Banned books, what are we protecting our children from?

I’m back! Yes, I have no doubt many of you have wondered what happened to my blog. I’ve even gotten a couple of nice e-mails from followers telling me that I’ve been missed. I truly appreciate my readers (all of you) and I should have posted long ago. But the thing is, I’ve not had a lot to say lately.

You’d think with everything going on I’d have something to say, but honestly, I’m tired and numb; tired and numb from all of the political bullshit that continues to pile up on a weekly basis. Tired and numb from the hard stand people are taking when it comes to religious rights and gun rights. And I am truly numb as those who profess to be Christian are screaming about gun rights the loudest.

What will it take for us as a nation to put aside our ideological differences to work together to effect the much-needed change our society needs? Right now Congress seems more concerned with women’s reproductive rights than the people’s right to live in a safe society. What more is there to say? What can be said, when every attempt at a thoughtful conversation only leads to people yelling behind their wall of belief and fear? Belief and fear that any attempt at sensible gun control will lead to all guns being taken away, belief and fear that any attempt to ensure that all people have equal rights will lead to some kind of war on Christianity. Those who hide behind such walls drag the rest of us down to their level because we cannot enter in meaningful dialog. We are getting nowhere fast it seems. And because of this, I am tired and numb. I had to leave the circus for a while and attempt to find some measure of peace. I am not sure I’ve succeeded, but I haven’t banged my head against a wall for a few months now. So, that’s something I guess.

So, instead of coming back ranting about current events, or trying to tie a history lesson to today’s ills, I thought I would share a (kinda) funny story, because this, I swear, could only happen to me.

As part of Banned Book Week, the Carson City library put a call out to people willing to come in and read from a selection of banned books. The reading (I thought) would be audio taped for a later presentation and celebration of books. I signed up as I don’t believe banning books is ever a good idea (well, except for Twilight, but that should go unsaid).

I showed up on the appointed day only to find that we would be filmed while reading! I dislike being filmed(no I am scared of it), but swallowed my fear of the camera for the greater good. I also realized to my horror that in my attempt to get to the library on time, I forgot my reading glasses. Sometimes I question my ability to leave the house fully groomed.

While waiting my turn I quickly looked at the stack of books, hoping to find something with big print. I did not want to be filmed squinting or hesitating as I tried desperately to read the text. I found what I was looking for in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I remembered reading it several years ago, and in fact bought it for my son. It had big(ish) print and I could not imagine a better young adult book to illustrate the power of books. For those of you who are not familiar with Alexie’s work, he is a writer and filmmaker who shines a light on the plight of the modern Native American in humors and heartbreaking detail. This particular story is told by an unnamed narrator who talks about life in and out of the reservation. His characters are drawn from Alexie’s own friends and family and he breathes so much life into them that they quickly become the reader’s friends and family. I think Alexie is very underrated. I picked his book not only because I could see the text, but also because he has much to teach us.

So as I was called to get up in front of the camera, I quickly scanned the book to find an appropriate passage to read from. I was told I only had 3 minutes, so whatever I picked, it had to have context; it had to be a 3 minute short story. I saw that chapter 4 started with the narrator talking about his first day of high school. Brilliant, I thought! This would work, as it would speak to young adults about social fears (I thought) and could be read as a short story.

Behind the camera stood a quiet, seemingly shy young man (he looked high school age) who said he would tell me when to start and stop. I had been directed to state my name, the name of the book and why it was banned. So when the young man motioned me to start I said:

My name is Sari Nichols, and I am reading at the Carson City library. The book I chose is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; one of my favorite books. It was banned because it talks about poverty, masturbation, and is anti-Christian.

Then I began to read from the book. I tried very hard to be “camera friendly”. I memorized a few sentences at a time so that I would be looking up more than I was looking down. As I read from the page it became clear I had inadvertently picked a passage that illustrated why someone had deemed it ban worthy. Oh shit, I thought, as I continued to read, do I stop or do I own the words? Do I say sorry, thus giving in to the idea that this book should be banned or do I continue, showing the world (or whoever watches this video that this is a part of the human condition and should be embraced?) I looked past the camera for a split second and saw that the two librarians were laughing! One was laughing so hard she was bent over in her chair. My decision was made; I owned the words, stressing them as if they came forth from my head and burst from my mouth. And why not? It’s the truth, not matter how much we blush to think about it. I do however feel for the young man behind the camera who looked the other way. I don’t know if he was laughing or was horrified. I’d like to believe he laughed… but I did notice he cut me off rather quickly.

Here is part of what I read

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I was fourteen and it was my first day of high school. I was happy about that. And I was most especially excited about my first geometry class. Yep, I have to admit that isosceles triangles make me feel hormonal.

