N is for (Books About) Nostalgia #atozchallenge

A note for regular readers. I’m going to suspend my updates on book challenges until April is over. I’ll do a summary post for the first Monday in May.

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I grew up in the 80s and we didn’t have the sense that our weird hairstyles and freaky clothing were anything strange. It seemed normal to layer two pairs of neon socks. I never jumped on the big hair bandwagon, but I did wear the huge glasses for far longer than I should have.

The 80s seem to be one of those time periods that are easy to be nostalgic about. We did have great music, iconic movies, and memorable video games. It’s no wonder that contemporary books go back in time to be set there, and that people love them.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (science fiction): This movie is set in the future, but thanks to a massive multiplayer video game, there are a ton of callbacks to the 80s. Both the book and movie are fabulously fun with tons of references. Even if you lived through it, it’s probably impossible to catch all the references… but it’s fun to try.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell (YA romance): Eleanor and Park first bond over music and comic books. He lends her his Walkman and a tape of music he thinks she’ll like, like The Smiths. She doodles on her paper bag-covered schoolbooks. It’s a lovely story and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the 80s.

How to Build A Girl, by Caitlin Moran (YA): Okay, technically this was set in 1990, but though times did change, they didn’t change that fast. Johanna wants to remake herself, so she starts writing about music and turns herself into Dolly Wilde. It’s an interesting coming of age novel,

SaveSave

Don’t Ban Eleanor & Park

71lklmxqgjlWith Banned Book Week coming up next week, I thought it was important to talk about a book I liked.  Eleanor & Park is a YA novel published in 2013 that’s been challenged a number of times by people who think that parts of it are offensive or inappropriate.

This is an open letter regarding the challenges to Eleanor & Park.  I’ve also sent a copy of this letter to ncac@ncac.org

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you about Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I’m an adult who read, and loved this book.

I know that this book has been challenged a lot, and I wanted to let you know why I think that it shouldn’t be banned.

I read this book breathlessly, in one day.  I stayed up late because I couldn’t put it down.

This is exactly the kind of book I wish I’d had when I was growing up.  Both Eleanor and Park were so real.  I could empathize with Eleanor.  The strange girl who feels overweight and uncomfortable.  Who wants to fit in, but also wants to stand out and be noticed for who she is.

The dominant themes in the books are domestic violence, child abuse, body image issues, and bullying.  While I couldn’t relate to all of those issues, I could relate to some.  As an awkward teen, I would have loved to read a book that talked these issues in a candid way.

What makes this book so magical is that even though those issues are big and important in the book, the story is ultimately about Eleanor and Park, and how they find one another and fall in love.  Too many stories about big issues are about the big issues, and ignore the human factor, that people can have problems, lots of problems, and still want to fall in love.  Still want to have friends and find their tribe, the people for whom it doesn’t matter if they’re weird or overweight or have things going on at home.

Don’t try to deny kids the right to read this book.  Don’t try to screen kids from reality.  It doesn’t work.  Because they’re either going through some of these issues, or they know someone else who is.  Reading fiction like this can help make us all into more sensitive, caring human beings.  Reading fiction like this can help teens be more prepared for navigating difficult issues.  If nothing else, books like this means that it’s okay to talk about these things.  It gives teens a language to talk about it, a voice to represent them, and a venue to discuss it, even if they don’t say that it’s about them.

I sympathized with both Eleanor and Park.  I laughed out loud sometimes.  And I cried at other parts.  The ending was lovely and perfect.

Life is messy.  This book helps to make sense of some of that.

Thanks for your time.

If you read this book, what do you think?  If you have an opinion, here’s a link to Rainbow Rowell’s website where she explains what you can do to help fight censorship of this book.71lklmxqgjl