top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Banned Books on My Comps Reading List

This week, The Broke and the Bookish are holding their weekly booking meme, Top Ten Tuesday, with a theme of fall reading lists. But it’s also Banned Books Week, as I mentioned yesterday. So this week I’m doing a mish-mash of the two things—a list of banned books that are on my fall reading list. Of course, my fall reading list is all bound up in comps, so this is a list of banned books on my comps list.

(Note: I have, of course, read most all of these. But I’m re-reading them, too, and I think it’s important to highlight some of the prolific pieces of literature that make it into advanced studies but are challenged when used in a classroom or placed in a library.)

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain.

2. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway.

3. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck.

4. Native Son, Richard Wright.

5. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

6. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neal Hurston.

7. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison.

8. The Awakening, Kate Chopin.

9. Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, Mildred D. Taylor.

10. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Judy Blume.

CBLDF

Photo by Patrik Goethe via Unsplash

Banning Books, Banning Voices: A Banned Books Week Post

It’s Banned Books week. And as you guys well know, we at Part Time Monster love books. As a literature student, I have spent and still spend significant portions of my time reading and interpreting texts. And my Monster contributors are avid readers and interpreters, too. With the exceptions of Gene’O (who we all know has a predilection for literature) and Cat, I met every Monster contributor at some point in my college career, most of them in literature classes.

And all this reminds me a bit of a story. When Cat and I were young—probably around 11 or so—she was reading things I wasn’t really allowed to read. Of course, I don’t think she was allowed to read those things, either, but there were books in her house that weren’t in my house, books that were violent, books that had copious amounts of sex in them, books that had cursing. Books that, looking back, I suspect might’ve actually been in my house but were hidden better than those at Cat’s house.

Anyway, Cat would dog-ear the “best” places in the books and bring them to school, and my group of middle school girlfriends would giggle as about 5 of us read a page at a time. And once, Cat loaned me a book I totally knew I shouldn’t have. Like I knew so much that it would be disapproved of that I hid the book and only read it when I could lock my door.

But I knew that I was hiding those books because I was too young for them, not because my mother would want those books erased or that she would censor them. My mother had, and has, a profound respect for the written word and an unrelenting belief in freedom of speech and press, even when her own morals clash with what is being published. When I was a teen on an R.L. Stine binge, for instance, she complained about me reading something so gruesome and not reading anything more Literary.

And Literary comes with its own sort of distinctions and problems, all sorts of questions, distinctions, and value judgments, but for us, part of what it always meant was books that were educational. There were books that were considered canonical, and my mother wanted me to read them. She wanted me to be a Well Read Woman. She wanted me to read Shakespeare and Jane Austen and Harper Lee and Tolkien in addition to R.L. Stine and whatever else I wanted to read. Early on, she taught me that reading is education, and that was a valuable lesson to have about fiction, one that I think we often forget: fiction teaches us.

wellreadwoman

When we ban or try to ban books, we’re banning a teaching tool. We’re banning linguistic and historic education. We’re silencing voices, teachers from the past. On the list of most often banned books sit some of the most prolific classicsThe Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc. But every book deserves the chance to be read, classic or no. Every voice deserves the chance to be heard, and every lesson deserves the chance to be learned.

Today, I say thanks to all the readers, to all the writers, to all the librarians and to all the teachers. And I say happy Banned Books Week—-now go read, folks!

CBLDF

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Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 5: “Time Heist” Review

“Time Heist” by Steve Thompson and Steven Moffatt isn’t the best episode we’ve seen in this new season, but it’s certainly the coolest. As much as I’ve enjoyed Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman up to this point, I came away from each of the previous four episodes wondering when the new Doctor was going to emerge.  Clara Oswald has seemed like the central character so far. “Time Heist” is the first episode of this season in which I felt as though I was watching the Doctor rather than Capaldi playing the Doctor.

cyborgThe Doctor and Clara answer the TARDIS phone and immediately find themselves on a strange planet suffering from amnesia, and in the company of a cybernetically-enhanced human and a shapeshifter who assumes the form of anyone she touches. It seems the four have agreed to rob the most impregnable bank in the universe, and have used memory worms to wipe their most recent memories. As an added bonus, the planetary authorities are alert to their presence, so they have just enough time to receive instructions from their principal, “The Architect,” before they have to get up and running. From this point on, the episode is a classic caper, with a dangerous psychic alien (“The Teller”) thrown in.shapeshifter

The strongest element of this episode, as with “Robots of Sherwood,” is its well-thought-out production. It’s basically a futuristic Mission:Impossible episode, complete with cool gadgets, a ridiculously complex security system, and stylish wardrobe. Even the music is suggestive of the “heist” movies, and the slow-motion scene when the four protagonists walk into the bank is straight out of Ocean’s Eleven. The acting doesn’t sparkle as it did in the last couple of episodes. Clara isn’t quite as central to the story as she’s been up to this point, and the characterization of the two supporting characters is a bit weak. The tradeoff is that this episode is all about the Doctor from beginning to end, and it turns out that he’s taking this enormous risk to save an alien race from extinction. That’s not a bad tradeoff in my mind.

