Friday, September 28, 2012

Banned Books Week

Well ladies and gents, starting Sunday we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. Are you planning on participating? I am! I plan to pull out my brand new copy of "A Thousand Acres" by Jane Smiley.

I wish I had a link for a list of banned books, but unfortunately I cannot find one as of yet. However, I will keep looking and as soon as I find one, I will update this entry.

In the mean time, check out some of the following sites for information on the week, events, and other things. Join the movement!

About Banned and Challenged Books
Frequently Challanged Books
30 Years : Timeline
Banned Books Week Events

One list I have found to by useful is here. It is by no means a full list, but it gives you plenty of books to think about. Some of the names are surprising!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The 19th Wife

"I know it's hard to believe people really talk like that, but consider this: if you didn't know anything else, if your only source of information was the Prophet, if you spent seven hours in church on Sunday listening to a man who claimed to have a direct line to God, who your father and mother swore was a Prophet, and your brothers and sisters, and your teachers, and your friends, and everyone else assured you, promised you, his word was the word of God, and those that he damned were damned for all of eternity, you'd probably believe it too. You wouldn't know how to form a doubt." -Jordan Scott, The 19th Wife (p37)

The 19th Wife is two stories in one book. First there is the story of the first 19th wife, Anne Eliza Young who lived 1844 to an unknown date. She was considered the 19th wife, but a more correct estimation would be that she was 55th out of 57 wives of Brigham Young, the second Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormons). Half of this book tells about her history, her life in the church, her first, horrible marriage, and her second, even more bitter, marriage to the Prophet. After leaving the church she set out on a mission to bring down the institution of polygamy, and after a long and difficult battle she did manage it. The church denounced polygamy as no longer the will of God and threatened to excommunicate anyone who practiced it. Yeah, we know how that went.

The second story in this book is the tale of another 19th wife, BeckyLynn Scott who was accused of murdering her own husband around 2007 in Mesadale, Utah where a group of Saints broke off from the church to continue their lifestyles. They call themselves the First and True Saints (Firsts to anyone refering to them). BeckyLynn's son, Jordan Scott had been forced to leave the community at the age of 13 for holding his stepsister's hand. Jordan, who is gay, knew it was really to get him out of the way as the church had done with many teenage boys so that they could not marry the girls, creating what the outside world has labeled a group of "Lost Boys." Jordan revisits Utah to see his mother since she is no longer in the world of Mesadale, and he ends up staying to help her prove that she is innocent.

Let me be sure that I state that while the people of this book are real and that for the most part the events did happen, this book is one of fiction. Think of it as a historical fiction, one in which the author cannot be too sure of the details so he went ahead and filled in the blanks, exaggerated a little here and there, and rounded out the story that was left somewhat lacking in the original materials.

I know you would think this is horrible that someone would take such liberties with a tale so big, but while it was a rather large event that changed much of history of the LDS church, Anne Eliza's story was one-sided and often full of holes. The author did his best to give the reader a better version. And I believe that he succeeded. This story made me want to dig deeper into the history of Anne Eliza and the Mormon church. It gave me just enough to want to talk about it, enough to have some opinion, and enough to want more.
David Ebershoff does not pass judgement on the LDS Church, I feel I must say, but simply tells a story that was already there. Most women were unhappy in polygamist households. Although I believe there was at least one family that did not suffer, except maybe financially, between the two wives of one man. And he does express the beliefs that have led to mulitple wives. I believe it is merely the circumstances of plural marraige that leads outsiders to roll their eyes, and say "Seriously, you believe in what?" This book simply lays down the story of one very unhappy woman that saught to end polygamy, and one woman who felt comfortable in the lifestyle, while her son was the one who felt betrayed by the institution.

The stories in this book were wonderful. Although I must say a lot of what happened did make me a little sick to my stomach, I felt in the end I was able to put the book down and feel glad that I had taken the time to find the book and read it. Of course I pride myself on being open to all subjects when it comes to my taste in books, so I must say this book may not be right for everyone. I do encourage all to pick it up, though, for at least the chance to read somehting so wonderfully written. I found the style of the book fascinating. I feared at first that it might confuse me, the way he jumps between stories, but in fact I was pushed forward by the different approaches he takes to telling the story.

This book was one that sparked my need to discuss the story with others, something I always look for when reading a novel. So if anyone has read this book or finds the oppurtinuty to do so, please, let me know what you thought of it. I am keeping this one for my shelves, but mostly to have it on hand. So if you would like to borrow it, I will find a way to get it to you if you will promise to give it back in the end. This is a book I think most people should give a try.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Stolen Child

"The overture teased out the symphony's four movements: awareness, pursuit, lamentation, and redemption, and at the moment when I lifted my hands from the keys and the strings took up the pizzicato to indicate the arrival of the changelings, I felt his presence nearby. The boy I could not save." - Henry Day, The Stolen Child (p. 309)

The tale of children being taken and replaced by changelings is an old one. One that I find very fascinating, to the point where I had haunted dreams of such an event taking place while I was pregnant with my first child. I still find myself trying to coax words out of my youngest when she makes weird faces I have come to lovingly call her "goblin face". Yet while I joke about it, as a mother who believes in multiple gods from long ago myths, I cannot help but feel that there may be truth in some of the stories of hobgoblins sneaking into a home to replace a child with one of their own; the parents then raising this strange child without ever knowing theirs is off in the woods, unchanged by time until they get the chance to do what was done to them. My half-belief in this myth is what drew me to The Stolen Child when I first read the synopsis. Yet this book was not what i expected.

As I have said, the tale of children and hobgoblins is old, but the way in which this book is told, from the point of view not only of the hobgoblin that took over the life of young Henry Day, but also of the child-turned-changeling who came to be known as Aniday, is one that is knew and very intriguing. Both characters became something more than the roles in which they were put, pleading for compasion and pity for the lives they had been forced into. And I was drawn to them. By the end of the book I so sympathized with Henry Day and the situation he was forced into and the choices he had to make to survive, that I felt there was no other way for these poor, lost children to live than the path they had been placed on without their consent. Yet these two boys Henry and Aniday did not fit well into the mold that tradition tried to force them into. And that is what made this story interesting.

While the plot was a bit slow in the beginning with so much telling of their everyday lives, I still found it easy to stick with and read. And I am glad I did because the story progressed in such a way that I hurried to finish and find out how things would turn out. There are points in this book that really make you stop and think, almost pushing me to reread some bits for clues that this one twist was coming or that one part would happen. And in the end I was happy with the book.

I am not saying that I loved it. But it came pretty close to making me want to hold it tight when I was finished. Instead it gained a content sigh that things had worked out exactly as they should and in the best possible fashion. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the myth of changelings. Maybe even to those that have felt out of place for most of their lives, because after seeing what this man went through to feel a part of a world he had been out of for a century, maybe your problems won't seem so outlandish.

So give the book a try and let me know how you feel about it. Meanwhile, I am going to go check on my kids and make sure they are mine.