Challenge update: Perks of Being a Wallflower, in Wallingford, CT.

From the Record-Journal:

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” will return to the freshman English curriculum at Lyman Hall and Sheehan high schools after a committee decided Friday to reinstate the coming-of-age novel at the request of a local parent, according to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Shawn Parkhurst.

The committee met Friday morning with Holly Lafond, a parent who made a request in March to reinstate the novel after it was initially removed from the curriculum in February at the request of Board of Education member Jean-Pierre Bolat.

“I’m glad the committee made the decision to put the book back in the curriculum,” Lafond said Friday. “I’m a little saddened that it can’t be used for the rest of the year, but I’m hopeful and grateful that future freshman can use the book if it’s in the curriculum to discuss the topics.”

Previously.

Bitch Planet, #1-4
Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro

GET READY FOR SOME INCOHERENT GUSHING.

Things I love about this book, the short list: EVERYTHING.

Women get sent to Bitch Planet for non-compliance. "Non-compliance" is a nebulous term—a woman can get branded NC for committing murder... or simply for rolling  her eyes.

Women get sent to Bitch Planet for non-compliance.

"Non-compliance" is a nebulous term—a woman can get branded NC for committing murder... or simply for rolling  her eyes.

Things I love about this book, the longer-but-not-nearly-as-exhaustive list:

I love that it is rooted in the exploitation genre, that it uses its conventions and tropes, but that it uses them in a way that is subversive, that empowers and celebrates and shows the need for feminist thought and theory, that combats misogyny instead of supporting or furthering or contributing to it.

I love that even with all of the meaty issues, even with the seriously dark storyline, that it is also, at moments, wonderfully funny. And that whatever the tone of the scene, it is always, always, always smart.

I love that even with all of the meaty issues, even with the seriously dark storyline, that it is also, at moments, wonderfully funny.

And that whatever the tone of the scene, it is always, always, always smart.

In fact, many of the characters in this book are people you might already know. Okay, maybe you don’t know any murderers, but I guarantee you know at least one woman who has thought about murdering someone for telling her she’d be prettier if she smiled.
— Danielle Henderson, Bitch Planet #1
It seems like the truths of feminism would be self-evident—but when those truths are obscured by falsehoods meant to turn women against each other, it’s actually not that surprising that so many choose to eschew the label.
— Tasha Fierce, Bitch Planet #2
An example of the use of classic tropes—but note that the nudity isn't remotely sexualized here—AS WELL AS of the diversity within the cast.

An example of the use of classic tropes—but note that the nudity isn't remotely sexualized here—AS WELL AS of the diversity within the cast.

I love that it celebrates different forms of badassery: brawn and brains and skill and resourcefulness and courage and tenacity and pure, unadulterated rage. I love that some of the characters meet adversity with immediate violence while others navigate it more carefully, looking for the route most likely to result in the least personal loss; I love that some of the characters use their sexuality as a tool, while others use it as a weapon.

I love the advertisements on the back page. Some of them are for actual products, while others are fictional... but they're basically real advertisements, just minus the subtext.

I love the advertisements on the back page. Some of them are for actual products, while others are fictional... but they're basically real advertisements, just minus the subtext.

I absolutely love the backmatter essays—all of the pull quotes in this post come from them—and, according to the letters page in #4, they won't be included in the first round of trades, so I'd very much recommend reading this book issue by issue.

I love the letters from the author, in which she talks about cut scenes, about the inspirations for various aspects of the book, about scenes that were especially difficult to get right, about the community that is beginning to come together around Bitch Planet.

I love the letters page, which is full of letters from people who find this book eye-opening and life-changing and empowering and EXACTLY WHAT THEY'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR THEIR WHOLE LIVES... and also some from people who think the book is a travesty, misandrist propaganda and garbage.

I love that, in addition to the overarching themes about power and gender, that it touches on the media and on propaganda and about people as commodities and about how sometimes, choice is only actually the illusion of choice.

I love that, in addition to the overarching themes about power and gender, that it touches on the media and on propaganda and about people as commodities and about how sometimes, choice is only actually the illusion of choice.

