Top Ten Words From Social Media

Hello, dear readers! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. I am still ill, and thus not up to my maximum rhetorical prowess (how embarrassing), so please bear with me on tonight’s post.

Let’s finish off the week with another Facebook tribute (click here if you missed my reflection on Facebook a couple days ago). I’ve seen several articles this week about the ways in which Facebook has changed our language, and as a linguaphile, I’ve found this topic fascinating. I know that our language is changing more rapidly than ever, due to the technology boom–not only does it enable more rapid/frequent conversation, but it also creates new concepts which have never before been named.

These lists from Mashable and CNN were great, in my opinion–and some of my choices overlap with theirs. However, for tonight’s Top 10 list, I enlisted the help of my sister. She and I frequently use social media terms in our conversation, to our dad’s chagrin. We do it partly to be funny (that chagrin thing–sorry, Dad), but also partly because it’s so relevant. Social media is pervasive, right?

I hope you enjoy my Top 10 Words (that Jennifer and I use) from Social Media list. Thanks to Jennifer for the collaboration. 🙂

Top 10 Words from Social Media

1. Like

The "Like" Button

This word is more committal than the usual meaning. If you “Like” something (and you must use air quotes to distinguish), it means you approve of it enough to put your permanent digital signature on it.

2. Share

This is when you “more than like” something. No, it’s not love–it’s “sharing.” This goes beyond putting your signature on something–you are presenting it to the world as something you believe in, whether it’s a social awareness campaign for cancer research or a video of a baby panda sneezing. When I tell Jennifer she should “share” an outfit she’s wearing, I don’t just mean that she should let me borrow it (this is always implied); I also mean that she should “share” it on Facebook so the world can enjoy her good fashion taste as much as I do.

3. That’s a Profile Pic

This term is a stamp of approval. It’s used to describe a picture of someone that you believe captures their personality and and most attractive angle. It doesn’t even have to be a literal suggestion that someone use the picture as their profile picture–it’s just giving your endorsement to the photo itself for whatever future use it may find.
On the other hand, this term can also be a dare on a particularly unflattering, unfortunate picture (usually a candid). You get some major street cyber cred if you take the challenge–people see you’re secure enough with yourself that you’d choose a physically unattractive photo to represent yourself with. But…you’re choosing an unflattering picture (and perhaps lack of better judgement) to represent yourself. It’s a toss-up, case-by-case scenario.

4. Hashtag

This one is, by far, the most annoying to our dad. To hashtag something verbally (finger-taps for extra points) means you are suggesting something become popular–that it is common or funny enough to go “viral.” That it’s some kind of universal truth. Which brings me to our next word…

5. Viral

Sometimes, something becomes so popular so quickly that it can only be described as “viral.” It’s a really interesting reimagination of the word, because like a physical virus (like the one I’m currently experiencing), “viral” things often get modified as the pass from person to person. Like Jennifer said, “You’d only want to be viral on social media!” Yes, agreed, Jennifer. (I’ve tried not to cough on you.)

6. Meme

Life imitating art imitating life. This is something like “viral”–when a still image is popular enough (usually “funny”) to go viral–especially with modification potential–it’s a meme. This one is based on pictures, not words, and it’s up to the user to put new words onto the image. This is one Jennifer and I like to recreate IRL–that’s internet-shorthand for “in real life”–when we are especially proud or determined about something:

7. Stalk

Maybe “stalking” has always been the ultimate form of flattery, but nowadays, there’s a lot less creepiness to the term. Saying you’ve stalked someone is a compliment that their Facebook profile was interesting enough to capture your attention to wade through a few pictures, status updates, and of course, the “about” section. The degree of intensity is always vague, but anything on your Facebook is fair game to be “stalked” in a totally acceptable way…so, dear readers, as I said in my last post, be mindful of what you’re putting out there for all to see, because “stalking” is the trendiest new way to show admiration. 😉

8. Unfriend

At the opposite end of the spectrum of flattery is the term “unfriend.” Unfriending someone is the ultimate insult to someone–it’s telling them you’re done associating with them in any way for the rest of your life. Does that sound more dramatic than it could possibly be? Think about it–your Facebook network includes everyone from your family and closest friends to minimal acquaintances–they are all “friends” in Facebook terms. So unfriending someone means you are cutting off all communication. It feels like a formality more akin to the 18th century than the 21st, but the quietness of it–enabled by the technological magic of Facebook–will leave the unfriended haunted and bare-faced, wondering when you cut them off and how long they thought you were still friends and WEREN’T! Dun dun dun…

9. Facebook-Official

In most cases, this is how “the world” (your social network) knows if your relationship is really serious or not. It’s another step between dating and marriage, and, as subtle a click as it is, it’s an announcement everyone is sure to see. Of course, some people now just hide the relationship part of their profile to avoid fuss over it–all well and good. It’s a personal choice. Think of this as a virtual promise ring. When you ask a new couple if they’re “Facebook-official,” you’re really asking how serious (or how private) they are.

10. Facebooking

Last, but not least, on our list is the word “Facebook” as a verb. The verb can mean any type of interaction with Facebook, from updating your profile picture, to looking at your news feed, to typing a “happy birthday” message on someone’s wall. Interestingly, it has also expanded into maintaining other social media sites, too. So, if someone asks you what you’re doing when checking your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc.–you can simply respond “Facebooking.” The questioner will know you are virtually occupied until further notice. 🙂

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I hope you enjoyed the list! What words do YOU use, thanks to social media?

