13 Authors on Banning Books and Censorship

Originally published on Bookish.com, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

It’s Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the right to read. Launched in 1982, Banned Books Week was a response to an increase in the number of books being challenged by groups and individuals. Here, we’ve rounded up the perspectives of thirteen authors—from Roxane Gay to Kurt Vonnegut—on challenged books, book banning, and censorship.

“I don’t believe that books, even bad books, corrupt us. Instead, I believe books challenge and interrogate. They give us windows into the lives of others and give us mirrors so that we can better see ourselves. And ultimately, if you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me submit that the problem is not with the novel.” —John Green“On the Banning of Looking for Alaska

“To the administrators I would say: Find your brain again. Stop lying, stop being hypocritical, and trust the young people. Read the book first and don’t just be shocked by one picture [from Persepolis]. Read it first, and then, if you really are shocked, don’t teach it. But I’m sure these people didn’t even read it. I would say to the children that I trust them—and I really trust that they will make a better world. I think they are very intelligent, and I really believe in young people.” —Marjane Satrapi, interview with SocialistWorker.org

“I have extensive experience with having my books challenged and banned. The thing is, when they ban or challenge a book, it instantly makes it prime reading material for that community. You want to guarantee every kid in a school reads the book? Ban it from a school. So I actually appreciate it. These folks would gladly have a nationwide effort to ban certain books. They would gladly control everything that anybody can read. So these small battles are fought so that they don’t gain power to fight that larger war of controlling all of literature, which is what they want to do.” —Sherman Alexie“Book Banning and Censorship”

“This morning I received an email that was, essentially a gesture of censorship. It was a message predicated on the assumption that I came here to corrupt young minds with an agenda. As I mulled it over I wondered how desperately fragile a faith must be if it cannot withstand critical engagement or diverse points of view. Generally at events like [university visits], I read a few essays and the audience and I have a fun, engaging conversation about social justice and popular culture. I do not consider it my responsibility to convert you to my way of thinking or to malign your way of thinking should we hold different points of view. Instead, it is my responsibility to encourage you to question, to think, critically about your beliefs and what they mean for this world we share and the people with whom we share this world. I offer, I hope, a small act of faith.” —Roxane Gay“Acts of Faith”

“People often ask me how I’d want to respond to those critics who would rather see my books pulled from shelves than handed to young readers. I do have an answer, and it boils down to the fact that not every book is right for every person. Some grown-ups are not amused by the kinds of things that make most children laugh, and so they try to stomp those things out.” —Dav Pilkey“What It’s Like to Top Banned Book Lists Around the World”

“Banning of books is a common practice in police states, like Cuba or North Korea, and by religious fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, but I did not expect it in our democracy. No student is forced to read [The House of the Spirits]. Teachers like to teach it because they believe it gives the students insights into Latin American literature, history, politics, social issues, and customs. They usually offer their students other options but most students choose the book, they enjoy it and often they write to me. Their comments prove that they have understood the story and they are curious to learn more. The novel seems to open their minds to other places and peoples in the world.” —Isabel Allendeletter to the North Carolina School Board

“Well, my first novel, The Kite Runner, has found itself as frequently appearing on the banned book list and frankly it’s something that’s always perplexed and puzzled me. I’m never quite sure what children are supposedly being protected from, because by now I have received thousands and thousands of letters from both middle school and high school students, children who read the book, either at home for themselves or in classrooms and I think, judging on the content of those letters, they’re far, far more sophisticated than we give them credit for. They get the context. They get the reasons why certain scenes are put in. They really understand that and they articulate that to me. I feel that, far more harmful to kids is so much of the pop culture that they’re exposed to through television, through the internet.”—Khaled Hosseinispeaking to the American Library Association

“[A] parent in Tennessee has confused gynecology with pornography and is trying to get my book banned from the Knoxville high school system… I hope the students of Knoxville will be able to continue to learn about Henrietta and the important lessons her story can teach them. Because my book is many things: It’s a story of race and medicine, bioethics, science illiteracy, the importance of education and equality and science and so much more. But it is not anything resembling pornography.” —Rebecca Skloot, on Banned Books Week

“[T]hey never learn. The inevitable result of trying to ban something—book, film, play, pop song, whatever—is that far more people want to get hold of it than would ever have done if it were left alone. Why don’t the censors realize this?” —Philip Pullmanon the futility and evil of banning books

“People died in the freedom struggle, and to think that having gained freedom at such a cost, it is now indeed threatened again. All writers are threatened by censorship, and censorship is the reality lurking behind the words ‘media tribunal.’ We are protesting against the institution of a media tribunal, which of course means ‘word police,’ not merely on our own behalf. Writing presupposes an interaction with readers. If the work and the freedom of the writer are in jeopardy, the freedom of every reader in South Africa is too. Our protest is an action undertaken by South Africans for all South Africans, committing ourselves to a demand for our free country: freedom of thought expressed, freedom of dialogue, freedom from fear of the truth about ourselves.” —Nadine Gordimer, interview with The Guardian

“Dear Mr. McCarthy… If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the [education] of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books—books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive. Again: You have insulted me, and I am a good citizen, and I am very real.” —Kurt Vonnegutletter to the North Dakota School Board

“As far as I can tell from the talk of the people who are against the books, they somehow think that if we don’t write about sex, it will disappear, it will go away. They talk about preserving their seventeen-year-old and eighteen-year-old children, protecting them. Well, biology doesn’t protect them. They don’t need to read books.” —Alice Munro, CBC interview

“Maybe what’s upsetting about [Truth & Beauty] is that it’s true, it really happened. So let’s make a pact today not to read any nonfiction that could be upsetting. If stories about girls who are disfigured by cancer, humiliated by strangers, and turn to sex and drugs to escape from their enormous pain are too disgusting, too pornographic, then I have to tell you, friends, the Holocaust is off-limits. The Russian Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, the war in Vietnam, the Crusades, all represent such staggering acts of human depravity and perversion that I could see the virtue of never looking at them at all.” —Ann Patchett“The Love Between the Two Women is Not Normal”

Divider
Librarian's Choice

Librarians' Choice: top 10

Librarians’ Choice has announced the Top 10 titles for October 2017 that librarians across Australia love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the Librarians’ Choice site.

