The Right to Read

SHOPHey y’all!

For those of you who don’t know, Banned Books Week ended yesterday. Banned Books Week is a yearly event celebrating the freedom to read. It celebrates books challenged by schools, churches, libraries, and more.

I’ve posted in years past about my thoughts on the issue and it’s still extremely relevant.

I will never get over the irony of Fahrenheit 451 being banned because it talks about burning books.

People haven’t stopped banning books and I don’t think they ever will. Last month, I read an article in my local newspaper, The Tampa Tribune, about Pasco County banning Paper Towns by John Green due to mention of masturbation and the reference to girls as “honey bunnies” which was misogynistic.

First off, context.

The entire point of the word “honey bunnies”  being used to describe girls is that Ben, the character who uses that term, is absolutely ridiculous. He doesn’t know how to pick up girls and the main character points out that as long as he keeps calling girls that, they’re not going to go for him. It’s not endearing, and every other character knows that “honey bunny” is never going to work as a pickup line.

Secondly, I honestly think that parents like the one that had Paper Towns banned are doing their children a disservice.

You can’t let your child be independent without allowing them to censor things for themselves.

Up until I was about twelve, my mom approved books that I picked from the bookstore just by reading the back. She didn’t go to extreme parent-filter websites or whatever. She didn’t want the topic of the book to be anything sexual or graphic, but figured it was okay if it was mentioned without going into too much detail.

I secretly read Pretty Little Liars in sixth grade and snuck Impossible by Nancy Werlin up to my bedroom to read after everyone else fell asleep. I read free ebooks on the computer and ended up reading probably way more than I was originally allowed to read. But I stopped reading when I felt like it got too inappropriate, or was a little grittier than I expected.

I self-censored because I was taught how to think for myself.

The most beneficial way to educate somebody is to let them want to learn. I want to learn about politics, current events, pick up skills. I want to learn about sports and music and culture. That’s because my parents took me to the bookstore when I was little; I was rewarded by picking out books for myself. The fastest way to learn is to read.

That’s how I have the vocabulary I have now, the database of facts and ideas that I’ve developed through dozens of books and dozens of articles. I’ve read over 900+ books in the past four years and all of them have contributed to my identity as a person. Self-education is how I have created myself. It’s why I have the ambition that I do. It’s why I’m able to pursue it.

Taking that away from somebody because you think they can’t handle it is just wrong. They’re going to be in the real world eventually and tampering that down, leaves them uneducated and even more vulnerable. Reading protects you and it makes you into who you are. It exposes you to awful and REAL situations without undergoing them yourself and that is a valuable, valuable thing.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before but reading books from the perspective of people who have made bad choices has made me much more aware of how easily it could happen to me. It’s made me a lot more careful with what I do and how I act. It’s also made me so much more empathetic to the people around me.

I like reading different perspectives because I will only ever have one life, one perspective. It’s rare and beautiful and helpful to read from other peoples’ viewpoints. It makes me a much better person for that.

We deserve the right to read.

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The OE Kickoff

Hey y’all!

It’s Grace here to talk about yesterday’s first classics book club!

You know the other book club I’ve been talking about nonstop on my social media? On the blog, I’ve been talking about my new job at the Oxford Exchange bookstore and how I’m running a classics book club for teens. Yesterday was my fourth (?) day at work and my first day of book club, so it was a pretty eventful day! (That’s also why I didn’t post this week, sorry!)

Our first book was The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I chose it because I know it’s one that a lot of teens want to read, it has a very readable and accessible style, and it’s one that people tend to disagree about often. Is it genius or unbearably pretentious?

Without further ado, here’s what happened at book club.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger | Goodreads

09.21.14 TEEN CLASSICSThe Recap

I started working at two, although I arrived a little early. I ended up camping out for about half an hour reading Seaborne by Matt Myklusch on the couch (a truly excellent middle grade) before I clocked into work. Once I did that, I helped with the set-up upstairs and filled out a bit more paperwork.

