Monday News: NBF recap, the banned book list, literature in prison, and James Patterson kills book on Stephen King
National Book Festival Highlights Prominent Latino/a Authors – This year’s National Book Festival appeared to leave out Romance, although this NBC news story emphasizes that the Festival did feature and celebrate a number of Latin@ authors, including Luis Alberto Urrea, Álvaro Enrique, Alberto Ruy Sanchez, and Pam Munoz Ryan. The lack of Romance was apparently unnoticed by NBC:
The gathering that attracted more than 200,000 attendees throughout the day-long event had something for everyone from every imaginable genre: fiction, non-fiction, travel, cooking, poetry, graphic novels, history, biography, and an entire pavilion devoted to books for children, teens, and young adults which was overflowing with younger readers.
The Festival did have its share of commercial artists, including Stephen King and Shonda Rhimes, but if you would like to see Romance included next year, letting some of the sponsors know might be a way to begin:
The National Book Festival is made possible by the generous support of private- and public-sector sponsors who share the Library’s commitment to reading and literacy, led by National Book Festival Co-Chairman David M. Rubenstein. Charter Sponsors are AARP, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Washington Post and Wells Fargo; Patron sponsors, The James Madison Council and the National Endowment for the Arts; the Contributor-level sponsors are FedEx, The Junior League of Washington and Scholastic Inc.; and in the Friends category, Centro Primo Levi, the Marshall B. Coyne Foundation Inc., GEICO, the Embassy of Italy, the Embassy of Latvia, the Embassy of Sweden and the Swedish Arts Council, the Embassy of Uruguay, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, The Hay-Adams, Mensa Education and Research Foundation, the Mexican Cultural Institute, Lissa Muscatine and Bradley Graham, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Small Press Expo, SPAIN arts & culture and Split This Rock. Media Partners are C-SPAN2’s Book TV, PBS Book View Now and NPR. Those interested in supporting the National Book Festival can contact the Library at firstname.lastname@example.org. – Library of Congress
What the List of Most Banned Books Says About Our Society’s Fears – Although I’ve highlighted the anti-diversity theme of the most recent banned books list, the whole article is worth reading, especially the discussion of how challenges to banned books have been on the decline, and the implication that censorship might be gaining ground. Perhaps it’s fortunate that banned books tend to increase sales, at least? As for the issues discussed below, is it really that the type of challenges have changed, or that people are more open about the real reasons for those challenges?
When the American Library Association started keeping a database of challenged books in the early ’90s, the reasons cited were fairly straightforward, according to James LaRue, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “‘Don’t like the language,’ or ‘There’s too much sex’—they’d tend to fall into those two categories,” he says. Some books are still challenged for those reasons—Fifty Shades of Grey is a common example. But there’s been a shift toward seeking to ban books “focused on issues of diversity—things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities,” LaRue says. “It seems like that shift is very clear.” . . .
The shift seems to be linked to demographic changes in the country—and the political fear-mongering that can accompany those changes, LaRue says. “There’s a sense that a previous majority of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are kind of moving into a minority, and there’s this lashing out to say, ‘Can we just please make things the way that they used to be?’” LaRue says. “We don’t get many challenges by diverse people,” he adds. In recent years, book challenges have peaked while religious liberty bills were in the news, he says.- TIME
Mikita Brottman’s “Maximum Security Book Club” offers a surprising look at the classics—and prison life – A very interesting piece on Mikita Brottman, a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, who ran a book club in a maximum security men’s prison and a state psychiatric hospital for four years before writing a memoir on the experience. And once the book was released, her clubs were summarily canceled, with no real explanation and no chance to challenge the decisions.
Brottman, in “The Maximum Security Book Club,” asks those of us on the outside to think about that for a bit, just as she asks the men to think about the characters, their motivations, the psychology behind their actions. In essence, of course, reading is all about empathy. How do you walk in someone else’s shoes for a few hundred pages, and a lifetime? And in some ways, teaching this kind of deep empathy through literature is her book group’s most valuable lesson. But she treads very lightly here. She is unjudgmental and un-hierarchical—two traits that might have landed her in trouble with the prison authorities (see sidebar on how her book club was recently canceled by prison officials)—and she brings that same scrutiny to bear on herself.
When the group reads “Lolita,” she is strident in her interpretation, insisting she never viewed Humbert Humbert as a pedophile. “When I imagined reading ‘Lolita’ with the prisoners—many of whom had committed crimes that might be considered as serious as child rape—I’d thoughtlessly assumed they’d have sympathy for Humbert Humbert as well as for Lolita. I thought they’d see him as a fellow outsider.” But the men despised him and were deeply mistrustful of his clever language and fast-talking ways, marking him from the onset as a dissembler and unreliable narrator. She argued with them: “He may be deranged, dodgy, or deluded, but he’s still describing what he believes to be true. You could make the case that most of the time Humbert tells the story in such a way as to justify his own behavior, but isn’t this how we all tell our stories, consciously or not?”
But while Brottman wants to describe “Lolita” as a love story, the men want to talk about Lolita herself and how Humbert ruined her life. “These men, some of whom were guilty of terrible crimes, had immediately sympathized with twelve-year-old Lolita,” she writes. “They recognized at once that she was suffering…And I, with my weakness for a fancy prose style, had fallen into Nabokov’s trap and could see Lolita only through Humbert Humbert’s eyes, as his invention, his nymphet. I could not make sense of her, as the prisoners did, as a little girl in her own right.” Brottman, though she had read the novel many, many times, mulls over this and eventually comes around to their way of thinking, learning from the prisoners as they have learned from her. “I had to face the fact that, to my dismay, the prisoners had got it right.” – The City Paper
The Murder of Stephen King: James Patterson scraps book ‘out of respect’ for the esteemed author – So after Stephen King criticized him for yeas, James Patterson writes a book about “a psychotic fan re-enacting the murders from King’s book with the goal of eventually killing King himself.” Then right before its release, he kills the book. Is this a PR stunt?
Having learnt that fans had “disrupted” King’s home in real life, Patterson issued a statement on the novels withdrawal, reading: “My book is a positive portrayal of a fictional character, and, spoiler alert, the main character is not actually murdered.
“Nevertheless, I do not want to cause Stephen King or his family any discomfort. Out of respect for them, I have decided not to publish The Murder of Stephen King.” – The Independent