A Note:


I once told myself: IF I am accepted into grad school, this blog would no longer be updated. As it turns out, in April, I received news of my acceptance for the Fall 2013 semester, where I will attain a Master's degree of Science in Nutrition.

Running a blog, as many of you may already know, is a demanding side job once the excitement wears off. And once I fell out of the blogging community's loop (have you SEEN how many blogs there are now? Wow!), it was like the kiss of death. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get into a blogging routine once this happened due to the disconnect I felt from the community.

So I took a break. I struggled with the loss and with missing my blog. And then I realized I didn't have to run Book Faery to still be a book reviewer; I could read my books and post reviews online. I'm still a book review blogger, just not in the traditional sense.

I'll still be online. You can chat with me on Twitter, where I'll be posting links to my reviews and talking books. I'll also be posting links to nutrition articles. And if you'd like to connect with me where I guarantee I will post reviews, just add me as a friend on Goodreads.

So that's all, folks! It's been a fun and amazing journey, and I thank you all for listening to my thoughts about books. I hope we all can keep in touch elsewhere :)


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Ugly Side of Censorship

Earlier today, I read a post written by a high school English teacher that broke my heart.  (You can check it out here)  Aside from the obvious stupidity of the community and administration, this post bothered me because I have decided, thanks to the help of numerous education courses, that I would like to one day become a high school English teacher.  By reading that story, by hearing about the trials and tribulations Mrs. Mullins suffered through, I almost felt discouraged by my... somewhat ballsy goal.  (I say somewhat ballsy because I'm still shocked that I feel so passionate about teaching.)

After reading that post, I clicked on two different links Mrs. Mullins supplied.  One supported the superintendent -- who sounds like a total pushover and jackass.  You can see my response to one particular point in this post (it's not worth addressing the entire piece because the author of that post has his/her opinion, and I doubt I'll be able to sway him/her... just like I'm set in my opinion, and the author will be unable to sway me). 

I suppose sitting down to talk with your kid about the books you're against and explaining why they're not okay is too much work for some parents.  That would require them to... actually sit down and read a book.  Say it ain't so!  Ohh, the agony!  MY EYES.  MY BRAIN IS MELTING NO THANKS TO ALL THESE COMPLICATED WORDS I DON'T UNDERSTAND.

This is why I fear for our country, sometimes.

The other mocked the books Mrs. Mullins chose to present to her students, which is what I wanted to address today.  This blog post will contain my comment response to two of the issues Martin Cothran mentioned.  I wanted to include both what he said, and what I said, because I thought it was interesting and I know a lot of you are either parents, eventually want to become parents, are published authors, and some of you -- like me -- are aspiring authors.  Either way, this concerns all of us.

Martin Cothran originally said:
The books in question in the Montgomery County case were these:

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles
The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones

Now I haven't read these books, and, being an English instructor and a fairly well-read person, I've never, with one exception, even heard of them either. If they're on a list of great books somewhere, I've never encountered it. Maybe they're appropriate for a course on Early 21st Century Lightweight Pop Fiction for Bored Teenagers, but a college prep course? C'mon.

Now, so soon after the Scroggins debacle, I'm amazed to see another person bashing Anderson's work.  Alas, there are lots of people out there, and not all of us are going to appreciate her work for what it is.  Regardless, it's frustrating that he could dismiss all of these works after admitting that he's never read them.

What I said in response to that point (this is my entire original comment. It ended up being too long to keep it whole over there):
Have you not seen what is expected for someone not majoring in English in college?  Classics are focused on in perhaps... one or two courses for the general education portion.  Sometimes, not at all.  Have you not seen what courses an English major is expected to take in college?    There is Young Adult Lit, Children's Lit, British Lit, American Lit, etc.  Not every college class focuses solely on the classics, and for good reason.  If you were to analyze the courses required of an English major, it would generally look like this:

1.  Brit Lit I
2.  Brit Lit II
3.  American Lit I
4.  American Lit II (optional)
5.  Diversity/Humanities Credit
6.  2000/200 Level Course
7.  3000/300 Level Course
8.  3000/300 Level Course
9.  4000/400 Level Course (Focuses solely on either Chaucer or Shakespeare)
10.  Composition I

That was the general format for the two colleges I've attended.  5 of those classes focused solely on the classics, one focused on writing skills, and then FOUR focused on both literature and books like the ones you've bashed in your post.

The fact of the matter is, today, students need a mental break every once in a while from the type of writing they find in the classics.  They need to read novels that both enrich their minds and books that they can relate to.

Some YA books, while certainly not literature, force students to think in another way: instead of decoding the text, students are challenged to think more about the themes and issues presented in the titles they are reading.  It is an added bonus that these YA books are applicable to what is currently happening in their lives. 

These sorts of books are more accessible to students who would otherwise dismiss reading books.  Plus, there are now websites like Sparknotes that encourage students to avoid reading the "dry and boring" texts, like the classics, by providing the analysis and dumbed down versions of the text.  Go check out the "No Fear Shakespeare" section... the translation would make you cry.  But guess what?  They're making Shakespeare accessible.  Whether I agree with this sort of method is another story. 

