Monthly Archives: September 2011

If dining well is an art, I busted out my 64 pack of Crayolas.

I’m not swanky.

Not even a little swanky. Here’s an example: when I first saw box wine? I thought IT was swanky. I’m kind of a total redneck rube.

This story is not going to be entertaining if you ARE swanky, rich, or used to fine dining experiences. If you are any of these things, you are going to say, “What nonsense is this? I do not understand! I have these experiences every DAY! Pip pip!” To you, I say, good day. GOOD DAY TO YOU.

Back in April, I entered a contest one of my favorite local blogs was running. It was for a gift certificate to one of the nicest restaurants in town. A lot of people entered. As in, hundreds. It’s a very nice restaurant, and who doesn’t like free things?

Listen, I don’t win things. Ever. Absolutely ever. Once, in third grade? I won a drawing for a pair of plastic bookends? And it was the most exciting day in my LIFE. Until the teacher said, “Oh, I’M SORRY, this is actually THE OTHER AMY’S ticket. I’ll just take those back please YOINK!” and there you have it.

So imagine my surprise when I got an email from someone at the site saying, “Congratulations! You’re the winner! Where should we send your certificate?” I actually wrote back to her, “No, what? Really? No. Seriously?” And she wrote back (very nicely) “Yes, seriously, YOUR ADDRESS PLEASE.” (Well, she didn’t say THAT. I’m making that part up.)

The gift certificate was for $180, when I opened it. I promptly spit-took my generic Hannaford sugar-free lemonade. (BECAUSE I’M CLASSY.) When I told my friend how much it was and said “So I guess I’ll be eating there FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE” she said, “Um, at that place? $180 might cover two meals. Maybe.”

Do you know what’s a fancy meal for me? The Olive Garden. Take me to Red Lobster and I think I probably hit the lottery. I don’t go out to dinner. I just don’t. It’s a total waste of money. You can buy groceries for days on what a night at a nice restaurant costs. I’m pretty broke all the time and have better places to spend my money.

So, one person. One person to take to the fanciest restaurant in all the land. I thought about it, and then decided on my father, because of the shrimp.

When I was a kid, every Sunday after church, my dad used to take us all out to lunch. McDonald’s, mostly, but sometimes Dairy Queen. Dairy Queen was my favorite because they had a shrimp platter, where you got five fried shrimp and french fries and coleslaw which I’m pretty sure had crack in it because it was SO GODDAMN GOOD. I was a seafood whore even as a kid. And whenever we went there, he always bought me the seafood platter, and I didn’t give it a second thought, because when you’re a kid, you don’t think about these things. But when I grew up, and waxed melodic about this treasured childhood memory, he laughed and said that the shrimp platter had been twice as expensive as everyone else’s meals. I was horrified! “Why did you keep BUYING it for me?” I asked, because listen, we were pretty poor, growing up! “Because I love you, and it made you so happy,” he said. “But I hope you aren’t expecting an inheritance, because you ate yours.”

Well, my father deserved a fancy dinner, because of the shrimp. Whenever he’s poor, he always blames the shrimp. I OWED HIM.

I checked the menu online just to be sure that the gift certificate would cover our meals. It would. But not if I ordered THE CRAY-CRAY APPETIZER. The CRAY-CRAY APPETIZER (my name, not theirs, obvs) was $260 and consisted of “a selection of champagne and caviar, served in mother-of-pearl spoons.” No one I asked thought that for $260 I got to keep the spoons.

It took five months before our schedules matched up enough for him to visit, but this week, we made a reservation at the restaurant.

“Do I have to wear a suit?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Probably not. Just wear khakis and a button-down shirt. I don’t think they’ll kick you out.”

“Call them. I don’t want them to make me wear the jacket they keep in the closet for people who don’t wear suits. That would be gross. And I don’t know if I have a suit coat that doesn’t make me look like Chris Farley in Tommy Boy doing that ‘fat guy in a little coat’ thing so I need time to look for something to wear.”

I Tweeted and checked online and it said to be dressy, but not jacket required. He showed up with a jacket and tie anyway. That’s how HE rolls. We looked nice, if nothing else. You can dress up the country mice; you just can’t take them anywhere.

We showed up and listen, everyone, this place was NICE. I’m pretty sure the chair they seated me in cost more than my whole living room set, which really is only a couch passed down to me from my family when they realized I was going to be sitting on the floor if they didn’t do something about my furniture situation. So, yeah, then definitely the chair cost more than the couch. The first thing I saw was the appetizer of the day.

“Dad, they have peanut butter and jelly foie gras with Nutella on the side.”

