Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Blog Forum Week 8

Topic 1: Books/Banned Books

It was 1998, and I was in the 7th grade. Or was it 1996, and I was in 5th grade? Either way, it doesn’t matter. In the middle of reading Gary Paulsen’s “Harris and Me” for our class, the book was banned. Somebody’s conservative Christian parent complained to the school principal that there were too many swear words and the use of “God damn.” They were really missing the entire point of the book. This city kid spends the summer at his aunt and uncle’s farm with his foul-mouthed mischievous cousin. It was funny and full of positive, serious themes about growing up and learning about different ways of living, getting outside of one’s comfort zone and learning. And that’s exactly what one kid’s parents disallowed our entire class to do. 

According to the American Library Association (ALA) website’s 2008 banned book list, this book remained banned under a “signed parental release only” for the following ten years in the Cascade School District of Leavenworth, Wash., and it’s likely still banned to this day. And let me tell you, boy was I crushed when that book was ripped from my class in the midst of reading it. We had to turn in our copies, and start reading something else far more boring. My teacher, whose name I cannot recall, seemed embarrassed, disheartened and rather frustrated. That kid who belonged to the complaining parents became a hated scapegoat of our class. It was fun for no one involved. I recall more liberal parents becoming fairly enraged that their children’s education was being encroached on by outside conservative values, especially my mother. She ordered me a copy of the book from the public library right away, just so I could finish it. Because of strong feelings on all sides of the parental spectrum, a compromise was reached by the school board, and the book was allowed to be taught only if the parents signed an agreement. 

I am 100 percent against banning books from public spaces, especially schools. It demeans learning and infringes on First Amendment rights of free speech. Books serve as windows into other worlds, cultures, and ideas-- and these things are vital to a growing child’s full and rounded education. Outright pornography of course should not be in libraries and schools, however, children should not be denied access to literature due to racy material or topics about sex education. 

On their website, the ALA has lists upon lists of frequently banned books and books banned by year and school district. Glancing through, I see about 20 titles that have been essential to my own literary education. Some of these books are favorites of mine, and at least 10 are sitting on my bookshelf right now or stored in one of my many boxes of books. For example, Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” is one of my top three favorite books, and it graces the most frequently banned books list.
 I remember reading this book when I was 14, and it certainly did not scar me or hurt my fragile teenage intellect; there are some uncomfortable scenes in the novel, but they are not gratuitous, they are powerful. 

Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” also graces both my bookshelf and the ALA’s list of most frequently banned books. 
This is a book that was slammed by critics in the 1930s yet became revered as a hallmark book in black women’s literature. It is also a book I love deeply, even more so for its controversy.

“Persepolis” is a graphic autobiography written and illustrated by Marjane Satrapi. It documents her childhood and an inside view of Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. This book was given to all the students at the first college I attended, Western Washington University. Reading it, I entered into the world of the author. It taught me more about the effects of war the Islamic revolution than anything else I have read. It’s fantastic.
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A poster for the film adaptation of "Persepolis."

Aside from those three books, if you were to peruse my shelf at home, you’d find several books of poetry by Mary Oliver and Alan Ginsberg, novels by Toni Morrison, Zora Neal Hurston, Hunter S. Thompson, Hermann Hesse, William S. Burroughs and many others. “Jack of Kinrowan” by Charles de Lint exhibits my love of fantasy and druidic folklore-inspired tales. Tales of the fae are in my blood; they come with my heritage. I’ve many more fantasy and sci-fi novels tucked away in boxes, and a set Tolkien's sit next to De Lint’s novel. When I was a kid, nothing was more entertaining than a good read in an entirely fictional and fantasy realm. Nothing that took place on regular planet Earth truly interested me; if it did, it had better involve faeries or vampires or SOMETHING otherworldly. My bookshelf provides some insight into my younger years and my beatnik phase, when I voraciously read books by Burroughs and Jack Kerouac and poetry by Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. (Doesn’t every twenty-something literature-lover go through that phase?) I somehow have two copies of Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch,” although only one is as worn and torn as my brain was after reading that beast. 
Author of "Naked Lunch" and prominent beat writer William S. Burroughs. Photo courtesy of  Johnnytimes.com
Juanita and my very beat-up copy of "Naked Lunch." Its traveled far and wide with me.

