Sunday, 24 February 2013
“Oh, Harry, don’t you see?” Hermione breathed. “If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!” (Order of the Phoenix, 513)
This quote from the fifth book in J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, one of the most challenged titles in the twenty-first century, is very true: kids (and adults) are often most interested in reading what is not allowed! Harry’s interview was banned because it revealed truths the wizard government was trying to conceal, but the Harry Potter books themselves are mostly challenged for their occult themes, violence, and anti-family messages. As recently as 2006, copies of Harry Potter were burned and destroyed. In the past, book burning was an effective way to restrict public access to materials. Today, books are much more readily available, so book burning has become a way to make a strong statement: the vandals do not share what they perceive as the book’s values and they believe no one should have access to them. It is because of the second half of that statement that Freedom to Read Week (February 24 – March 2) continues to be relevant. We are all entitled to our own opinion about reading materials, but we are not entitled to force our opinions on society.
The Thunder Bay Public Library has many challenged titles in the collection, including the top two challenged series of recent years (both young adult): The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and ttyl by Lauren Myracle. Check out the displays in the library or visit teens.tbpl.ca/Join In to find more challenged books, including lists of the most commonly challenged classic novels.
In addition to challenged materials, we also have resources about the issue of censorship. These titles are full of interesting information offering historical contexts and asking difficult questions about access to information in print, online, and in other mediums.
Forbidden Fruit: Banned,Censored, and Challenged Books from Dante to Harry Potter by Pearce J. Carefoote discusses how literature is viewed as a threat to social order, covering the last five hundred years and objections to everything from the Bible to The Origin of Species. A Canada-focused chapter is also included.
Censorship: an opposing viewpoints series edited by Kate Burns addresses historical perspectives on press and government censorship as well as modern-day concerns like “The Controversy over Internet Filters” and “Censorship of Popular Music in Contemporary America.”
Open for Debate: Censorship by Ted Gottfried has a casual tone and is broken up with lists and short quotes. Issues like the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson Super Bowl performance, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and the in loco parentis (acting with parental authority) function of educational institutions are covered.
TBPL’s Youth Advisory Council is celebrating Freedom to Read Week this year by sponsoring two contests open to all TBPL patrons: the I Read Banned Books photo contest and Censorship Trivia Game. Visit the Teen Zone at teens.tbpl.ca/Join In for contest rules to get involved and learn more about challenges to intellectual freedom.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
Well we have survived the end of the world and have seen the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. No extraterrestrials returned to Teotihuacan or Puma Punku and the Earth’s crust has stayed firmly in place. No rogue planet smashed into ours and the burst of energy from the galaxy’s centre hasn’t given me super powers. I’m drawn to cryptozoology, conspiracy theories and fringe science, not to be a contrarian, but to find out stuff that’s strange but true. Or at least thought to be true.
Cryptozoology is often considered pseudo-science because the research is focused on legendary and mythological creatures such as Loch Ness’ monster, bigfoot and yeti. Some people, like Reinhold Messner trekked the Himalayas for physical evidence and stories about the yeti. Messner’s conclusion was that the yeti was a type of bear. Yet other scientists including biologists and anthropologists give credence to the evidence that is supposedly out there. You can start your own research on this topic by visiting the Thunder Bay Public Library. Come in and browse our shelves or connect to our online resources. Magazine and peer-reviewed journal articles are available 24-hours a day through the Library’s online databases and it’s gratifying to see the debate unfold throughout the literature. Just click on My Giant Search under the Research tab on our website.Things that are “mainstream” are often considered “conspiratorial” by the pseudo-science community. For instance, the Great Pyramid at Giza is generally considered by Egyptologists to have been built as Khufu’s tomb. Pseudo-scientists claim that the pyramid is a giant power-producing battery or a giant light-reflecting beacon for extraterrestrials to use for landing. Mainstream science says these ideas are poppycock but pseudo-scientists wonder how pink granite could have been cut with such precision without diamond-tipped, electrically-powered cutters. I’m left somewhere in the middle reading and wondering.
