Women’s Suffrage and the Ohio Women’s Convention

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Suffragettes representing counties of Ohio.

The Ohioana Library Association was founded by Martha Kinney Cooper, First Lady of Ohio; the first book in Ohioana’s collection, History of the Western Reserve, was donated by its author, Harriet Taylor Upton; Ohioana’s first executive director was Florence Roberts Head, who helped Martha Cooper found the library. These are a few of the extraordinary women who are responsible for Ohioana’s existence thanks to their intelligence, expertise and dedication to the literature of Ohio. In 1929, the year of Ohioana’s founding, these women had had the right to vote for less than a decade.

Martha Kinney Cooper, Harriet Taylor Upton and Florence Roberts Head.

In 1919 the Senate passed the Nineteenth Amendment, prohibiting the states and federal government from denying citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. In August of 1920, the amendment was ratified, and women’s suffrage was adopted nationally. Yet the struggle for women’s suffrage began nearly a century earlier, when women’s conventions began to be established in protest of the discrimination women were experiencing across the country. One of the most significant of these conventions, and the first that was organized statewide, was the Ohio Women’s Convention at Salem. The Convention met April 19-20, 1850 in Salem, Ohio, where more than 500 women were in attendance.

The Salem, Ohio 1850 Women’s Rights Convention Proceedings, complied and edited by Robert W. Audretsch, gives a history and full account of the proceedings of the Ohio Women’s Convention. An excerpt from the text reads,

“It is quite likely that the women who met in Salem for the convention did not realize the history they were making. It was the first women’s rights convention held west of the Alleghenies; it was very likely the second such convention held in the U.S.; and it is probably the first public meeting in the U.S. where the planners, participants and officers were exclusively women.”

Cover page of The Salem, Ohio 1850 Women’s Rights Convention Proceedings.

Conventions like these provided a place for women to meet and discuss some of the ways in which they were being discriminated against – such as the denial of the right to vote, unequal wages, unequal educational opportunities, and women not having control over their property. These meetings illuminated the fact that individual women were not alone in feeling they were being treated unfairly, and that they no longer wished to stand for it.

Cover of A Voice of Their Own: The Woman Suffrage Press, 1840-1910, from Ohioana’s collection.

The convention in Salem is regarded as a pivotal point for women’s suffrage in Ohio, which would continue earnestly for the next 70 years until the vote was secured. It’s unfortunate that many of the woman who organized and attended the convention did not see the day that women’s right to vote was recognized nationally – however, their efforts were essential in starting the conversation and movement that resulted in the nationwide change.

Cover page and inside front page of The Ohio Woman Suffrage Movement.

 One of the leading voices in support of women’s suffrage in Ohio leading up to 1920 was none other than Harriet Taylor Upton, who would become Ohioana’s first contributing author. Upton was born December 17, 1853, and during her life served as a key organizer and first president of the Suffrage Association of Warren, member and treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and president of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association. More of her life and efforts are detailed in The Ohio Woman Suffrage Movement, a document compiled by Florence E. Allen and Mary Welles to detail the history of suffrage in the state of Ohio.

During this year, the 100th anniversary of the passing of the nineteenth amendment, we remember those who stood up against great odds in order to bring women closer to equality. The texts and images featured in this post, as well as many others regarding Ohio’s women’s suffrage movement, can be found in the Ohioana Library Association’s collection.

Anniversary of Ohio’s Man on the Moon

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Front page of the The Columbus Dispatch’s souvenir moonwalk section.
Envelope of The Columbus Dispatch’s souvenir moonwalk section.

Fifty years ago this summer the course of history was changed forever. On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon. This pivotal moment came after decades of preparation and planning and was a true feat of science and engineering – a remarkable achievement. The whole world watched on as the moment was punctuated by Armstrong’s famous words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”.