Join me all this week for Valentine’s-themed posts! I promise they’ll be more funny than sappy. 😉

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was Forced to Read

Hello, readers! This installment of Top Ten Tuesday was actually suggested last week by The Broke and the Bookish; an extremely busy week has pushed it to this Tuesday instead. 😉 The prompt is:

Top Ten Books I Was “Forced” to Read (either by teachers, friends, other bloggers, book club) — doesn’t necessarily have to be a BAD thing. Could be required reading, yes, but also book club, or just super enthusiastic friends “making” you read something!

I’ll admit, I’ve been rather stubborn in the past with my favorite book genres. Actually, for much of my life, I would only read classics (nothing written post-1900, preferably). That’s right; I used to be even more of a book snob than I am now (I figure I could only go on hiding it for so long, readers). To be fair, though, I was similarly discriminatory with my movie taste (nothing in color–especially black-and-white classics colored in later).

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid…wait a minute, you don’t look quite right.
(Casablanca image from forum.dvdtalk.com)

But gradually, through social and academic pressures against my will, I have expanded my reading repertoire. I’m glad, too, because I would have missed out on some great books. Below, I’ve listed ten memorable books I’ve been forced to read–some good experiences, some…not. All images are from www.barnesandnoble.com; click them to buy or read plot summaries.

1. The Winter’s Tale, by William Shakespeare

Winter's Tale

This one wasn’t too much of a stretch for me. I LOVE Shakespeare, but somehow, despite numerous classes on him and reading on my own, I hadn’t encountered this book until one of my advanced-level Shakespeare classes in undergrad at UIUC. This less–well-known play by the bard is actually a favorite among enthusiasts, and I think it would translate really well to a movie, especially given the popularity of period dramas nowadays. This is a tragicomedy, which, if memory serves, is the bard’s only (or one of the only) meld of the two genres (as opposed to dark tragedies like Hamlet and fun comedies like As You Like It). The best of both worlds! Plus, you get the usual memorable characters and sparkling language of Shakespeare’s work.

2. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

Lord of the Flies

I probably don’t have to go into much detail with why I did not like this book, after last week’s list of book turn-offs, especially in regards to disturbing violence. Even the cover is breaking my heart. I was required to read this in middle school, and it was not a good experience. Actually, I’ve kind of blocked it out to the point where I remember the feelings I had about reading it more than the actual book itself. I wonder how I’d feel about this on a reread at an older age, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set

Strangely, as much as I disliked the last book, I loved this trilogy–extreme fangirl level. I was so afraid of it being exactly like the last book (#2) that Jennifer offered to screen it for me first…that’s right, my younger sister has more book courage than I do. She LOVED these books, and as soon as I got the green light from her, I began reading it, because I actually was required to read it for class, haha. (I just needed to know with what level of caution–at what arm-length–I needed to read this.) This was one of the books assigned in my Young-Adult Literature class with Alix Reid at DePaul, which you know was shelf–and, I dare say–life-changing. Although these books were indeed violent, it was all justified, and the message was powerful and important. The writing was great, too; quick and biting, it matched the plot perfectly.

4. “Debbieland,” by Aimee Bender

AimeeBender

I couldn’t find this story or a picture of it online. Instead, this is a picture of the author, and it links to her website.

This short story about bullying, told from the P.O.V. of the bullies, disturbed me so much that I asked my teacher, with a single tear rolling down my cheek (j.k.?), WHY she had assigned it to us. She responded that that was exactly the reason why she had. Touché, Professor Pittard. (Hannah Pittard was one of my favorite teachers from DePaul, in large part because her taste was so different than mine that she helped me to grow and think outside my own writing box.) As much as I was uncomfortable from being inside the heads of such horrible people in “Debbieland,” I learned an interesting writing technique from it. To be honest, though, I much preferred my professor’s own use of the group-P.O.V.; check out her critically acclaimed novel, The Fates Will Find Their WayPerfectly lovely and haunting for this time of year. 🙂

5. Dune, by Frank Herbert

Dune (Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics)

I think Barnes & Noble described this book best on their website: “A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.” This book was on our Honors English summer reading list for incoming freshman year, and from this book alone, I knew high school was going to be awesome. (Perhaps a blanket judgement, but I was only 14…and I do have many fond memories of those four years. 🙂 ) Anyway, this was, hands-down, the best assigned summer reading I’ve ever had. This book was so inspiring that I chose to teach it as a student teacher in my undergrad program; I think it should be assigned reading to everyone in school. I was shocked, when I asked the class (all honors students), if they had read the book before. For some reason, it isn’t being assigned as much as I think it should be, with such timeless and important themes. This is Jeremiah’s favorite series ever; he’s read all of the books, as well as the companion books written by Herbert’s son based on the late Frank’s notes. It’s a favorite book of mine, though admittedly, I haven’t finished the series yet. As a teenager, it had changed so much after the first three books that I wasn’t sure I liked it anymore, but as an adult, I suspect I might like the bigger picture even more.

6. & 7.: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, & In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

As I Lay Dying: The Corrected TextIn Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences

And on the flip side of assigned high school summer reading were these two books assigned for us to read the summer before my sophomore year of Honors English. Dear God, these books scarred me so badly that I can’t even look at them today. Part of me wonders if I was just too young to handle the dark subject content (15 years old), but given that I don’t like much graphic violence nowadays, either, I think I might have the same reaction reading these as an adult. Briefly: they both focus on gruesome aspects of death, as the titles suggest. I know these are classics, and I’m sure they’re well-written, but I was so disturbed by the content that I couldn’t even pay attention to the writing (unlike #4). Not only did they RUIN my summer, but I’ve stayed away from the authors’ other work as much as possible, too (though after other assigned Faulkner readings, I still am not a fan–too dark of humor for me to find it funny).

8. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

And back to the positives of assigned reading, The Graveyard Book was another assignment for that Young-Adult Literature class at DePaul (see #3). I love this book so much that I have two copies: a hardcover I read for class and a signed paperback from an author appearance when Neil Gaiman came to Chicago in 2011…the appearance where I almost got in to see him but didn’t, because the line was hundreds of people too long for the space the Chicago Public Library had available. 😥 I drowned my sorrows with a little retail therapy, that being his autographed books. Here’s a picture of me after the event (the event was specifically celebrating his book Neverwhere, another favorite of mine).

Mega-fangirl: My shirt is a sketch Neil Gaiman did, imagining a potential cover for The Graveyard Book. Jennifer bought it for me! ❤ You can buy it from Neverwear here. (Don’t you love the pun?)

Anyway, I’m really glad I was assigned this book, for several reasons: First of all, it was my gateway into Neil Gaiman, who, as you know, is one of my favorite authors (just search his name on my homepage search box and you’ll see tons of my entries pop up). Secondly, I might never have picked it up, as it is technically a “middle grade” book, i.e., targeted for an audience of ages 8-12. As you know from previous posts, I was surprised to learn how much I loved young-adult literature, and this book SHOCKED me with the discovery that I liked middle grade, too. So not only did this book introduce me to an author, but also to a whole bracket of books, too. If you’re looking for a spooky and amazing read for Halloween, I highly recommend this one! It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

9. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter Paperback Boxed Set, Books 1-7

I tried to hide my moments of snobbery from you before, dear readers, but I’ve officially given up as of the last Top 10 post. 😉 As a recovering pop culture connoisseur in 6th-7th grade, I tried to steer clear of anything popular after that, including books. It was to my detriment, as my older, wiser self now knows, because at least with books, they are usually popular for a reason. The first couple of books had already been out for awhile before my mom bought one and urged me to read it, and thank God she did. I read it because I wanted to figure out the “overblown hype,” but instead, I found compelling, complex, beautiful coming-of-age story as timeless as it was timely: my sister and I had the privilege of growing up with Harry Potter, as his age in each book release roughly matched ours. What a fantastic influence on a developing teenager–or for adults. I can’t see this book ever going out of popularity; it has something for everyone.

10. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer

TwilightThis book is in yellow, because I haven’t actually read it yet. I would say that it is the book I feel most pressured to read by society, both as a reader and a writer. This is such a polarizing novel series; it seems people either love it or hate it. I was somewhere in between with my opinion of the movies; I’ve seen them all. I could understand both the praise and the criticism this series receives, but I feel like until I (finally) read these, I have no right to an opinion either way on their content or writing. As a cultural phenomenon, my opinion of it is: Well-done, Stephanie Meyer. You’ve inspired millions of people to read, and you’ve made it a bit easier for authors to include more sentimentalism in their work. You know that it’s a balance I struggle with as a writer, but I do think there is a right balance out there somewhere. Maybe it’s in here. I actually requested this first book as a Christmas present a few years ago, and it’s still looking at me from the shelf, eyeing me from that big apple.

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I hope you enjoyed my top-10 list this week, readers! What are some memorable books YOU’VE been assigned?

Join me later this week and next for some festive posts about autumn and Halloween. 🙂

“The Angry Woman Suite,” by Lee Fullbright, Review–Novel Publicity Blog Tour

Hello readers! Tonight, I have the pleasure of being a Novel Publicity Blog Tour host for Lee Fullbright’s The Angry Woman Suite, from Telemachus Press, LLC. It’s a haunting mystery about the ghosts of the past and how love, betrayal, and resentment transcend time. Perfect for a book review right before Halloween, yes? 😉

However, the picture painted–a pun you’ll soon recognize–is more beautiful than grotesque, sad than scary. Read on for more info about the book, my review, and prizes!

[Disclaimer: As with all my book reviews for Novel Publicity Blog Tours, I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]

About the book: “They need to be exercised, hearts do … to keep them strong.” Every family has skeletons, but the Grayson family has more than its share of secrets–and of portraits. Mystery portraits that incite and obscure. Portraits to die for. An unsolved celebrity double murder in Pennsylvania. A girl looking for autonomy. A young man in search of an identity. An older man’s quest for justice. A plot that pulls and twists. Get The Angry Woman Suite through Amazon.

My review guidelines: As you know from my first Novel Publicity review, I HATE spoilers as a reader, so as a reviewer, I avoid them as best as possible. As a writer and an editor, I put a lot of value on the language itself used to tell a tale. A 10/10 review for me will be one with an amazing plot, characters I love, and enchanting writing. I can’t get lost in a book without falling under the spell of its words–and the spell will be ineffectual without a great plot to fall into.

With that said, please enjoy my review.

The Angry Woman Suite

Click to view “The Angry Woman Suite” on Goodreads or to buy.

Review

As with my last Novel Publicity book review, this novel lay outside my usual genre preference. However, the plot description and historical theme intrigued me, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Angry Woman Suite was a compelling, moving, poignant read.

I would classify this as an adult historical fiction mystery. I think the book would be most appropriate for adults, since it deals with some pretty dark themes, including abuse.