You might disagree with everything I've said, which is fine, but I've talked to plenty of teens and college students who refer to Sparknotes all the time (and I did that in high school).  Times are changing; it is up to the teacher to adjust to these changes.

Also, it is important to note that not all students in a college prep class are there by choice.  Some sign up for these classes due to parental pressure.  The chances of these students genuinely being interested in the course material in high school are extremely slim.  College, on the other hand, is different.

By admitting that you have not read these titles, only to turn around and have the gall to openly mock them in such a fashion is inexcusable -- especially for a teacher who considers himself "well read."  You sound like the teenager who mocks the classics.  Bravo on the example you are setting.

Cothran said in an earlier comment (before I stumbled upon his blog):
But, like many who have commented on this issue on this blog, you are not addressing what what at issue here--something, I'm afraid, Mrs. Mullins has had a hand in encouraging. The issue is what literature should be the used in an advanced college preparatory course. I have yet to see anyone make a cogent argument that popular and passing teen fiction has any role in furthering the purposes of such a class.

Fair enough.  Here's what I said:

I believe people are honing in on your criticisms of these Young Adult books because you talk poorly of them after admitting that you've never read them.  By doing so, you've damaged your credibility in this post.

It is somewhat difficult to form an argument about this point when people do not know which AP class Mrs. Mullins was teaching (was it language and composition?  Literature?).  Either way, it is up to the individual teacher to discover a successful way to incorporate YA books into the curriculum.  Some, like you, will be opposed to this method, choosing instead to include literature only... and that's okay.  Other teachers, like Mrs. Mullins, will discover a way to successfully incorporate teen reads into the course while also instilling a love for reading.  I personally think that, as long as half the books in that course are literature, including teen reads can actually make the AP class a more diverse and rich experience.  These books can be used in an approach towards reinforcing the lessons one has previously taught.

Let's pretend Mrs. Mullins was teaching AP Language and Composition.  Students are learning about sentence structures and the like, while also learning how to think and read critically.  That sort of lesson is dry and boring for most students uninterested in these sorts of classes (even if they are taking this class by choice).  By including a few books in a genre that is "intended" to appeal to them, the teacher is not only encouraging analysis, but they are also encouraging reading.  My high school English teacher actually did this by allowing us to watch movies.  We received a break from definitions and reading dry material by watching movies and analyzing what happened, if there was a message, if one of the definitions we learned applied, etc.

The thing about the AP exam is that you need to think critically and outside the box.  By forcing students to read nothing but literature, they create a sort of "method" of approach towards reading the text and everything soon becomes robotic.  By including a diverse range of texts, writing styles, and subjects, you're breaking that monotony.

Anyway, so that's what I think.  Do you guys have any opinions about this?  Are you for, or against it?  (If you're against it, then don't be shy... I don't bite, despite how sarcastic/bitchy I might sound right now)  Or, do you just not care?  Why?


  1. Thank you for sharing this... This is so heart breaking, and make me down right furious. I posted about this on my blog as well.

  2. Good for you for speaking your mind.

  3. Wow. Thanks for sharing this. What a tragic story.

    And good for you for speaking up, and for continuing to strive toward becoming a teacher.

  4. I always hate it when someone degrades a book, then says they haven't read it. If I was teaching that course, and trying to teach students how to do critical thinking, I would choose one well written book and one poorly written book. Yes, some could see it as a waste of time to read the poorly written book, but sometimes, actually reading one, and critiquing one is a valuable lesson. I have actually done this with my son.He isn't able to go to college(there are personnal reasons), but he has actually shown his college friends how and what to look for in books.
    I am glad you want to be a teacher, it sounds like you will be a very good one. You can think outside the box, and that is a great way to not only reach students, but to show them how to do it,too.

  5. Thank you for speaking up. I'm not knowledgeable enough to be able to debate it coherently, but I can say that I am against censorship in any form (outside of parental censorship of younger children's reading material). I read a fair amount of YA now, in my 40's and I enjoy it. And, I'm reading more of the classics than I never had the chance to. I think I learn more by reading a wide variety, if nothing else than because I can compare and contrast various writing styles.

  6. "I doubt I'll be able to sway them." If I am not mistaken, I think we pretty much agreed with each other.

  7. "Please note: I am temporarily disabling Anonymous comments until spammers leave my blog alone." If I am not mistaken, Blogger now has automatic spam comment detection. May I suggest giving that a try. It has overblocked a little in my experience, but it has prevented all span but a cleverly written one.

  8. SafeLibraries, I wrote this post before you and I spoke. I'm glad to know we were able to agree on something :)

    As for Anon comments: Posts that are older than a week automatically go to comment approval. These posts were the ones being bombarded with the spam comments. After receiving daily spam comments, I figured temporarily disabling anon comments would be easiest.

  9. And ugh, fixed that grammatical error in the post. Bad English major!