October. The cool weather is really settling in Brooklyn and I’m pulling out the scarves, jackets, and hot cups of tea. It’s my favorite time of the year and it’s also the perfect reason to go out and read (more than I usually do).

Anyway, here’s my September Wrap Up. I had a few books on my list in September, but as always, my plans changed (lol). I only read four books in September, but I feel like I’m more enriched by my reads. Here’s my reads:

  1. P.S. I Like You by Kasie West (5/5 stars) – I got this book in my Owlcrate box in August, but haven’t had the chance to read it until now. This was such a sweet little read. I love doing “in-betweeners,” which are books that you read to separate out some of the more heavy and serious reads. Not to say that this book isn’t serious. It’s the kind of book that doesn’t remind you of the strife and struggle of reality.  I don’t know if you deal with this kind of thing, but when I read too many serious books I get some serious anxiety about life. When you’re so enveloped by a book, you forget what’s reality and what’s the fiction and in those situations, the anxiety is real. If you haven’t felt anxiety after reading a serious book then you’ve got a stronger mind than me.
  2. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (4.5/5 stars) – I was reading One True Loves as another “in-betweener” because I wasn’t ready to read something serious yet. However, as I got into it, I realized that this was a bit more serious. Dead husbands and finding love and finding old loves again. Those kinds of conversations are reserved for the reality of the world and not the fun world of “in-betweeners.” But I fell in love with this book the way Emma, the main character, fell in love twice. No spoilers here, but it’s really difficult to choose someone you want to be with when you have feelings for more than one person. I will keep the rest to myself, but I strongly suggest this book.
  3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (5/5 stars) – Alright, when I talk about serious books, this is a serious book. However, it’s an important book and something I think everyone should read. If you’ve ever asked yourself what your ethnicity and heritage/background is, then you should read this book. Coming from a very family-centric environment, it was frustrating for me to read about a family lineage where it gets so muddled because of something as barbaric as slavery and war. It reminds me of the Syrian refugees ripped from their families and their homes. I think with modern technology they may be able to be together again, but back in the 19th century, that wasn’t an option. It brings a sad tear to my eye knowing that some families will never be together again. Everyone should read this if only to value the families they have.
  4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (4/5 stars) – I read this one for Banned Books Week. There is something about Toni Morrison’s voice that compels me to read more and pushes me away from her. Her words are haunting and visceral like looking at a surrealist painting. The Bluest Eye is the first novel she’s published and if you’ve ever struggled with your own identity and accepting who you are, then you should definitely read this book. In the end, the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t struggle to try and be something you’re not. Love yourself for who you are and enjoy your youth as much as you can.

Enjoy!

 

2016 Banned Books Week and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

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I love Banned Books Week. If anything, it should be more awareness vs. passion for banned books, but maybe it’s the rebel in me that wants to read banned books because some group of people say that we need to protect our children from them.

As an adult and a lover of books, I can read whatever book I want. However, there are dozens of schools and libraries throughout the United States that feel the need to censor some books because of their themes and content. I don’t think there’s anything worse than hiding truth and knowledge from young people. Maybe cookies. If you were hiding cookies from young people, I’m pretty sure they should know about it.

This year’s theme is on diverse books. Funnily enough, I’ve been on a pretty big diverse reading kick lately and found the timing pretty serendipitous. For my book this year, I chose to read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

I’ve only known some vague facts about this book, but I knew I loved Toni Morrison’s writing style. It’s almost like reading a surrealist painting. You can see she’s telling a story, but in the most artistic way possible. Every scene and every character is depicted to show you a more overarching themes and in the case of The Bluest Eye, beauty.

I think Toni Morrison takes the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” quite literally. The story follows a young black girl named Pecola Breedlove and her want to have the bluest of blue eyes. Everywhere she went and everything she saw in terms of beauty was that of a young white woman with blue eyes and blonde hair. She prays every day and wishes to have these blue eyes. However, everyone around her sees her as this ugly little girl with weird features. Even other black people found her to be unattractive.

This theme of fitting in and wanting to be adored is something I felt when I was younger. Being Asian American and growing up in a predominantly white town made it difficult for me to fit in with both Asian and non-Asian groups of friends. You’re interminably this puzzle piece that just doesn’t quite fit into the space. It’s a frustrating feeling and if I had known about a book like The Bluest Eye when I was a kid, then perhaps I would have seen things differently.

Books like this are impressionable because it tells you that you’re not alone. It tells you that there’s no point in trying to fit in because you’re beat yourself crazy trying to do so. Accept yourself for who you are and don’t let people make you think otherwise. Pecola Breedlove didn’t have that kind of support or understood that kind of thinking and I think eventually led to her downfall at the end of the story.

This book was banned and frequently challenged because of its rape and incest scenes. Yeah, I’ll admit that those scenes were a little challenging to read, but I think there was one and it was the catalyst to what happened to Pecola in the end. I think if Pecola had a better family who loved her for who she was rather than looking at her as somewhat flawed, she wouldn’t have ended up trying to model herself off of a depiction of the perfect life.

Aesthetics are difficult for everyone, let alone women. We see something on TV or online and we envy their adoration. We want their fame so that we can feel their love. We have something to be remembered by and it’s always difficult to pull yourself from that thinking and remember that you’re you and you belong in this world as much as that pretty person does.

If you’ve never read this book and have had moments where you wished you had smaller hips or a tiny butt or less weight, then you should read this book. The lesson is that you shouldn’t want something that will make you feel accepted or loved. You should love yourself and when you do that, maybe the marigolds will bloom for you.