It was an iconic moment that, in a way, all started in Ohio. Before the race to the moon, spacesuits and zero gravity, Neil Armstrong was born in the small town of Wapakoneta in Northeast Ohio on August 5, 1930. Due to his father’s job as an auditor for the State of Ohio, the family moved often during Neil’s childhood and he also called the Ohio communities of Warren, Jefferson, St. Marys and Upper Sandusky his home. By the 1940s the family had returned to Wapakoneta, where Armstrong attended high school and developed a passion for flying. At the age of 16t he earned his pilot’s license in advance even of being issued a driver’s license, practicing flight in the grassy airfields surrounding Wapakoneta. After high school, he went on to college at Purdue University and later joined the navy.

Biography of Neil Armstrong published by the State of Ohio.

After graduation and his service, Armstrong began his career in NASA at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland. From there he held numerous other jobs and responsibilities at NASA, often acting as a test pilot, before eventually being selected for astronaut training in 1962. He served as a backup pilot on Gemini missions 5 and 11 and went to space for the first time as command pilot on Gemini 8. In 1968, Armstrong was offered the post of commander on Apollo 11, along with Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin and Commander Module Pilot Michael Collins. Less than a year later they would be the first humans to successfully land on the moon.

Articles from the Citizen Journal from July 1969 introducing the seven Ohioans who worked on the Apollo Program and the proposal of an Armstrong related museum in Wapakoneta.

With his accomplishments, Armstrong joined the leagues of other notable Ohioans involved in advancements in flight and space exploration. Col. John Glen, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and Orville and Wilbur Wright are just a few air and space pioneers that Ohio claims.

Article from The Dispatch from July 1969 describing the ways in which Armstrong’s hometown was preparing for the big day.

In the days and weeks surrounding the Apollo 11 launch and first moonwalk, it seems natural that Ohioans across the state took a special interest in the event. This is apparent in the publications from the time such as The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer. Many newspaper articles and clippings pertaining to the event can be found in Ohioana’s collection. Articles covered all aspects of the moon mission from the astronaut’s daily routines while in space, to reports of how Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta was preparing for the momentous occasion.

There was no one prouder of Neil Armstrong that day than the family, friends and residents back in his hometown of Wapakoneta – or Wapak, as it’s known in the region. Mrs. Grover Crites, wife of Armstrong’s high school math and science teacher, was quoted saying, “There won’t be a dark house in the town of Wapak the night Neil walks on the moon.” Days before the moon mission, The Columbus Dispatch reported that “All 7,000 residents of Wapak … are excited, proud and concerned”. Two years later, in 1971, a museum dedicated to Neil Armstrong was opened in the town thanks to the help of members of the community and Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes. You can visit the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta today to see artifacts from Armstrong’s Apollo 11 and Gemini 8 missions. The museum, as well as the entire town of Wapakoneta, is holding celebrations of the moon landing anniversary all year. For more information visit: https://www.firstonthemoon.org/.

The anniversary of the moonwalk was celebrated everywhere this year – including in the 2019 Ohio State Fair’s annual butter sculpture depicting Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin.

All images courtesy of Ohioana’s collection.

OPHELIA’s Book-to-Movie Journey: An Interview with Lisa Klein

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By Kathryn Powers

Ophelia covers, courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

There are two sides to every story. The mad Prince of Denmark is the star of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but what if Ophelia had the chance to share her tale? This is the premise of Ophelia, the young adult novel by Columbus author Lisa Klein. Lisa was a professor of English before embarking on her career writing books for young readers. Dissatisfied with the original portrayal of Shakespeare’s Ophelia, she crafted a modern retelling of the classic tragedy. Ophelia became Lisa’s first published novel in 2006. And now—over a decade later—the book has made a remarkable journey to the big screen as a feature film!

After viewing the movie at Gateway Film Center, Ohioana’s office manager and kidlit enthusiast, Kathryn Powers, had the chance to interview Lisa regarding this exciting book-to-movie journey.    

1) The process of how a book becomes a movie is so mysterious! Can you describe how this happened with Ophelia?                  

Just after Ophelia was published, an independent producer “optioned” it, reserving the rights while he pulled a production together.  First came the script, which the producers used to attract a director, whose vision shapes the production. It’s important to sign well-known actors to round out the package and attract financiers. The producers have to scout locations for the filming, hire crew, and build sets. And everyone’s schedules have to match. It’s a complicated process, requiring patience and diplomacy.  Sometimes it falls apart (as when the director who was interested bows out), and the producer has to start over again. This happened more than once, which is why it took ten years to finally “greenlight” Ophelia!