Most guys, no matter what age, get excited about curves and circles, but not me. Don’t get me wrong. I like girls and their curves. And I really like women and their curvier curves. I spend hours in the bathroom with a magazine that has one thousand pictures of naked movie stars:

Yep, that’s right, I admit that I masturbate. I’m proud of it. I’m good at it. I’m ambidextrous. If there were a Professional Masturbators League, I’d get drafted number one and make millions of dollars. And maybe you’re thinking, “Well, you really shouldn’t be talking about masturbation in public.” Well, tough, I’m going to talk about it because EVERY-BODY does it. And EVERYBODY likes it. And if God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs. So I thank God for my thumbs.

When I finished one of the librarians came over (the one who was bent over laughing) and asked if I had deliberately picked that passage. I sighed and said no, it was just dumb luck. Thankfully she thought I did a good job at making the passage come alive and had the courage to do so. It did not take courage but encouragement, and the willingness of others to stand for what is right. Books should not be banned because they may teach young adults about things “better left unsaid”, whether that be about poverty or masturbation. But sadly, this is America today. Many try to shield their children from unspoken truths, because their walls do not allow them to, because their truths would crumble under the weight of thoughtful conversations.


This is America today.

059fe9d-2.cachedGuess I just jumped back into the circus. Cue the music!

Donald Trump, the monster the GOP created

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures
.” William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

 Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

We haven’t done this in a while, so it might come as a shock, but we need to talk politics. I’ve got a few issues to bring to the table, so this week we focus on the Presidential candidates and the topics at hand. First up, Trump, whose to blame and why.

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, Et tu, Brute? After all, what is there to say about the bloviating, arrogant, grandiose, windbag? Surely, if we just ignore him, Trump will go away. I get it. In fact, this is how I felt at first; his bid for the White House had to be a joke, right? Was he doing it for ratings or did he just like the press coverage? It turns out, even after being fired from his Television show, The Apprentice, and losing his spot as a Macy’s brand, Trump continued with his shtick, which turns out, may not be shtick at all.

As I watched his first few interviews I thought perhaps he was a Democratic plant, or a very, very well played troll, out to make the GOP look bad (as if they needed the help) but as time goes on, and his popularity grows we have to ask an important question: What the hell is going?!

Love him or hate him, one thing is clear, Donald Trump has hit a nerve and the blame for his popularity rests squarely on the shoulders of the GOP and the 24 news cycle.

Trump’s racists, misogynistic message is indicative of all that is wrong with the GOP. For the last 8 years we have watched our do-nothing but scare people Congress, sink into a cesspool of hate and fear. Their refusal to work with our President and spew nonsense about issues, especially women and Climate Change, goes hand in hand with the willingness of certain “news” organizations who are all to happy to repeat and sometimes, lead in the spread of such nonsense. Everyone sees that the system is broken, and those that continue to “want their country back” are all too willing to have Trump as their spokesperson. Ever distrustful of the government, but yet have bought into the fear mongering, these people yearn for someone who will take on the establishment and put it in its place. Trump is a loud mirror that projects what these people are thinking; and they are thinking racist and misogynistic thoughts because they have been spoon fed by the GOP and the media who supports the party. Trump is their monster let loose. And just like in the book Frankenstein, the GOP created him, but now does not want him. Oh the delicious irony!

It would be easy to dismiss Trump as just another crank, whose 15 minutes of fame has continued far longer that it should have, thanks to the mainstream media, but we can’t. Not now that we’ve seen other candidates take up his message. Just this week, after Trump announced he wants to get rid of the 14th Amendment, many of the other Clown Car, GOP candidates repeated his idea as if it were their own. Scott Walker, one of the least informed of the candidates, actually said he would get rid of it and enforce our existing immigration laws. Sir, how do you uphold existing laws while simultaneously wanting to strip a Constitutional law? What kind of mental yoga is this?

This repeating of his message is only fanning the flame that is Trump. Instead of pushing him away, they are embracing some of his crazier ideas. This in turn makes Trump the stronger candidate, as he always says it first! His ideas become their ideas, but people will not look to the GOP, they will look to Trump because he is always a step ahead of them. This is one reason why he is leading in the polls.

The mainstream media is not helping either. Trump is now the leading American zeitgeist. Whether they are cowering to him or making fun of him, Trump is the central story. Even the liberal news channels are now taking him seriously and talking as if he will be the GOP nominee. Can you imagine? I can, and it scares me.

This is because of the GOP’s continued move to its crazy, paranoid base. They have embraced the cranks and duped them into thinking their fears are well founded; that the bogymen outside of our borders are coming to get them and take their jobs and religious freedom. The system is broken. Make no mistake, Trump won’t fix it, but to many he may be the best defense against a crumbling political body and nation. They don’t see that he is merely a Golem created by the GOP and 24-hour news cycle (they are the ones who planted these ideas in his head). Or maybe they do, and don’t care. This thought to me, is as scary as anything Trump says.


“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves.” William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar