Awesome story below. I have always found the concept of banning books incomprehensible. Why, why would anyone do such a thing? The answer, I think, is fear.
The fact that a few hundred pieces of paper bound together can instill such fear in intolerant people is a reminder of how powerful and wonderful books really are.
Death and Taxes:
Parents in Idaho called the cops last week on junior-high student Brady Kissel when she had the nerve to help distribute a book they’d succeeded in banning from the school curriculum.
The book in question was Sherman Alexie’s young adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Published in 2007, it won the National Book Award and has become popular with young teens, supposedly for its universal themes of fitting in, making sense of race, and sexual discovery.
The sex part (and let’s face it—probably the race part) led parents to lobby Junior Mountain High School to remove it from the syllabus, citing its sexual content (it discusses masturbation) and supposedly anti-Christian content.
Local teens then started a petition to have the book reinstated. They collected 350 signatures, which is an impressive number of kids to rally around a cause like reading.
In response, a local bookstore Rediscovered Books started a crowdfunding campaign to buy a book for each of the 350 kids who signed the petition. It worked—the campaign raised $3,400, enough for a book per kid.
Rediscovered Books worked with a student involved in the petition, Brady Kissel, to distribute the books on World Book Night, an initiative to turn reluctant young readers onto reading with free, super-readable books.
They distributed all but 20 books to kids who came in to claim them, but not before parents called the cops to shut down the operation. Police told local news channel KBOI they had been called by “someone concerned about teenagers picking up a copy of the book without having a parent’s permission.”
Even police seemed to have no idea what they were doing there, and let the book giveaway proceed as planned.
Not only did it go as planned, but when Alexie’s publisher Hachette got word of the incident, they sent Rediscovered an additional 350 copies on the house. So while the book may still be banned in the school curriculum, it’s available free of cost for any kid who wants to stop into Rediscovered and pick one up.
If access to money is more democratic, it becomes harder to ban books.
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration and now a distinguished professor at Berkeley, shared this memory on his Facebook page the other day:
DEPARTMENT OF PERSONAL HISTORY. Yesterday I was reminded by a lawyer friend that when I was at Yale Law School in the early 1970s I took a class in civil and political rights. In that same class were Hillary Rodham, Bill Clinton, and Clarence Thomas. When the professor asked a question, Hillary was the first to raise her hand and almost always had the correct answer. I raised my hand fairly often but got it wrong half the time. Bill missed most classes. Clarence never said a word.
Yesterday was officially Equal Pay Day. One day of social media posts, protests and news articles about how women make less money than men. One day where we are all more aware of the gender inequality built into society, and then we get on with our lives.
Not so fast.
On average, women make $0.77 on the dollar compared to men, which means that as a white woman, I have caught up with my male counterparts’ earnings by April. But women of color across the country have a ways to go. The wage disparity is even wider when you account for a woman’s race:
Learn more from the National Organization of Women.
A couple of thousand miles worth of rivers and 375,000 acres of lake water in Florida are considered “impaired,” that is, dirty. The Indian River ecosystem has collapsed, fish kills are increasing, and between floods and profligate pumping, we risk contaminating our aquifer. We keep destroying wetlands and marshes, which act as water recharge areas. This isn’t abstract; it’s not some “green” trifle you can simply ignore. Nature isn’t a place outside your air-conditioned house, beyond your nice subdivision. It’s in your drinking water. When you look at a Florida spring, you’re looking at our aquifer. —
—Diane Roberts, Florida State University professor and Florida Wildlife Federation board member.
Roberts was scheduled to give a public talk on Florida’s waters through a Department of State speaker series, but the event was abruptly cancelled by Governor Rick Scott’s administration. Read her Tampa Bay Times editorial, “Perspective: What I would have said about water.”
This afternoon, I’m sitting in the law school library feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with the appellate brief I am writing. One, I am struggling to figure out the most persuasive structure for an important argument of the brief. Two, it is painful to be stuck in the library during spring break, when the sun is shining and it looks like a beautiful day! Tough, right?
I look out the library window at the street below. A (probably) homeless man shuffles slowly down the sidewalk. He stops at a garbage can and reaches in. He checks the contents of a paper bag and a few cups. Apparently finding nothing worthwhile, he shuffles across the street and moves on with his day.
Was I really feeling angry and frustrated moments ago about my appellate brief? Living in a big city and looking out the window every once in a while can certainly provide a healthy dose of perspective.
I might be living on student loans, and I might be working hard when others are relaxing, but I am still very privileged. I have a nice apartment, I can afford healthy food, and my “hard work” involves sitting in a comfortable chair, typing on my expensive laptop. Privilege, on its own, doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I am grateful, and frankly lucky, to have the life I do. What’s important is to recognize and apply perspective to my privilege, and to help those less lucky than myself.
February 19, 1963: Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique, a turning point in the conversation on gender politics. Thank you for everything, Betty.
The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia have barely begun and torrents of criticism are pouring forth from all directions. I certainly would not consider myself a dedicated enthusiast to the Games, but over the past few days I have been taken aback by the cloud of negativity surrounding the coverage of the Olympics in Sochi. Just below the #Sochi2014 hashtag on Twitter is its unhappy counterpart, #SochiFail.
But what, exactly, is everyone complaining about?
My feelings on these issues cut two ways: anger, followed by disappointment. Like many people, evidently, my initial response was anger towards Russia, and Putin as its leader. Why host the Olympics if you can’t provide enough functional toilets? Why enact brutal anti-gay policies just as the international spotlight is swinging your way? Why Sochi, if the region is politically unstable and prone to terrorism threats? (There’s so much else going on right now, too: Ukraine, Syria.)
The more I reflect on these emotions, the more they give way to a deeper sense of disappointment. The Olympics is a tradition where people come from all over the world to compete, but also to meet each other, make friends, and share cultures. Sure, I want America to win the gold in hockey, but remember that incredible moment in Vancouver when in overtime, on their own soil, the Canadians pulled off a fantastic win? Those are the moments we love at the Olympics - pure joy and celebration, as medalists and athletes come together to shake hands, to hug, to laugh, to cry. For a few weeks, people around the world share the common experience of watching the Olympic games.
I don’t want that tradition to falter at Sochi this year. The Olympics should be about putting aside the things that divide us, and I hope that the Winter Olympics can still bring us together. I don’t want Sochi to fail.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. —
—Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reading Letter from a Birmingham Jail is always a positive, inspiring experience.
I love today’s Google Doodle. Happy birthday, Zora Neale Hurston!
I don’t know any more about the future than you do. I hope that it will be full of work, because I have come to know by experience that work is the nearest thing to happiness that I can find… I want a busy life, a just mind and a timely death.
— Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road