BANNED & CHALLENGED BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS including a brief mention of “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation”

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I have only used only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019), with the partial exception of the book I am currently reading.

BANNED & CHALLENGED BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Since today is the last day of Banned Books Week, I thought I’d wrap up with brief comments on the other books I’ve read from the above list, as well as talk about my current read.

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

–an engrossing young adult novel, partially autobiographical, of an American Indian boy growing up on a reservation. He’s transferred to another school where he is the only Indian student and must struggle to fit into two worlds. Although I read this several years ago, I remember deeply empathizing with the main character, and it gave me a completely different perspective on the struggles of American Indians.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

–a beautifully written and tragic story of an abused and neglected little girl. As an African American child, she is constantly referred to as ugly and longs for blue eyes (which she equates with whiteness) so she will be loved. As a blue-eyed blonde caucasion woman, this book made me feel terrible, which I think was part of the point. If you want to feel good, this isn’t a happy read, but if you want to see how racist views on appearance leave emotional scars, this book is amazing.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

–I read this book years ago for school, so honestly I don’t have much memory of the plot other than the part where they explain the title: “To kill a mockingbird is a sin” because all they do is make the world a little better. Honestly, as I write this I realize I should probably reread the book anyway, because it’s a really good novel.

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

–I went through a phase where I read a lot of dystopias, and I found this one really interesting. The idea of good girls being promiscuous (the opposite of how I was raised), the idea of monogamous love being selfish, and this perfectly regimented society looked upon by outsiders is fascinating. Fair warning though, the ending is weird.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

–I love this book, and it made me cry.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

–see above.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

–Another classic that made the list. Often because it uses racist terms like “the n-word,” although in the beginning of the book Twain explains that he wrote the novel using the dialogue of the time and place. In other words, be mad at reality, not him. There are other problematic things with the book worth mentioning, namely that the runaway slave Jim comes off overly simple at times, but I took that as a reflection of his being uneducated because of his slave status; Huck is also uneducated as well as superstitious. The long and short of it is, if you haven’t read this, you need to. Not only is it an amazing read, it’s an ingrained part of American culture. 

The Holy Bible

–It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Christian Bible makes the list: people argue over different editions, and it contains sex, incest, murder, basically every sin you could possibly imagine. Religion is often a source of controversy. And while I have read large portions of the Bible in pieces, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have not read it in its entirety.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

–I actually read this book fairly recently and was both fascinated and horrified by the exploits of its characters. I will say this though: the book has a much better ending than the film, and it did make me think.

And finally, I am currently reading the challenged book, Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation” by Anne Frank, by Ari Folman (Adapter), David Polonsky (Illustrator)

I’d like to mention this book was not banned in Texas (as has been widely misreported). It was challenged, temporarily removed from shelves, but ultimately returned and available for checkout. The original edition of Diary of a Young Girl, a classroom staple for years, was not disputed: However, the challenged edition of Anne Frank’s diary is not the one most school children read growing up, but rather a graphic adaptation based on her complete diary. Social media has claimed that this was banned, which is false.

The one most of us are familiar with had been edited to remove material considered too personal. In Texas, the graphic adaptation was challenged, most likely because of references to homosexuality and female genitalia, but ultimately not banned. 

A challenge means that someone has an objection to a library book’s availability, usually either because of age appropriateness or some other reason. The challenge is the process by which books are determined to be kept on shelves or removed from circulation (which would be considered a ban). The challenge was issued the previous school year, the book (along with others) was removed temporarily from library shelves, read and voted upon, and ultimately returned to circulation. However, shortly before the next school year began, a new school board was elected; they instituted new criteria for books which resulted in many books being temporarily removed from shelves so that the process could be redone under the new guidelines. Basically, politics. 