2) Were you able to give any input regarding the Ophelia script?

Once I signed the contract, I effectively gave up creative control. I was shown the script early on, as a courtesy, and I offered some input.  A few of my suggestions were adopted. But the script is the creation of the screenwriter as much as the novel is the creation of the author, and I came to respect that distinction. The movie is not the book, but stands as its own wonderful reimagining of the Hamlet story.

3) Are there many differences between the book and movie?

Yes, several! The movie keeps the romance between Hamlet and Ophelia alive until the last possible moment (to please a movie audience), while the book emphasizes their conflict and Ophelia’s decision to go it alone.  The last quarter of the novel, which occurs in a convent, is reduced to a scene of a few seconds in the movie. My character Mechtild, an herbalist, is at the center of a new subplot, created to give the actress Naomi Watts a larger role. (She plays Queen Gertrude and her sister, Mechtild.)  There are other differences, but the story is still Ophelia’s, told in her voice.  And it’s visually stunning, so readers who prefer to bring a story alive in their own imaginations won’t be disappointed.

Ophelia official movie poster, credit to IFCFlims.

4) What was it like to visit the set in Prague?

Exciting and a bit unreal. My friend Jody Casella, who is also a writer, came with me. She kept pinching me (well, not literally) and saying “Can you believe these hundreds of people are all here making a movie because of a book you wrote?” We met Daisy Ridley and George McKay and Clive Owen and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy!) who were all very gracious. People kept thanking me for writing the book, and I was like, “Don’t thank me, thank Shakespeare. We all owe what we are doing to Shakespeare.”

5) Where can people view the movie?  

The movie is playing in select theaters through July, and is currently available for streaming online.

6) Additionally, is there anything you want to share with us about your writing or next projects?

It has been a thrilling journey having my book made into a movie, and now that I’ve seen it on the big screen and celebrated, it’s time to settle down and get back to my writing. What was I working on again? Oh, my first novel for adults, set in Venice in the 1500s.

To learn more about Lisa, Ophelia, and her other books, be sure to visit her website at http://www.authorlisaklein.com.

Announcing the 2019 Ohioana Award Winners!

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It’s that time of year again! It’s to the pleasure of everyone at Ohioana to announce the 2019 Ohioana Awards. Every year, the Awards recognize an outstanding title in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, About Ohio/Ohioan, Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature, Juvenile Literature. Readers are also invited to have their voices heard in voting for the Readers’ Choice Award. In addition, a young writer is chosen as the recipient of the annual Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant.

Six of the Ohioana Award winners, as well as the Marvin Grant recipient, were selected by juries. The Readers’ Choice Award was determined by voters in a public online poll. This year, more than 3,000 votes were cast for the Readers’ Choice Award.

First given in 1942, the Ohioana Book Awards are the second oldest, and among the most prestigious, state literary prizes in the nation. Nearly every major writer from Ohio in the past 75 years has been honored, from James Thurber to Toni Morrison.

The Ohioana Awards will be presented Thursday, October 17, in the Atrium of Ohio’s historic Statehouse in Columbus. Tickets for event, which are open to the public and include a pre-awards reception, will go on sale in mid-September.

The 2019 Ohioana Award winners are as follows:

Fiction: Moriel Rothman-Zecher, Sadness is a White Bird

Nonfiction: David Giffels, Furnishing Eternity

About Ohio or an Ohioan: Wil Haygood, Tigerland

Poetry: Marcus Jackson, Pardon My Heart

Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature: Ellen Klages, Out of Left Field

Juvenile Literature: Jacqueline Woodson, The Day You Begin

Readers’ Choice: Rachel Wiley, Nothing is Okay

Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant

Alongside the book awards, Ohioana has named David Grandouiller as the recipient of the 30th Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant, a competitive prize for an Ohio writer age thirty or younger who has not yet published a book. Born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire and raised in Jamestown, Ohio, David is a 2017 graduate of Cedarville College. He writes essays and is currently in his third year as an MFA candidate in creative writing at The Ohio State University.

