It was a rough summer…..

reading

 

…..I didn’t think it would take this long to read and post again, but life threw some curve balls forcing me to take a break. I do intend to finish my Classics Club Spin, which I got 1/3 of the way through (Sir Walter Scott’s, Rob Roy) before things went south, and I hope to finish Persuasion and may attempt to write up why I did not like Pride and Prejudice. Yikes, I really did just say that!

I believe my health and other issues are now taken care of. I didn’t post anything for Banned Books Week, but I read through many of the books I own (The Diary of Anne Frank…really???) that have been challenged, and Instagrammed a few as well as some books I found at library sales. This is a stimulating week for me, it gets my ire up. I think it is important to see what classic and contemporary works were or continue to be under fire so we can support them. It is not up to some named or unnamed power to withhold knowledge or information from us or our children, because they think they know better. Only we can know for ourselves what is important to read and why.

I am gathering up my RIP choices for the month and will post those this week. I can’t think about scary books during September when it is still warm here and I am so physically active outside. Once the Equinox comes, the days cool off and it’s darker at night then I can feel the fear…..!!!!

I will continue to post for BTS* on the last Sunday of the month. Nature, through words and images, inspires me and heals me through every big and small thing. And today’s offering feels like a nice way back in.

I look forward to spending some time today seeing what you have all been up to!

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* as a way to share what is spiritually inspiring to me at the moment.

Banned Books Week: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

My Edition:witchblackbird
Title: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Publisher: Dell Yearling
Device: Trade paper
Year: 1958
Pages: 249
For a plot summary

I have chosen three young adult classics to read for Banned Books Week and one to review: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Wrinkle in Time and The Bridge to Terabithia. Each have been continually challenged or banned by parents and educational organizations since their dates of publication.

I have to say right off the mark this kind of behavior fascinates me. I grew up in a reading household where I freely took books off shelves at home and at my grandparents’ houses and I do not remember my parents ever telling me I couldn’t read something. My relationship with my parents was very open and no question, either personal or educational, was ever off limits. So I suppose if I read something that bothered me, I’d ask them. But I remember discussions, not banning. This is all to say my comments below question the reasons why The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a challenged book.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is set in the late 1600s and tells the story of Kit, who grew up a carefree young girl on a wealthy plantation in Barbados. When she is suddenly orphaned, she sails to Wethersfield, Connecticut to live with her mother’s sister, her husband and their two daughters in their strict Puritan home. She is not used to doing chores and the work of a homestead, nor is she used to the stifled way of thinking which makes her feel like an outsider. She befriends the widow Hannah Tupper, an old Quaker woman shunned by the locals, who lives alone at the edge of the Great Meadow and who understands Kit’s feeling of estrangement. Her home becomes Kit’s refuge. But when the town’s children begin to fall ill, Hannah is accused of casting a spell on them and the townspeople come to take her away. Kit overhears their plans and runs to save Hannah, only to be accused of witchcraft herself.

The trial is harrowing because, once suspicion has been cast, enough townspeople are riled up sufficiently to press the officials “to deal with the witches” and as history has shown, the outcome is never good for the accused. In Hannah’s case, she was already under a great deal of suspicion just for being a Quaker, who didn’t go to (the Puritan) Meeting each week and who kept to herself. But in actuality, it was the townspeople who kept away from her, who never made an effort to know her, which allowed their imagination to fester. If they had visited, they would have seen her like Kit did, a kindhearted old lady who liked company, could spin a neat flax thread and made delicious corn and blueberry muffins.

Kit’s accusations were a little more complicated besides being “guilty” of associating with the Widow Tupper. There was the incident in the river, witnessed by several people of the town, when she jumped into the water to rescue a little girl’s doll. Though swimming was perfectly acceptable in Barbados, in the Colonies one of the tests for women accused of witchcraft was to see if they could float. Only if they sank did that prove their innocence. But the biggest charge against Kit was discovered in a child’s hornbook, where her name was written multiple times and was believed to be the spell or incantation that made the children sick. Fortunately, this was resolved when the little girl came forward to describe how Kit taught her how to write her name by writing it out so she could copy it. She proved right there in front of the officials she was a masterful copier, because her hand looked just like Kit’s. This emboldened some of the townspeople to come to the women’s defense and the charges against them were dropped.

This book has been challenged for promoting witchcraft and violence. But the real threat should be that it promotes ignorance, prejudice and gossip mongering. Ironically, there is no actual witchcraft in the book. It is only in the perceived notion that an old woman alone, living on the edge of town with a cat (that is not even black, btw) must be up to no good. And that when disease breaks out among the town’s children, suspicion turns on this outsider; a condition the town made itself by shunning her in the first place. The dangers of gossip, estrangement, ignorance, and beliefs about a person where there is no proof, not witchcraft, are the real lessons of the book.