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation is authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel, includes direct quotes from the definitive edition, and has won awards. I’m only about a third of the way through the book, which I digitally checked out via my local library, but it seems close to what I remember of the original book, with the illustrations taking some artistic license below direct quotes from the original text. So when Anne complains about her fights with her mother, the illustrations show her arguing and supposes what was said; I’m not sure how much artistic license was used since it’s been so long since I read the original diary. The illustrations are amazing though; seeing the layout of the hidden living quarters was especially helpful, and the artwork complements the text to produce a uniquely moving story. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my week of posts in honor of Banned Books Week.  If you’d like to read more of my work, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my writing for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

*sources:  Anne Frank adaptation, 40 more books pulled from Texas school district – The Washington Post, Anne Frank graphic novel to be reinstated in Texas school district following controversy – The Jewish Chronicle (thejc.com)

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019). .

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

The Giver is Lois Lowry’s young adult masterpiece that focuses on the life of Jonas, a teen growing up in a perfect society without sadness, where childhood milestones (such as being given a bike) are strictly regimented and looked forward to, and where everyone is given a perfect job for their temperament when they come of age. The reason the society functions this way is because its inhabitants are spared unpleasant memories: rather the collective memories of mankind are passed on to a single person who carries the burden as well as the blessings and perspective of those experiences.

Beware: I will try to be as general as possible, but there are spoilers ahead.

Objections to the text include “unsuited to age group,” “violence,” “sexually explicit,” “religious viewpoint,” and “suicide,” as well as infanticide and euthanasia. The novel was temporarily banned in California; challenged in Montana (resulting in a parental permission requirement); challenged in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida; and in 2001, a Colorado father challenged the book because he believed “those types of books sow the seeds of school shootings by encouraging suicide and disregard for human life.”

Although most of these objections have some merit, I would argue they show a lack of ability to view the book’s overall value. For example, while The Giver would not be a good read for very young children, even the problematic themes of infanticide and euthanasia are not presented graphically. Rather they are revealed as inherent problems in the society itself. Rather than “encouraging suicide and disregard for human life,” the reader–through the eyes of Jonas–sees the inherent value of those lives that other citizens of his society can’t, deprived as they are of the perspective and emotional experience of memory.

Ultimately, the book has an ambiguous ending. We don’t really know what happens at the end, save that Jonas risks his life to save someone he cares about. Far from endorsing suicide, it highlights the lengths someone will go to protect the people they love.

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Today I’ve also posted on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

**sources: Lois Lowry, “The Giver” – The Banned Books Project (cmu.edu)Why ‘the Giver’ Is One of the Most Banned Books (businessinsider.com), The Giver banned: Why do so many parents try to remove Lois Lowry’s book from schools? (slate.com)

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “1984” by George Orwell

In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019). .

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “1984” by George Orwell

1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four, depending on which edition you read) by George Orwell has been banned in different countries many times in the decades since its first publication in 1949. The Soviet Union banned the book for forty years, because of its warnings of totalitarianism; yet it’s also been challenged in the United States as being pro-communist (Jacksonville, Florida, 1981). One student had his Kindle edition of the book–along with his notes–removed from his device by Amazon: an ironic situation given the theme of censorship and information suppression throughout the book.

Besides its political warnings, the book does contain some sexuality, along with violence and other plot elements that usually offend people and get a book challenged and/or banned. Orwell, a democratic socialist, claimed he wrote the book as a warning of the potential excesses of socialism. 

The book follows the life of Winston Smith, a resident of Oceania who works at the Ministry of Truth–the government department in charge of censoring the news, as well as editing fiction, creating government approved music, revising history, and paring down the English language (Newspeak) so that citizens are incapable of “thought crimes.” Other government departments include the Ministry of Plenty (in charge of rationing) and the Ministry of Love (in charge of political prisoners and torture). 

The face of the Party is Big Brother, a strong mustachioed man of indeterminate age, a surrogate for the fractured family bonds that the totalitarian government destroys. Parents fear their children will report them for unorthodox behavior. Women and men have sex purely for procreation, with no joy allowed; it’s merely “duty to the Party” to produce a new generation. And everywhere there is surveillance. Danger behind every stray thought that is not party approved.

Winston rebels quietly at first by keeping a journal in a corner of his tiny flat where the cameras cannot see what he is doing. Later, his rebellions expand: he has a secret love affair, he rents another flat, he buys an object of beauty from the past, and he holds a hatred of Big Brother deep within his heart. Eventually he and his lover confide in a coworker  O’Brien, in the hopes of joining a resistance to overthrow Big Brother–with tragic results.

