Subtle Lessons in Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: Crushed

There’s this moment in Crushed where the villain’s lackey legit says to Kamala that it’s her own fault she was kidnapped because she got in the car with him, and everyone saw her and wouldn’t think less of him but of her. And it’s so absurd and ridiculous that I started yelling at the page. But, for a moment, Kamala starts to second guess herself and think that she should have been smarter and known better. And it’s like, “Yes, Kamala, you should have known that the boy who you trusted and who offered you a ride to school would instead DRIVE YOU STRAIGHT TO THE VILLAIN’S LAIR.” Because that is a reasonable expectation to have.

So, anyway, if even one teenager/young person reads this book and is struck by how dumb the lackey’s logic is and how of course it’s not Kamala’s fault that this guy she trusted completely violated that trust and then tried to make her out to be the bad guy, and that teenager/young person then connects it to the way society likes to blame women/girls for the terrible things that happen to them because they should have known better and realizes it’s just as absurd, then this book is the best book ever.

A+++ for showing how a predator operates also.

Kamala continues to be pretty great (LOVE HER). I am frequently concerned about her costume, though. I just know one day a bad guy is going to step on her scarf and strangle her to death. Or she’ll get it caught in an escalator (there have been no escalators in the series thus far). That’s just how my brain operates, I guess.

Banned Books 101

Banned Books 2015 Poster
Banned Books 2015 Poster

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is kind of a cheat for me since I have taught a version of this class in the past. So I’m going to basically share my syllabus with you–with a slightly updated reading list.

How I framed the class:

This course aims to take a critical look at children’s and young adult literature that is frequently challenged and banned in public schools and libraries. While we will discuss issues of censorship throughout the semester, our primary concern will be with understanding these books first and foremost as works of literature. As such, we will consider the choices that authors make in composing these works, focusing on the functions of the literary elements contained within. Throughout our discussions, we will be able to determine how these “bannable” ideas or elements are or are not necessary for the books to function as cohesive narratives with specific themes. In the end, we should be able to determine if or when restrictions should be placed on novels intended for young people and who gets to make that decision.

Reading List

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – it’s important to have a classic on your list because then someone will say, baffled, “But it’s a classic. How can you ban a classic?” Bonus points for Mark Twain because then you can pull out this quote:

I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, & it always distresses me when I find that boys & girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, & to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. … Most honestly do I wish that I could say a softening word or two in defense of Huck’s character since you wish it, but really, in my opinion, it is no better than those of Solomon, David, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood. If there is an unexpurgated [Bible] in the Children’s Department, won’t you please…remove Tom & Huck from that questionable companionship?


2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – it’s important to have someone’s actual lived experience on your list because then, when someone says that a book about incest or rape is unsuitable to age group, you can say, “Yes, but these things actually happen to teenagers and maybe we should talk about them so teens who experience them don’t think they’re all alone.”


3. The Giver by Lois Lowry – this should appear early in the semester so students can say, “It’s just like in The Giver–they just don’t want people to think for themselves.” Also, the irony of The Giver being on the banned books list will not be lost on them. Farenheit 451 and 1984 also work well for the latter purpose.


4. Forever by Judy Blume – because teenagers don’t have sex [/sarcasm]


5. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – because kids don’t deal with sad things or have imaginations. Bonus: if you’re talking about how the book is sad and why, and a student says, “It’s just a book,” you can counter with what my friend suggested: “The Bible is just a book.” Heads might roll.


6. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers – because war sucks and lots of teenagers go to war and, surprise, it’s violent! It’s not like this will help anyone understand why their friend, cousin, brother, sister, uncle, etc. might have PTSD or anything.


7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky – I can’t even remember why this is banned. Language? Discussions of sex? Homosexuality? Probably all of those things and more. God knows you don’t want teens to read about an authentic high school experience.


8. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling – because you can’t read the whole series, and this book works as a standalone. Also: magic.


9. Life Is Funny by E.R. Frank – I blogged about this book for Banned Books Week before, so I won’t repeat myself here. The main thing to know is this book was actually removed from a school library because it depicts things that actually happens to kids in middle and high school.


10. Whale Talk or Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher – Pretty much all of Chris Crutcher’s books have been banned or challenged. The list would be incomplete without him.


How I Ended the Class:

For the final project, I had them pick a novel on the ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books list and write a paper explaining  the theme of the novel and why the challenged elements are necessary for the reader to understand that theme. Then? Presentation on the book!


Anyway, I am very passionate about this topic. If you want to learn more, visit the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom or participate in this year’s Banned Books Reading Challenge.

July 2015 in Review

So this has been sitting in my drafts for weeks. I have no idea why I never posted it.

I read eight books in July!

  • Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (YA)
  • The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (adult)
  • Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher, illustrated by Karl Kerschl (YA graphic novel)
  • The Friendship Riddle by Megan Frazer Blakemore (middle grade)
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (YA)
  • The Living by Matt de la Peña (YA)
  • The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (middle grade)
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (middle grade)

And I even reviewed some of them on the blog!

[wrap-up-posts date=”July 2015″ category=”Book Reviews” listtype=”ul”]

I also reviewed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, but didn’t post it until August, so it’s not showing up in my nifty pre-populated list.

With eight books read, I am 95% to my Goodreads goal, which means I will probably have to bump it up next year. Awesome.


