Tag Archives: ALA

And then there’s Twilight: A Banned Books Week conundrum

Oh Banned Books Week.  It’s the time of the year when professional and amateur book lovers alike come together to celebrate the titles that people try to remove from the libraries and the free speech champions who are fighting to keep them on the shelves.  We book nerds usually LOVE banned books since they tend to be the edgy titles that depict a subculture that’s foreign or not accepted by the mainstream, books that depict teenagers actually acting like teenagers (i.e. swearing, drinking, having sex etc.), and classics that contain language and ideas that by modern standards can seem … let’s just say outdated.

And then there’s Twilight, #10 on ALA’s most frequently challenged books of 2010 list.

Look, it’s no secret that we’re not terribly fond of Twilight here at Rampant Reads.  I mean it’s right there in the blog header, for crying out loud.  First of all, the Twilight books (I refuse to call them a saga) are very poorly written.  The pacing is awkward and clunky, the characters are all two dimensional and unpleasant (and that’s being generous), and we considered sending Stephenie Meyer a thesaurus just so that she could learn some new words besides dazzling, smoldering, and perfect marble Adonis.  The dialogue is either inane, cheesy, or consisting of sentences that no human being would ever actually speak.  All this could be tolerated (maybe) if there was a rip-roaring plot, but no, NOTHING EVER HAPPENS.  At least not until page 500 or so when someone shows up and tries to kill Bella again.  Seriously guys, that part’s always the best.  But until then, we have to put up with hundreds of pages of Bella and Edward gazing lovingly into each  other’s eyes and stroking each other in a completely chaste manner.  Y’all know I enjoy a good romance, but that’s just ridiculous.

However, boring plots and bad writing do not inspire a person to march down to the library and demand that a book be pulled from the shelves.  No,  Twilight has been challenged due to religious viewpoints and violence.  And the thing is, I kind of agree with the book banners.  Not with the specified reasons, as I can tell the difference between fiction and reality and trust others to do the same, but with the idea that Twilight could potentially be harmful to young girls.

Quite frankly, Edward and Bella’s relationship disturbs me.  He’s controlling, manipulative, and incredibly possessive.  She’s passive and her entire world revolves around him.  He breaks into her house at night to watch her sleep!  He disables her car so that she can’t go see her friends because HE thinks that they’re too dangerous!  And Bella’s like, “I know I should find this behavior creepy, but oh Edward, you’re such a dreamy perfect marble Adonis that I just can’t stay mad at you.  Can we please have sex now?”  And then he squeals and runs away because it’s his job to protect her precious virtue.  God forbid a 21st century woman actually be in charge of her own sexuality and choices.

Hmm, that may have gotten away from me there.

Moving on, I’ve heard lots of comments from girls who find the relationship gross, but enjoy the books anyway.  And I have plenty of my own guilty pleasures, so I don’t judge.  Ok, maybe a little.  But I’ve also heard plenty of comments from girls (and middle-aged women, but I’ll spare you my Twilight Moms theory) who think that Edward is the gold standard of boyfriends and that the Bella/Edward relationship is something to emulate.  This worries me.  I was a teenage girl and know how damaging a manipulative, possessive boyfriend can be at that age.  I’ve watched my friends abandon every other person in their lives for a boy, only to be left completely alone when that relationship falls apart.  It’s not healthy when one person becomes your whole world, yet Twilight doesn’t present this as damaging or dangerous.  In Twilight, this is true love.

And yet, I just can’t support banning Twilight.  As much as I’ve made fun of them, I generally think potential book banners come from a good and pure place; they want to protect children.  But morality is so subjective that who the hell gets to decide what is or is not appropriate?  I understand wanting to protect your children, but I agree with the ALA that “only parents and guardians have the right and responsibility to determine their children’s — and only their children’s — access to library resources” (emphasis mine).  And of course forbidding something tends to make kids wonder what all the fuss is about.