1984 is not a happy book. It’s a profoundly disturbing read. The sexuality that it contains, however, is more political than anything else. An encounter with a prostitute shows the depths to which the Party has poisoned natural human sexuality. When Winston begins his love affair, the simple act of her removing her clothes and throwing them off becomes a political statement in itself. Their act of having sex for the sheer joy of it IS rebellion. And it’s beautiful. This is a terrible, heart-breaking, and disturbing story, and it also has one of the most tragically beautiful love stories ever written, the type of romance to make Romeo and Juliet weep with envy. 

The violence of the book is also vital to the plot. Fear of the Party, obedience to the Party, is not enough. The Party, in the form of Big Brother, demands nothing less than absolute love and devotion. So those unfortunates guilty of “thought crime” are ultimately sent to the Ministry of Love to be tortured until they are brain-washed into total love and devotion to Big Brother. 

So yes, the book has violence and sex and politically charged themes. Many of the terms from the novel have saturated our culture: Big Brother is watching, thought-crime, and double-think–to name a few. And it will make you think. It will make you question authority and possibly your own assumptions. It’s an amazing read. One you aren’t likely to forget. 

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Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

**sources: Why ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’ Aren’t Banned in China – The Atlantic, Belarus has banned the sale of 1984. ‹ Literary Hub (lithub.com), Banned Book Highlight: Literature lifts the veil in Orwell’s “1984” | The Collegian (kstatecollegian.com), Was George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Banned in the United States and the USSR for Conflicting Reasons? – Truth or Fiction?, CENSORED: The Story of Five Banned Books – Dorrance Publishing Company, | PCWorld

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019). .

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

Like The Hunger Games and other selections from the banned books list, Ender’s Game focuses on the price paid by children as the cost of war. In a future where mankind spreads to the stars, an alien race attacks the Earth. After a desperate move unexpectedly succeeds against the enemy, mankind is determined not to be caught unawares again. To this end, child geniuses are trained in military tactics using war games as preparation for when the aliens eventually return. Ender Wiggins is one such child genius, and the future of humanity may rest in his hands.

Since the book has been out since 1985, and there was even a movie starring Harrison Ford (2013), I’m tempted to spoil the book to make my points. But I won’t, because if you haven’t read the book yet and are unfamiliar with the story, you really, REALLY should. Objections to the scifi classic include claims that it’s “pornagraphic” by a parent in Aiken, South Carolina; it’s been awhile since I read the book, but I don’t remember there being any sex at all. It’s possible the parent was confused by other material the teacher shared with the class. There was discussion over whether to arrest the teacher, but the most recent article I found said no charges were pressed. It’s still a worrying development though, one that seems to run against the right to free speech.

Other objections to the text of Ender’s Game include “offensive language,” “unsuited to age group,” and “violence.” Older versions of the book do include racial slurs, particularly in a scene where one of Ender’s friends is called “slanty-eyed,” and Ender responds with an even worse word for the antagonist. The author defended the scene by saying Ender’s seemingly racist response was actually meant to call attention to the antagonist’s racism; he was being ironic. But later editions of the book have a sanitized version of this scene. 

As far as the age appropriateness of Ender’s Game, it’s generally considered aimed at fourteen year olds and older. The violence in the book is real, though not as graphic as The Hunger Games. There are instances of bullying, with some gruesome consequences, but the overall violence is tamer than this–in the form of the games the students of Battle School play to learn their craft. 

The more disturbing aspects of the book have to do with the overarching ethical questions: Is it moral to use children to fight a war? Is a pre-emptive strike ever justified? What is the value of a life? These questions, while somewhat troubling, are worthy of a book in themselve. They are questions we should ask ourselves as part of our journey to be moral beings.

Ender’s Game is a science fiction classic for good reason. 

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Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

**sources:

Parent files police complaint after teacher reads Ender’s Game to pupils | Science fiction books | The Guardian,

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — Banned Library,

South Carolina Teacher Suspended For Reading ‘Ender’s Game’ To Middle School Students [Updated] (forbes.com),

bannedandchallengedbooksteen.pdf (ppld.org)

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins 

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019).

