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What Are We Protecting Children from by Banning Books?

“Reading the titles that have been challenged and removed from public-school libraries across the country.”

I’ve lately given up on posting links to articles about censorship across the United States because they’re too numerous and, frankly, too depressing to keep up with. But this article by Katy Waldman in The New Yorker provides a good summary, if you want to catch up on what’s going on.

Categories: Censorship, Libraries

A Brief History of Children’s Books and Literature

The book censorship news we read so much about now revolves around what is and is not acceptable in children’s literature. But children’s literature as a defined entity is “one of the more recent areas of literature,” writes Alice Nuttall. Here she covers the history and rise of children’s literature.

Categories: Literary History, Literature & Culture, Reading

What I Learned from Book Clubs Reading My Novels

“For an invited author, book clubs are not salons.”

Frederick Weisel, author of the novels The Silenced Women: A Violent Crime Investigations Team Mystery (2021) and The Day He Left (2022), explains what he learned from attending book group discussions. Here’s my favorite of his realizations:

I found book clubs very different from the cliché of their depictions in films and TV, where members get together under the pretense of a book club only to ignore the book, drink chardonnay, and gossip about their relationships. What struck me about the clubs I attended was how substantive and focused they were. . . . The book club discussions were squarely on the main page, in the meat of the book, the content of the stories, the issues raised.

Categories: Book Groups, Literary Criticism, Reading, Writing

Sorry, Bros, You Need Feminine Skills to Survive the Apocalypse

“Fans of mainstream sci-fi like The Last of Us believe that any hint of femininity means you’re not equipped for End Times (by zombies or by climate change). That’s just ridiculous.”

Sara Youngblood Gregory, according to her LinkedIn profile, is a writer and editor who specializes in “sex and relationships, wellness, LGBTQ topics, disability coverage, and fertility care.” In this essay she discusses HBO’s series The Last of Us, “the massively popular video-game-turned-prestige-TV-show . . . [that] explores a world ravaged by a mutated fungus that takes over the minds and bodies of infected humans, turning them into zombies, and leading to societal collapse. It’s unsettling and thought-provoking and, oddly enough, not nearly as silly as it sounds.”

I don’t play video games and have never watched the HBO show, so I’m just reporting what Gregory says here, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. 

Gregory writes, “Even in real life, women in leadership positions are often pressured to sound less ‘shrill,’ be tougher and more masculine . . . [and] this misogynistic thinking is particularly ingrained in mainstream sci-fi.” But, she adds, “any new worlds that arise after devastation (real or imagined, whether by zombies or climate change) will require both women and qualities considered feminine to rebuild.”

And so she arrives at her main point:

Categories: Life Stories in Literature, Literary Criticism, Literary History

‘Torture porn or serious literature?’: the love-hate phenomenon of cult novel A Little Life

cover: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

As the Harold Pinter theater in London prepares for the opening of a stage adaptation of Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life, Alex Needham uses the opportunity to revisit the question of whether the novel is “torture porn or serious literature.” Although I hadn’t heard the phrase torture porn before (perhaps it’s decidedly British?), I have heard the phrase trauma porn, which I guess is the American equivalent, applied to this book.

Needham approaches the question with depth and balance by talking with people on both sides. I come down on the side that appreciates the book as powerful literature; I even include A Little Life on the list of my top 5 novels.

Categories: Life Stories in Literature, Literary Criticism

Oprah Winfrey reflects on book club, announces 100th pick

For her 100th book club pick, Oprah Winfrey relied on the same instincts she has drawn upon from the start: Does the story move her? Does she think about it for days after? In a work of fiction, do the characters seem real to her?

The Associated Press interviewed Oprah about her book discussion club, which she started in 1996, and her current choice, Ann Napolitano’s recently published novel Hello Beautiful.

Categories: Book Groups, Book Recommendations

What Florida Doesn’t Want You to Know About Its Book Bans

“My books are among those getting pulled off shelves, but here is why we should should care about all of them.”

“Naturally, not all books are right for all age groups, and no one wants porn on a school bookshelf,” writes author Jodi Picoult. Here she discusses two new “very broadly worded” recent laws passed in Florida “that limit what books can and cannot be in schools.”

In a recent application of these laws, “The majority of the books that were targeted do not even have a kiss in them. What they do have, however, are issues like racism, abortion rights, gun control, gay rights, and other topics that encourage kids to think for themselves.”

In this reasonable and persuasive article, Picoult explains why everybody, not just parents in Florida, should be concerned about this trend, “Because we’ve seen, historically, what the next chapter looks like when we don’t speak out against book challenges. . . and that story does not end well.”

Categories: Censorship, Libraries, Reading

Examination of USC doctor’s earlier books finds more troubling instances of plagiarism

“With just days to go before the publication of his already-bestselling title, ‘The Book of Animal Secrets,’ Dr. David Agus said he was surprised to learn that at least 95 passages appeared to be copied from other uncredited sources, sometimes word for word,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Dr. Agus “is a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and Viterbi School of Engineering” (source).

The Times has since reviewed Agus’ three previous books — “The End of Illness,” “A Short Guide to a Long Life” and “The Lucky Years” — and found more than 120 passages that are virtually identical to the language and structure of previously published material, including newspaper and magazine stories, scientific journal articles, popular science books, Wikipedia and blogs.

The Times article further reports that all four of Agus’s books “were produced in collaboration with Los Angeles writer Kristin Loberg,” and further that “Loberg is credited as the co-author or collaborator on at least 45 books currently on the market, most published in the last 15 years” by several major publishers. 

Categories: Publishing, Writing

9 of the Best Documentaries About Writers

Julia Rittenberg explains that this list includes “my three favorite categories of writer movies: documentaries about the writers’ lives, stories about journalism, and New Yorkers who write and have opinions.”

And if, like me, you’re fascinated by the possibilities of writers as characters in books (both fiction and nonfiction) and movies, the final paragraph of this article includes links to biopics about authors, fictional movies about writers, and books about writers.

Categories: Author News, Writing

© 2023 by Mary Daniels Brown

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