We didn’t even have time to make funny faces about this before the waiter appeared like a ghost out of NOWHERE. “I see the lady has noticed our specials. But first! Would anyone care for a drink?”

My wine cost $10 and I ordered it because it was the only thing I could pronounce on the wine list. It also barely filled the bottom of the glass. It was like the little bit of wine they give you at a wine-tasting. It was good? I suppose? I don’t know anything about wine. It tasted purple? And kind of made me feel drunk-ish? I don’t drink much.

We made our selections – appetizers, salads, and main courses for each of us – and when I was done ordering, I thought I’d forgotten something. “I think I forgot something,” I said, and went to open the menu again. The waiter SWOOPED IT AWAY. “No, madam, you did not. That is a full three courses,” he said. WELL! THAT’S judgey. How do you know I don’t want 78 courses, waiter?

While we were waiting for appetizers, a fancy family came in that my father was pretty sure was the mob. I then had to explain to him that I didn’t think we had a lot of mob families in my neck of the woods. He was facing them and I wasn’t. “Amy,” he hissed. “AMY LOOK AT THE PEOPLE.” “Dad, I CAN’T I AM TRYING TO BE FANCY,” I said. He kept inclining his chin at them. When I looked, I realized that the woman was standing with her purse in one hand, very still, while a waiter ran over with a special hassock, which he placed very gently next to her. He then TOOK HER PURSE AS IF IT CONTAINED NITROGLYCERIN and placed it ever-so-gently on the hassock. Then she sat.

Um. My purse? I bought it at TJ Maxx like seven years ago, and it’s falling apart? But it’s big enough to hold all my garbage, and smuggle food into movies, so I keep it? I don’t get purse love, I just don’t. Or shoe love. I’m broken that way, I guess.

Appetizers arrived. AND THEY WERE GIGANTIC. I finished mine and realized why the waiter had discouraged further eating. Because I would most likely DIE.

Oh, also? I had seafood, and it came with lemon wedges to squeeze on it. And on the lemon wedges were little yellow mesh drawstring bags. I assume this was because when you squeeze them, you wouldn’t want pesky seeds to get into your food. IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER. I wanted to take them so I could wear them on my fingers like little hairnets but my father discouraged this. “NOT NOW, AT HOME,” I said, but still he wasn’t having it. I would show you a picture of these things but even Google’s not giving it up. They are THAT FANCY.

After we’d finished, another waiter came out and took away all of our silverware. Even the unused pieces. “What are we supposed to eat with?” my father asked. Never fear! ANOTHER WAITER brought a whole new set. They were like a clown car of waiters back there.

Then, ANOTHER waiter came out, with a wee little brush, and brushed away nonexistent crumbs from the table. I felt like a pretty princess.

Also, people were coming into the restaurant in shorts and tank tops and ballcaps, so I didn’t think we needed to be so fancy. I totally put my elbows on the table. I WAS FULL.

Salad. Listen, this salad was a work of damn ART. It was arranged into a pretty circle and had more bacon on it as a garnish than I think I eat in a year. I ate what I could and bemoaned the fact that I had a whole other COURSE coming out.

Fancy silverware and brushing shenanigans in-between courses. Also, a family came in, and one of their kids looked 12? But was on his cell phone doing important business deals and drinking martinis. It was off-putting.

Main course. Dad had a steak that was bigger than Alabama. I don’t like red meat, so maybe that was a normal size for a steak, I don’t know. I had fish, and thank you kitchen people, it was a normal-sized piece of fish. Under it were fava beans. My father did not approve of my Hannibal Lecter impression, but listen, WHEN WILL I EVER BE AROUND FAVA BEANS AGAIN. You have to take the opportunities when they come to you.

I also fell mightily in love with the salt and pepper shakers and wanted to steal them SO BADLY but was pretty sure they’d call the cops on me because they probably cost more than my whole car. They were BOTH grinders. The SALT SHAKER was also a grinder. WITH SEA SALT IN IT YO. I broke my pepper shaker when the cat jumped on the kitchen counter last month. I decided not to take them when I realized I couldn’t a., afford the salt and pepper to fill them, and b., figure out how to open them to refill them.

“Would you like DESSERT?” the ghostly waiter said. I was too full to even laugh at that cruel joke.

Bill time! $180 gift card…and drumroll please…$171.98.

We both agreed that, although good, it was not worth $171.98. I can think of two local restaurants where the food and ambience are just as nice for half the price. “Also, nothing’s that classy when you’re right under a bridge abutment,” my dad said, pointing out the window at the cement thingamabobbies that hold up the highway you could see from our table. Yep, that’s my dad. Keeping it real.

However, on the way back to my place, he said, “I can cross that off my bucket list. I’ve never been to a place like that. And I went with you. Even better.” So, aw. Thank you, All Over Albany, for that!


Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!

I left the cloudy climes of Blogger’s buggy hell for WordPress today when it became apparent to me that a., I couldn’t comment on my own posts, b., my friends couldn’t consistently comment on my posts, and c., it was taking me longer to format my posts than to write them. See ya, Blogger. Welcome to WordPress, my beloved minions and/or new minions! I hope we like it here! (AND CHECK OUT THE ADDRESS IT’S MY BLOG’S NAME YO SNAP COOL RIGHT??? SUCK IT BLOGGER!)

Sorry. Carry on.

Anyway, I KNOW the old posts are ALL EFFED UP. The import did that. And there are a LOT of them. I’ll be going through them and fixing them over the next few days/weeks, so bear with me!


Remember the firemen are rarely necessary. The public stopped reading of its own accord.

And finally, the last post celebrating the books people don’t want you to read. It’s kind of ironic how much I’m enjoying banned books week. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the people banning books are secretly working for the publishing companies, getting people interested in “subversive” titles. But then I think about it and realize they’re just crazy people   much free time who hate anything that contradicts their very  narrow worldview and I get angry all over again.

So far, we’ve discussed children’s books and young adult literature and today, adult literature. I assume the books are being banned because the people who ban books don’t want young people to read them, though. They aren’t banning adults from reading them, right? Although they probably would, if they could, I wouldn’t put it past them.

You know how on Facebook you can put your favorite books, and the top five are highlighted and photos of the covers are shown? I don’t think anyone but me cares about this section. I caretake this section very carefully. I want it to indicate my top five favorite books.  Sometimes the covers disappear and I have to switch things around and that bothers me.  I don’t like when it’s not pretty and looks like no one cares about it. I’d have made a very good librarian.  My window displays would have been beautiful, I think. Anyway, my #1 favorite book of all time, as indicated on Facebook and,well, in my life? Is on the banned book list. Figures. Also, one of my favorite authors of all time, and a few other books that are favorites as well. I like the subversive stuff. This really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I’d say I’ll keep this shorter than yesterday but I’m making no promises.

ADULT LITERATURE

Fahrenheit 451 –Ray Bradbury

Reason for ban: Offensive language and content; anti-governmental theme

Synopsis: In a dystopian society where books are banned and firemen create, rather than put out, fires, fireman Guy Montag begins to doubt the government that rules him, with disastrous results.

This really is the poster child for banned books. I think you can appreciate the irony, since IT’S ABOUT BANNING BOOKS. Not only is it about banning books, it’s about a society where books are SO SUBVERSIVE, being caught owning or reading one = death. The government has to protect its people from the dangers of reading. Sound at all familiar, especially this week? There are people employed whose job is to burn the printed word. So of course the book banning people don’t want our youth to read this. It’s about them. Can anyone hear the line “It was a pleasure to burn” and not get a little thrill running up their spine? That’s the first sentence. THE FIRST SENTENCE. This book grabs you and doesn’t let you go the minute you open it. I adore this book. I actually found an old school copy at a book sale years ago, with the thick orange covers, read to pieces by years of students, and I treasure that copy. It’s been loved (or perhaps loathed) by generations of students. It has history. I’m proud to have it in my collection. I’m a huge Bradbury fan overall (I also swoon over Something Wicked This Way Comes…the imagery in that book is just to die for) but Bradbury will always be remembered for this book, and what a wonderful way to be remembered.

Of Mice and Men –John Steinbeck

Reason for ban: Vulgar language, religiously profane,violent, and “derogatory toward African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled”

Synopsis: The story of two migrant workers during the Great Depression.

Honestly, this ban is a bit puzzling to me. This is classic literature, isn’t it? I can think of a number of titles that I find more offensive toward these groups than this one. I didn’t read it until college (listen, I didn’t go to a fancy-schmancy prep school, ok? We didn’t read much of import in my high school. When I stumbled upon something impressive it was by accident. No one was pointing me toward anything I should be reading. And the internet didn’t yet exist. Thanks, AL GORE. I had nowhere to go) but I remember just speeding through this and then sobbing my eyes out when it was finished. It had become very clear to me what was going to happen to Lennie, what had to happen to Lennie, but I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe in the farm, with the rabbits, where they could all be happy. I wanted the dream. Steinbeck gave me the reality. I both loved and hated him for that.The loneliness of this novel. The profound loneliness and isolation. The desperate search for connection. So haunting and beautiful.