I also made a bunch of changes around the blog (it’s pretty!) and am making an effort to include content that goes beyond book reviews and Top Ten Tuesday posts. For example:[wrap-up-posts date=”July 2015″ notin=”Book Reviews” listtype=”ul”]

I still have some changes to make to the blog–namely updating the reviews by authors (which is why there are two lists for it in the drop down list). But that’s a Bloggiesta project, I think.

Book Review: Tiger Eyes

I’ll just admit up front that this is my first time reading this book. Judy Blume wasn’t really on my radar when I was a kid, so I’m encountering most of her books as an adult.

What do you say about a book that you really liked but don’t have a lot to say about? I don’t know, but I’ll try.

The book is deceptively simple in its prose. However, main character Davey is dealing with a lot. Just…a lot. I loved the examination of fear and how it operates at a deep level of control and hypocrisy.

I was nervous about Davey’s relationship with Wolf (he’s significantly older than her), but the cover was misleading in that regard, and their connection is well-developed and believable.

There’s a great examination of race and class here as well as, of course, the look at grief and the different ways it manifests. I love reading older stories because Davey “hyperventilates,” which, today, we would call having a panic attack. It’s just interesting to see how language changes.

I understand that styles shift over time, but I really do wish more current YA was written this way. Not all teens are super introspective nor do they use lyrical prose to describe what’s happening with them. Still, they deal with a lot and process a lot and have astute observations about life that aren’t necessarily dressed up and made pretty.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s hard to imagine this novel being published today–yet I find it more authentic and relatable than what’s out there now.

Of course, that could be because I’m an old. Oh well.

And yes I know about the movie. I’m planning to watch it soon.

The Artist’s Way: Reading Deprivation

I am currently on week four of the The Artist’s Way, and this week’s big task is the reading deprivation. The reading deprivation is exactly what it sounds like: no reading. For seven days.


I am on day four and have officially hit the wall. I am so bored. I might be dying from boredom. It’s possible.

So the thing about no reading is that it’s not just books, which is bad enough, really. The whole point of the reading deprivation is to not fill up on other people’s words. Here are the things she lists in the book that should be avoided:

  • novels and newspapers (obviously)
  • TV
  • gossipy conversations
  • radio

Why? Because “for most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own” (pg. 87).

I CANNOT EVEN ARGUE WITH THAT. I am a book/reading junkie. Here’s what I have given up for the week:

  • Books in all forms (including audiobooks)
  • Facebook/Twitter/other social media
  • Feedly/blogs
  • The news in all forms
  • Podcasts
  • Music with words (which I didn’t think counted, but my friend said totally counts)
  • Online shopping
  • TV (including Jeopardy and reality competitions, which I didn’t think counted, but my daughter said totally counts)
  • Movies (Netflix or theater or otherwise)
  • Calling tech support to figure out why my TiVo didn’t survive the move from one room to the other

I am also checking my email the most minimum of amounts.

(When I told my mom I was going to write a blog post, she asked if I could do that. YES, MOTHER, I CAN WRITE WHATEVER I WANT. I just have to avoid reading other people’s stuff!) (You can see how I am a little on edge.)

Anyway, this fast is super hard! It was easier giving up Facebook and Twitter for Lent (of course, I could still read other stuff then) than to go one week without ALL OF MY BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL WORDS.

On the plus side, I have gotten some stuff done. My room is now almost all the way clean. I managed to finally hang up my undergrad degree on the wall (it took 20 minutes, tops, and my parents got it framed for me for Christmas. I am aware that it is August. THIS IS WHAT AVOIDING READING DOES TO A PERSON). I helped my mom figure out Facebook–something I had been telling her I would help her with forever. Does that count as breaking my deprivation? Not really because (a) something that needed to be done and (b) showing her how to upload files and check messages and post to FB doesn’t really help me read my newsfeed.

Tomorrow, I’m going to organize one (or both) of my bookshelves. I may gather up the stuff I need to drop off at Goodwill. There is plenty to do when there is no reading to be done!

Anyway, yes, I am reaping the benefits. Not only is my room clean, but I have gained a surprising amount of clarity about certain things in my life–especially as they relate to my creativity. Yes, I am spending more time with my inner self. Yes, I have discovered the beauty of film scores on Songza. Blah blah blah. IT’S GREAT.

Can it be Thursday now?

Audiobook Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon


This book is delightful. First of all, it’s a story told in stories, which makes it one big love letter to stories. Second, it’s based on Chinese folklore, which makes it a love letter to folklore. Third, Minli is pretty amazing, and I love her. She is up there with Ella of Frell for me. She’s smart and clever and kind. I love her, basically.

The book also has an awesome message of the importance of gratitude and how to avoid sowing bitterness. It also shows why bitterness isn’t just bad for the bitter person, but those around that person. Plus, it’s a quest/road trip, which means meeting lots of interesting characters along the way.

I also really enjoyed the narration in this book and the production of the narration. Janet Song gives the book a lyrical quality, almost like she’s reading a lullaby. Plus, there’s a little bit of music interspersed throughout. The music isn’t distracting, but rather emphasizes the musical/lyrical quality of the narrative. (Now that I think about it, I could be making up the music part and it could be that the narration was so darned charming, but I swear I heard music at some point.)

Mostly, though, I love that this book shows why stories are important and how they can be important. They are a source of comfort and strength and hope and joy. They can serve as a distraction (in a good way) or a road map. Most importantly, stories bring people together because they show us where people have been and where they are going. Stories! They’re great! Just like this book!