Monday, September 30, 2019

Banned Books

By Marietta Miles

As another Banned Book Week comes to an end, I wanted to take a look back at the most banned books of 2018 as compiled by the American Library Association. The American Library Association was founded in the 1800s to assist in the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services, librarians and to ensure access to information for all citizens. 

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982. In its 37-year history , over 11,000 books have been challenged. The ALA tracked 347 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2018. A total of 438 books were challenged or banned last year. Below you will find the books and the reasons they were banned.

George by Alex Gino

This title was banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character.


A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

This book was banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints.

Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

This series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This much lauded book was banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references.

Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

This title was banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Certain school districts banned, challenged, and restricted this title for addressing teen suicide.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations.

Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner

The series was challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This book was banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint.

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Challenged and banned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

This book was challenged and banned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Review: Revisionist History, the Podcast

I do a lot of driving. Most of it is in small chunks, so I’ve never really gotten into podcasts, because really, how much can I do with an episode in 10 minutes? On a few longer drives over the summer, I did become acquainted with Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, a look at “things overlooked and misunderstood.” I took another infrequent long drive last weekend and queued up some more episodes. I’ve now thrown my short-time-period refusal out the car window and have been listening every chance I get, even if it’s just during a quick trip to the corner store. I probably need to stop—I’ve found myself narrating my life with Malcolmite phrasing and Gladwellian pauses. 
My copy of Gladwell's latest, with the bookplate. Only mere mortals sign the actual books.
Just as with his books, Gladwell’s genius lies with drawing conclusions no one else would think of, linking topics that no one else would ever even consider together. Take Season Four, Episode 8, “In a Metal Mood,” where he explains how crooner Pat Boone is like Taco Bell. Yes, you read that correctly. It also addresses Elvis Presley and the heavy metal genius of the band Dio. How do they all link together? I won’t spoil it, but trust me, it’s worth 42 minutes of your time. 
Then there’s season two, episode five, “The Prime Minister and the Prof,” where he argues that Winston Churchill’s policies during World War II helped cause the famine that killed millions in the Bengal region of British India during the war. I’m embarrassed to say I’d never heard of the famine. I’m glad to now have the opportunity to learn about it.
 Sometimes Gladwell does stretch a bit too much. His take on the Boston Tea Party (season 4, episode 3) overshot the mark, and I didn’t buy his conclusion on the Toyota braking scandal (season 1, episode 8) where the brake systems of Toyota models were supposedly failing.
But back to the good stuff. The first season has a staggering three-parter on higher education that’s an absolute must-listen. The middle episode starts off with the cafeteria food at Bowdoin College. It connects the gourmet fare to the exclusive school’s need for full-paying students and contrasts that with Vassar College, which has decided to do the exact opposite—serve standard less-than-stellar dorm food and use the savings to provide academic scholarships. It’s a Catch-22 and Gladwell hammers home the brutal choices that schools are having to do to keep their doors open.
But not all schools. In the last of the three episodes, he talks to the president of Stanford University. Yeah, that Stanford. With its gazillion dollar endowment. Gladwell presses the guy about why his university is taking so much gift money when it doesn’t need it, and when it could be used more effectively (i.e. make much more of a difference) at smaller schools. Here’s the link—a guy named Hank Rowen donated $100 million to Glassboro State University in New Jersey. Which then built an entire engineering school that’s affordable for kids from blue-collar families. Which will get them good-paying jobs in fields that desperately need them. Listen to it if for no other reason than to hear a snooty Stanford guy get taken to task.
My long drive last weekend took me near there—to San Mateo, a city just south of San Francisco—to hear Gladwell speak. He’s on tour for his latest book, Talking to Strangers. The even was sold out at 1,500 people, and this was one of his smaller venues. It was also definitely the closest to the gazillion dollar-endowed Stanford. He said he’d walked around the campus earlier that day and noticed the university’s Center on Poverty and Inequality. He couldn’t resist a crack, saying he was glad to see that Stanford had a sense of humor.
His books are much the same as his podcast, drawing connections and conclusions that others haven’t. He is, as always, not afraid to pass moral judgement. Even if you don’t agree with him, he gives you enough information to form your own opinions. I haven’t had a chance to dig into Talking to Strangers yet, but I’m sure parts of it will fascinate me, parts of it will probably piss me off, and all of it will be worth reading.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 39

Scott D. Parker

Are you a monogamous writer?

