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.

 

 

Hooray for Hollywood!

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Donald Ogden Stewart

 

One of the highlights of every holiday season is the release of new films – how many of this year’s crop have you seen? Studios release their biggest and most important films at year’s end not only to draw huge audiences, but also to get the attention of the major awards competitions. Of course the granddaddy of all movie prizes is the Oscar ©, given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Did you know that Oscar and Ohioana share the same birth year? The first Academy Awards © were presented at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood on May 16, 1929 – less than five months before Ohio First Lady Martha Kinney Cooper gathered a committee of volunteers at the Governor’s Residence in Columbus to establish a special library dedicated to collecting, preserving, and celebrating Ohio literature and other creative endeavors.

In our parallel trajectory, many Ohioans have been the recipients of the Oscar, including Clark Gable, George Chakiris, Eileen Heckart, and Paul Newman. Halle Berry made history in 2002 as the first (and thus far only) African American winner of the Best Actress award. Composer Henry Mancini is our state’s all-time winner at the Oscars, receiving four statuettes for his music, including the Best Song of 1961, “Moon River,” one of the classics of the American popular songbook.

An Oscar winner whose name you might not be as familiar with is author and screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart. Stewart was born in Columbus on November 30, 1894 (just twelve days before and two miles away from other future celebrated writer – James Thurber). After graduating from Yale and serving in the Navy in World War I, Stewart settled in New York and began to write. His quick wit soon led him to becoming a member of the Algonquin Round Table, the celebrated literary circle that also included Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Ernest Hemingway.

Stewart turned to writing plays, and success on Broadway led him eventually to Hollywood. Among his notable screenplays in the 1930s were The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Marie Antoinette, Holiday, and the 1939 classic, Love Affair (remade in 1957 as An Affair to Remember).

In 1940, M-G-M hired Stewart to adapt Phillip Barry’s play The Philadelphia Story for George Cukor’s film version starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart (who was no relation). The film was a critical and popular smash, and earned six Oscar nominations, including the two Stewarts, both of whom won – James Stewart for Best Actor and Donald Ogden Stewart for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The host at that year’s awards ceremony was comedian Bob Hope (another Ohioan, from Cleveland). Hope would later recall it as “one of those bathos-drenched evenings where winners thanked everyone from their producer, director, and co-stars down to the ‘little people’ – by which I assumed they meant pygmies, dwarves, and elves.” Then Donald Ogden Stewart’s name was called.

Walking to the podium and taking the Oscar in his hand, Stewart said, “There’s been so much niceness here tonight that I’m proud to say I’m totally responsible for the success of The Philadelphia Story. Nobody lifted a damn finger to help me.”

The audience broke up in laughter and gave Stewart a huge ovation. Hope would remember it as one of the favorite moments of his record-breaking nineteen times as the awards host.

Stewart continued writing screenplays throughout the 1940s, working with top-flight directors such as Cukor and Michael Curtiz, and stars such as Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, William Powell, and Lana Turner. Then came the second “Red Scare” of the early 1950s. Stewart, who had been actively involved in the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League during World War II, admitted that at one time he had belonged to the Communist Party. Blacklisted by Hollywood studios, Stewart and his wife moved in 1951 to England, where he remained until his death in 1980 at the age of 85.

While not as well remembered today as some of his contemporaries, many of the films for which Stewart wrote his sparking screenplays continue to entertain. As his biography on the Internet Movie Database states, Stewart was “noted for his satirical observations of American high society, best exemplified by The Philadelphia Story.”

So as this movie-laden holiday season takes us into a new year, and as Hollywood prepares for the 90th anniversary Oscar ceremony on March 4 – Ohioana raises its glass to Donald Ogden Stewart.

And Happy 2018 to you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kind of like Christmas: December 5

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King Gambrinus in Columbus, Ohio

He looks like a certain jolly old elf and he does bring gifts, but he’s not Santa. He’s King Gambrinus and he doesn’t have a special day, but maybe he should. We’d like to suggest December 5 because of its significance in United States History: it’s the day that Prohibition ended.

In 1933, after a less-than-successful run at being alcohol-free, America threw in the towel, effectively saying “Oh to heck with it,” and alcohol was again legal and could be sold, produced, transported, and generally enjoyed.

Our very own King Gambrinus statue in Columbus once adorned a brewery owned by August Wagner, a Bavarian brewer. The statue was saved even though the building is long gone, and his serene highness is now on display in Columbus’ Brewery District.

Beer is back in Columbus and all over Ohio with the rise of independent brewers. The later day beer barons and the fruits of their labors are celebrated in books like Ohio’s Craft Beers by Paul Gaston, published by Kent State University Press.  The latest addition to the genre of Ohio beer book includes Columbus Beer: Recent Brewing & Deep Roots by Curt Schieber.

King Gabrinus himself is less well-documented. He’s not exactly a god and certainly not a historic figure. He’s like Bacchus or any other merry reveler of myth; a personification of good times. With one leg up on a barrel and a foaming flagon held high, he reigns victorious over lesser beverages.

Books by the Banks is here!

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One of the things I treasure about fall in Ohio is the number of events celebrating books and authors that happen around the state. Book fairs and festivals, poetry readings, writing workshops – there is something going on every week, and sometimes almost every day!

Tomorrow (Saturday, October 28) is one of the biggest and best of all: the 2017 Books by the Banks: Cincinnati Regional Book Festival, presented by Ohio Humanities at the Duke Energy Convention Center from 10 to 4. Free and open to the public, the event features national, regional, and local authors and illustrators; book signings; panel discussions; and activities for the entire family to enjoy.

Ohioana will be there, too – be sure to stop by our table and get a free copy of the Ohioana Quarterly and other goodies! For more info, visit: http://booksbythebanks.org/  We’ll see you in Cincinnati!