Yes, there’s vulgar language, violence, and I suppose it’s somewhat derogatory toward all of those groups – but it’s true to the time it is discussing, so should Steinbeck have sugar-coated the truth? The book wouldn’t still be a classic today if he had. I’m not so sure about the religiously profane part. It’s been a while since I read it but I don’t remember religion being that big of a factor. Maybe that’s what they have a problem with? Maybe if George had prayed before picking up the gun, all would be well?

Side note: we did an adaptation of this at my theater a few years ago, and the men that played the leads are two of my favorite local actors. I’ve often said I’d watch them read the phone book for two hours and be thoroughly entertained. Every night, without fail, I’d come from wherever I was in the theater to the light booth to watch the final scene between the two of them, and every night, I’d bawl my eyes out. It was that touching. This is a powerful book.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

Reason for ban: Vulgar language, suicides, anal/homosexual rape, graphic sex scenes, child sex, losing virginity, prostitution, alcohol and drug use, anti-religious references, and self-injury

Synopsis: A rebellious man fakes insanity to get out of a prison sentence and gets institutionalized instead, where he meets a group of mental patients and conflicts with the staff of the hospital.

OK, I have to say, I don’t think I’d especially want my sixth-grader reading this, unless he or she was pretty advanced and able to handle serious situations. I mean, there’s some severe shit going down in this novel. And, upon re-read, McMurphy’s kind of a cock. I mean, he’s a badass, and you sort of admire him? And he’s not like Nurse Ratched, or anything, I mean, damn. But he’s kind of all in it for himself and doesn’t think about how his actions will impact others. However! This is literature, people. We shouldn’t be banning it. You can’t read that last section with the Chief and not cheer. You can’t read what happens to McMurphy at the end and not weep, no matter how id-driven he is. I can’t imagine this not being a good book to teach in a senior high school lit class. The discussion you could have would be epic.

Also, the movie kind of rocks, and movie adaptations are seldom as good as the books. Jack Nicholson, I love you.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Reason for ban: Rape, domestic abuse, racial slurs, violence

Synopsis: A young girl in a small Southern town during the Great Depression deals with the racism surrounding a case her father, a famous lawyer, has taken on.

If you don’t allow your young adults to read this book for any of the reasons listed above, there is something irreparably wrong with you. Everything about this book is perfect. There’s not a word wasted, not a scene, nothing. It won a goddamn PULITZER. It translates beautifully to the stage or the screen. It’s beautiful. And it covers important topics that you should be discussing with your children. Racism. Sexism. Domestic and sexual abuse. That adults and those in charge are sometimes not right. That sometimes, things aren’t fair. That appearances can sometimes be deceiving.

Can you even hear the name Boo Radley without shivering a little? Can you even think of Atticus Finch stepping out into that street to kill the rabid dog without tearing up a bit? How about the phrase “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.”? Or ‘Hey, Boo,’ I said.”? Or “Thank you for my children, Arthur.”? There is nothing about this book we need to protect children from. There is everything in this book we need to introduce children TO.

And Atticus Finch. ATTICUS FINCH. I want an Atticus Finch. I will not be happy until I have an Atticus Finch. There is no man who will measure up to the bar that literary man has set in my mind. Why in the hell would we NOT want our children to aspire to Atticus Finchian levels of honesty, bravery and class?

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Reason for ban: Pornographic, sexual and anti-Christian content

Synopsis: in a dystopian and war-torn future, women are stripped of their families and all rights and are forced to serve men in whatever capacity the men see fit.

Yeah, I can see why the book-banners wouldn’t want you to read this. Because women are treated like property, and are forced to mate and bear children with the men in power. But if it ended there, I have to wonder if the book-banners wouldn’t be all, oh, ok, then, good? But the women FIGHT BACK. In my mind, that’s what they object to.

The anti-Christian content they object to, by the way, is that the men in the book are doing all of these things to the women BASED ON PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE. So really, this isn’t too far from the hatemongers who are all “THE BIBLE HATES GAYS SO IT’S OK IF I THROW ROCKS AT THEM GOD SAYS I CAN!!!”

You know what? This is a cruel book. It’s a heartbreaking book. But it’s a book I think any young woman should read. It makes you angry,and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. Our young women SHOULD be angry about the way they are treated, and this is just an extension of what’s already happening.

Speaking of Atwood – my second favorite book of all time (my favorite book will be discussed below) is Cat’s Eye. If you haven’t read this, and have an interest in the cruelties young girls can inflict upon one another and how this can affect women well into their adult lives, I highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful, evocative, lush read. I’ve read it so many times my book’s held together with duct tape and I’ve written in it so much that my notations are as thick as the text.

