Category Archives: Fiction

NEW SCL DISPLAY!

Have you been by the Stone Center Library lately? If so, you’ve hopefully noticed our new display:

Our latest selection of recently acquired books features titles related to African Americans in American culture, in keeping with our recent event with UNC history professor “Fitz” Brundage:

All titles are available here at the library and we encourage you to come by and check them out. Happy reading, and have a great weekend!

Today’s SCL Pick for Banned Books Week: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Happy Friday, faithful readers! We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s Banned Books series featuring highlights from our collection. Today’s selection is Zora Neale Hurston‘s 1937 novel Their eyes were watching God:

“Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.” (Source: Syndetic Solutions)

“Challenged for sexual explicitness, but retained on the Stonewall Jackson High School’s academically advanced reading list in Brentsville, VA (1997). A parent objected to the novel’s language and sexual explicitness.” (Source: ALA website)

Interested in learning more about African American literature? Curious to know more about Zora Neale Hurston? Don’t forget to make use of our Guide to the Web‘s Literature section, which features online resources on the Harlem Renaissance and Literature. Websites listed include the Zora Neale Hurston Digital Archive, the Zora Neale Hurston Plays, and  Drop Me Off in Harlem, a multimedia collection on the culture and history of the era.

And of course, today’s SCL Pick, like the rest of our Banned Books selections, is available here at the Library. Come by and check it out!

SCL Picks: Banned Books Double-Feature

So many banned books, so little time… Today’s SCL Picks are:

James Baldwin’s Go tell it on the mountain (1953)

  • What it’s about: 

“‘Mountain,’ Baldwin said, ‘is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else.’ Go Tell It On The Mountain, first published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.” (Summary by Syndetic Solutions)

“Challenged as required reading in the Hudson Falls, NY schools (1994) because the book has recurring themes of rape, masturbation, violence, and degrading treatment of women. Challenged as a ninth-grade summer reading option in Prince William County, VA (1988) because the book is ‘rife with profanity and explicit sex.’” (Source: ALA website)

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible man (1952)

  • What it’s about: 

“Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952.  A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.  The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of ‘the Brotherhood,’ and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.  The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land , Joyce, and Dostoevsky.” (Summary by Syndetic Solutions)

“Excerpts banned in Butler, PA (1975). Removed from the high school English reading list in St. Francis, WI (1975). Retained in the Yakima, WA schools (1994) after a five-month dispute over what advanced high school students should read in the classroom. Two parents raised concerns about profanity and images of violence and sexuality in the book and requested that it be removed from the reading list.” (Source: ALA website)

Curious to see what else has been banned over the years? Check out ALA‘s comprehensive lists of banned and frequently challenged books, which includes documentation  of both how and why these works have drawn the ire of vocal individuals and groups.

Did any of your favorites make the list? Have you been taking part in any activities for Banned Books Week? Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!  

SCL Picks, Banned Books Edition: The Color Purple

Banned Books Week continues, and today’s SCL Pick is Alice Walker‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, The Color Purple. First published in 1982, this epistolary novel has been adapted into both a feature film and a Broadway musical:

 

“Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to ‘Mister,’ a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.”  (Summary by Syndetic Solutions)

 

Unsurprisingly, this powerful and heart-wrenching work has been an oft-contested item on reading lists nationwide. The American Library Association(ALA) maintains lists of banned and frequently challenged books, including a lengthy list of reasons why these books have drawn the attention of censors. Here are but a few examples of some of the challenges brought against this book:
  • “Challenged as appropriate reading for Oakland, CA High School honors class (1984) due to the work’s ‘sexual and social explicitness’ and its ‘troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality.'”
  • “Removed from the open shelves of the Newport News, VA school library (1986) because of its ‘profanity and sexual references’ and placed in a special section accessible only to students over the age of 18 or who have written permission from a parent.” 
  • “Retained as an English course reading assignment in the Junction City, OR high school (1995) after a challenge to Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel caused months of controversy. Although an alternative assignment was available, the book was challenged due to ‘inappropriate language, graphic sexual scenes, and book’s negative image of black men.'” 
  • “Challenged, but retained as part of a supplemental reading list at the Shawnee School in Lima, OH (1999). Several parents described its content as vulgar and ‘X-rated.’ “
  • “Removed from the Ferguson High School library in Newport News, VA (1999). Students may request and borrow the book with parental approval.” 
  • “Challenged, along with seventeen other titles in the Fairfax County, VA elementary and secondary libraries (2002), by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools. The group contends the books ‘contain profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct, and torture.'”
The full list is available here.