 Another book that will always be among my favorites, “Wandering: Notes and Sketches” by Herman Hesse, is one of the famous author's lesser-known books. It reads like a series of essays about his travel, nature-inspired and transcendental. It speaks to me like poetry, and I love it. I have several other nature-inspired books, memoirs and novels on my shelf; it’s fairly obvious that I’m a woman who connects with natural world on a spiritual level.

Topic 2: Magazines

Science News, March 18, 2017 edition. The magazine focuses on developments in science and technology that have the potential to affect the world. On the cover, a woman wears a white device over her eyes. The cover story says “Game On: Virtual reality tries to overcome its motion sickness problem.” Just inside the cover is a full page ad for a Tai Chi and Qui Gong lecture course on DVD. The juxtaposition of ancient eastern medicine and spiritual practices within the modern science magazine is quite telling of how our modern American culture places value and capitalizes on the “exotic” eastern wisdom, touting its health benefits for a profit. It’s also a fairly amusing and unexpected juxtaposition to see right off the bat, in all of its full-page glory. All advertisements in the magazine are full-page, and they are sparse, only 5 total in the 34-page magazine. The other ads are for a special hearing aid, and a couple for STEM education-related activities. The back page advertises a special kind of outdoor knife. Most articles are large, a half page to up to three full pages, but there are a couple quick reads in the beginning, including an article about a newly discovered type of crab named after Harry Potter, “Crab gets Harry Potter honor.” Though there are a few large, anchoring photos throughout the pages, many pages lack strong graphics and instead are full pages of columns of black on white text. The most compelling images are with the cover story, including a photo of what looks like the inside of a virtual-reality viewing. 

Unlike Science News, the magazine Gluten-Free Living contains relies heavily on photographs and advertisements, containing 20 ads, most of which are full or half-page ads. Almost all of the ads are for gluten free food and beauty products. The magazine itself contains a variety of articles, all focused on people with gluten-free diets. There is a large, four-page article on the gut microbiomes, called “The Microbiome: Guardian of the Gut.” It also contains travel guides for places around the U.S. and Europe that have gluten-free restaurants, hotels, and cruises. There is a feature story about a young girl with Celiac’s disease, who won Food Network’s “Chopped Junior,” a competitive cooking show for kids. There is a full-page photo of the girl, grinning, pretty and blonde. There’s also over 20 recipes inside, with complementary food porn; enough to make you very hungry, even if it is gluten free. Since the topic of the magazine is about something very visual and visceral, food, it really uses photos to create a rainbow-palette of foods for the reader. The ads are all related to a gluten-free lifestyle, and nothing seems out of place.

Reading a magazine in a doctor's office is a very different experience than reading one online. First, there were fewer choices. I opted for this issue of Entertainment, with actresses Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange on the cover. The issue's main story is about a new T.V. show starring the two of them playing the famous feuding historical actresses, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. 

This magazine is all about media, especially television and movies. Advertisements range from full pages to whole center spreads, like this one for the hit T.V. series "The Walking Dead."

The entire magazine is virtually promotional stories about television shows, movies, or flat-out advertisements. 

Entertainment Weekly is actually owned by Time Inc., which was part of media conglomerate Time-Warner until 2014. This meant that it was promoting a lot of the movies and television shows that Time-Warner was producing. 

It's also advertising a wide range of other things people can buy. There is even a national public service campaign about debt sponsored by The Advertisement Council. 

Aside from different advertisements, there's something much better about flipping through the glossy pages of a magazine in real life. There is texture to the experience, smooth, slippery pages; and there is smell- the smell of the pages, faint hints of ink. You can scrutinize celebrities up-close in the glossy stills, frozen that way on the pages forever. You can draw on them and give them funny mustaches, cut out pieces and make collage art. Print magazines will never die. 

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