The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien

Reason for ban: Profanity, drug use, violence

Synopsis: a selection of short stories with similar characters linking them about the Vietnam War and the political climate surrounding it

This is poetry in short-story form. Sure, it’s profane. It’s about a group of young men who were drafted and forced to serve in a war they have no interest in. But you care about these people. You love these people. You weep for these people. It’s a master class in writing. It’s everything done right. It’s taking ugly, horrible, painful, violent, bloody situations and showing them both as they are and the beauty in them. It’s a must-read for anyone in a creative writing class, in my opinion.

A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

Reason for ban: Anti-religious content, criticism of the US government, vulgar language, sexuality

Synopsis: an expatriate in Canada reminisces about his best friend and their childhood in the 50’s and 60’s in New Hampshire.

“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice. Not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God. I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” 

This is my favorite book of all time. Ever. I highly doubt I will ever read a book that lives up to this one; I suppose anything is possible, but I don’t expect to, and I won’t be sad if I don’t. This book is perfection. I have no need to search for anything better because I’ve already found everything I want between these covers.

I won’t spoil this book because I want you to go out, right now, if you haven’t already read it, and read it. Maybe you hate Irving. There are a lot of people who do. I know his voice isn’t for anyone. I’m one of those people who love Irving. I’d read anything he writes. I love his quirky voice, his repetition of favorite scenes and moments, his love of (for some reason) Prague and bears.

A good friend in college gave me this book. I didn’t expect much, but read it because I loved her and she rarely steered me wrong. By the end, I was sobbing so hard I had to put it down, before I had finished it. Irving’s good with foreshadowing, and when it all finally came together, and I pieced together the clues into the picture puzzle they made, I didn’t want to look at it. It took me days to finish it. It was sitting there and I didn’t want to pick it up. I knew it would devastate me. I knew what would happen.

I’ve read it repeatedly since, probably once every year or so. I’ve found new things upon every re-read. It’s sincerely the best book ever written, in my opinion. I want you all to read it. I want the world to read it. I want to share it with everyone. Which is why seeing it on the banned book list infuriated me.

Does it have all of the things it’s being accused of? Yes, it does. Should it be read with caution? Yes, I’d recommend it to older readers– but mostly because younger ones wouldn’t catch the nuances. Is it worth it? Oh, my, yes.

Oh, and DON’T WATCH THE MOVIE ADAPTATION. It is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my LIFE. It was a total and complete embarrassment. Please spare yourself.

Owen Meany. You can’t read this without falling in love with little Owen Meany. And poor, lonely John Wheelwright. And furious, beautiful Hester.

So there ends Banned Book Week 2011. I’m sure that the book-banning looneys will be busy all year so that next year I’ll have a whole crop of books to talk about. Tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled  bitching about nothing and getting highly offended by random shit, like WHY THE HELL MUST MY NEIGHBOR TAKE SHOWERS AT THE SAME TIME AS ME EVERY DAY WHEN HE KNOWWWWS THAT GIVES BOTH OF US VERY LITTLE HOT WATER BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A DUMP???


Blog-centennial!



 I hit 100 posts today! I know to people who’ve been blogging forever this seems like nothing, but to me, it’s kind of a very exciting milestone. Who knew that back in June when I wanted somewhere to bitch about things, I’d have stuck with it this long?

Thank you to everyone who’s been reading, and I promise to try to keep entertaining, harassing, annoying, etc. you all for the foreseeable future.

Also! See the stuff on the right there? (Well, that is, if you’re reading this on my blog. If you’re in a feed reader or on your phone, you can’t see that. So go to my blog and read this there for once!) There’s a blogroll over there. I am anal as hell about that blogroll. Those people are amazing. They are excellent bloggers, some of whom I know personally, some I don’t, but all of whom you should also be reading. Go visit them! Say hi! You’ll be happy you did, I promise. They make me laugh, smile, snort, think, etc. on a daily basis.

So yay, 100 posts, and here’s to hundreds and hundreds more!


Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.

Yesterday, we discussed children’s books, and also penguins who shared a forbidden love, except not forbidden, and totally awesome.

Today: young adult novels. And sorry in advance, this sucker is LONG. Maybe take a break halfway through! Have a muffin! Some coffee! Take a nice walk!

As a young adult, the last thing I wanted to be reading was young adult novels. I wanted to be a grownup! Which meant reading grownup novels, full of grownup things like jobs! And illicit sex with your married next-door neighbor! And carpooling! Also, when I was a teenager, many moons ago, there weren’t a lot of good young-adult novels. We had the Sweet Valley High series. If you grew up reading these, you know they were not good. Our options were kind of limited.