Ohioana Announces 2019 Book Award Finalists

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Winners will be announced in July, awards presented at Ohio Statehouse on October 17

2016 Ohioana Awards

Columbus, OH – May 17, 2019 —The Ohioana Library has announced the finalists for the 2019 Ohioana Book Awards. First given in 1942, the awards are the second oldest state literary prizes in the nation and honor outstanding works by Ohio authors in five categories: Fiction, Poetry, Juvenile Literature, Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature, and Nonfiction. The sixth category, About Ohio/Ohioan, may also include books by non-Ohio authors.

Among the literary honors this year’s finalists have previously received are the National Book Award, the Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Edgar Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Two authors have had books made into major motion pictures, while another was a writer for MTV’s iconic 1990s series Beavis and Butt-head. Four authors are finalists for their debut books, while six are past Ohioana Award winners.

Winners will be announced in July, and the 2019 Ohioana Book Awards will be presented at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on Thursday, October 17. The finalists are:

Fiction

Felver, Brad. The Dogs of Detroit: Stories, University of Pittsburgh Press.

Ford, Jeffrey. Ahab’s Return: or, The Last Voyage, William Morrow.

Markley, Stephen. Ohio: A Novel, Simon & Schuster.

Rothman-Zecher, Moriel. Sadness is a White Bird, Atria Books.

Sittenfeld, Curtis. You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories, Random House.

Umrigar, Thrity. The Secrets Between Us, Harper.

Nonfiction

Giffels, David. Furnishing Eternity, Scribner.

Haygood, Wil. I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100, Rizzoli Electa.

Kuusisto, Stephen. Have Dog, Will Travel, Simon & Schuster.

Macy, Beth. Dopesick, Little, Brown and Company.

Orlean, Susan. The Library Book, Simon & Schuster.

About Ohio or an Ohioan

Congdon, Jane. How the “Wild” Effect Turned Me into a Hiker at 69, Bettie Youngs Books.

Haygood, Wil. Tigerland, Knopf.

Hazelgrove, William. Wright Brothers, Wrong Story, Prometheus Books.

Jackson, Lawrence P. Chester B. Himes: A Biography, W.W. Norton & Company.

Van Haaften, Julia. Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography, W.W. Norton & Company.

Poetry

Barngrover, Anne. Brazen Creature, University of Akron Press.

Bentley, Roy. Walking with Eve in the Loved City, University of Arkansas Press.

Jackson, Marcus. Pardon My Heart, Triquarterly.

Nezhukumatathil, Aimee. Oceanic, Copper Canyon Press.

Wiley, Rachel. Nothing is Okay, Button Poetry.

Juvenile Literature

Campbell, Marcy. Illus. by Corinna Luyken. Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse, Dial Books.

Fleming, Denise. This is the Nest That Robin Built, Beach Lane Books.

Genshaft, Carole Miller. Aminah’s World, Ohio University Press Distributed Titles.

Mora, Oge. Thank you, Omu!, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Woodson, Jacqueline. lllus. by Rafael Lopez. The Day You Begin, Nancy Paulsen Books.

Middle Grade/Young Adult Literature

Arnold, David. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, Viking Books for Young Readers.

Draper, Sharon M. Blended, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.

Houts, Michelle. Count the Wings: The Life and Art of Charley Harper, Ohio University Press.

Klages, Ellen. Out of Left Field, Viking Books for Young Readers.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Harbor Me, Nancy Paulsen Books.

Ohioana will profile all the finalists in the coming weeks. Beginning late in May, it will present “31 Books, 31 Days,” a special feature on the library’s Facebook page in which one finalist is highlighted each day.

In June, the public will have the opportunity to vote online for their favorite title from among the finalists for Ohioana’s 4th annual Readers Choice Award. Keep watching for more information on Facebook and Twitter!