If you are a librarian in Australia, you can nominate titles for the Librarians’ Choice list via NetGalley!

Divider

Top Ten Books from the UK – November

Our November Books of the Month roundup is full of excitement, cheer and barnstorming reads. The return of Minette Walters with a historical novel is a welcome surprise, and we’re sure it’s going to be a big hit. Also, do look out for Sing, Unburied, Sing, about which reviewers and early readers have been raving. Enjoy!

BOOK OF THE MONTH

The Last Hours
Minette Walters
Allen & Unwin
UK Edition

Minette Walters burst onto the scene in 1992 with The Ice House – a novel that introduced her unique blend of psychological insight and brilliant plotting. Twenty-five years later, The Last Hours sees her turn her hand to historical fiction. And it’s just as gripping as one would hope. 

June, 1348: the Black Death enters England. In the Dorsetshire estate of Develish, Lady Anne decides to quarantine herself, bringing the serfs inside the walls. But Lady Anne’s plan causes conflicts, fear and uncertainty – and ultimately a dreadful event that threatens the uneasy status quo…

Superbly written and utterly convincing, The Last Hours is a historical epic not to be missed.

Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward
Bloomsbury
UK Edition

Already a finalist for the US National Book Award, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a genuinely affecting, hauntingly written novel of family, home and hope. Jojo’s mother, Leonie, packs up the kids to drive them to collect their father, lately imprisoned in Mississippi. It’s a journey that will teach Jojo about what it means to be a son, a father and a man, as well as laying bare the battles and scars that his parents have lived. Important, immersive, and utterly distinctive, this is a bravura novel of modern America.

The Mountain
Luca D'Andrea
MacLehose Press
UK Edition

A sensation across Europe, The Mountain is an unusual and beguiling take on the cold case thriller. Distraught and depressed after a crash he caused, Jeremiah Salinger takes his daughter Clara to the Bletterbach – a canyon in the Dolomites. There he discovers that in 1985 three students were murdered there, their bodies savaged by a killer who was never found. Solving the mystery might be the only thing that can keep him sane. An atmospheric thriller for fans of Stephen King and Joël Dicker.

Heather, The Totality
Matthew Weiner
Canongate
UK Edition
US, CA Edition

Matthew Weiner is best known as the creator of the television classic Mad Men – and his forensic understanding of the dark hearts that lie beneath a veneer of wealth and sophistication are evident in this intense and menacing page-turner. The Breakstone family centre themselves around their daughter Heather, a perfect child with a perfect life. But as Heather grows, so does the darkness that surrounds her. A darkness that comes from home and from the street, where someone is watching…

An Almost Perfect Christmas
Nina Stibbe
Viking
UK Edition

Nina Stibbe’s bestselling Love, Nina was full of wry humour, nostalgia and deft characterisation – and this festive book serves up more of her hilarious memories and musings. Stibbe is a natural heir to the late, great Sue Townsend, and An Almost Perfect Christmas cements her reputation as one of the funniest writers around. Whether it’s the dryness of turkey, round robin letters or the perils of re-gifting, Stibbe will show you the yule-tide horrors anew, and ensure you’re still laughing at New Year.

Poverty Safari
Darren McGarvey
Luath Press
Worldwide Edition

With high-profile endorsements from JK Rowling and Irvine Welsh, Poverty Safari is set to be one of the year’s most important and talked about books on modern Britain. Part memoir, part travelogue, part impassioned plea, Poverty Safari takes the reader deep into the invisible world of the systemically deprived, a world ignored and derided, a world that is caught between apathy and seething anger. It is an anger that society will have to get used to – unless something changes. Urgent, vital and startling, this is a must read.

The Secret of Vesalius
Jordi Llobregat
riverrun
UK Edition

You’ve never seen Barcelona this way before – gothic, dangerous, romantic and diabolical – and The Secret of Vesalius will make you want to board a plane immediately. 1888: Called back to Barcelona from Oxford, expert linguist Daniel Amat is asked to help investigate a series of murders – all of which point to an ancient curse and a 16th Century anatomist, Vesalius. Amat is soon plunged into a deadly pursuit to stop the unravelling of Vesalius’s secret. A breath-taking, genre-busting enigma for fans of The Shadow of the Wind.

The Alphabet of Heart's Desire
Brian Keaney
Holland House
Worldwide Edition

It is a bold move to include a literary genius as your central character, but it’s one that Brian Keaney pulls off with aplomb. A young Thomas De Quincey collapses on Oxford Street and is nursed to health far from his safe, rich normal life. There he discovers another world, another realm where pleasure and pain constantly rub against each other. Keaney’s depiction of its denizens is pitch perfect, and its tale of love, desire and addiction utterly compelling.