“Time Heist” has lots of good individual scenes. The one that stands out to me the most is the one in the middle of the episode when the Teller is stalking the Doctor and company through the service corridors of the bank. The Teller’s eyestalks and the layout of the service corridors are suggestive of the Minotaur in the Labyrinth.

teller

I wonder if anyone else noticed that; it was so obvious to me I assumed it was intentional. Despite the excellent production and the many good scenes, this episode falls a bit flat, but I can’t put my finger on just what’s wrong with it after only one viewing. Something about the plot strikes me as a little off. Perhaps this could also be a result of the weak characterization of the supporting characters — something that hasn’t been a problem up to this point.

All in all, “Time Heist” is a serviceable and thoroughly-enjoyable episode. I rate it as better than “Deep Breath,” and roughly equal with “Robots of Sherwood.” But after thinking about it for a day, I’m not sure I’ll enjoy it on the re-watch. Doctor Who thrives on stories, and while the premise is good, the effects are good, and the whole thing is just too clever not to like, this episode tells a mediocre story at best. This isn’t surprising since it’s playing with the “team of specialists pull off the crime of the century” subgenre, and as much as I enjoy movies like “The Italian Job,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” etc., those movies aren’t about originality in plotting.

Three things concern me about this latest installment.

  1. I didn’t see the season arc moving this week.
  2. We’ve had five episodes now, and three of them have worked only because they did a good job playing with well-established tropes. “Into the Dalek” is a mildly-dystopian Fantastic Voyage. “Robots of Sherwood” is Robin Hood played for laughs to make a vague point about heroes and legends. Now we’ve added a bank heist to the list. Doctor Who does this from time to time and it often works (anyone remember “A Town Called Mercy?”), but too much of it in a single season is not a good thing. For my money, we’ve reached our limit for these types of episodes for this season.
  3. We’re already up to episode 5 and it’s only this week that I’ve started to feel like I’m watching the Doctor as opposed to a very talented actor play the Doctor. I’m not sure the character is developing quickly enough. Episode 8 will be here before we know it.

As always, I’d  love to know what you think about this episode, and my review. Have a great Monday, and join me for another installment next week.

 

Unsplash by Justin Leibow

Saturday Feature: If We Were Having Coffee…

I’d tell you that this week has felt rather short, which is both a blessing and a curse. As I mentioned, last week felt very long and very full, and that made me incredibly tired by week’s end. This week was the inversion of that–I felt as though I was just getting started, and then suddenly the week was over and we were staring at the weekend.

It was nice not to feel so fatigued this week, but it’s also another week closer to the dreaded exams, and I’ve got lots of both reading and grading to do this weekend.  My lecture class turned in their first essays this week, and since I’ve got my online course turning theirs in tomorrow, which will mean I have another 20-ish to grade on top of the 20-ish I have to grade right now, I should get started.

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I’d tell you that I’ve been talking with people about Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” this week. There’s a certain compulsion to love it. The song does have a good enough beat, and Trainor’s voice is not only good, but distinctive, and the Time of Auto-Tune, that’s something. But the song itself—it seems at first to be so body-positive, to be about celebrating bodies that are different from the status.

But it’s also got an underlying message that is about male attraction being the marker of beautiful and usefulness. “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” That’s the justification for her size (and let’s be honest—no one needs to justify their size). So boys get to define the usefulness and attractiveness of our bodies. Because they want more, we should strive to fit the size-window between Barbie Doll and Eva Longoria. And Trainor is actually pretty small. No, she’s not a size 2…But she’s also not a size 16. This is the Jennifer Lawrence brand of body positivism. She’s a body-positive role model because she’s a size or two above normal for famous women and is talking about that.

But when we allow this to be the message, we’re ignoring the culture that set up a woman like Meghan Trainor to say things like this and to project such a message about herself and other women. We’re ignoring that Trainor compares the body to a bass for a reason—its shape. That’s the “perfect” shape. We’re ignoring that in order to talk about why her body is ok (and that she even has to do that), she talks about why men like it. We’re ignoring heteronormativity. We’re ignoring body shaming of thin women and of fat women. We’re ignoring a lot of things.

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I’d tell you that class went exceptionally well this week. We tried something which I tend to do each semester to illustrate the difference between connotative and denotative meanings of words as well as why a thesaurus can be your enemy. We listed all the words for “woman” that we could think of, including the negatives. Then we sorted out connotation, denotation, and what would happen if you’d never heard that word but just used it because you liked it, and we discussed contexts when the words would change meanings. It’s such a fun thing to do. We also talked a lot this week about language and culture, and I’m enjoying the conversations.

Students are writing blogs this semester, too, and I’m seeing really interesting differences between the ones who are online-only students versus those who are lecture and online students insofar as what they’re willing to reveal on the Internet. In contrast to what we normally see on the net (anonymity, asynchronicity, and being behind the keyboard working to make people bolder), not having the classroom environment seems to make students less open in their blogs.

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I’d tell you that I’d love to chat more, but I’ve got to start getting some grading done or I’ll still be grading tonight.