So, as a fiction writer with a separate day job, I have the luxury of finding myself in writing slumps and not having to worry about paying the bills. The slumps are a pain, to be sure, but I've been able to wallow in them, diagnose why they started, and then finding ways out of the hole.

I've been in one for a little bit, probably late summer until now. I've given myself permission to not write, but I plan on getting back on the horse come Tuesday, AKA 1 October.

A few, I printed my three or four works in progress and I've been reading over them, figuring out which one I want to restart. One's a Ben Wade tale so that's 1940s. The other is a mystery set in the present day. Ditto for the non-mystery novel I began in the summer. Then there's the sequel to a short story I submitted to an anthology. It's an action tale, and I enjoyed writing it so much, I want to write more.

Thing is, each of them bring a certain vibe in my imagination. I like all the vibes, especially considering each of them are in different genres.

I had an idea just this week: why not work on multiple projects at the same time?

Up until now, I've always written on one project until completion. It's worked well. I've written novels in a month using this philosophy. All waking non-writing moments enable me to think about next scenes, working through plot points, etc.

But if I hit a wall for any reason, the writing gets derailed. And if I can't get back on track, then the writing grinds to a halt.

I know other writers have multiple projects going at the same time. Veteran writer Robert J. Randisi works on multiple books per day. James Patterson undoubtedly does the same thing. If one book ain't jiving, shift books.

It's an idea I'll be testing, just to see how it works. Why not? Trying something and failing is way better than not even trying in the first place, right?

How Did You Celebrate Batman Day?

Last Saturday, we celebrated the manufactured "holiday" known as Batman Day. Why? Marketing and selling. But it was still kinda cool to see all those Batman-related hashtags and images.

I started by watching the Batman episode of the new Scooby-Doo and Guess Who
. Later, with the wife taken ill, I watched the end of Batman 1989. As those credits rolled, Batman Returns began in split screen. Why not? Ditto for Batman Forever.

Later in the evening, I ended up watching the first of two direct-to-DVD movies featuring Adam West and Burt Ward, The Return of the Caped Crusaders. Really, really enjoyed it. I closed out the evening with Batman comic 321, the one written by Len Wein featuring the Joker throwing himself a morbid birthday party.

It was a fun day. What did you do?

Sting's Brand New Day is Twenty!

Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of the release of Brand New Day, Sting's sixth studio album. I loved that era of Sting fandom and I wrote about it (because of course I did).

The next anniversary is this Friday when David Bowie's ...hours also turns twenty. That was a great week back in 1999: two veteran artists releasing new music.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Inspiration, Perspiration, Passion & Paris

I’m writing this on a train trundling to London to meet up with a couple of police officers (one serving and one newly retired). I’ve started the new book and realised that there are a bunch of things I don’t know that I think I really should. So the plan to ‘pants it’ and just write has already been slightly derailed, but you know what? It’s fine. I’m progressing. I’ve got a beginning and an endpoint and a series of hits and i’ve begun to understand what drives my protagonist, my villain and some of my characters, so the book is twisting and morphing. It’s – to quote the good Herr Doktor Frankenstein – ALIVE!

Now, if only I could carve out a nice chunk of time to actually write. The summer has been crazy busy, and the start of the autumn seems also packed. I went to Paris (France, not Texas*) last Sunday with the Lovely Husband and some friends. We went for lunch at Les Deux Magots (one of my favourite restaurants, and also a favourite of Hemmingway. When he was alive, obviously, though for all I know he’s haunting the place to this day and bitching that everyone’s gone soft).