The Liar
Steve Cavanagh
Orion
UK Edition

The third in the Eddie Flynn series – though you can read them in any order – is another tightly, tensely plotted legal thriller with a difference. Former con-man turned criminal attorney, Flynn is the man you want in a crisis, and Leonard Howell is in crisis: his daughter is missing. Flynn vows to bring her home, but soon realises things are not quite what they seem. One of the best new mystery series around, this latest instalment is the best yet.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night
Jen Campbell
Two Roads
UK Edition

From the bestselling author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops comes a magical, original and enthralling collection of modern fairy stories. Elegantly weaving the traditional with the contemporary, these twelve tales swirl with outsiders, enchantment, ghouls and ghosts, making for a haunting and often unnerving read. Fans of Angela Carter, Louise O’Neill and The Night Circus will down these stories like nectar.

Divider

Kendare Blake: “I Don’t Really Believe in Endings.”

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

In Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series, three young queens are vying for the throne. The one to wear the crown will be the one willing to dirty her hands by killing her competition. The second installment, One Dark Throne, takes readers back to this dark world and follows each queen in her attempts to stay alive. Here, Blake shares the inspiration for her murderous storyline, her thoughts on endings, and where our favorite characters may go from here (if they survive).

Bookish: At its heart, this is a story of young women taking their power and agency back from a society that strives to control them. Can you share with us what drew you to this theme?

Kendare Blake: I’ve always enjoyed putting people in sticky situations and seeing how they deal with them. And I enjoy working with complicated women. But the premise of Three Dark Crowns was wholly inspired by a beehive: a matriarchal system where an exiting queen will bear multiple queens and those baby queens kill each other. So it was that brutal bit of nature that drew me to this story specifically!

Bookish: Katharine emerges from the Breccia Domain a changed queen. She starts to break free from Natalia’s plots, but she isn’t completely in control herself. What can readers expect from her in the next book?

KB: In One Dark Throne, expect for her to be almost completely changed, as far as her drive for the crown is concerned. Her physical weaknesses don’t seem to be bothering her anymore either. But the new strength comes at a price.

Bookish: Unlike her sisters, Mirabella spent her life believing she’d face no competition for the throne. But now, everything she thought she knew is slipping away, and she’s struggling to face a future where she may be killed. What were the challenges of writing a character who is experiencing that kind of realization?

KB: Ah, Mirabella, the most powerful and favored triplet. When I started writing, I didn’t think I would like her. She was so sheltered and, despite her love for her sisters, I thought she would react badly when confronted with the realities of her situation. She was the most difficult character to write, perhaps because she and I are the least alike in personality, but I thought she showed surprising spunk, and was open to learning and changing her mind in a way that the other sisters weren’t.

Bookish: With three protagonists each making decisions that impact and change the story, is your plotting process for this series different from the way you plot your other books?

KB: The setup is more complex, setting all the pieces on the board at the start of the game, if that makes sense, but I still don’t really plot. I let the characters go and see what happens. With this many conflicting interests, and this many forceful personalities, they’re bound to get into the dickens without much interference from me.

Bookish: You’ve said you were thinking about this story for a few years before writing it, and now it’s developed from a duology to a four-book series. Who or what has changed the most since that original conception?

KB: Actually, not much has changed, despite adding books and other content (novellas, bonus scenes, etc.). One Dark Throne still ends more or less where it always would have. Now I just get to write the after, when before it would have been left to the imagination. I’m glad to be able to spend more time on the island, and with many different queens, but part of me is melancholy about that. Knowing the end. Knowing the rest. I like unanswered questions, and I don’t really believe in endings. But, I suppose by the time I reach the close of the fourth book, enough questions will have spun out from new conflicts to be able to leave some things unknown.

Bookish: This series is set in a matriarchal society. Did you research similar societies for inspiration or was your focus instead on subverting patriarchal norms?

KB: The only real inspiration was the beehive. It was fun to write the boys who come to the island from patriarchal cultures and watch them try to acclimate. And it was interesting to watch myself make mistakes, like giving characters the wrong last names (the last name should follow the mother’s line) or the wrong inheritances (daughters inherit first).

Bookish: Both titles follow a pattern of Number Dark Object (Three Dark CrownsOne Dark Throne). What’s your process for coming up with titles? Can readers expect them to follow the current pattern?

KB: Ha, you noticed! Yes, we’re sticking with the pattern. It might irritate some people that we’re not going in order—one, two, three—and I’m pretty sure there won’t be a title with the number four in it. So for the folks who like things just so with their numbers, I’m very sorry!

Titles usually show up fully formed for me. If the book is ready to be written (meaning I’ve tossed it around in my head for a few years), it has usually titled itself. Anna Dressed in Blood was one of the first titles that came to mind. It named the ghost and was wholly the title from day one. Three Dark Crowns was originally titled Three Black Witches, but then I wrote the book and they were more queens than witches. Witches is a mainland word in their world, a foreign word.

Bookish: Which character’s journey are you most excited to explore in future books?

KB: I’m excited to continue on with the relationships between the characters. I want to see how they change within their new situations. But I don’t want to name names… because then readers will know they live!

Bookish: Which scene are you most excited to see readers’ reactions to?

KB: The whole thing, really! Those last hundred pages or so the ropes tighten and the bodies start to drop. I just hope they enjoy it. I hope the queens take them for a ride.

Kendare Blake holds an MA in creative writing from Middlesex University in northern London. She is the author of Anna Dressed in Blood, a Cybils Awards finalist; Girl of NightmaresAntigoddessMortal GodsUngodly; and the New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns series. Her books have been translated into eighteen languages, have been featured on multiple best-of-year lists, and have received many regional and librarian awards. Kendare lives and writes in Kent, Washington. Visit her online at www.kendareblake.com.

Divider
Lamp

Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Beauty in Ruins
Blog URL: https://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.com/
Your name: Bob Milne

A nice place to start is with your blogger origin story – how long have you been reviewing books online and how did Beauty in Ruins start?