Young adult literature is currently fantastic. I don’t wish I was a young adult in 2011 – too many opportunities for people to take embarrassing cell-phone videos of me – but I do wish I was a young adult reader in 2011. These kids have options. It’s awe-inspiring. Sure, there’s still crap *coughTwilightcough* but there are also a lot of amazing books out there for young adults to read, if they choose to read young adult lit, as opposed to adult lit.

I’m quickly on my way to middle-age, and I love young adult lit. I probably read as much young-adult lit as I do traditional adult lit in a year. There are missteps, sure, just as there are in any genre, but there are also a lot of excellent books out there.

There’s also a huge backlash against young adult lit right now, so much so that there’s an entire YA Saves movement out there. Do a Google search and you’ll find a ton of blogs with their stories about how YA literature saved them when they needed someone and there were no people available. Books are always available. Books can save us. I believe very strongly in this myself, as the woman a bullied teen grew into.

The list of YA novels that are banned is a lengthy one, because WE NEED TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN is very strong when the children are teenagers. The teenagers! They need us to protect them the most! Otherwise, they might see DIRTY CUSSES! And VIOLENCE! And SEXUAL SITUATIONS! That they would not see ANYWHERE ELSE EVER ONLY IN BOOKS! Oh, wait, they’ll see them EVERYWHERE else. And like I said yesterday, if it’s in a book, you can also read the book, and you can open up a discussion with your teen – and *gulp* – HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH HIM OR HER. Whoo! Groundbreaking stuff, talking to your teenager!

Am I saying that young adults need to be reading actual pornography? Why, no, jackass, I am not actually saying that! What I’m saying is, give our children some credit. Underneath those baggy jeans that are falling down that I’m too old to understand and their trendy t-shirts are actual LITTLE PEOPLE. (Not “little people,” you weirdo. Sheesh.) With brains! And feelings! They would like to choose, personally, what they read. Even if it’s sparkly-vampire garbage.

Listen, I don’t want kids, and I don’t plan on having kids. But if I did, well, the karmic joke would be that they’d hate reading, I suppose. But let’s just assume they liked reading. I’d talk to them about the books they wanted to read. I’d suggest books. I’d discuss the books after they were done reading. We would have discussions spurred by the topics in the book. I loved the adults that talked to me in an adult way about literature when I was a teenager. Why do we assume our kids aren’t capable of handling topics in an adult fashion? Kids in today’s society are, honestly, more savvy about a lot of things than I am. Which is sad and a little scary but also true.

Today’s banned books! Young adult edition!

YOUNG ADULT NOVELS

The Giver – Lois Lowry

Reason for ban: “too negative”

Synopsis: in a dystopian future, a young man is chosen to be the Receiver of Memories for his community. Once he grasps the truth of what is happening around him, he struggles with the hypocrisy of his society.

(Note – this is actually the first in a series of young adult novels, and continues with Gathering Blue and The Messenger, both set in the same version of the future. However, unlike the series I cover below, this book is most definitely a stand-alone as well, and I like it better than the others in the series, so I’m going to include it on its own.)

I read this book in college and was absolutely blown away by the leaps and bounds that young adult literature had made since I was a teenager. The topics in this novel are deep and profound and the writing is mysterious and beautiful. I don’t want to give too much away, in case anyone hasn’t read it. I know most of you have read The Hunger Games, probably, and if you did, and you like dystopian novels, you will love this book (and the whole series, although this is the best of the three, in my opinion.) The “too negative” ban made me laugh. Too negative? Yes, the topics covered in this book are fairly negative, sure. But here’s the thing – THEY’RE TRUE. They’re a potential outcome of where our society is heading. They’re eerily accurate. This is the young adult version of Fahrenheit 451 or 1984, without being a copy of either of those novels. The people that don’t want our children to read this are the type of people that will end up creating the dystopian futures of young adult literature. Does that scare the shit out of you? It should.

Bridge to Terebithia – Katherine Paterson 

Reason for ban: Violence, death, profanity, promotion of secular humanism/occultism

Synopsis: Jess, a lonely boy, meets Leslie, a new girl in town. They become best friends and create a magical world in the woods where they can play and use their imagination together.

You’ve all read this, right?  You have. Please tell me you have. Or you saw the movie, at least, which wasn’t as good as the book, because instead of you using your imagination to create Terebithia, the set designers and animatronics guys did and it was ok, but not great?

It’s kind of killing me to not just say what happened in this book that makes it both the most transcendent and also the most devastating thing I read in my childhood ever. But if it means I’m not spoiling even one person, I won’t say a word.

