Category Archives: reading

For the Confederate Dead

A while back during National Poetry Month, one of the daily poems Knopf sent out was by Kevin Young. I don’t recall which one it was, but it moved me enough to put his most recent collection of poetry on my list of books to read. I finally finished his For the Confederate Dead last night. Some of the poems were really hit or miss with me, but a few of them are so incredibly moving in their simplicity. Young can really pack a punch into the last stanzas of his poems.

Elegy for Miss Brooks (for Gwendolyn Brooks) ends with:
. . .What the devil
are we without you?
I tuck your voice, laced
tight, in these brown shoes.

I’m not too crazy about the “Americana” section as a whole, but there are some standouts. The poem titled Americana urged me to read it aloud. It speaks volumes in sparse phrases. My favorites:
America I have counted
all the china and none
is missing.
America I have . . .
seen the churches keep
like crosses burning

seen the lady who lines
your huddled shore, her hand
her back turned away.

Okay, if I could post the entire poem here, I would, because it is that amazingly good. Another poem in this section, Springtime comes to the Capitol, portrays Marion Anderson’s historical performance at the Lincoln Memorial. I love how Young uses natural imagery as description: the bouquet of microphones, her throat as clear as the sky, the “bloom that begins/all along the spine.” And his For the Confederate Dead in this “Americana” section uses my favorite lines in the collection: “In my fridge only / the milk makes sense– / expires.” Continue reading


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Sneak Preview of “Golden Compass”

Okay, is it really a sneak preview if about 6 theatres in town are showing it? Saturday night Mom, Dad, Leah and I went to the sneak preview of The Golden Compass at the Alamo Village. Luckily we arrived an hour before the show started. . . there was already a sizeable line. I didn’t realize that it had sold out.

The special effects in the film are pretty amazing, and the acting is great (especially by Nicole Kidman). It seemed to me that the action was out-of-order from what I remember in the book. And Leah complained because the end of the movie is about 3/4 of the way into the book.

What boggled my mind was that one of the trailers for the film I saw showed two main characters kissing in the North. This action takes place at the end of the book, but didn’t appear in the movie at all. Also, the trailer showed Lyra falling out of the airship. This didn’t appear in the end film either. Wha’ happened? Did the test audiences not approve?

Even with the faux hopeful ending, I liked the overall film, and wouldn’t mind seeing it again.


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Banned Book of the Day: Summer of My German Soldier

I just read this book for the first time a few years ago. The book takes place during WWII in Arkansas. A Southern Jewish girl becomes very close to a German soldier in the prisoner-of-war camp near her town. Neither of their situations is ideal: her parents are emotionally distant and abusive, while he is a prisoner of war. The book doesn’t have a Hollywood happy ending, which lends a more realistic air to it.

Why are such wonderful books challenged or banned? In our country there is supposed to be no such censorship. Our children should be free to read what they desire; censorship (if any) should be the responsibility of each parent. If you don’t want your child reading about racism (or sexism, prejudice, violence, etc.), learning from it and broadening their cultural horizons, well, that is up to you. I’ll just say my parents let me read whatever I liked, and I turned out pretty okay.

Now, my parent’s music censorship – that’s a story for another post. . .

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Banned Book of the Day: The Stupids

And now for something completely different. . .

It seems that The Stupids series of books by Harry Allard is on the list of the top 100 most challenged/banned books. How sad it is that adults are keeping children from seeing the humorous art by James Marshall in this series. For those who don’t know, the Stupids are a naive bunch who tend to make social faux pas. Even though they are far from “normal” or “average”, their affection for each other is evident. It seems beyond ridiculous that this series wouldn’t be available in a town library for a child to discover and enjoy.

Allard and Marshall also collaborated on one of my favorites as a child, Miss Nelson is Missing. I loved Marshall’s drawings when I was younger and I’m sure his work had some impact on my childhood desire to grow up to be a illustrator living in Australia.

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Banned Book of the Day: Beloved

Honestly, I’ve read this book multiple times and I still don’t get it. I had to read it in 11th grade (those whose parents wouldn’t let them read Beloved got to read All the Pretty Horses instead – what kind of trade-off is that?) and then again my freshman year of college. My freshman English class was tiny – made up of transfer students and freshmen who got 4s or higher on the AP test. And if any of the people in that class fully understood Morrison’s award-winning novel, no one ever said.

One of the girls and I spent a really long time in preparation for our final going over the italicized stream-of-consciousness sections. We were so into it, we thought we were almost at the point of attaining sense from it. But then we remembered the professor said that none of those sections of the novel would be on the final.

Beloved is an amazing work about a woman and her daughter who have escaped slavery. While a slave, the mother, Sethe, killed her first daughter rather than have her suffer slavery. This daughter, or rather a form of this daughter, comes back to haunt Sethe and begins to consume her life. The book is a unique look at motherhood and revenge.

I’m guessing that despite the fact that this novel won the Pulitzer, libraries have banned/challenged it because of the rape, violence, language and more. Even though I may never fully grasp this work, it is extremely relevant to American culture and history.

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Banned Book of the Day: The Bluest Eye

I read The Bluest Eye in one of my college English classes. In the end it confirmed what I thought after reading other works by Toni Morrison; I will never fully understand her novels because so much is left to interpretation. This, her first novel, is a dark depiction of life for a black family in the Depression-era South. There is racism (more inherent in the culture than anything), incest, and extremely violent acts are depicted in the novel.

The title comes from a little girl’s ultimate desire for blue eyes over her brown ones. She thinks that she can’t be beautiful because of her race. The story is pretty break-your-heart depressing when it comes down to it. It was a tough read for me emotionally; I haven’t been able to pick the novel up again since.

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Banned book of the day: The Chocolate War

When I was in high school, I discovered Cormier’s I Am the Cheese. That book really got to me, it shares elements with Catcher in the Rye (my favorite book in high school), but seemed more modern. Since I enjoyed I Am the Cheese so much, I checked out Cormier’s The Chocolate War (which they carried at my neighborhood library).

Today I had to look it up on Wikipedia, because I couldn’t remember the plot (my basic line: I’ve read a lot of books since then). I remember the violent elements of the work, and the scarcity of female characters. But I honestly couldn’t even recall that chocolate had anything to do with the plot.

The Chocolate War seems to continuously be listed on the ALA’s Most Challenged List. I’d hate to deprive any reader of getting to delve into Cormier’s work. I think the author captures teenage anger and separation well . . . or at least well enough for teenage readers to understand and relate to.

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