Category Archives: Arts

It’s Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week by Michael_Lehet.A bookworm to the core, Banned Books Week is one of my favorite holidays. Not only do I get to celebrate reading, I also get to give props to the First Amendment and intellectual freedom, and snub my nose at the conservative zealots who have tried to suppress some of my favorite books over the years. All in all, an awesome time. (#1 on the holidays for atheists list, perhaps?)

In honor of this Banned Books Week, why not read one of 2008’s most challenged books, listed on the American Library Association’s website. I personally recommend #2 on the list, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, one of childhood favorites that has stood the test of time, as a recent re-reading proved (undertaken in time for the release of a movie based on the first book in the series, The Golden Compass). Pullman’s work attracted the ire of would-be censors for “political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence” (translation: it’s too progressive and makes organized religion look bad). You’ll also find the Gossip Girl series on that list, and though I’ve yet to read the books, I’m a devotee of the T.V. version. (Oh, Chuck and Blair, together at last, but for how long?)

Or, go for one of the “Banned and Challenged Classics.” Forty-two of the Radcliff Publishing Course’s top 100 literary all-stars have been subjected to ban attempts, so there’s plenty to choose from. I’m currently engrossed in #11, Vladmir Nabokov’s Lolita.

If you can’t decide which to read, here’s my suggestion: George Orwell’s classic dystopia, 1984. One of my all-time favorite books, and great for BBW because the book has not only been censored, it’s about censorship. Anyone who hasn’t read it yet should take this opportunity to celebrate the holiday and find out the true meaning behind “Big Brother” and the thought police.

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Filed under Arts, Education

$1 Books: Strolling Down a Strand Sale

One of the beauties of New York is that once you leave your apartment and start walking, there’s a good chance that within a few blocks you’ll stumble across something cool. My intention for this morning was to scurry over to an appointment not quite a mile away, then return home to catch up on Mad Men before tomorrow’s season premiere. Along the way, I ended up ambling through a street fair (1 free shampoo sample now tucked in my bag), crossing a bike tour that had closed down 4th Avenue to cars (good riddance), and spotted row upon row of full bookshelves on the sidewalk outside the Strand: a one dollar sale. Swoon.

So, instead of heading back to my couch, I spent an hour browsing the shelves, pleased with what I found. These are three of my fav politically-bent purchases:

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, Jessica Valenti

ThePurityMythLargeI’ve been dying to read this book by Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti ever since a “Shameless Self-Promotion” popped up on that most awesome of feminist blogs in March. (And now that I’ve graduated college, I occasionally have free time for non-required reading!) Despite my very tight intern-on-a-stipend-soon-to-be-unemployed budget, I even felt a touch guilty about picking it up for only a dollar, since the book deserves full-price support. In any case, from the flowers on the cover to the concept of a “Post-Virgin World” (the title of the final chapter), I’m utterly taken with my loot. I’d like to share the first paragraph of the introduction, which makes half-a-dozen fantastic points in four sentences:

There is a moral panic in America over young women’s sexuality–and it’s entirely misplaced. Girls “going wild” isn’t damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity–the idea that such a thing even exists–is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on them being good people, and not on whether or not they’re sexually active.

Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, Carole Joffe

A swift trip to Amazon advises me that this slim volume has yet to be released; what I’m holding is an uncorrected proof (which, in all honesty, makes me feel special).

A postscript discusses the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, gunned down in his own church, making the publication of this book tragically good timing. (Need to vent tangent: I may be a staunch atheist, but I still have far more respect for places of worship as sanctuaries than the so-called Christian who confessed to killing Tiller.) I’m particularly concerned with this subject after having interned at a think tank that monitors the right-wing, Political Research Associates (an enlightening/scary/depressing learning experience), under Chip Berlet, who has authored a number of excellent pieces on the Tiller murder. (And the timely report Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Demonization, & Scapegoating.) I’m sure I’ll be talking more about this topic in the future.

You Don’t Know Me: A Citizen’s Guide to Republican Family Values, Win McCormackRepublicanSex

I figured I needed a light-hearted read after that last one–so why not a book that “details over 100 cases of sexual misconduct by Republican officials, office holders, and ideological supporters.” Okay, so it’s still a little depressing; after all, these are the “family values” politicians who are destroying our country. But, hey, at least we’re laughing through the pain.

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Filed under Arts, Feminism, Reproductive Justice

Hair, Girl Scouts, and War

Sunday, at a performance of Hair on Broadway, I sat in front of a troop of 13-year-old girl scouts taken by surprise by the full on-stage nudity that closes the first act. Listening to the concerned (yet giggly), troop leaders discussing what they would tell the parents back home, and asking which of the girls had written down this musical as their suggestion (no one owned up), I wondered if it was as age-inappropriate as they thought. Or, more to the point, what about it was the most serious, shocking, saddening–meant for a mature audience.

My play-going partner this weekend was my mother, who’d seen Hair for the first time in the summer of ’68, a time when it’s racy content launched even greater waves. But it’s not just the sex (or the drugs) that makes this musical so subversive. I never managed to submerge myself in the colorful, playful fun of Hair, pulled by its underlying current of the Vietnam War–a war that was still underway when my teenage mother saw this play. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts, Iraq War, Sex