I actually started Beauty in Ruins way back in 2009 (wow, has it really been that long?), with a focus on my photography of ruined and abandoned places. I was already reviewing on Goodreads at the time, which allowed me to find my voice and figure out how to approach reviews, and in 2011 those book reviews came to be the driving force behind the blog. I joined NetGalley soon after, and that was what really kicked the blog into gear.

Can you talk a little bit about your preferred approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years?

I think my reviews have become longer over the years, with more detail and personality to them, but my basic approach remains the same. I am always honest about how I felt about the book, even if that means being negative, and I try to avoid relying on comparisons to describe the book. While it doesn’t work for every title, I generally break down the review into content, characters, themes, and emotions. While literary merit is important, and I am happy to speak to an author’s technical brilliance, I also have no problem admitting that I enjoyed a book despite (or sometimes even because of) its serious flaws.

Which upcoming Sci Fi & Fantasy book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending to your followers?

My most anticipated title – the one I keep checking on daily for approval – is The Core: Book Five of The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett. When so many epic fantasies linger on without end, it’s exciting to have that ‘final’ book on the way.

Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci is the latest title to catch my eye this week, and sounds like a swashbuckling read. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey was a great read, so I’m anxious to give Taste of Marrow a read next, and as a big fan of both the original story and the Bruce Campbell movie, Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale is a must-read.

      

 

Are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

I assume it’s because they have so much artwork available, but roleplaying tie-ins always seem to have some of the best covers, so I’m loving Numenera: The Night Clave by Monte Cook & Shanna Germain, and Deadlands: Boneyard by Seanan McGuire. Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette NG has a great Victorian look, and while I know it’s a reprint, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip still looks amazing.

      

Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out?

The best advice I can offer is to always read and review for yourself first, and to not get caught up in the hype of ARCs and review requests. It’s immensely flattering to have authors and publishers asking for your time, but it can become overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to pass on a book that looks kind of interesting, and don’t feel bad about (politely) declining requests. If you’re not enjoying yourself, it will show in your reviews.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

Epic fantasy will always be my go-to subgenre for a read. I love having a massive book to immerse myself in, something to linger over for weeks. I’m excited to see more sword-and-sorcery on the shelves lately, particularly with edgier, more mature authors like Nicholas Eames, Jack Heckel, and Andy Remic (a subgenre I have coined maturesmirk). The one trend that I wouldn’t be at all sad to see less of, and I’m sure I’ll get some hate mail for this, is grimdark. There are grimdark authors I enjoy, and there are still stories worth telling, but I can only sustain so much bleakness in my escapism.

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

Beauty in Ruins is a reflection of the imagination, the diversity, and the creativity to be found upon my shelves. My WTF Friday feature is where I dig into the darkest, weirdest corners of the shelves, but otherwise you’ll find a mix of fantasy, horror, adventure, and science fiction.

The last book that made you smile:

The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox.

Your all-time favorite Sci Fi or Fantasy book:

I have a soft spot for The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, as it was my introduction to fantasy, but the one book I can reread time-and-time again is Imajica by Clive Barker.

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Elric of Melniboné.

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

Hands down, it would have to be Clive Barker. The depth of his imagination astounds me, almost as much as the breadth of his creativity. There are so many stories he’s teased, but has yet to write, and so much material he’s talked about that never made it into a final draft, I feel like I could pick his brain and ask “But what about…?” questions all night long.

Thanks so much, Bob, for spending time with us and answering our questions! 

Please make sure to check out the Beauty in Ruins blog and more Sci Fi & Fantasy on NetGalley!

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

Divider

Jennifer Mathieu on Feminism, Moxie, and Fighting Back

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Picking a favorite book can be tough for any reader, but we can’t deny that Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie is high on our list. This young adult novel takes readers to an average high school where a quiet girl named Vivian decides that she’s done putting up with sexist behavior. Inspired by her mom’s punk rock zines from the 90s, Viv decides to start a feminist movement, encouraging other girls to join together, stand up, and fight back. Here, Mathieu talks about young feminists today, the importance of intersectionality, and why this book is a love letter to her students.

Bookish: You dedicate this book to teens and women fighting for equality, but also to a teacher who called you a “feminazi.” How, at a young age, did you find the strength to turn an insult like that into an empowering desire to learn more about feminism?

Jennifer Mathieu: I’m not really sure! At the time that teacher insulted me, I knew that it hurt inside and was deeply humiliating. However, in my gut I also knew that the teacher was wrong. I hadn’t explicitly started calling myself a feminist yet, but again, I knew the teacher was not correct in using that term and I knew he wasn’t correct in taking sexist stances in class, which he did so often. It was a challenging experience and at the time I didn’t speak out against him like I now wish I would have. With hindsight, I can see how transformative this experience was for me because it was one of the first times I felt like I was being ridiculed for holding beliefs I knew were good and true.

Bookish: What does having moxie mean to you?

JM: To me having moxie means having guts and gumption. It means speaking your mind, speaking truth to power, and resisting in ways big and small.

Bookish: It’s easy to be caught off guard when something demeaning or sexist happens to you. Through Viv and her friends, you’ve offered readers a script of sorts: things to say or do in those situations. Was that something you were conscious of when you were writing?

JM: I think so, yes. I’ve always shied away from writing for teenagers with any sort of preachy tone because teenagers can see right through that sort of thing. That said, I think Moxie is the closest I’ve ever come to writing a book that I hope teenagers, especially teenage girls, can use as a touchstone or guide as they navigate the world around them. They may not necessarily mimic exactly what Vivian and her friends do, but they might just be inspired by them and come up with their own ways of reacting when confronted with sexism.

Bookish: The book opens with quotes from real teenage girls. How have your experiences as a high school teacher helped to shape the world of this novel?