The world: The reader is fully immersed in the world, 1900-1960 Pennsylvania, from the very beginning. The society is described well, and we understand–or at least, sense–why the stakes are so high early on. The elements of painting and music are ever-present throughout the work, and they are interesting devices to transition the reader between the different eras of the story. They are also interesting metaphorical devices, representative of how the characters see each other, and how that interpretation has lasting effects on their lives. The reader him/herself, although getting first-person P.O.V., gets the distinct impression that we are viewing creations of filtered perceptions by…

The characters: These characters were very real, none perfect, each with their own talents and flaws. We are so far inside their heads that it can almost be uncomfortable to be so close to their thoughts when we know they’re doing something wrong, and that discomfort can make it hard to root for the narrators. However, we are treated with rich perspective, beautiful pieces of insight that I’ll discuss more in the “language” section–and these thoughts are often what redeem the characters to us. The characters are each unique and representative of immutable forces themselves, which are interesting to watch intertwine with each other in effect if not in physical presence.

The plot was surprising and gripping, which kept you hanging on through the heartbreak. The back-and-forth between characters and times could be a little hard to follow, occasionally, but it was an interesting and innovative way to weave the work. The pace could be a little slow at times, especially with reveals, but the telling itself was entertaining enough to keep you engaged with…

The language: I’ve been lucky, in my last two reviews, to experience such lovely rhetoric dotted by pearls of wisdom. One of my favorite quotes paints a wistful picture, setting up the entire story with just a few lines:

“It took nothing away from me, living a fairytale to put a smile on my whisper-soft mother’s beautiful face. In fact, I felt benevolent granting Mother her wish, and so I sealed…[him] inside a place in my heart, in a new and hastily structured place reserved for safe-keeping rare, unused things, things too important to toss away. / ‘You never know,’ Papa always said, ‘the things you’ll find a use for. Never, ever throw anything away, mein Liebes. Never, ever, ever.'”

The language was definitely my favorite part of the book. The themes and events of the book create a lot of sadness, but the reader gets immediate gratification for the pain with soothing, enriching insights about life and relationships–insight the reader can take away after the plot is done, like souvenirs from a trip.

Review: 7/10. Lovely and haunting. An enriching, layered, complex read.

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of The Angry Woman Suite! Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest.
  2. Leave a comment on my blog.

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found here. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Angry Woman Suite tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the author: Lee Fullbright, a lifelong San Diegan, lives on beautiful Point Loma with her Australian cattle dog, Baby Rae (owner of her heart). Her literary mystery, The Angry Woman Suite, was a Kirkus Critics’ Pick, and won a Discovery Award (for literary fiction), as well as a Royal Dragonfly HM, and the award for “Best Mystery” at the 2013 San Diego Book Awards. Lee Fullbright is also the recipient of the 2013 Geisel Award, for “best of the best” at the SDBA. Connect with Lee on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads.

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Outrageous Book Bans

It’s a week full of celebrations! Hobbit Day and autumnal equinox on Sunday, with Tolkien Week all this week. Today is National Punctuation Day. Sunday also kicked off a very important week-long celebration: Banned Books Week.

Censorship is nothing new to human culture. A quick history, courtesy of Mette Newth for the Beacon for Freedom of Expression:

Censorship has followed the free expressions of men and women like a shadow throughout history. In ancient societies, for example China, censorship was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the moral and political life of the population. The origin of the term censor can be traced to the office of censor established in Rome in 443 BC. In Rome, as in the ancient Greek communities, the ideal of good governance included shaping the character of the people. Hence censorship was regarded as an honorable task. In China, the first censorship law was introduced in 300 AD. Perhaps the most famous case of censorship in ancient times is that of Socrates, sentenced to drink poison in 399 BC for his corruption of youth and his acknowledgement of unorthodox divinities.

It’s understandable why people would ban books. Nothing’s quite so threatening as an idea that catches on, spreading through society like wildfire. People can be killed, but ideas?–not so easily–and so has this concept been posed in many great books and movies. I can’t speak for the entire globe, but in America, the freedom of speech is a “certain unalienable right,” one that defines what it means to be an American. So I just don’t understand why books are being banned here.

Usually, books are banned by people who fear those books will have a negative impact on readers. Granted, I would understand banning a book that promotes violence (or even overt hate speech) against people, with no “moral compass” guiding its pages. Beyond that, though, it’s hard to imagine justifying a ban. The controversies that make us uncomfortable are usually the most important ones to talk about–because they imagine a breakthrough of human or animal rights that are not currently universally acknowledged. The whole purpose of a book is to make us think, to open our minds, to help us grow.

Sometimes, when books are banned, it’s for some pretty incredible reasons. Below is my list of the top ten most outrageous book bans.
A special thank-you to The Week and Buzzfeed for most of the info and choices, along with bannedbooks.world.edu, cited below. All images are from Amazon; click them to buy or find out more about the books .

1. The Dictionary

Seriously. I’ve never known anyone except my dad and me to read the dictionary as an actual book, but apparently, the concept of using the American Heritage Dictionary or Merriam-Webster as “pleasure reading” has been a threat since 1969. School boards have cited “illicit entries” as reasons to keep these compendiums of words out of the classroom. Because why would we learn new words in school? (The Week)

2. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

“In 1985, challengers at Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wisconsin, said that A Light in the Attic ‘encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.’” Now, I’m thinking this is a problem on the parenting side, not a fantastical poetry book, but that’s just me. (bannedbooks.world.edu)

3. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. & Eric Carle

This popular children’s picture book was banned by the Texas School Board because they thought the author behind this playful story was the same who published a controversial Marxist book. And their names weren’t even the same. It was philosophy Professor Bill Martin (of DePaul University, coincidentally) who published Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation—no “Jr.,” no relation. The Board reversed their decision once they learned of their error, but it seems like a little preliminary research would have avoided this. Or, you know, common sense. (nowIknow.com)

4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

What could be wrong with this innocent literary legend? “Ministers and educators challenged it for…depicting women in strong leadership roles. They opposed not only children reading it, but adults as well, lest it undermine longstanding gender roles.” What?! You KNOW I have a problem with this, readers. Strong Female Characters are essential, and anyone who says they are toxic should be visited by a few. I volunteer as tribute. (bannedbooks.world.edu)

5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

You already know of my love for this book, but even a non-fangirl would laugh at this irony. This book about the danger of banning books has been banned. Is this to enable them for future bans? Still, one can’t help but assume the people banning it have not read it.

6. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

This is a hallmark of many middle/high schools’ English requirements–and with good reason. How rare to have such a poignant first-hand account into one of the most horrible events that has ever transpired in human history. Plus, the narrator is a teenager, pulling in readers that age that might feel distanced from colder textbook accounts. No one curls up with this one for a laugh before bedtime–obviously, right? But apparently, some people missed the memo. “In 1983, four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of this title because it is, quote, ‘a real downer.'” …I can’t even. Of course it’s a downer. That is EXACTLY why we need to read it. (bannedbooks.world.edu)

7. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Yet another children’s book for the list. Guess who got this one banned? The logging industry, for the book’s “anti-deforesting plot line.” In my opinion, the ban just makes them look (much) worse. (The Week)

8. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

I’ve had a lifelong affection for this cuddly little bear all stuffed with fluff, but apparently, the love is not universal. In fact, Pooh comes in at #22 on the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently banned books. Meek little Piglet came under attack as “offensive” in Turkey, causing a State-controlled TV station to take the show off the air. In Russia, someone found a drawing of Pooh wearing a swastika, owned by an extremist–note, not an original, likely “fanart”–which caused the book to be banned by Russia’s Justice Ministry. And then there’s the whole “Issue” of talking animals, which I’ll discuss in #9. I’ve never seen a game of Poohsticks go so wrong. (bannedbooks.world.edu)

9. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Anthropomorphism (giving animals/inanimate objects human characteristics/behavior) is downright offensive to some people. A parents’ group in Kansas claimed “[humans are] the only creatures that can communicate vocally. Showing lower life forms with human abilities is sacrilegious and disrespectful to God.” I think everyone would agree animals have personalities; you know I think so. But even if you don’t, this book is clearly a work of fiction. Symbols have been used to represent human characteristics since the very beginning of storytelling. By that logic, wouldn’t every single book be banned? By the way, the Bible is packed with symbolism, and it advocates kindness towards all creatures. (The Week)

10. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Even the revered bard isn’t safe from being banned. This explanation is spoilery, just warning you–but you should still read/see this play, because it’s excellent! Anyway, in this play, a female character has to disguise herself temporarily as a male. She then falls in love (with a male). Apparently, this early seventeenth-century text has proven too progressive for a New Hampshire town that banned it for violating the school district’s “prohibition of alternative lifestyle instruction.” Really? This seems to be another case of the banning group not actually reading the play. (The Week)

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In closing, here are some famous quotes by authors about banning books. Of course I had to include two from Ray Bradbury, from/about one of my favorite books ever. Perhaps it’s one of my favorites because banning books is a deep-rooted fear in bibliophiles, this one not excepted. 😉

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

– Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury

Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Readers, I hope you celebrate Banned Books Week with me. The American Library Association is hosting the event all week long, and you can join in the festivities. But first and foremost, you can just pick up a book that’s been banned and read it. Be a rebel! I hope it will open your minds. Let me know what your favorite banned book is in the comments below. As an author, I hope to see my books land on a ban list somewhere, someday. It will mean I have said something important, something thought-provoking. Something to change the world.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book-to-Movie Wish List

Yesterday was Tuesday, and that means another installment of a top-ten list! A busy day pushed it to today instead; I hope you’ll find it just as enjoyable with the added anticipation. 😉 I skipped last week due to my scheduled book review of Ken Floro III’s The Rising Wind, but you can see my first list here.

Echoing my first list (Top Ten Book-to-Movie Adaptations), today’s list, prompted by The Broke and the Bookish, is another fun one: “Top Ten Books I Would Love To See As A Movie/TV Show (set in a perfect world…in which movies don’t butcher the books we love.)”

I had to think about this one, because there have been so many great movies made already of many of my favorite books. But I was able to come up with 10 clear choices–some by the same authors. Here they are, in no particular order. (All images courtesy of Barnes & Noble; click them to buy.)

1. Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe

Immortals Quartet Box Set (Immortals Series)

The Immortals Quartet, a series set within Tamora Pierce’s Tortall universe.

I fell in love with these books as a young girl. Talk about strong female characters! At the time of this posting, I believe she has 18 books out that are set in this universe (according to her website). I have a little catching up to do! This is a magnificent, vibrant universe with lovable characters and compelling plots–all of which would translate well to the screen. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Tamora Pierce in person, and she said that although she’s had movie offers, none have felt quite right. Kudos to her for being protective of her work. I’m hoping that someday, we’ll get to see these books done well on the big screen.

2. Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

“Wait, isn’t this already a movie?” Yes…yes it is. It’s the only book-to-movie I’ve been too afraid to watch, because if they changed just *one* thing about the book, I feel like it’d be destroyed. And from what I’ve read about the movie, they did make some pretty significant changes. So why is this on my wish list? I’d like to see a screenplay done verbatim from the book, or at least to be adapted as CLOSELY as possible. Who’s up for the task? I did take a screenwriting course with the award-winning Jay Bonansinga…so yes, I absolutely volunteer for this project. 😉

3. The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Rumors have been swirling for a movie adaptation of this book. I discovered this book in Alix Reid’s young-adult/children’s literature class, as one of the assigned books, and it quickly became one of my favorites of all time. It’s a special book to a lot of people, which has earned it several awards. It’s extremely visual, and even the most extraordinary settings are vivid. Initial rumors suggested this would be a stop-action movie (like The Nightmare Before Christmas), which seemed an appropriate style for this dark fantasy. As of January, however, Ron Howard took the helm and it looks like it may be live-action. No filming has actually started, and so many changes have happened already that the fate of this film is still uncertain, which earns it a place on my list. This is another AMAZING book that will require care and precision in adhering to Gaiman’s masterful diction and plot.

4. Neverwhere

Neverwhere

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Interestingly, this other novel by Gaiman actually started on the screen. Its original form was a BBC miniseries written by Gaiman, which he later adapted into a novel. I think this urban fantasy would be brilliant as a movie, especially with the right special effects. I’m not quite sure why no one’s completed a movie for this yet, especially with its timeless fanatical popularity (it’s a modern classic–the PENULTIMATE in fantasy, if you ask fans). Gaiman’s other movie adaptations, like Stardust and Coraline, have been well-received. It seems a sure-fire box-office hit. Fans of the recent BBC 4 radio production are rooting for its all-star cast (including Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy and Natalie Dormer) to take it to the silver screen, too. I’m all for that!

5. Seraphina

Seraphina

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This enchanting tale speaks volumes about human nature–and how better to do that than with dragons? The characters and the world completely pull you in, almost without your realizing it until you have to close the book/pause the CD. 😉 Hartman’s innovative twist on classic elements is both familiar and refreshing at the same time–something that movie-goers would love. And if I may be a fangirl for a moment, I NEED to see this love story onscreen. Please.

6. Wicked

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years Series #1)

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

This book and musical will forever be special to me. The theme of “It’s not only OK to be different–it’s what makes you extraordinary” inspired me during my recovery from a traumatic brain injury. It taught me about courage to fight for what’s important to you, that you can make a difference against all odds. This twist on the classic The Wizard of Oz has great heart, great humor, and great quotes. Don’t you think that would be a great movie? I’m not the only fan who thinks so, and rumors have been flying for years about movie projects. So far, I haven’t found any specific information on a movie adaptation, though. Keep your fingers crossed, green or otherwise!

7. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

This other book by Maguire is my favorite retelling of the Cinderella story–and it’s not even starring her. It’s such a clever twist on this ever-popular fairy tale–so popular, in fact, that it needs a little zest added in to keep it fresh. It just so happens that zest is what Maguire does best. With the popularity of fairy tale remakes in Hollywood lately, I’m surprised this hasn’t been picked up yet.

8. Pathfinder

Pathfinder

Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card

This is one of those books where my jaw dropped several times, and by the end, it was fully agape.

Something like this. (Image via Tumblr.)

It was also one of those books that was almost mind-bogglingly complex. The world and the concepts were fascinating, but packed with a bit more physics than I’d expect a 13-year-old to wade through (this is technically YA lit, i.e. 13 and up). For both of these reasons, Pathfinder is on my movie wish list. If done well, it might be one of those movies that makes the book even better by clarifying it. Then again, narrowing down the 800-page book into a movie might be its own challenge.

9. Libyrinth

Libyrinth (Libyrinth Series #1)

Libyrinth (Libyrinth Series #1) by Pearl North

This YA dystopia would strike fear into the hearts of bibliophiles everywhere. Like Fahrenheit 451, the world in this book questions the danger of books–a clash against the spoken and written word. The similarities to Fahrenheit end there, and we’re immersed in a foreign world that’s both futuristic and ancient at the same time. The characters are witty and clever, which makes for a fun read. I won’t spoil it, but the message is timeless and important, which is always good for movies. This movie would be popular with book-lovers and others (ARE there any other kinds of people??).

10. …My own.

So I have to admit that one of the reasons I took that fantastic class with Jay Bonansinga was because, as a reader, I get SO UPSET when a movie *ruins* a book. And as a writer, if my books ever got ruined in this way, I’d be devastated. (These books are still in development—I promise to keep you updated. :)) I wanted to have at least a basic understanding of screenplays and movie-making in my tool belt, and in Jay’s class, I got so much more. So, powers that be, if you’d like to adapt my books into a movie, I am ready to help. 😉

Happy Birthday to You (Two): Ray Bradbury & Claude Debussy

This Thursday marked the birthdays of sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury and impressionistic composer Claude Debussy, two of my favorite artists.

I must confess something truly embarrassing for such a dedicated sci-fi fan like myself: I only recently discovered Bradbury. During my speculative fiction writing class at DePaul, there was one day of our class that everyone was in mourning: Ray Bradbury had passed away. Everyone was really upset, and we spent a portion of class time discussing his influence. I knew the name, but honestly, besides the short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” (a short story excerpt from The Martian Chronicles), I had never read him. I kept quiet, because I sensed this ignorance might very well invalidate my status as a sci-fi fan–but I did add him to my “to read” list.

A few months ago, I finally got around to listening to the audiobook for Fahrenheit 451. Every single person I talked to couldn’t believe I’d never read it before; apparently it’s a high school curriculum staple. I quickly discovered why.

I was so excited when I found one of my favorite books with an intro by one of my favorite authors! Read Gaiman’s touching memorial to Bradbury on his own blog here.