So I won’t stop anyone from reading Twilight, and I’d like to think I’d fight just as hard to keep it in a school or a library as I would for a book I actually like.  Probably.  But I will continue to recommend reading Cleolinda’s awesome, snarktastic recaps instead of or in addition to the books.  And I’ll keep telling young Twilight fans that if they discover someone breaking into their house to watch them sleep, to CALL THE POLICE.  I mean that’s just good advice for anyone.

I like that story SO much better!

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Wherein Librarians Take the Big Easy by Storm

I spent last weekend at the ALA conference in New Orleans.   It was an exhausting few days, but it’s really fun to see all of the new stuff that folks have coming out soon and meet authors you love already or new ones you didn’t know you cared about.

A trip to New Orleans seemed like a reason to finally read a Dave Robicheaux novel.  They’ve been on my TBR list for years, and this seemed like the opportune moment, so I borrowed The Tin Roof Blowdown (Simon & Schuster 2007) from my parents and dove in.  This one takes place in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and to be honest, those scenes are not easy to read.  The book also focuses on the seedy side of The Big Easy, and it will make you wary of walking around alone in the city.  Or with other people, really.  While the subject matter can be tough (natural disaster, looters, murder, gang rape), Dave, his family, and friends are interesting characters, and I really enjoyed reading this one.  James Lee Burke is a fantastic writer, too, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Dave’s adventures.

While I was at the conference, I got the opportunity to meet Orson Scott Card, who I’ve loved ever since I read Ender’s Game.  (Seriously, if you haven’t read this yet, you need to pick it up.  It’s epic.  I hear that the movie is finally in the works, and I can’t wait.)  I picked up a copy of Laddertop (Tor 2011), which he co-wrote with his daughter.  It’s also a manga, which I’ve never read before, but I’m open to new experiences.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I also picked up Under Heaven (Penguin 2010) by Guy Gavriel Kay.  I couldn’t make it to his book signing since I was supposed to be working occasionally while I was there instead of just picking up signed books.  However, one of the staffers in the Penguin booth got one signed for me and delivered it.  Such service!  She is my favorite Penguin employee, hands down.  I am really looking forward to this one, but it’s such a brick of a book that I may have to finish The Fountainhead before I can start in on it.  I should probably limit myself to one long and complicated novel at a time.

I love books about thieves, and I’m pretty excited to have scored two new ones.  The first is one that I saw at TLA back in April, but I foolishly did not pick up a copy there.  It’s called City of Lies  by Lian Tanner (Delacorte 2011), and I just noticed that it is the second book in a trilogy, so it looks like I’ll need to find the first book.  The cover copy says it’s about a “trained thief and a skillful liar,” so it has a lot of promise.  As soon as I find book 1, we will be in business here.  Or I’ll start mid-trilogy and hope for the best.

The other thief book is Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier, who I actually ran into every day, including at the airport on my way home where we discussed such important topics as the abundance of avocados in California, disappointment in watching Full House reruns, and why I am entirely too Southern to live in a cold climate.  In creating these links, I just noticed that he has his own ALA postgame up if this round-up isn’t enough for you.  Anyway, I started Peter Nimble Tuesday (not on the plane as promised. Sorry, Jonathan.  I had to find out what was happening with Dave Robicheaux. Crazy guys were trying to murder his daughter), and I am loving it so far.  The back of the book promises swashbuckling.  Check.  There is the aforementioned thieving.  Check.  Fun phrases like “Adventure-ho!” pop up from time to time.  Check.  All in all, an excellent start.  It makes my gym time go by quickly, which is not an easy feat to accomplish.

Finally, I am going to post some pictures of the program from the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet on Sunday night because I am enamored of it.  It looks just like a library book with the Dewey decimal tag on the spine and the little card holders in the back showing previous winners.  I will also say that while everyone did a great job, Tomie DePaola’s speech in particular was really wonderful and it made me sad that I didn’t own any of his books as a child.  I plan on going out and investing in many of them shortly as I feel that they will enrich my life and library significantly.