JM: My female students inspire me every single day. I have been co-sponsor of the feminist clubs at the schools I’ve worked at, and it’s so wonderful to be able to watch young women (and men!) discover gender equality and to fight for it! Young feminists today have a much more intersectional view of the world, and they’re so convinced of their ability to change the world for the better. I love it! At the same time, so much of the garbage that I faced as a teenage girl still exists in high schools today. As a teacher I call it out when I see it, but so much of it goes on when I’m not looking. Writing Moxie felt like a love letter and a thank you letter to my students sort of wrapped into one.

Bookish: Some of the sexism in the book is so extreme (school dress codes, the bump-n-grab) that it feels out of a dystopian novel. But as readers we know that these are real things happening in real schools to real girls. What was it like writing those scenes?

JM: Honestly, I have regular moments of feeling like we live in some dystopian world given everything that happens to women and girls in this country and this world! As for what happens to Vivian and her friends, everything that happens in Moxie I’ve either experienced or witnessed, so I knew I wasn’t making it fantastical and I knew girls and women would relate. Writing it was so validating, though, because I gave these girls the tools to confront their situations and they confronted them and won. That doesn’t always happen in real life, unfortunately.

Bookish: You include a number of well-meaning characters who don’t “get” the movement at first—from a best friend who is disinclined to use the word feminist to a boyfriend whose mantra is “not all guys are like that.” Why was it important for you to feature characters like these?

JM: When I got to college and really heard the word “feminist” and what it meant I jumped in with both feet. I was an immediate believer because I quickly made connections between my lived experience and what the feminist movement was fighting for. I felt like I’d met my tribe. But I also know that for a lot of women and girls the word feminist has a negative connotation, mostly due to how it’s represented in popular culture or because of things they hear from their families. I wanted those girls to feel like they had a place in Moxie, too, and it’s my hope that even if at the end of the book they don’t necessarily feel comfortable embracing “the f word,” they do feel comfortable fighting for their rights.

As for the character of Seth, I wanted to create a believable guy who means well but doesn’t always get it, because so many men and guys I’ve encountered over the years think and act like Seth. Really decent guys who mean well but are still learning and who can benefit from feminism, too. I just wanted a variety of entry points into Moxie. I wanted this book to have as broad of an appeal as possible because I believe in its message so much.

Bookish: Viv often feels empowered and energized when she’s making the Moxiezines. What were you feeling as you created them, and this book?

JM: I felt like I was traveling back in time. In the late 90s and early 00s I made a zine about my life called Jennifer (I’ve never been so hot when it comes to titles, obviously) and it was such a fun, creative outlet for me. I used to put on music and make my zine that was full of silly stories and cartoons about my life in my early 20s. It was just a joyful time of self-expression. I felt that again when I was creating Moxie, but there was an additional layer of excitement because I knew more readers would be able to connect with these zines than they ever did with my Jennifer zine. (And I think that’s a good thing!) Overall, writing this book was such a joyful experience. I put on Bikini Kill and started typing. It was so much fun.

Bookish: Viv is a truly relatable protagonist for this story because she experiences a lot of fear. She’s afraid to be seen, heard, judged. She’s angry but often silent. What message do you most hope she brings to girls like her, who want to stand up but maybe don’t know how or are afraid of what will happen if they do?

JM: I was a lot like Viv when I was in high school. I spoke up a bit more, but I was more Viv than Lucy. I was also terrified of what other people thought of me and was super anxious to fit in. In many ways, writing Vivian’s story was a bit of wish fulfillment for me. I was getting the chance to rewrite my past with what I know now. There are so many times, looking back, that I wish I’d stood up and spoken my mind when I was in my teens. It’s my hope that Vivian inspires some girls to not be afraid to speak up for themselves.

Bookish: You cover a lot of feminist territory in the book, from its history to its intersectionality problems to its modern connotations. Which aspect of it was the most challenging to write about?

JM: I would say my top concern was making sure I made the book as intersectional as possible. The feminist movement has often struggled to include and amplify voices beyond those belonging to white, straight, middle class women. The Riot Grrrl movement was more progressive in terms of its inclusion of queer women, but it was still a primarily white movement. I have zero interest supporting white feminism or a feminist movement that erases and ignores voices of women of color, queer women, trans women, women with disabilities, and other women from marginalized groups. So I knew I wanted to address intersectionality in a very explicit way within certain scenes and with certain characters. At the same time, I didn’t want the book to feel like an after school special with “the gay girl” and “the black girl”—just these perfunctory stand-ins for bigger groups. I was determined to write a book that painted feminism as a big tent, and I want young women to be able to talk about this aspect of the feminist movement with openness. There’s so much work to be done in this area and it’s my hope that Moxie sparks some important conversations. Hopefully I pulled it all off in a way that felt believable even though I know no writer is perfect and I’m super open to feedback.

Something I’m really excited about is the Moxie Tumblr. It’s being run by a former student of mine, a Latina who understands the importance of intersectionality and who is embracing it so beautifully on our amazing Tumblr. You can check out her original art and other awesomeness at moxiegirlsfightback.com.

Bookish: Moxie was already written at the time of the January 21st Women’s March, but there are some clear parallels between the march and one particular scene in the book. Looking back on that scene, did you feel the connection between it and the march?

JM: There is a scene in Moxie that parallels the march, yes, and I’d written it before the march took place. When I marched in January I thought about Vivian and her friends, about all the Moxie Girls, and I knew if they existed for real they would absolutely be marching with me. In my heart, they were.