We also went to see an exhibition at Atelier Des Lumieres. This innovative exhibition space specialises in digital exhibitions where they take Ultra HD scans of famous artworks then project them in huge scale on the walls floors and ceilings of a concrete lined former foundry building.

The result is not dissimilar to walking through the paintings, or living ‘in’ the artwork. Their previous exhibition paired the work of Gustav Klimt with a contemporary Friedensreich Hundertwasser**, and I found the experience so emotionally overpowering that I went repeatedly and cried often.

This time, the subject of focus was Van Gogh, and I was less emotionally impacted. Van Gogh’s colours are awe inspiring, but the works themselves – primarily the subjects – just left me left me a bit meh***. But you know what was interesting? The scale of the projections really exposed the actual work that had gone into the paintings, and the actual speed at which this Master worked. On some areas of pictures I’ve felt I’ve ‘known’ for years, the canvas, raw and unpainted, pokes through, on other areas the paint is so thick it’s hard to believe it didn’t fall away from the surface. And none of it’s perfect. The shaping, the application of the paint, the almost hyper-tones used are all in some way ‘wrong,’ and contributed to Van Gogh being dismissed by the Art world during his life, but are often what draws people to his work and has lead to his posthumous recognition as a Master.

And I take some comfort in that. Not the being a penniless unknown til after I’m dead. On that aspect, I’ll pass, thanks. And not on the fact that when I’m dead I’ll be spoken of in the same sentences as Vincent (nice idea, but even my ego has limits). No, I take a great degree of comfort in the idea of passion trumping perfection; on ideas exceeding form. On not giving a fuck about the exposed canvas or the too thick paint; on making the work and moving to the next. I’m very much here for that.

And on the topic of inspirational work, I Saw The Farewell this week and am still tearing up every time I think of Lulu Wang's beautiful picture about family and love and distance and culture clashes and loss. I cannot recommend it enough. The soundtrack (feat the wonderful Mykal Kilgore)is wonderful and is now my new writing music.

And so I’m back to the Novel. I’m finishing this post after my meeting with my police contacts, who spent a gleeful couple of hours explaining why everything I’ve ever seen on TV, film, or read in a book is wrong, and who only reluctantly allowed me – for the purposes of not having my narrative grind to a halt in procedure – to allow me some artistic leeway. And the novel now feels even more exciting. I’ve a whole subplot that was there all along but which they managed to tease out from the weeds it had got lost in , and a possibly major character who was a plot device until a couple of hours ago.

Amazing how these things - An artistic genius, a trip to the movies, and a pizza with people who know their job in detail – are all fuel to a fire that will push me forward into the autumn and hopefully to a brand new book.

(*Wim Wenders gag. You don’t see those very often these days)
(** The first sentence in Hunnertwasser’s Wikipedia Bio is “The Second World War was a very difficult time for Hundertwasser and his mother Elsa, who were Jewish.” I’m giving this the NoShitSHerlock award 2019.)
(*** Cue the Goghista’s on Twitter lining up to tell me why I am (a) wrong (b) a Phillistine or (c) a disgrace to humanity)


Derek Farrell is the author of 6 Danny bird mysteries. “Death of a Diva,” “Death of a Nobody,” “Death of a Devil,” and “Death of an Angel” can all be purchased from the usual e-stores or directly from the publisher here. The fifth, “Come to Dust,” is available exclusively as a free download from his website . The sixth - Death of a Sinner - is on Fahrenheit Press's fall 19 slate. 

His jobs have included: Burger dresser, Bank teller, David Bowie’s paperboy, and Investment Banker on the 80th floor of the World Trade Centre.

He’s never off social media and can be found at.
Twitter: @DerekIFarrell (
Instagram: Derekifarrell (