And violence? The townspeople came after Hannah and burned down her home and tried to kill her cat. Instead of wanting to ban this book for violence, isn’t this another lesson of how ignorance and prejudice can get out of hand? Once you shun a neighbor and cast her as an outsider who is “not like us,” you can make her responsible for anything.

This book was published in 1958, and it is remarkable or maybe somewhat sad that it still has a message for us today. We live in a world that still practices hate mongering, racism, the shunning of people because of their “lifestyle” or culture, of people who would rather take a video than stop the crime, and there are people and institutions who have turned gossip into an art form. Is any of this productive? Does it moves us forward as a people? Far from being a book that should be banned, The Witch of Blackbird Pond needs to be read and studied for its timely lessons for young people and adults alike.

(Elizabeth George Speare was an award-winning writer of historical fiction for young people. She won the Newberry Medal for both The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Bronze Bow, which takes place during the time of Jesus. Her attention to the details of daily life draw you into the world of her characters and the history they are living.

She is famously quoted after receiving an award,  “I believe that all of us who are concerned with children are committed to the salvaging of Love and Honor and Duty.”)

 

 

Book Challenges and Read-a-thons Fall 2016

I have been book blogging one year today! It is a remarkable community to learn and share with. One of the ways I have benefited personally is having joined book challenges and readathons where I have discovered new authors and titles. I had no idea of the diversity and number of these. In fact, I think there must be a challenge or readathon for every taste or genre or event imaginable!

When I first started blogging last year I discovered R.I.P. too late to join and totally missed Banned Books Week, but kept them in my sights for this year. Like I need another challenge or 5 with all I have to do in my life, I did indeed sign up for 5.

Even if you are not a book blogger, but like to read these group events are a wonderful way to find people you may have a lot in common with and books you might otherwise have never heard. That was certainly true for me as I was researching titles for the 1947 club. Yes, a book challenge of reading books published in the year 1947. I told you 🙂

I may not get through all the books, but here is my wishlist for these challenges: Click on the hot links for more information and to sign up!

R.I.P (R.eaders I.imbibing P.eril) XI, September 1-October 31 2016.
Read horror, ghost, vampire, mystery, thriller. Multiple levels of participation. Read one book or lots. Watch movies or read short stories.

~The Case of Charles Dexter Ward-HP Lovecraft
~Frankenstein-Mary Shelley
~Several short stories by Sheridan Le Fanu, including Carmilla, Green Tea, Schalken the Painter
~Elizabeth Gaskell, The Old Nurses Story
~Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children-Ransom Riggs
~The Haunting of Hill House-Shirley Jackson. One of my favorite films (the original, of course), which I will watch again. I have never read the book.
~I discovered I have a copy of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula which I will also watch

Banned Books Week, September 25-October 1 2016
Celebrated internationally, read or become familiar with titles that have been banned in the past or are being challenged now. I am participating in an event hosted by Little Book Owl.

~The Witch of Blackbird Pond-Elizabeth George Speare
banned for promoting violence and witchcraft
~A Wrinkle in Time-Madeleine L’Engle
one of the most frequently banned books of all time
~The Giver-Lois Lowry
banned for violence, language, objectionable themes. From an adult point of view, without taking into consideration the point of the book at what happens in a society without choices in life.
~Bridge to Terebithia-Katherine Paterson
banned for language, religion, sad ending (“the idea that a book is depressing or upsetting is often used as a rationale for wanting a book banned. “)

The Literary Others: An LGBT Reading Event during LGBT History Month October 1-31 2016. Hosted by Roof Beam Reader. Fiction, nonfiction, sci fi, poetry, plays, audio books. I’m reading a mix of fiction and non.

~Well of Loneliness-Radclyffe Hall
~Santa Olivia-Jacqueline Carey
~Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home-Leah Lax
~Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How it Can Revitalize Christianity-Rev Elizabeth N. Edman
~The Picture of Dorian Gray-Oscar Wilde

The 1947 Club October 10-16 2016
Hosted by Stuck in a Book read anything published in 1947!

~A Girl in Winter-Philip Larkin
~One Fine Day-Mollie Panter-Downs
~The Slaves of Solitude-Patrick Hamilton
~Final Curtain-Ngaio Marsh

Witch Week October 31-November 6 2016
Hosted by Lory at The Emerald City Book Review, read about witches or anything magical or fantasy. And enjoy a group reading of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

~Something Wicked This Way Comes-Ray Bradbury
~Witch of Blackbird Pond-
Elizabeth George Speare
~House Witch-
Katie Schickel
~Girl who Drank the Moon-
Kelly Regan Barnhill

Ok, bye. I’d better get a crackin’ 🙂