Jennifer Mathieu started writing stories when she was in kindergarten and now teaches English to high school students. She won the Teen Choice Debut Author Award at the Children’s Choice Book Awards for her first novel, The Truth About Alice. She is also the author of Devoted and Afterward. She lives in Texas with her husband, son, and dog.

Divider

Essential Graphic Novels to Read on Batman Day 2017

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Batman Day is back! But the twist? Harley Quinn is taking over. In honor of Harley Quinn’s 25th anniversary, Batman Day (September 23) will also feature the immensely popular Clown Princess of Crime, who burst into our lives when she debuted in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 and is now a mainstay in comics, movies, TV shows, and video games. But let’s get to the important question: What should we all be reading on Batman Day this year? Well, look no further. We asked our friends at DC Comics to recommend some quintessential Caped Crusader reads and they delivered.

Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race

It’s Frank Miller. It’s Batman. It’s the next chapter in the Dark Knight Returns saga. What more do you need to know? Well, how about that it’s co-written by master scribe Brian Azzarello? Or illustrated by legends Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson? A new war is beginning. An army of Kryptonian madmen is preparing to claim Earth. Batman has to save the world. Or die trying. Again. On Batman Day, this is the book you have to read.

Harley Quinn: A Celebration of 25 Years

For the last 25 years, from TV to film to comics and back again, Harley has been one of DC’s most popular characters. And now, to celebrate her 25th anniversary, she’s taking over Batman Day! But where to start? How about here with this anthology graphic novel, Harley Quinn: A Celebration of 25 Years, with stories by some of the best creators in the industry, like Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Jim Lee, and more. It’s one of our essential reads on September 23.

Batman Vol. 3: I Am Bane

This shouldn’t surprise you much—Batman by Tom King is one of the best comics on the stands today. And this volume may just be the apex of the series thus far. The Dark Knight’s intellectual equal and physical superior, Bane, has returned to Gotham City for a single purpose: to break the Batman once and for all. But first he’ll destroy everyone the Dark Knight has ever loved… or loathed.

Batman: Year One

You want an essential read on Batman Day? What about one that’s essential everyday? Look no further than Batman: Year One Deluxe Edition, the classic tale of the Dark Knight’s first year in Gotham City. This new edition of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s seminal story now features more than 40 pages of behind-the-scenes material, including the complete script and pencil breakdowns. It’s a dream come true for collectors and a great way to begin for new fans.

Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Die Laughing

You’ve seen a couple movies and a few TV shows, so you think you know Harley Quinn? Think again. The truth is that the best Harley stories today are being told in comics form from a creative team that’s mastered the art of crazy in Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Die Laughing. In these action-packed pages, the powerhouse team of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti joins forces with artists John Timms and Chad Hardin to draft a new beginning for DC’s craziest antihero.

Blake Kobashigawa is the Trade Marketing & Sales Manager for DC Comics. He has been with DC Comics for six years, working in the Digital Trade and Book Trade spaces. He reads comic books in his work time, spare time, and any time in between.

Divider

Celebrity Book Club: Read Along with Your Favorite Stars

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Admit it. You get a little excited every time you see a celebrity caught by the paparazzi with a book in their hand. You have one of those moments where you realize that even though they are staggeringly beautiful and stunningly successful and talented, they are just like us after all because they read! In fact, some of them read so much that they have even created their own book clubs (Thank you, Oprah!). Here, we hitch our wagon to some stars and take a look at how they share their favorite books.

The RW Book Club

The “RW” in the RW Book Club stands for none other than Reese Witherspoon. The club is described as a “community #ForTheLoveOfReading.” We know from Witherspoon’s adaptations of Wild and Gone Girl that she likes to make movies out of books, but it seems she also loves to read them as well. Most recently, the club read Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game. Check in with the book club’s social media accounts to find out which book is up next.

Our Shared Shelf

No slouch when it comes to social justice, Emma Watson takes an empowering approach with her feminist book club called Our Shared Shelf. The group is open to anyone who would like to join, and a new book is chosen every month or so for discussion. Found within are not just thoughts on the books being read, but also a treasure trove of resources regarding feminism and women’s issues. The most recent read was Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth.

Between Two Books

Between Two Books is otherwise known as the official book club of Florence and the Machine frontwoman, Florence Welch, who just so happens to be an avid reader. Each month, the club’s book choice is posted on Facebook and then discussed within the corresponding group. The book choices are often quite literary. Most recently the group has read Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose.

Belletrist

Belletrist, created by Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss, is an online platform where readers can “celebrate a new book every month.” On Instagram, they highlight book picks, such as The Answers by Catherine Lacey, and items of literary interest. On their main site, there is exclusive content, such as this recent interview between Emma Roberts and Joan Didion.

Lenny Letter

Have you discovered Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter yet?  If so, then you probably already know that not only are they publishing books with their own imprint, but each week they also share excerpts from the books they’re reading in Lit Thursday. Books most recently highlighted are Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo and Caca Dolce: Essays from a Lowbrow Life by Chelsea Martin.

Book Club Central

We loved Sarah Jessica Parker as writer Carrie Bradshaw, but in her role as Honorary Chair of the ALA’s Book Club Central, she shows us her chops as a reader by offering SJP Picks throughout the year. If her first pick, No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, is any indication, we’re in for a year of great reading recommendations.

Mindy Kaling’s social media

Some stars stop short of creating clubs, preferring to keep their book recommendations personal. For example, if you follow Mindy Kaling on Instagram and Twitter, then you know she loves to read and often recommends books to her followers. Most recently, she posted a picture of Hunger by Roxane Gay.

Divider

Required Reading: 11 Authors Share the Books They Want Taught in Schools

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Every lifelong reader knows that the books you read as a child have the ability to mold you into the person you’ll become as an adult. In the hands of a teacher, a book can be a powerful tool in shaping a reader’s understanding of themselves and the world around them. To celebrate the start of a new school year, Bookish asked 11 authors to share the one book they’d most like to see in classrooms.