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard of The Hunger Games. However, if you haven’t, let me enlighten you about this thrilling series. In the future dystopian country of Panem, the land is divided into thirteen districts ruled over by the Capitol, with each district being chiefly responsible for a certain national resource. Once a year, there is a lottery where district children between the ages of twelve and eighteen are “reaped” to participate in the Hunger Games: a national contest of survival where there can only be one winner. Every other tribute child dies, while the district of the winner gets extra rations–with the winner and their family being cared for (in comparative luxury) for the rest of their lives. The contest was created as punishment and reminder to the districts to never rise against the Capitol again. The story mainly follows Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take the place of her little sister as the female tribute (when the younger Everdeen’s name is pulled via lottery). 

I’ve adored Greek mythology ever since I was a child, and the plot of the young tributes being sacrificed to the Capitol reminded me strongly of the young Athenian tributes being sacrificed to the Minotaur in Crete. I became even more curious about the books after learning they were on the Banned Books list. Some of the reasons listed include Anti-ethic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic references, and in 2014 “inserted religious views” was added to that list –coincidently the same year that anti-government protesters in Thailand used the book’s symbolism to show sympathy with people oppressed by their own governments; seven people (possibly more) were arrested because of the incident.

As far as the objections to the book: some are valid, though I’d argue that they are necessary to the plot. The charge of being anti-ethic makes no sense to me: the book focuses on ethics in particular. Perhaps its the anti-authoritarian themes that are objectionable to those in charge, especially to school age children they wish to be obedient. Anti-family likewise makes no sense; Katniss’s family (as well as some others) is somewhat broken, but they are still family who care for each other. Katniss sacrifices herself to save her sister. How much more pro-family could she possibly be?

The charges of insensitivity and offensive language I’m honestly not sure of. I haven’t read the book in awhile, but I remember the language being fairly tame. Again, I believe it’s probably a case of objection to the book’s themes of rebellion and some situations that would frighten younger readers; however, the book was written for young adult audiences. And I have absolutely no idea where the charge of “occult/Satanic references” came from. There’s really no discussion about religion. Politics and survival are the prevailing issues throughout the book.

The author herself has said she wrote the books to expand upon the “the just-war debate” and explore the question of the mortality of war. She wanted to spark political and ethical discussions. Since the book focuses on children paying the price of war–particularly on the almost gladiatorial combat of the tributes, I would say she’s met her goal. 

In fact, I would argue that this book ranks along with other political scifi classics like Orwell’s 1984–coincidentally another banned book from the same list.  For a thought-provoking dystopian novel aimed at young adults, check out The Hunger Games.

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Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

*sources: Hunger Games (Meaghan Merritt) | CMLIT 130: Banned Books (psu.edu), Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” – The Banned Books Project (cmu.edu), Banned: The Hunger Games – The City Voice, Suzanne Collins Talks About ‘The Hunger Games,’ the Books and the Movies – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Walking Dead” (comic book series)

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019).

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: The Walking Dead (comic book series)

The Walking Dead  is a series of  graphic novels illustrating the world after the fall of civilization due to a zombie apocalypse. The series follows Rick Grimes, a sheriff’s deputy, husband, and father as he attempts to navigate a world without the infrastructure we’ve all come to rely on: a world where there is no law enforcement, people kill to survive, to get resources, to defend themselves, and–oh yeah, the dead walk and feed upon the living. What does it mean to be a good person in a world ruled by the dead?

I first came upon the series through digital ebooks via Humble Bundle, then continued reading the following books via Hoopla Digital and finally finished the series by way of physical graphic novels. I’ve grown to love not only the characters, but the complex plots and ethical dilemmas faced by Rick and the other survivors throughout the years. Hell, I’ve even read The Walking Dead and Philosophy: Zombie Apocalypse Now, which explores the ethical themes of the comic series–of which there are many.