Remembering Ellis Avery

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(Ellis Avery at the 2013 Ohioana Book Festival, photo credit Elizabeth Nihiser)

March is Women’s History Month, and today happens to be International Women’s Day. So it seems fitting to pay tribute to one extraordinary woman and writer, Ellis Avery. Sadly, Ellis passed away on February 15, at the young age of 46. In 2002, Ellis received the Ohioana Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant for a writer age 30 or younger who has not yet published a book. Five years later, she won the Ohioana Book Award in fiction for her debut novel, “The Teahouse Fire.” Ellis and Anthony Doerr are, to date, the only writers to have received both the Marvin Grant and an Ohioana Book Award. Among her other honors, Ellis was also the only author to have won two Lamba Literary Awards. Ohioana Director David Weaver spoke to Ellis in the fall of 2017, interviewing as part of a series of conversations with past Marvin Grant winners. The interview appears here for the first time.

How did winning the Marvin Grant impact you: your life, your career, your writing?

As it happens, I got the phone call about the Marvin Grant just after I had decided to splurge on a two-week writing class in Assisi, Italy, with literary hero Maxine Hong Kingston, in order to begin what would become my first published novel, THE TEAHOUSE FIRE.  The class seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I had just that morning bitten the bullet, charged it on my credit card, and decided to worry about paying for it later.  This was a “Leap, and the net will appear” decision for me: that very day, I received a call from Linda Hengst telling me that I had won the Walter Rumsey Marvin grant!

Do you recall how you felt when you learned you had won the grant? Were you able to attend the award ceremony and, if so, what was it like?  

I was floored and delighted when I received the call. Not only did the grant solve the immediate financial problem of how to pay for the class with Maxine Hong Kingston, it represented some of the first serious professional validation I had ever received.  Specifically, it made me take the opportunity to study with Hong Kingston more seriously, and it spurred me both to work all the harder on the novel I began in her class: the financial gamble that the class represented wasn’t just between me and my credit card; it was one that a whole community much larger than myself had chosen to take with me, and I owed it to them, as well as to myself, to take myself seriously.

The award ceremony was such a happy occasion! My partner came with me from New York, and my mother, now deceased, flew up from Florida to celebrate with us.  It was an honor to be welcomed into the community of Ohio writers in this manner, and, in an unexpected piece of good fortune, I got to reconnect at the ceremony with my beloved elementary school librarian from Columbus School for Girls, Marilyn Parker.  

What advice do you give young writers when they’re trying to break in? Are prizes such as the Marvin Grant helpful in giving a writer’s career a boost?

I encourage young writers trying to break in to be patient and persistent.  It’s really difficult to publish a first novel.  Subscribe to Poets and Writers and apply for everything you can: prizes like the Marvin Grant can offer financial support, a chance to be exposed to a new and perhaps life-changingly influential audience base, and most significantly, a huge psychological boost: that outside confirmation can help you shift from feeling like a grandiose nobody with a laptop to a true-blue capital-W Writer.  Two more pieces of advice: First, bump it with a trumpet.  The publishing world seeks quality work, but subject matter matters enormously, too.  I could have written a different first novel just as good as The Teahouse Fire but if it hadn’t been about Japan— if the publishing world hadn’t been persuaded that, because of its subject matter, it might be the next Memoirs of a Geisha— it could just as easily have died on the vine.  Second, if you have a project that keeps garnering the same feedback over and over— good, but not great, close, but no cigar—it may be a sign that it’s time to exercise the painful courage it takes to put that project in a drawer, start over, and write another, better book.  

Ohioana is proud of you as not only a Marvin Grant winner but an Ohioana Book Award winner. What does it mean to you to be claimed as “an Ohio writer”?

I’m so grateful for the support that the Ohioana Library has shown me over the years, both as a Marvin grantee and as an Ohioana Book Award winner.  As for being claimed as an “Ohio writer,” although I left Ohio at age eleven, I have fond memories of Columbus School for Girls and of my childhood neighborhood of German Village. Moreover, it’s an honor to imagine my novels on the same shelf as books by Toni Morrison, Sherwood Anderson, Jacqueline Woodson, etc.  But does that give me a sense of what “being an Ohioan” might mean?  I’m not sure.  I’ve resonated with elements of German Village everywhere I’ve lived—red brick and sycamores, 1880s architecture, the low-tech small-scale pleasures of walking and cycling and being known in one’s local haunts, of exchanging smiles with strangers on the street— but it seems solipsistic to imagine that  all Ohio writers have been stamped in the same way: there are as many Ohios as there are Ohioans.