I’m almost not sure where to begin when I talk about how much I love Fahrenheit 451. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. It has a timeless quality to it, seeming more relevant now than when it was published in 1953. The action, plot, and content still cause this classic to be banned even now, let alone in the conservative 50s. But so many important, revolutionary ideas are controversial, and it’s often a badge of honor to be put into that category now.

So why do I love it? I was immediately drawn in from the very first chapter. The language was like candy to me, every word vivid, creative, and evocative. Every image had a purpose, and I found myself longing to jump into the story. I kept rewinding again and again to hear favorite quotes that still stick with me (one of the only inconveniences of audiobooks!). There’s so many good ones, but here is one of my favorites:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

I also love the story on a plot and character level, too. I will try not to be too spoilery, but my favorite parts might give away a little. However, as I seemed to be the last person on the planet to read this book, hopefully it won’t matter. 😉 Montag is an interesting, appealing character, and his development through the course of the book is fascinating. He becomes a righteous, noble, imperfect hero, as lovable for his ideals as his flaws. Yes, so lovable that I still pine for him as a top literary crush.

This is not me but it could be (with Montag).

THIS PARAGRAPH HAS SPOILERS, so skip it if you haven’t read the book yet. The only things I wanted “more” of were some of the other characters, namely, Clarisse. She was one of the most interesting characters in the whole book, yet she had minimal coverage, other than being “ignition” (pun intended) for Montag’s change. I also wanted more of a conclusive ending; I actually thought I was missing a CD from the audiobook when it ended. I felt left hanging, on the brink of the most exciting part yet. However, with what we are given, we can definitely derive an emotion, which I’m sure was Bradbury’s goal: hope. [/END SPOILER]

In my research for this post, I was ECSTATIC to discover there was a sequel of sorts: a video game of the same title, released in 1984, to which Bradbury contributed heavily. Although I doubt a playable version is readily available, this website plays a video walkthrough of the whole game, just over an hour long. I can’t wait to watch! I’m really happy Bradbury worked on this, because otherwise, I don’t think I’d be able to watch it. This book has become so sacred to me that I don’t even trust any movie adaptations to get it right, something I’ve never felt with any other book. It is such an intricate balance of language and emotion and action, glued with wonder, that I feel it’d be easier to spoil than get right. But I will gladly, heartily participate in other levels of fandom:

Fahrenheit 451 T-Shirt

Now, it’s even easier to display my intense admiration of this book, with this treasure I found exclusive to my favorite bookstore, Anderson’s Bookshop.

Google commemorated Debussy’s birthday by dedicating their homepage to him with a beautiful video. When you clicked “play,” the button floated away as a balloon and the song “Clair de Lune” played. A nighttime turn-of-the-century river was the backdrop for the adorable animation of people finding each other, with lights flickering in time to the music. I was captivated. It’s a special song for me, one that my dad and I have always loved. The Washington Post (yes, the newspaper from my previous post) wrote a great article about the video, praising it as a surprising and poignant cinematic direction for team Google Doodles. Although the song has been a favorite of mine for years, TWP taught me of its origins: “Debussy, like fellow French composer Faure, himself found inspiration in a countryman, Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, and his 1869 collection ‘Fetes galantes.’ The poet even seems to beckon musicians with the lyric: ‘Their song blends with the light of the moon.’” Maybe that’s why I’ve always found the song so transfixing; it captures the majesty of the night, ripe with poetry and music (I’ve always been a night owl myself; you can’t time inspiration, I say). It’s interesting to see yet another layer of adaptation added: scenery–>poem–>music–>video, now, all-in-one. Google’s homepage changed at midnight, but luckily, the video has been added to YouTube, and many articles have been written about it.

How lucky we are to have all the great works these talented artists have left behind for us. If you haven’t experienced them yet, I hope you get a chance, soon.

Strong Female Characters

One article has captivated the entire literary community since its publication last week: “I Hate Strong Female Characters,” by Sophia McDougall. For modern readers and writers, that’s just about as offensive a statement as you can get. And written by a WOMAN? How dare she, right? That’s definitely what made me click, although I almost didn’t want to, on the sheer concept of it.

It was a smart publicity move, and beginning the article with a photo of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this author clearly knew what she was doing. Pairing an unpopular statement with a popular picture, the author ensured readers from every angle of the issue would be invested.

Before I get too far into this article, let me promise you I am not going to devolve into man-bashing. That’s not what this is about.

Not today, Emma Stone.

This article identifies—and participates in, IMHO—a layer of problems thicker and more tear-producing than an onion. The article was so revolutionary in its anti-revolution that everyone wanted to respond. (Seriously, Google “strong female characters”–pages and pages of responses to this one article!) I wanted to, too, but it’s taken me till now to know what my response would be. Because I find myself arguing for both sides.

McDougall’s main issue with Strong Female Characters (hereafter, “SFC”) is that they shouldn’t be described as “strong.” They should automatically be strong, and it shouldn’t define their character or role.

To address an issue this complex, we have to rewind and see how we’ve gotten here. One of the most valuable aspects of my undergrad English program was intense critical theory: learning how to read on a deep, comprehensive, and analytic level, pulling in companion texts for everything. While perhaps frustrating and complicated at the time, the lesson is so important: context is everything. “No man is an island,” says John Donne, and indeed, no book is, either.
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Well, maybe except this one.

Every great idea we have is either an action or a reaction to society. Every concept of normalcy—and our decision to participate in it or not—is also a reaction to society.