The series itself contains violent murders and suicides, as well as polygamy, homosexuality, graphic sexuality, rape, pre-emptive strikes, and other complex or disturbing issues. So when I spotted the series listed in the top 100 most banned and challenged books, I was not surprised. Actually, I was surprised that it was so low on the list, just barely squeaking in at #97. 

I found quite a few articles on this banning, but they all basically pointed to the 2019 case of a lone school district in Idaho which removed the series from the high school library’s shelves. The book was challenged due to “graphic imagery.” However, it was still available at other public libraries in the same system, so it was still available via interlibrary loan to students who could potentially pick up their copies at–you guessed it! the school’s library. From the different articles I read, they were working on a compromise position.

Which leads me to the question: Are banned books as much of a problem as we are led to believe?

I’m not advocating banning books. As a writer and author, freedom of expression is very dear to me. However, after hours of searching, I could only find this single instance repeated over and over again. I adore the series, but honestly? If there ever was a series you’d expect people to get their hackles raised over, it would be this one. It’s an amazing story that contains a lot of horrific scenes and tragic scenarios, where people are forced to face where conventional morality meets the practicality of survival. The fact that the main objections were only “graphic imagery” and that the material was “”less than desirable in a scholastic environment” is frankly astonishing.

So is the issue of book bans really as bad as Banned Books Week seems to imply? The series seemingly was only removed from one school’s (or school district’s?) shelves, and the books were still available through other public libraries or by simply buying the series. In fact, before the interlibrary loan issue became apparent, the school’s copies of the books were donated to another library.

However, I was surprised to discover a headline depicting a Walking Dead shirt banned in UK because of the “racist history” of its slogan. The shirt depicts Negan, one of the serie’s biggest villains, holding his trademark weapon–a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire named Lucille, along with the phrase “”eeny meenie miny moe.” If you are unfamiliar with the series, Negan uses this phrase to choose who to beat to death with Lucille. 

Yet, the objection is not based on the implied murder but the history of the phrase being followed by “catch a n— by the toe.” As an American, I was unfamiliar with this phrase; I’d always heard it followed by “catch a tiger by the toe”–which is how it is used in the comics. The article goes on to explain the person was also offended because the bat “relates directly to the practice of assaulting black people in America.“ Considering the whole picture–the phrase is used as a playful way to murder someone with a bat, the racism charge seems nonsensical to me. In fact, in the series, the plot develops to show prejudices are actually detrimental to survival; survivors are people who are able to band together for the common good. 

The complaint resulted in the shirt being discontinued by UK retailer Primark. I did check Amazon though, and there are multiple variations of the shirt there, so again–does this really constitute a ban? 

So, to sum up, while The Walking Dead series contains a lot of graphic violence, terrible situations, and morally questionable decisions, it’s actually an incredible psychological drama with complex characters and ultimately a message of hope in the face of losing everything. It’s one of my favorite series. While I don’t think it’s appropriate material for small children (who don’t have enough life experience to understand the difficult and frightening issues of the books), for high school age and above I do think it’s an amazing read. 

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Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

*sources: 11 Challenged and Banned Comics | Banned Books Week, Idaho High School Bans The Walking Dead Comic Series (cbr.com), This ‘Walking Dead’ shirt was banned from stores for racism | Mashable

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019).

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

And Tango Makes Three first came to my attention several years ago when it made the banned (and challenged) books list for reasons such as “Unsuited to Age Group,” “religious viewpoint,” “homosexuality,” “anti-family,” and “anti-ethnic.” My son was too old for the book at this point, so I borrowed it from my library purely out of curiosity.

This children’s picture book is the true story of two male penguins in Central Park Zoo who nested together and took turns caring for an egg that hatched into a female penguin, Tango, that they raised together. If my son had been a young child at this point, I would have had no qualms about reading the book to him. The story is sweet, the drawings adorable, and my heart just melted over this little family.

Addressing the objections against the book, I honestly don’t think “unsuited to age group” makes any sense. It’s a picture book. There are no adult themes at all, rather the focus is on two animals caring for another. 