 

What do YOU think? Leave us a comment and let us know! Need to refresh your memory? Come by the Library and check it out for yourself!

SCL Picks: Banned Books Week Edition

Happy First Amendment Day! In honor of Banned Books Week, this week we’ll be highlighting items in the SCL collection that have been at one time or another banned, challenged, or otherwise contested.

Today’s pick is Toni Morrison’s 1987 classic, Beloved:

“Proud and beautiful, Sethe escaped from slavery but is haunted by its heritage–from the fires of the flesh to the heartbreaking challenges to the spirit. Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison’s greatest work.” (Source: Syndetic Solutions

The American Library Association website lists the following points of contention over the years:

“Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, FL (1995). Retained on the Round Rock, TX Independent High School reading list (1996) after a challenge that the book was too violent. Challenged by a member of the Madawaska, ME School Committee (1997) because of the book’s language. The 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning novel has been required reading for the advanced placement English class for six years. Challenged in the Sarasota County, FL schools (1998) because of sexual material.  Retained on the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 reading listing in Arlington Heights, IL (2006), along with eight other challenged titles.  A board member, elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making, raised the controversy based on excerpts from the books she’d found on the Internet.  Challenged in the Coeur d’Alene School District, ID (2007).  Some parents say the book, along with five others, should require parental permission for students to read them.  Pulled from the senior Advanced Placement (AP) English class at Eastern High School in Louisville, KY (2007) because two parents complained that the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about antebellum slavery depicted the inappropriate topics of bestiality, racism, and sex.  The principal ordered teachers to start over with The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne in preparation for upcoming AP exams.”

Curious to see what all the fuss is about? Come by the Stone Center Library and read it for yourself!

FRIDAY (triple) FEATURE: SCL Boredom-Busters #18-20

Friday (triple) Feature is back with not one, not two, but THREE picks to wrap up our Anti-Boredom Month series of recommended summer reads. Today’s featured author is Nigeria’s Chimananda Adichie – check out:

The Thing Around Your Neck [available at the UL]
  • “In her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, award-winning author Adichie turns her penetrating eye not only on Nigeria but on America as well, in 12 dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the U.S.”
Half of a Yellow Sun [available here @the SCL]
  • “From the award-winning author of “Purple Hibiscus” comes this masterly, haunting new novel, in which Adichie recreates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria during the 1960s.”
 
Purple Hibiscus [available here @the SCL]
  • “A promising new voice from Nigeria delivers an exquisite and powerful first novel about a 15-year-old Nigerian woman who is awakening at a time when both her country and family are on the cusp of change.”

Missed any of our earlier selections? Never fear, check them out HERE. Have a recommendation that didn’t make our list? Want to see more series like these? Leave us a comment and let us know! 

SCL Boredom-Buster #17: “The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett

Readers, you are in for a treat today! SCL Boredom-Buster #17 features a review by none other than Stone Center Librarian Shauna Collier, with a personal and lively discussion of best-selling novel The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. This book may be requested from UNC’s Davis Library or Undergraduate Library. Check out the review below:

At first, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read the novel The Help.  It was one of my book club’s selections and although I admit I was a little intrigued when I saw it was set in my home state of Mississippi, I also noted that the setting was the 1960s;  a period when racism, hatred and extreme violence were sadly prevalent.  So when I first picked it up and read the premise I couldn’t help but groan and think, “here we go again.”  Don’t get me wrong, I am quite familiar with the events that unfortunately did happen during that time in the state and across the South (I remember some of them from my childhood), but I’m reluctant to read fiction that will downright depress me.  Boy, was I in for a surprise!  Author Kathryn Stockett does an excellent job of balancing the severity of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi with a surprisingly uplifting tone that doesn’t distract from the seriousness of the time period.

The Help is about the complex relationships that existed at the time between White housewives and their African-American maids and just how complicated and silly the relationships and rules could be.  The novel does include some of the major events of the time, such as the death of Medgar Evers, and Stockett gives these real-life events a respectful treatment, while at the same time knowing when and where to adeptly inject humor. As a result I often found myself literally laughing out loud on several occasions, often before I could dry away tears.  In other words, I simply couldn’t put it down.

Part of the uplifting tone comes from the three main characters who take turns narrating the novel. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is a 22 year old recent graduate of Ole Miss who aspires to be a writer, at a time when women were expected to marry well and have babies. In my opinion she is the “co-hero” of the story, along with Abileen, one of the African American maids who finds the courage to help “Miss Skeeter” tell the story of the maids. Last but not least is Minny, one of the maids who is best described as “mouthy” but also quite hilarious.  Together these three women help start a movement of their own.