Thank you, Ellis.

In 2007, the year she won the Ohioana Book Award, Ellis sent Ohioana a lovely note and a check for $1,000 – the same amount as she had received five years earlier for the Marvin Grant. She joked that it might not be something she could do every year, but she wanted us to know how much Ohioana’s support meant to her. A wonderful gesture that perfectly summed up Ellis. We’ll always remember her beautiful spirit and writing, through which her legacy will live on.

Read more about Ellis here: https://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/02/16/ellis-avery/?fbclid=IwAR1B05NeibOI8zon1w_UwsXnpVSTxge3hkOYnKtYs1_dIlvdN3l5S69XaRI

Celebrating a Forgotten Author for Black History Month

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A near capacity crowd was on hand February 20 as Ohioana presented, “From Prison to Prominence: The Life and Literary Work of Chester Himes” at the Martin Luther King, Jr. branch of Columbus Metropolitan Library. Author Yolonda Tonette Sanders, the creator of the “Protective Detective” mystery series, conceived the program, in which she “interviewed” Chester Himes, portrayed by Columbus actor Tony Roseboro. Questions from the audience, clips from the 1970 film version of Himes’ novel “Cotton Comes to Harlem,” and Ohioana Director David Weaver turning the tables on Sanders and interviewing her rounded out the evening.

The trailblazing Himes went from being an inmate at the Ohio Penitentiary to an influential writer and creator of the black detective genre. Himes is one of those authors who, after being largely forgotten over the years, is gaining new recognition and respect for his work.

The program was presented by Ohioana not only for Black History Month, but as part of the I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 celebration.

To read more about Himes, check out this great article from the February 14 issue of Columbus Alive:

https://www.columbusalive.com/entertainment/20190213/community-feature-ohioana-library-celebrates-unsung-harlem-renaissance-writer

Banned Books Week 2018

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It’s Banned Books Week! BBW is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The most challenged books of 2017 can be found on ALA’s website.

Though there are no Ohio-related books this year, there have been several included many times in the past. Some of them may surprise you!

Photo credit: Guillermo Arias/AP

Among the most frequently banned or challenged books in America are titles by celebrated, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, who was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio. Her novels Beloved, Song of Solomon, and The Bluest Eye are multi-award winning stories about people of color; in particular, women of color. The American Library Association has pointed out the overwhelming tendency to ban books by writers of color; in 2016, the spotlight week was specifically shone on these writers in an attempt to “celebrate literature written by diverse writers that have been banned or challenged, as well as explore why diverse books are being disproportionately singled out in the first place.”

Morrison’s books are frequently singled out for sexual content and violence without considering the context. The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, is an unflinching look at racism and domestic violence. Encouraging students to read this book, and other controversial literature, encourages them to start a dialogue about subjects which are too often ignored. In this era of movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo and the current political climate, The Bluest Eye is just one book that may foster students’ critical thinking skills. Morrison herself, when she accepted her Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, spoke of “Laureates yet to come,” those readers who confront hard-to-tell stories head on, and may grow up to change the world, and tell their own world-changing stories.

“Their voices bespeak civilizations gone and yet to be; the precipice from which their imaginations gaze will rivet us; they do not blink nor turn away.”

 

Another controversial Ohio author is Dav Pilkey, whose Captain Underpants books are beloved by millions of kids worldwide. He created this video in 2014 to express his feelings on banned books.

Captain Underpants has been banned frequently from schools, even reaching the #1 spot on ALA’s annual banned books list in 2012. Pilkey himself pointed out that his books “contain no sex, no profanity, no nudity, no drugs, and no graphic violence (at least nothing you wouldn’t see in a 1950’s Superman comic book).” So why are they banned so often? Pilkey thinks it’s a snap judgment based on the cover and title, and the penchant towards directing children to “real literature” rather than comics, despite the recognition in recent years of graphic novels as award-winning books of art and literature.