You, too, can join the group of people wearing this anti-conformity shirt from Zazzle.com. Wait a minute…

Don’t be disheartened; that doesn’t take any of the greatness away from individual heroism. For what good are heroics, ideas, change, without people to enjoy them?

What I’m saying is that “Strong Female Characters” are a reaction to society. It’s a society that has been largely patriarchal for millennia, where men are “strong” and women are simpering. So if we go back, WAY back, to the beginning of stories, were men described as strong? Beowulf, Hercules? Of course they were. It’s just not as celebrated anymore, because it’s been done. It’s much less unique, now that there are gyms in every neighborhood. And finally, in our modern age, the women are catching up, and it is a beginning of a new kind of storytelling.

In my critical theory class with the brilliant Robert Dale Parker at UIUC, we learned that there are defaults that readers assume, given no details about a character. The default character in Western literature is now, and has been for awhile, the white male. Let me prove my point using Facebook:

The default Facebook profile image, at least when I signed up. Recently, a female version was introduced. And some people think it still looks like a man, albeit a very specific character:

Darth Vader or default female?

A racial debate is a whole other can of worms, and I’m not going to get into that in this post. Yes, the above Facebook guy could be many different races. It’s possible this could be a woman’s haircut, but it would be a “masculine” haircut. However you look at it, the default assumption is male, and it’s a role everyone is trained to slip into without a second thought. Again, I’m not man-bashing here. What could we do, in a language where we’re supposed to use male pronouns to indicate gender neutrality? (They weren’t always–check out Old English’s pronoun table.)

It comes down to stereotypes. The “strong female character” is a backlash against the female characters of days past–who were commonly, let’s face it, weak. (I know there were exceptions, and I love them for it, but I’m talking generalities here.) The SFC is only a stereotype now because our society is hyper-aware of centuries of inequality, and thus writers vehemently tend to avoid “weak” by creating the opposite.

George R. R. Martin, creator of A Song Of Fire And Ice and executive producer of Game Of Thrones .

Go George R. R. Martin! This comment only intensifies my growing love of Game of Thrones, my newest obsession. (Image courtesy of Buzzfeed.)

The problem, identified in Rose Fox’s article for Publishers Weekly, is when writers make SFC only the opposite of weak. But that’s just a problem of bad writing; no character, male or female, should be single-dimensional. “Why aren’t male characters described as strong?” asks McDougall. Well, I think that many still are, but I get her point–it’s not as common anymore as it is a primary descriptor of female characters. SFC are described as strong because our default assumption, from millennia of stories, is that women will not be strong. My mom made a great point when I was talking to her about this article. “It’s the same way female characters aren’t described as sensitive, but male are.” Exactly! No one wants a sniveling crybaby for a fictional crush, but every woman wants a man who “gets” her and is empathetic. (Google, why are you showing me pictures of naked men when I’m trying to find a picture for this? You’re ruining my argument.)

“All the princesses know kung-fu now,” McDougall’s mother dismisses of her compliment of Fiona’s skills in Shrek. Is this a bad thing? The cool female characters now are all fighters. It’s no longer trendy to sit by and let men have all the fun/do all the work. McDougall’s argument that it’s never been OK is valid–but I’m recognizing the change. We have to say the females are strong because we are breaking the cultural stereotype that they are not strong. I can feel the tide turning in literature and film–which is, of course, a reflection of our society, too.

Young-adult literature, which you know is my favorite, is doing more than its fair share in the changing. Kudos to them, because this is influencing a generation of teenagers (and “young-minded” adults like myself and YOU I am sure) that women can do anything they want, be it kick butt, make pie, or make pie while kicking butt.

Superhero Chef by CulinaryNoteCards

One of the bloggers I follow, Tara the Librarian, wrote a great article in response to the SFC debate, in particular, McDougall’s claim about the lack of female characters in literature/movies. “This, my friends, is why I LOVE young adult novels,” says Tara. “Our world is dominated by female protagonists. They own the spotlight.” Agreed. And I also agree with Tara (and disagree with McDougall) that having women in the spotlight does not make media less appealing for a unisex audience. Men are already slipping into female narrative identities without effort; just look at the Hunger Games success.

But here is where I disagree with Tara: “It’s easy to think about the physical strength of our female characters. But what about other characteristics? Do women always have to be strong?…I am guilty of using the word “strong” to cover [other good] traits, but the fact is that ‘strong’ is just a terrible adjective. Women are not just strong.” The fact is that right now, “strong” is an adjective that DOES imply other good character traits in women–cunning, intelligent, emotionally resilient–because it is melding the stereotype that women already had with strength. “Strength isn’t just physical,” said my mom, with another pearl of wisdom when we were discussing this. Agreed! And as long as writers remember this and build real characters, not just gym rats, we’ll keep reading. “The only cure for SFC Syndrome is for writers to work on making all their characters well-rounded and interesting and complex and real, with a mix of physical, emotional, psychological, familial, professional, and social strengths and weaknesses,” says Rose Fox.

The only kind of gym rat I’m interested in reading about.

Although I’m usually against stereotypes, the SFC is one I’m happy with. Even if the heroines we love so much now (Katniss from The Hunger Games, Clary from City of Bones, Catwoman in the newest Batman installment, Merida from Brave) might seem over-exaggerated in the retrospect of future centuries, what a cool exaggeration to be known for. As a woman, a reader, and a writer, I will proudly dance on the line of being ridiculous in the name of being anything but weak. SFC have a lot of making up to do for stereotypes of the past. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, we will assume as a culture that female characters are strong unless we are told otherwise—and for that matter, that male characters are empathetic.
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