There are also a host of other characters who range from compassionate to ridiculous who help to tell this multilayered story that touched me in so many ways, and compelled me to write this very personal review of the novel.

However, there’s also another reason I wanted to put a personal stamp on this review. You may be aware that a film version of The Help is coming out on August 10th, but I learned of the movie being in production long before many others. How? Last year my mom called to tell me about a movie being filmed in my hometown near her job, where she had met a “nice gentleman.” This gentleman turned out to be Steven Spielberg himself, and the movie turned out to be… well, you guessed it. 🙂

SCL Boredom-Buster #16: “A life in full and other stories”

Today’s SCL anti-boredom-month pick is a collection of new short stories hailing from top African writers.A nightmare vision of life inside a security fence. . . A group of priests facing their faith amid civil war. . . A white girl discovering the secrets of the African world around her. . . Desperate romance against the backdrop of a tyrannous forced marriage. . . Warrior ethics among boys who live on a rubbish dump.” For these riveting stories and more, be sure to check out:

A life in full and other stories: the Caine Prize for African writing

“The best in new short story fiction from Africa’s leading literary award.” First awarded in 2000, the Caine Prize for African Writing honors the late Sir Michael Caine, fulfilling his wish to reward and recognize excellence in African writing in English. As such, “Its focus is on the short story, as reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition.” A life in full and other stories is a collection of the best submissions of 2010: the five stories short-listed, as well as those selected for the Prize’s Writer’s Workshop, including “Stickfighting Days” by Oluferni Terry from Sierra Leone, who would go on to win that year’s prize.

Happy reading! 🙂

Two-for-one-Tuesday! SCL Boredom-Buster(s) #15.1 & 15.2: “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears” & “How to Read the Air”

Good morning, faithful readers! Seems hard to believe it’s already the last week of July – where did the summer go? Today also marks the last week of our SCL Boredom-Busters series and we’re wrapping up much as we began, with hot picks in FICTION.

Kicking off the beginning of the end, check out this double feature by Ethiopian author Dinaw Mengestu:

The beautiful things that heaven bears

  • “Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents’ jewelry to pay for passage to the United States. Now he finds himself running a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. . . Told in a haunting and powerful first-person narration that casts the streets of Washington, D.C., and Addis Ababa through Sepha’s eyes, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a deeply affecting and unforgettable debut novel about what it means to lose a family and a country-and what it takes to create a new home.”

AND

How to read the air

  • “One early September afternoon, Yosef and Mariam, young Ethiopian immigrants who have spent all but their first year of marriage apart, set off on a road trip from their new home in Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee, in search of a new identity as an American couple. Soon, their son, Jonas, will be born in Illinois. Thirty years later, Yosef has died, and Jonas needs to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. How can he envision his future without knowing what has come before? Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, Jonas sets out to retrace his mother and father’s trip and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents’ youth to his life in the America of today, a story-real or invented – that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.”

Both titles are available here at the Library, so come on by and take a look!

(Excerpts are from summaries provided by Syndetic Solutions.)

SCL Boredom-Buster #13: “Nobody Called Me Charlie,” by Charles Preston

Good morning, y’all! Today’s Boredom-Buster is:

Nobody called me Charlie: the story of a radical white journalist writing for a Black newspaper in the Civil Rights era, by Charles Preston.

  • In the 1940s, at the height of segregation, Charles Preston became the unlikely newest worker at a black owned-and-operated newspaper. Preston, a white man and, unbeknownst to most of his colleagues, a member of the Communist Party, quickly came face to face with issues of race and injustice that would profoundly impact his life and change the way he understood United States society. This fictionalized account . . . takes on the central question of this nation’s history: can a truly human and humane society be built on a foundation of profound and pervasive racial inequality? Of course, the answer is no. Yet how do we make such a society? Or put another way, how must white people try to live their lives and how must they connect with their black brothers and sisters, personally and politically, to make a world in which the horrible scars of racism are healed once and for all? The answer that shines through Preston’s book–whether he is writing (and reporting) about work, local politics, the civil rights struggle, housing, education, entertainment,travel, sports, business, child-rearing, friendship, or intimate relationships–is that whites must do what he did: give up their whiteness. This is a book you will not forget.” (Source Syndetic Solutions)

Enjoy! And don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for our next pick! 🙂