“My goal with Captain Underpants is to make kids laugh and to give children (and especially reluctant readers) a positive experience with reading at a crucial time in their development (ages 7 to 10). Children in this age group who hate to read are in great danger of becoming functionally illiterate adults. So when a child connects to a book — even if it’s a book that we as adults might not care for — it’s a BIG DEAL!”

Dav Pilkey

 

 

Photo credit: Scholastic

Coming in at #94 on the list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books in 2009 was the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. Stine grew up in Bexley, Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University. He began his career by writing humor books for children and created the humor magazine Bananas. Stine wrote his first horror novel for young people in 1986. He went on to create the Fear Street series in 1989 and Goosebumps in 1992. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, and the Goosebumps series has been translated into 32 languages. Like Captain Underpants, it also inspired a film, with a sequel coming this October. Stine created an endowment fund for creative writing in his hometown of Bexley, received the Ohioana Career Award in 1999, and was a featured author at the 2009 Ohioana Book Festival.

Goosebumps has been banned because parents feel they are too frightening, or that they contain “satanic” or “occult” themes. With titles like It Came From Beneath the Sink! and Go Eat Worms! it seems odd that these complaints are taken seriously. Indeed, Stine says that he considers the banning of his books to be a point of pride.

“It is a badge of honor to have people try to ban your books from schools and school libraries, only because it means your books have become popular and are being noticed. Unpopular books seldom get banned. I’ve never noticed any kind of sales decrease because of these censorship campaigns. Usually they prove to be good publicity.”

 

Ultimately, Banned Books Week is a celebration of the freedom to read. The 2018 theme, “Banning Books Silences Stories” is a reminder that everyone needs to speak out against the tide of censorship. For more information on Banned Books Week, previous lists of banned/challenged books, and other ways you can celebrate the freedom to read, visit the Banned Books Week website.

Box Office Boffo: Ready Player One

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It’s true: all the best movies come from good books.

Writers know what they are doing: they create conflict and plot and characters that readers love, and then Hollywood options the work and reaps the reward.

Another reaper-of-rewards is author and Ohio native Ernest Cline. Born in Ashland, Ohio (home to a really cool hot air balloon festival every summer!) and former resident of Columbus, Mr. Cline now calls Austin, Texas, home. He owns a DeLorean which means he totally WINS and OWNS and even PWNS (if he wants to) American popular culture from the 1980s.

Cline used to work at CompuServe, which was founded in Columbus in 1969. It was a ground-breaking tech communications company, and the perfect place to work if you loved tech and info and the infinite possibilities they presented. This speculative way of looking at the world found its way into Cline’s first book, Ready Player One, which was published in 2011. Columbus is there too, as the city of escape for protagonist Wade Watts.

A lover of all things tech, geek, nerd, and 1980s, Cline was especially thrilled to work with the great filmmaker Stephen Spielberg, the force behind so many of our cultural touchstones.

Ernie also tweets now and then and can be found on Twitter as @erniecline.

 

 

 

And the laurel crown goes to ….

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Poet Dave Lucas!

For the second time in Ohio’s history, a poet laureate has been named. Serving a two year term is Dave Lucas, a native of Cleveland, award-winner (including an award from Ohioana in 2012), published writer and teacher.

It is of course a great honor to the individual, but it’s also a great benefit to the people of Ohio. We will be able to learn from this creative writer who will share his love of words during his tenure.“Our state’s poet laureate has an opportunity to engage Ohioans of every age in unique and challenging ways,” said Governor Kasich. “I’m confident Mr. Lucas will fulfill the special calling that comes with this honor, to help us look at our world from a new perspective and I wish him the best in his new role.”

During his time as poet laureate, Lucas said he wants to help Ohioans use poetry to understand and enhance their lives. He is planning a multimedia project involving people from diverse places and backgrounds allowing them to experience a variety of opinions about poetry.

Dave Lucas is the author of Weather (Georgia, 2011), which received the 2012 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. Named by Rita Dove as one of thirteen “young poets to watch,” he has also received a “Discovery/The Nation Prize and a Cleveland Arts Prize. A co-founder of Brews + Prose at Market Garden Brewery and Cleveland Book Week, he teaches at Case Western Reserve University.

 

 

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