Most of it was just a waiting game. I hadn’t been nervous until about fifteen minutes before – the time when I always worry about moderating and attendance and all the little details. Oxford is amazing with the little details and the aesthetic so I was so grateful to be working with them on it!

(I mean, just look at that poster! I’m still in awe over the gorgeous design and it mimics my blog!)

When people started showing up, I was mostly put at ease. We were upstairs in the Commerce Club – the Smith room to be exact, ironically enough – and it has this beautiful oval table. I was hoping we’d have enough people to fill it!

2014-09-21 03.26.12We started out with about fifteen people, plus me. My twin sister Hannah was kind enough to take pictures – both for yearbook and for the blog – because she’s excellent with photography. While South Tampa feels like a pretty small world, we had some girls and guys from other nearby areas like Land O’ Lakes and St. Pete, like another blogger MacKenzie.

I wrote last week about my experience with English teachers in my education and my amazing AP Lang teacher who left our school. Mr. Thomas – the FAMOUS Mr. Thomas, who’s one of my favorite teachers of all time – showed up to my book club for a bit to support me. I was so choked up. I had him for about four or five weeks and even then, it was hard to say goodbye. He brought a lesson plan for the book which made us all laugh. Of course. He had to leave partway through with his son but it was definitely one of the highlights.

2014-09-21 02.40.40TeBella Tea Company has a counter in the Oxford Exchange so they supplied pumpkin spice latte tea for the event. In fact, the beverage was later christened “lattea” by the members of the book club. We also had mini chocolate cupcakes, which I took the opportunity to gorge myself on – I’m telling you, the hardest part of working there is that the food is so good! I’m going to end up spending my entire paycheck on Penguin Classics and club sandwiches.

I started out with introductions. We went around the table and did the standard name/grade/school/interesting fact dynamic and I let them all chat for a bit until I felt like it was time to steer the conversation back to the book.

We went around and talked basic reactions to the books. Did they hate it, did they love it, did they go back and forth? A lot of people said the same: they enjoyed the book so much but didn’t so much like Holden as a character. Or, at least, they don’t think he’s mentally balanced.

2014-09-21 03.25.35That led into conversation about what stemmed Holden’s character development and whether he showed maturity/immaturity at points in the book. Was his self-confidence and sense of identity admirable or slightly hypocritical? There were some excellent points made in that, a conversation which eventually branched out into topics like mental disorders, rape culture, and banned books.

(This serves as your head’s up that Banned Books Week is this week and I’ll be doing my usual post venting about censorship and why books are important.)

We talked about things like voice and distinction as a character – did Salinger’s writing style emulate the ideas that Holden had or was it purely the character talking? For that, I had to recruit some who had read Salinger’s later works. I was nervous at first but once the conversation started rolling, I didn’t have to do too much prodding. I can’t even recall all that we talked about; I think I was in a state of shock that it managed to go so well.  Before I knew it, it was time to go and we all packed up.

2014-09-21 03.41.28I brought some mini cupcakes down to my co-workers and chatted with the kids who came, which was fun. They ended up mostly hanging out at Buddy Brew and TeBella, talking. I’d like to get a lot of people into the book club, but it’ll also be nice when it settles into a consistent group that keeps coming back. I hope to have people come month-to-month but it’ll also be great to have new people and voices in, depending on the month.

I went back to work but I was happy with the turnout! For next month, I’ve picked Frankenstein in the spirit of Halloween. We have some lovely lovely lovely copies down at the Oxford Exchange bookstore that I’m obsessed with, so I highly encourage you to come grab a copy if you’d like to come next month! We’re open to everyone, provided you’re a teen!

Thanks to everyone who came. I hope y’all had a great time!

Upcoming Book Clubs

October 7 at Inkwood Books at 7 P.M.
A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall | Goodreads

October 12 at Oxford Exchange at 3 P.M.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley | Goodreads

Like what you read? Come to next month’s book club!


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