The Youngest Marcher

The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson & Vanessa Brantley-Newton should be taught in schools, as it focuses on children who accomplished a powerful victory in the fight for civil rights in America. It is a story I was not even aware of. Kids should know that they have a loud voice and that they can use it to erase injustice and elicit change. The change can be any size—it might be to petition their school to grow a garden—but it can come to fruition with passionate advocates. Children can make good things happen and they should be aware of their strength.” —Tara Lazar, author of 7 Ate 9

Wonder

“I think middle schools should require students to read Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a story about a ten-year-old boy born with severe facial deformities who braves going to school for the first time. Wonder teaches kids about acceptance and kindness toward others at a time they are forming their adult personas. The message of judging someone by their inner character and not their looks is deftly delivered in a compelling way that will endure in their minds long after they have finished the book.” —Alane Adams, author of The Raven God

I Am Malala

“I would love to see I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai on every student’s reading list. This girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley was 15 when the Taliban shot her for insisting education is ‘neither Eastern nor Western, it is human,’ and 16 when she co-wrote this book. Her chronicle of war and perseverance is riveting; her bravery rivals that of any fictional hero. In the end, it is inspiring to see how one girl taking a stand can change hearts, minds, and possibly the world.” —Kes Trester, author of A Dangerous Year

Why Am I Me?

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls, asks a series of simply-posed questions (‘Why am I me…and not you?’) designed to spark curiosity and invite further questions, big and small, about identity and human connection. Its open-ended exploration of individuality and universality makes it the perfect book for starting conversations with students about empathy, community, and compassion. The vibrant and appealing artwork (a mixture of paint, colored pencil, and collage) entices readers to flip through the book’s pages again and again, finding new details about the world and themselves on each reread.” —Anica Mrose Rissi, author of The Teacher’s Pet

Save Me a Seat

“I recommend Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. Told in alternating voices, this story is about an Indian boy and Caucasian boy who bond when facing a bully at school. It’s important for kids reach out to make friends across lines of race and culture. Immersing themselves in a world of characters who are like them in some ways but come from a different culture, kids learn they can make friends with anyone. Once they do so, they won’t see such people as outsiders.” —Dori Jones Yangauthor of The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball

We Were Here

“Author Matt de la Peña’s exceptional YA novel, We Were Here, is a perfect fit for educators who want to encourage journal writing in their classes or who simply want to nurture a love of reading amongst their students. We Were Here is a riveting, fast-paced tale told through the journal entries of Miguel Castañeda, a mixed-race adolescent Latino being detained for a crime at a group home near Stockton, California. Befriending two of his former antagonists at the home, Miguel undertakes with them a wild adventure packed with pathos, realism, and self-discovery. It’s quite a romp and hard to put down, which is always a good quality in a book, especially one targeted at teens.” —David Barclay Moore, author of The Stars Beneath Our Feet

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

“Mrs. Frisby will do anything to protect her family. Brave, practical, and cool under pressure, she’s a momma bear in the body of a mouse. The rats of NIMH, meanwhile, live under the rosebush, ghettoised by their foreign lifestyle. Do we trust these immigrants with their strange ways? Yes, because Mrs. Frisby smashes that stereotype. The rats are an oppressed minority, persecuted by scientists at NIMH, and want nothing more than freedom. Feminism, tolerance, animal rights: This book is an introduction to the ideas of equality that develop in a darker direction in another must-read allegory—George Orwell’s Animal Farm.” —Jo Furniss, author of All the Little Children

The Lie Tree

“My pick is Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, which is set in Victorian England (with a fantastical twist), and won the 2015 Costa Book Award. In it, Faith and her family move to a rocky island, because her father—a clergyman and natural scientist—is in trouble for having lied about a fossil discovery. That sets into motion a variety of wonderful clashes. We see a world in change—religion vs science, feminism, etc. This novel is full of fascinating themes, which would make it great not just for literature class, but for a class that synthesizes literature with history or science.” —Tina Connolly, author of the Seriously Wicked series

Showa

“My pick is a manga (Japanese comic): volumes. 1 & 2 of Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa, a history/memoir of what got Japan into WWII. Mizuki shows blow-by-blow the short-term self-interested decisions Japan’s political leaders made which pushed the nation toward war, and caused fearmongering and militarism to saturate Japanese culture, from newspapers to children’s games. In America today, with talk of crisis all around us, Showa is a brilliant way for young people to learn how small political decisions add up to big changes, and how boring-sounding issues like grain prices or health policy shape larger cultural currents, sometimes deadly ones.” —Ada Palmer, author of the Terra Ignota series

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“I was sixteen when I read Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. We had been assigned many great works in American Cultures, a class designed to teach us philosophy from an American literary perspective. But from the first page, Zen was different. It was something you could pick up and spend the day with, tucked into a nook in the house unaware of whether it was sunny or storming outside. Pirsig’s premise, the conflict between the rational and the romantic, is so ensconced in the captivating journey of father and son riding across country on the back of a motorcycle that the reader is almost unaware of it. While the book left me with the yearning to fully experience the untamed western states without the separation of a glass window, it also led me to understand a bit of myself and the struggle for balance we all face.” —Ismée Williams, author of Water in May

