Banned book week and the waving flag…


In celebration of Banned Book Week I’m joining Tahereh over at Grab a Pen and writing two reviews of books I’ve read that are on banned lists. 

While my blog isn’t about getting all up in your bookshelf about politics; books, literacy, and the pursuit of knowledge have been used to empower and disempower people since the beginning of the written word. I hate to quote French Philosopher Foucault (because he said a lot of complicated, convoluted philosophy type things) so I’ll paraphrase him: “Knowledge is Power.”

I wrote about the experience of Ellen Hopkins when her series of books were banned.

Here are my reviews of two books on various banned lists:


To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. Yes, I think I’m the last person on earth to read this book. I just finished it on the weekend. I wish my reader friends had told me to read it decades ago (because I could have re-read it by now). It is the story of a racial divided south in the dirty thirties told from the point of view of the young protag Scout. Her observations are fresh, innocent and portray the opposing view points and the heiarchies in society. The prose is rife with descriptions and voices of the times. It is about compassion, social justice and the tension between change and innovation. I would highly recommend this book as a classic.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  He's won a ton of well deserved awards for this book. Here’s the book flap blurb “In his first book for young adults, Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.  Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written.”

This book was loaned to me by my friend Amber who is a proud Blackfoot woman from the Peigan Nation in s. Alberta (and the owner of cats Atticus Finch and Boo Radley). Here’s Amber’s take on the book: “Agreed – I read this book in a pub in Edmonton – the customers must have thought I was mad – I laughed hystecially, wept and laughed some more.”

I thought it was brilliant. It was of the tragic-comic genre and that is hard to do well. But he does it very well. You are thoroughly engaged with the characters. One minute you are laughing and then next Alexie deivers an emotional punch to the literary gut. Recommended for anyone who wants to experience the joys and pains of humanity. 
 
K’Naan is a Somalian born Canadian rapper/singer/songwriter/poet. If you haven’t heard of him your sasquatch writing cave clearly don’t posses a mode of electronic communication that broadcast the World Cup (since his song Waving Flag was the anthem). I’ve seen him perform twice so I guess I’m officially a fan (along with my nephew).

He tells the story of how his family escaped war torn Somalia and ended up briefly in NY before the INS escorted them out of the country. Canada took them in. He was young at the time and wrote the lyrics: “When I am older, I will be stronger. They’ll call me freedom, just like the waving flag.”

Here’s the slightly more real, non-Coca-Cola version. 

Comments

Angie said…
You're the second person to talk about the part-time Indian book. I think I must get it! "Wavin' Flag" is the theme song for my boys' high school this year. Love it.
Jan Markley said…
Yes, Angie, it's a great book and it's a great song!
Diane Girard said…
An excellent post, Jan. Now I've another book to add to my reading list which grows ever longer.

K'naan is one of my favourite artists so thanks for posting the link.
Anne R. Allen said…
Two great books. Banning To Kill a Mockingbird is like banning the Constitution and the New Testament.

"None of that all men are created equal stuff. No love your neighbor--we believe in racism and hate and ignorance!! Stomp out nobility and truth!"

Sometimes I think the country has slipped into Superman's Bizarro alternate universe.
Jan Markley said…
Hi Diane: yes, K'naan is great. You should see him live if you get a chance. Yes, Anne, it's hard to believe how many great books are banned.
Lynda Young said…
I had to study To Kill a Mockingbird in school. I didn't normally appreciate books in school, but this one I did. Definitely worth the read.
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Lynda. I agree, it's definitely worth the read! It's in my top ten now!
Sarah W said…
I liked To Kill a Mockingbird much better after I could read it by choice!

Thanks for the introduction to K'Naan---my husband watched the World Cup, so I was familr with the tune, but now I can put a name to the voice.
Jan Markley said…
Good point Sarah, it's great to discover great books on your own. K'naan does rock! He's on a 'waving flag' tour of NA right now!
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite Books. My son read Diary of a Part Time Indian in his 5th-grade class last year and loved it.

I also participated in Tahereh's banned book review, if you want to check it out.
Jan Markley said…
Thanks Theresa, I'll check out your post!
Talli Roland said…
I still can't believe 'To Kill' was banned. Thanks for the reviews!
Jan Markley said…
I know, Talli, it's hard to believe the number of books on the list and which ones they are.
Solvang Sherrie said…
The Sherman Alexie book is SO good!! I read Mockingbird in high school and I don't remember a lot about it. I should read it again. Maybe next year for Banned Books Week :)
Jan Markley said…
Sherrie: yeah, the Alexie book is brilliant. My friend found it in a book store in Seattle!

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