Although I don’t share the objections of “religious viewpoint” and “homosexuality,” I at least understand where they came from. The two male penguins raising a young penguin on their own obviously ties in politically to themes of gay marriage and adoption. However, even if these were valid reasons, the story remains a true story.Just because it happens to be a perfect metaphor for human politics doesn’t make it any less true.

The charge of “anti-family” doesn’t make sense to me, except for the obvious idea that it’s an unconventional family: the two male penguins along with their baby are not a traditional nuclear family, but they’re still a loving family. Also, honestly, I have no idea why this would be considered “anti-ethnic.” They’re freaking PENGUINS. I have no light to shine upon this subject. 

So if you have a young child, I heartily recommend this picture book as a sweetly endearing tale of an unconventional family in the animal kingdom.

POEM: “scavengers”

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scavengers

amid blackened skulls
crushed beneath metal monsters
the dirge of mankind howls
beneath the laser blasts
plastique blows apart
the enemies of man

while remnants harvest
buried treasures of the lost
metal can be reforged
machine parts repaired
military weapons
a much sought boon

but the sweetest find of all
hides beneath charred remains
a blackened wood door
opens a hole into earth
where a root cellar cache
lies empty of all save one

preserving a sweetness
most will never know


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*inspired by Terminator

Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, as well as craft tips, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

POEM: “a shared cup”

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a shared cup”      


first		we sit
place coats on backs of chairs
make ourselves comfortable
as we ease into place

talking of nothing
we let the tea steep
boiling water unfurls dried leaves
full green tips unfold their agony

within their porcelain prison
unleashing hidden flavors
they release the scent of Indian soil
beneath brilliant burning suns

the shared story of mankind sits between us
bequeathed by queens and kings, smugglers 
and emperors, peasant monks, campfire caravans, and rebels
that sparked revolution with midnight revels

each fragile china cup contains
a common history: tales of blood and war
served with sweetly savored cakes
to balance bitterness

we savor this small oasis in time
thirst for more than mere water
this still and quiet refuge made precious
by its rarity in our swift flowing universe

steam rises between us
our tongues release with gentle practice
we speak more deeply
with time and space enough	to breathe

each sip		a shared communion.




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I know that last week I said I was switching to mostly current events and writing prompts, but I wanted to share this newly finished poem with you as soon as possible! 


Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, as well as craft tips, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

CURRENT EVENTS:  Creative BREAKS and Permission for Self Care

A-1 Bookstore of Canton, Ohio (photo taken by Cat Russell, 2021)

While I’m rewriting my draft for my second novel, Hera Unbound, I’m altering my monthly content from poems to either writing prompts or short posts about current events.  

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CURRENT EVENTS:

Last November I utilized the resources of National Novel Writing Month–aka NaNoWriMo–to create the first draft of my next novel, a retelling of the Olypian coup against Zeus by his wife, Hera, goddess of marriage. Most people who are passingly familiar with Greek mythology only know Hera as the goddess of marriage demonized as the persecutor of her husband’s mistresses/victims. I wanted to tell her story. 

Originally I planned to take a couple months off and begin the second draft in the new year, but my family has been hit by one thing after another and honestly, it just kept getting put on the back burner. I had a couple false starts that didn’t really pan out. Then, after months of triaging my life, I finally decided that instead of trying to edit the original draft, I’d just start over.  I looked over my original draft–including notes on things that needed to be addressed, redrafted a new outline that corrected the previous problems, and started over. I’m currently on chapter two.

WRITER PERMISSION: I’m giving myself permission to ease my commitments to my blog, writing short summaries instead of creating fresh poems for each post, in order to concentrate on this larger project. I also give myself permission to take a step back if and when needed, as many times as needed. I may be a writer, but I’m also a person, and my mental health comes first.

I am including this, not only to reaffirm this to myself, but to tell any other struggling writers out there, it’s okay to take a break when you need one. If you can’t write anything, go work on something else. Or binge The Walking Dead. Do whatever you need to do to find your equilibrium again. It’s not only okay, it’s necessary.

Thank you.

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*image taken by myself in 2021 of A-1 Bookstore in Canton, Ohio.

*Next Friday, I’ll also post a short followup on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe there to support my work for as little as $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!