The Passion of Artemisia

“One of my favorite authors, Susan Vreeland, recently passed away. As homage to her work and her gift for beautifully humanizing history and art, I suggest that a work of hers be taught to older teen students. This seems particularly fitting as she was a high school English teacher for 30 years. My favorite: The Passion of Artemisia, about our first major female artist, Artemisia Gentileschi, an early Baroque painter (1593-1656), who was the first woman to be admitted into the Accademia delle Arte del Disegno in Florence, and the first woman we know of to make a living by her brush. The real-life Artemisia’s journey to artistic success was rife with obstacles. Sexually assaulted by her painting tutor, she survived being tortured by court officials with thumbscrews (in an effort to make her ‘tell the truth’) when she gave testimony against her attacker. But rather than retreat into domestic anonymity as advised, she went on to create some of the most haunting and inspiring portraits of biblical and historical femaleheroines, caught in dramatic, large scale scenes, such as her Judith Slaying Holofernes. Vreeland’s novel is a story of individual ascendancy despite overwhelming societal odds and personal trauma, an innately feminist tale. It seems particularly important in today’s political milieu in which a president can brag on grabbing a woman’s genitalia without reprisal, and when even elected congresswomen are subject to being shushed by their male colleagues. And along the way, teen readers will also learn about the Medici and late-Renaissance Florence and Rome, a vitally important era in western history.” —L. M. Elliott, author of Suspect Red

Divider

Best Book Club Picks for September 2017: A Spanish Princess, an Apocalyptic Marathon, and More

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Is your book club scrambling for a September read? We’ve got you covered! Here, we’ve pulled the best book club picks coming out this month. Whether you’re in the mood for a moving story about immigration, or would prefer a gripping thriller, we have the book to get your club chatting. For more excellent picks, check out our Fall Previews!

Keep Her Safe

Readers, we don’t have to tell you who Sophie Hannah is, and now she’s back with a gripping tale based on the famous JonBenét Ramsey case. Cara Burrows is at the end of her rope, so she books herself a hotel room to get away from her all-too-complicated life. But when she turns the key and the door swings open, she sees there are already two people in the room. One of them is supposed to be dead—at least, that’s what the news reported. Melody Chapa’s murder made the front page when it happened, and her parents are still in prison for it. Did Cara’s eyes play a trick on her, or did she stumble upon the truth?

The End of the World Running Club

What would you be willing to do and how far would you be willing to go for your family? When an asteroid strikes the Earth, civilization crumbles and the world turns into a chaotic and dangerous place. Edgar Hill’s family is evacuated by a rescue helicopter, but he’s separated from them and left behind. It’s in that moment that Edgar must ask himself if he’s prepared to follow them, crossing 450 miles on foot. Edgar has to move quickly if he hopes to catch up with them. He isn’t a runner, but it’s the only chance he has of ever seeing his family again.

The Living Infinite

Readers will meet a Spanish princess named Eulalia in this exciting novel based on the life and times of a real historical figure. Eulalia grew up in the Spanish court and had an isolated childhood. After such a stifling early life, she broke free when she, along with Thomas Aragon, traveled to Cuba and then America in the 1890s, where she sought to publish her autobiography. This story has it all: historical flair, struggles for power and autonomy, and even romance. We bet this story will keep your book club up chatting long into the night.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Inspired by “Snow White,” Melissa Bashardoust’s novel explores the contentious relationship between a young girl and her stepmother, who have more in common than they realize. When Queen Mina was a young girl, her sorcerer father replaced her human heart with a glass one. It’s a decision that drives her to win over the widowed King Nicholas—Mina hopes that if he falls for her, she can experience the love that her glass heart denies her. Becoming queen means gaining a stepdaughter: Lynet—a young girl created out of snow in her mother’s image by a magician, on her father’s orders. Both Mina and Lynet have had their lives forever altered by their fathers, which Bashardoust uses to explore the harmful nature of misogyny.

The World of Tomorrow

Historical fiction fans, this is the book for you. Travel back in time to 1939, when the Dempsey brothers, Francis and Michael, are making their way to New York City where their third brother, Martin, lives. There, the brothers take on NYC together and navigate the challenges of dealing with their past and trying to make it in their new city, and all the while the world stands on the brink of World War II. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly raved: “With the wit of a ‘30s screwball comedy and the depth of a thoroughly researched historical novel, this one grabs the reader from the beginning to its suspenseful climax.”

The Far Away Brothers

In this moving nonfiction account, journalist Lauren Markham follows twin 17-year-old brothers as they flee El Salvador and make their way to California. The two had been living in the village of La Colonia, but when Ernesto was threatened by the local gangs, he and Raúl decided to leave their home and search for their 24-year-old brother Wilber, who lived in Oakland, CA. The journey to America was treacherous, but the challenges only grew once they arrived and needed to apply for citizenship, learn English, find money to pay for their legal counsel (not to mention basic needs), and more. In a starred review, Kirkus called this timely and important read “One of the most searing books on illegal immigration since Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey.”

Best Day Ever

Does your book club love reading thrillers that explore the fault lines in relationships and marriages? If so, look no further than Kaira Rouda’s Best Day Ever. In it, Paul and Mia Strom are setting out on a road trip and it is supposed to be, as the title of the novel suggests, the best day ever. They’re headed to their lake house for a weekend of romance and fun, and on the surface, it sounds ideal. But as they begin their trip, things begin to unravel. Will Paul and Mia, not to mention their relationship, make it out of the weekend unscathed?

You Bring the Distant Near

Book clubs that love generational sagas will want to dive right into this tale about three generations of an Indian-American family. The tale begins in 1965 when matriarch Ranee Das moves her family to New York City. Her daughters, Sonia and Tara, find themselves torn between their parents’ expectations for their futures and their own dreams. In 1998, Ranee’s granddaughters, Chantal and Anna, enter the picture and reveal their own struggles with identity. Mitali Perkins’ novel is inspired by her own experience of immigrating to America in the 1970s.

Divider