Tag Archives: Reading

Fifty Shades Of Banned

Let’s celebrate a few books which have been deemed unfit for human consumption. The Catcher In The Rye (J.D. Salinger). The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck). To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee), Catch-22 (Joseph Heller). The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins). Harry Potter — the entire series (J.K. Rowling). The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky).

Each of these works has been labeled A Threat. The issues that offend people include sex, drugs, religion, values. A club will always exist whose members decide that if a book contains material that makes them uncomfortable, then the solution lies in a two-pronged attack. First, condemn the book as evil. Second, make it go away.

The Fifty Shades trilogy (E.L. James) has also been banned, and I thought the first book was excellent. When I tell people I’ve read these novels, they often express surprise that I’d admit it (which I find amusing). But they’re more surprised by my reaction. I think E.L. James is extremely talented at describing sex and sexual situations. Any good writing is difficult and as an author, I respect her talent tremendously. My problem lies in the second and third books in the series. James describes a psychotherapist who glaringly lacks boundaries and ethics. The doctor “bids” on his patient’s girlfriend at a fundraiser and literally buys her for a dance. He regularly attends social events hosted by the patient’s family. He accepts a referral from his patient, and then discusses one patient with another.

As a therapist who practiced for over 25 years before becoming an author, I dealt with the stigma on a regular basis. I’m angered by a book which feeds the stereotype, and worsens the problem. However, I would never suggest banning the trilogy. If I don’t like the books, I can choose not to read them, or not to recommend them. Even though I strongly believe that E.L. James promotes a damaging stereotype, I would stand with her, just as I would stand with other banned authors whose values I fully support.

Likewise, I loved the entire Harry Potter series, but I’m appalled by J.K. Rowling’s apparent need to indulge in transphobic rants. I’m saddened, outraged, and struggling to reconcile the values of acceptance depicted in her novels with her intolerance. I can choose to never again purchase one of her novels, but I’d never support banning her books.

As a novelist, I know that “Author” and “Universal Popularity” do not belong in the same sentence. My books are extremely supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, which I’m aware brings some people to view them as Should-Be-Banned. If my novels were ever placed on a “Banned List,” I’d be deeply angered and saddened. I’d also be honored to be affiliated with the writers in this eclectic group.

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For Those Who Love To Read…Or Not

Until age 7, reading was my secret.

Within the community of my ‘60s artsy elementary school, reading before 2nd grade was considered hazardous, a threat to free-flowing creativity.  The teachers loudly praised Willy’s talent with a paintbrush, Marsha’s coordination in dance, Jeff’s gift at charades, Lorelei’s ability to sing.  I wasn’t about to advertise my embarrassingly persistent craving for books.

Today there seems to be an unofficial Race To Read, with parents of preschoolers urging their toddlers to sound out Dr. Seuss. But decades ago, in my private grammar school, filled with film industry offspring, academic learning was viewed as a potential block to the artistic process.

My “unhealthy enjoyment” of math had already raised red flags in first grade. So I wrote my own math books at home, and stashed the worksheets in my T-shirt drawer. I had no difficulty hiding my admiration for the balance of numbers on either side of the equal sign, my awe at the concept of infinity.  I liked math and I respected math; but I wasn’t in love.

Reading was different.  I needed to read.  I grew up in a home with tens of thousands of books, and I tried (and failed) to read all of them. I raided my parents’ shelves for their cache of children’s literature.  I tread the paths of The Secret Garden, explored The South with Huck Finn, smiled through The World of Pooh.

Finally, I reached age 7, the magic number: I could officially learn to read at school. My teacher wrote on the chalkboard — “Cat” “Hat” “Bat” “Rat.” I reminded myself to reign it in. If I sat quietly, then maybe in a month, I could visit the school’s library. Maybe, if I got really lucky, my teacher wouldn’t get mad if I checked out a chapter book.  Nobody had to know I’d been reading for years.

Then Hope raised her hand. “How do you spell ‘girl’?” Before I remembered, I heard myself answer, “G-I-R-L.”  The class stared.

“How long have you been reading?” my teacher asked quietly.

My lower lip trembled, and I couldn’t speak, imagining the worst possible punishment: she’d forbid me from reading. But my teacher was kind. In spite of her concern that my creative potential had been compromised – a concern that would follow me through graduation – she hugged my shoulders.  “It’s okay,” she calmed me. “These things happen sometimes.” I melted into her arms.  I was flawed, but forgiven.

Over the next month, she fed me Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House On The Prairie series.  I forged ahead with Nancy Drew and her astonishing life, stumbling into a new mystery every day of the week – all with enviable blonde hair, two ever-present girlfriends who were unfailingly content in her shadow, and an uber-hunky boyfriend who worshipped her and then conveniently disappeared from the text until his presence was required for a date, a prom, or a moment of adoration. From the girl-sleuth, I launched into A Wrinkle In Time, The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes, and the list continues to this day.

I emerged from hiding. I could finally publicly admit my fascination with a curious phenomenon: black print on white paper could take me by the heart, or by the throat, and pull me into an intensely emotional journey, cover to cover.

As an adult, when I began to write my first novel, I was told that with the advent of texting, instant messaging, Snapchat, and All-Things-Tech, many teenagers were no longer interested in books.

I accept that as a challenge.

If I’m going to call myself a writer, then I’m responsible for creating a novel that compels people to read. It’s my job to write each sentence in a way that propels the reader into the next sentence. I wrote my book for adults and teens, for book lovers, and for those who have never made it through a novel. I hope all types of readers and potential readers will give my book a chance.  If you provide an open mind, then I’ll provide the story. Once you read the first paragraph, you can choose to try the second paragraph, or you can put it away forever. If I don’t catch your interest, the fault is mine, not yours.

Maybe you won’t like the book; maybe you will.  Or maybe you’ll fall in love, and step into a lifetime of literary journeys.  What have you got to lose?  The downside is a bit of your time; the upside is infinite.

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