Luckily there are millions of things to read. If you want to really get in-depth on a topic, the library is the place to be. The internet is great for starting your research, but when I wanted to learn more about jets, I went through our databases and found quality information easily. I could have done a similar search on the internet, but I would be concerned about the credibility of the source. I’m less concerned when going through the databases because results can easily be filtered, for example, by peer-reviewed or even government documents! Within minutes of looking for F-35 information a few months ago, I came across an American Justice Department document. It was nothing top secret, but nonetheless interesting.I do the same sort of literature review for any topic I’m interested in, for example, quantum consciousness. This is an emerging fringe science that indicates that our minds co-create reality, rather than just observe it. Like the battle in scientific literature surrounding Bigfoot, there is also a scientific battle occurring about our mental role in the nature of reality. I can stay up-to-date on experimental findings with just a few mouse-clicks. Ironically, this “cutting-edge” science might be re-discovering what mystics have said for thousands of years, “it is your mind that creates reality.”
Thankfully, we have a plethora of books and resources on mind, brain and spirit that fill my world with wonder and awe.Chris Waite
Sunday, 10 February 2013
Valentine’s Day is looming but a few days away, and the Library can help make it special with books, programs, and lots more. Plus it’s all free, a win-win situation if you ask me! It’s also a great time to think back on all the wonderful books that have reminded me of the power of romance and love. One of those is a book that I recommended last month called The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011). In this previous column, the focus was the general plot line of the book but what I didn’t mention was the soul wrenching love story that ensnares Celia and Marco, the characters caught up in an unending rivalry that passes from night to night. In addition, there are the adoring fans, or “rêveurs”, of the circus that follow it across the globe and back with a feverish following.
Not to leave the best for last, but like all good romances there has to be a touch of Italy to make it authentic. The Valentine books by Adriana Trigiani include Very Valentine (2009) and Brava Valentine (2010) introduce the reader to Valentine Roncalli, her eccentric family and their business, the Angelini Shoe Company. The family has been making one of a kind wedding shoes in Greenwich Village since 1903. Valentine wants to bring the business into a new age while facing self-doubt, unpredictable romantic scenarios, and lots of family drama. The story spans New York and Italy seamlessly, will make you want to create shoes, and drive home the importance of love for yourself, family, passions, and life. Happy reading this Valentine’s Day.
Sunday, 3 February 2013
One of the most satisfying parts of working at the library is the discovery of a new author of note and the joy you get by sharing your find with others. It always amazes me when the debut work of fiction turns out to be a fantastic bit of writing. To simply finish a novel is a wonder, as it implies hours of writing, editing, and re-writing while still holding down and maintaining some sense of the normal life that pays the bills. Every year a new crop of wonderful debut novels appears, sometimes heralding the beginning of an amazing career and sometimes they are simply the bright spark that’s never matched again in someone’s writing life. The book stacks at the library are full of great debut novels and here is a small sample of recent first novels that are worth discovering for yourself.
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Set in 1914 during the trial of 22-year-old Grace Winter who survived the tragic sinking of an ocean liner and three weeks aboard a life raft as she and the other remaining passengers struggled for survival. The novel, which is told retrospectively, asks us to decide who is the real Grace, was she a lucky survivor or someone culpable in the deaths of the others.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
This tale of love and survival set in 1920’s Alaska introduces us to Jack and Mabel, a childless couple trapped in a crumbling marriage. During the first snowfall, in a moment of mirth, they build a child out of snow and awake the next morning to see a little girl running through the forest. The relationship between parent and child and the role of nature in our lives is beautifully explored.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
When her beloved Uncle Finn succumbs to AIDS, 15-year-old June is left in despair until the appearance of Toby, her Uncle Finn’s lover. The two lost souls develop a friendship and learn to lean on each other in order to move on with their lives.
City of Bohane by Kevin Barry
In a novel, both funny and dark, 2053 Ireland is a lawless land fueled by greed and lust and ruled by gangs. The characters are on the outset of another gang war and unrest, and mutiny is in the ranks of the Hartnett Fancy gang. Flamboyant characters, ridiculous relationships and surreal situations move the novel along to its fantastical conclusion.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of HaroldFry by Rachel Joyce
The themes of love and devotion are central to this novel about retiree Harold Fry who suddenly decides to walk 600 miles across England to try to save the life of a dying friend that he hasn’t seen in 20 years. During the walk Harold re-discovers himself and finds the joy in his life.
We the Animals by Justin Torres
This is the semi-autobiographical story of three brothers growing up in a poor family with mixed race parents. Told from the perspective of the youngest brother, it delves into the darker aspects of love, violence and death on the fringes of life.
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
In combination thriller and fantasy novel, Alif is a hacker for hire, dodging the edge of the law as he works for criminals, political dissidents and religious extremists. Things go from bad to worse, when the head of State security finds that Alif is his rival in romance and Alif finds the book of the jinn, which could release magic into this world.