The reason this is being banned is because the book banning people – who have SO MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS OMG CAN I HAVE A LITTLE OF THAT THANKS – think Terebithia is about witches or some such shit and this book will teach children that the Kingdom of God is nonsense and that we don’t need no Jesus, we can create our own religion in the woods with our imaginations and that is NAUGHTY.  Well, you know what I want to teach my hypothetical and not-going-to-ever-exist child? That their imagination is a very powerful force, and to use it or lose it. This book never says that religion is medicine-man hokum. If that’s what the book banners are reading into it, well, they’re using THEIR imaginations, now, aren’t they?

This book is also another example of a book that’s banned because it has a lot of truth in it that people think we have to shield our children from. There are bullies, and parents who don’t always act in the best interest of their children. There’s also A Very Bad Thing. A Very Bad Thing happens in this book. Which I won’t mention just in case you haven’t read it. But it’s something heartbreaking, and when I read this book, it was something I’d never read in a book about children before, and I remember putting the book down and actually saying, out loud, “No. No, that can’t be right,” and reading VERY VERY FAST ahead, ahead, ahead, to see if it was a joke, or a mistake. It wasn’t. I like that this book didn’t pull any punches. I respected that. This book scares the book-banners. Which is why you should read this book with your children, like, now.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson 

Reason for ban: Sexual violence, violence against women/children

Synopsis: a young woman stops speaking rather than give voice to a tragedy that occurred in her life.

This book should be required reading for any young woman. I don’t say that lightly. Is it violent? Yes. Is it violent against women? Yes. Do the book-banners have a point in their criticisms? Well, listen, the book-banners have a point in MOST of their criticisms. They’re not made-up reasons. It’s not like I could say “I want to ban The Bible because I don’t like the way it trivializes the way toilet paper should hang over the roll” because immediately, people would say “THAT ISN’T EVEN IN THERE” and I’d look like a huge weirdo dumbass toilet-paper fetishist. Most of the reasons that the book-banners want to ban books are reasons that are actually IN the books, because it would look pretty stupid if they wanted to ban them for non-existent reasons.

This book should be read for the simple reason that it shows what happens, very graphically, to a teenage victim of sexual assault. Sorry if I gave that away, but I’m pretty sure you could have guessed from the reasons people want it banned. I won’t go into much detail, because I think you should read it (or watch the movie, which is an indie film starring Kristen Stewart before she became a morose vampire hoor – the plot varies, but it’s still fairly compelling. And KStew actually isn’t the world’s worst actor, when she’s given decent source material.)

If we protect our darling baby-pink princess daughters from all the scary things in the world? They will get eaten alive by said scary things the minute they step foot outside of the castle in their fairy kingdom. Would you send your boy-scout sons out for a night camping without a canteen and a tent? No, you would not. Then why in the name of all that’s holy would you not prepare your daughters for the possibility of violence against women?

“It’s ugly. My daughter doesn’t need to see that.” Yep, you know what else is ugly? Your daughter getting date raped because she wasn’t prepared for that possibility, or even aware that that possibility exists. “It’s violent, and violence only begets violence.” Well, I’m pretty sure a young woman reading this isn’t going to perpetrate what happens to the narrator on another young woman, so that’s a bit of a moot point. “Children don’t need to read things like this; they’re ugly.” Then don’t let children read it. Let young adults read it. And the world is filled with ugliness. This book is not pretty, but it’s true, and for how heartbreaking it is, it’s also triumphant.

Here’s something I have discovered during Banned Books Week 2011, which probably a lot of people already knew:

The people banning books are doing so because they’re scared. What are they scared of? Truth. And to keep the truth from your children, they want to make books containing it hard for them to obtain.

YOUNG ADULT SERIES

The Hunger Games series – Suzanne Collins 

Reason for ban: “could numb students to the effects of violence”

Synopsis: In a dystopian future where America is broken into Districts, many of which are quite poor, young people are forced, annually, to fight to the death for public entertainment.

Have I mentioned my love for dystopian fiction? I would think it’s pretty obvious. I love it in books, I love it in movies, I love it in television series. Well, when it’s done correctly, anyway. Suzanne Collins did this series WELL.

Strong female lead. Tell me you don’t hear “The girl who was on fire” and get chills. Characters you care about. Plot so well-done and suspenseful that you can’t put it down.

Could it numb students to the effects of violence? Well, I suppose a lot of things could happen, in this crazy world we live in. I guess that could happen. I guess it could do that. I guess it could also show young women that they don’t need to be rescued by a man and that they have the inner strength needed to rescue themselves. Or that adults don’t always do the right thing. Or that our future might not be so rosy, if we’re not careful. Anything can happen, really. You know what happened when the daughter of a co-worker read the first book? A young woman who, previously, had to be bribed to finish her homework and wouldn’t be caught dead reading for *ugh* FUN? She wanted the second book. And then the third. Then she asked her mother, “Are there other books like this one? About girls like this?” I almost cried when I heard that story.  I’m a little teary-eyed now. IT INFECTED HER, you guys. It made her want MORE. So by all means, let’s ban this, please. Let’s ban something that makes our young people want to read. That’s a good move.

The Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling 

Reason for ban: Witchcraft, violence

Synopsis: Really? Do I have to? Don’t you already know? Fine. A young man finds out he is a wizard and enters a school of witchcraft, where he meets friends, has adventures, and fights enemies.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell anyone reading this about this series, because if you haven’t read it, or watched at least one of the movies, or read about it, or somehow absorbed something about it via osmosis, I think you might live in a cave, and how are you reading my blog?

Is there witchcraft in this series? Um, well, yes, yes there is. Since it’s about witches. Is there violence? Yes, again, there is that, especially when you get to the later books in the series.

There’s also friendship. And love. And valor. And compassion. And bravery. And intelligence. The writing and plot are crisp and work both for young adults and adults (as an adult who started the series in her mid-twenties, they certainly work for adults.) Stephen King’s famous Harry Potter quote, just because I love it: “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”

Also, there’s Neville Longbottom. Let’s set aside, for a moment, movie-Neville, who went from a chubby dorky kid to a drop-dead gorgeous young man over the years, and concentrate on book-Neville. I liked Harry and Ron and Hermione and I kind of loved Snape and enjoyed a lot of the other characters but I ADORE Neville. Neville had it rough. He could easily have been The Boy Who Lived, but Voldemort didn’t pick him. He isn’t the golden boy. He keeps his head down, he does his job, he works hard, he’s a good friend, and he gets bullied. Relentlessly. His parents are dead (or as good as dead, really.) He lives with his abusive, abrasive grandmother. But Neville never lets this get him down. Neville is all of us. We don’t shine. We’re not the stars. We’re in the shadow of the stars. But we get our moment, once and a while. I liked everyone else. I loved Neville. My heart broke for Neville, book after book after book. This is something we should ban? This is something we should keep from our children?

Is this series going to make young adults want to start practicing Wicca? Well, I suppose, some of them. I can’t rule that out. But most of them will be turned off when they realize they can’t make potions that turn them into other people or make things levitate or create a Patronus, I’d imagine – and the ones that stick with it, well, I’m not going to say it’s a bad thing, because it’s a good practice that I’ve been involved in and it promotes caring about yourself, the earth, and other people. Is it going to make them violent toward one another? Well, again, I suppose anything’s possible, but I think it’s probably fairly unlikely that Harry Potter is inspiring anyone to attack their classmates with a Cruciatus Curse. Or that they’d have the right wand to do the deed correctly, honestly.

The His Dark Materials series – Philip Pullman 

Reason for ban: Drug use, violence, cruelty against children and animals, anti-Christian message

Synopsis: In an alternate England where magic works side-by-side with science, a young man and woman come of age while having a series of adventures.

If you’ve seen the movie, please pretend you didn’t. The movie was not indicative of how amazing, brilliant, heartbreaking, awesome, and wonderful this series is.

Lyra Silvertongue. One of my favorite literary heroines of all time.

I’m always amazed when people haven’t read this. It’s the forerunner to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, people. It is BRILLIANT

It’s pretty obvious why it would be banned. This book does not care much for God, and does not hide that fact. At all. I won’t spoil it, but when it comes to God, this series pretty much says, “Who needs THAT nonsense?” and kind of literally, too. Read it. You’ll see what I mean. It’s not a series for someone who doesn’t like to ask questions, or who doesn’t like their worldview shaken. But it is a series for an intelligent reader, a thoughtful reader, a caring reader.  Lyra is a strong female lead who – shocking news ahead! – MAKES MISTAKES LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN WOULD OMG. Real things happen. People die. Sometimes the wrong people. People make the wrong decisions; people screw things up irreparably; people in this series are very much like everyone you’d meet in real life. They’re not above error. And you love them for it. And you root for them. And you weep with them, and you cheer for them. It’s not a happy series, overall. But it’s a TRUE series. And sometimes that’s better, both for young adult readers and for adult readers, because real life is messy, and if you’re reading books where everything turns out perfectly all the time, you start to wonder why things in your own life are so screwed-up if everyone else’s lives are so perfect.

I know, I know, I promised to keep this brief. I didn’t succeed. I’m a bit of a book nerd, as you can tell. If anyone’s still with me, you’re probably as much of a book nerd as I am, and I love you for it. Tomorrow (hopefully, if work doesn’t kick my ass into submission like today did!), my favorite banned adult novels, or why the classics are warping the youth of America’s minds so badly they will probably die unless we ban the shit out of them for their own good.


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