I love that the artwork is just as strong as the writing, that it reflects reality, in that the women are actually drawn in all shapes and sizes, that there is representation of various ethnicities and sexual orientations and economic backgrounds. I love the attention given to the color schemes, and I love that the flashback sequences have an entirely different look than the primary story.

I love Penny. And the faces of the 'fathers' on the screens—I wish she'd had access to her rolling pin in this scene, that's for damn sure. 

I love Penny. And the faces of the 'fathers' on the screens—I wish she'd had access to her rolling pin in this scene, that's for damn sure. 

I love the format of the book itself, that it is a planned 30 issue run—with the distinct possibility of more—run in a three book cycle: two issues of primary story, one issue dedicated to the backstory of one of Bitch Planet's inmates, drawn by a guest artist. After reading the first backstory—about the amazing Penny Rolle—I went back and re-read the first two issues, and suddenly her brief scenes were so much more emotionally resonant and powerful. I suspect that each successive backstory will inspire me to do the same.

I love that simply by exaggerating elements of the media as we already know it, Bitch Planet encourages thought and criticism of things so many of us take for granted as givens in our own culture.

I love that simply by exaggerating elements of the media as we already know it, Bitch Planet encourages thought and criticism of things so many of us take for granted as givens in our own culture.

If I don’t eat this, if I don’t touch that, if I tilt my head the right way, if I work out, if I don’t want too much, if I smile when I don’t mean it, if I fight my body, if I ignore my own feelings, if, if, if—the ifs pile up until it’s all we are some days, a sack of conditionals waiting for a then to come.
— Megan Carpentier, Bitch Planet #3
Just as we can all be oppressed, we can all act as oppressors to someone. The sooner we confront that, the sooner feminism actually becomes a movement that embraces all women.
— Mikki Kendall, Bitch Planet #4
Our heroine. Would it be redundant to mention that I love her? Probably. Well, in this case, I can live with being redundant: I LOVE HER.

Our heroine. Would it be redundant to mention that I love her? Probably. Well, in this case, I can live with being redundant: I LOVE HER.

All this, and I haven't really even talked about the overarching story (which involves a reluctant heroine forced into putting together a ragtag team to compete in an upcoming sporting event/deathmatch... with the secret hope of possibly taking down the people in charge of not only the deathmatch, but of Bitch Planet and the larger culture that created it.

So, yes. As I said way at the beginning of this probably excessively long post, I love everything about this book. I love the characters, I love the art, I love the story, I love the politics, I love the thought it inspires. I love that the moment I finish an issue, I am immediately wanting more. I am not so much a tattoo person, and yet I completely and totally understand why there are women out there who are getting NC tattoos. This book is that powerful.

Do not, do not, do not miss it. 

Challenge news: Maus.

From the NYT:

The government’s plan was simple enough: Rid Moscow of swastikas or any other symbol of Nazism before Victory Day, the celebration of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Germany and the most important political holiday in Russia.

But in the frenzy to comply, bookstores aiming to please the censor found an unlikely victim: “Maus,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about a Jewish family during the Holocaust. Muscovites discovered this week that the book, which bears a swastika on its cover, had been quietly stripped from the shelves of the largest bookstores across the Russian capital.

From the Moscow Times:

Writer Margarita Varlamova said via Facebook that she had tried to buy a copy of “Maus” in the Moscow House of Books only to be told by the store worker to come back after May 9, when Russia celebrates the 70th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany.

“I said, goodness — it's an anti-fascist novel,” Varlamova said Thursday in her post, adding that the issue was resolved when a security guard brought out a copy of the book under cover of his jacket.

From the Guardian:

But Varvara Gornostayeva, the chief editor at the book’s publisher Corpus, said major bookstore chains were taking it off their shelves and internet sites.

“They have removed the book,” Gornostayeva told AFP. “It was selling very well and nobody had ever sent us any official complaints.”

I'm sure this will all get worked out, but it's a great illustration of why it's so very important for school and library administrators to follow their own policies, rather than just pulling books from shelves—and hands—willy-nilly.

Challenge news: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Brunswick County, NC: The second (third, if you count the appeal to the first decision) challenge to Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian has been resolved:

Brunswick County Schools rejected a grandmother's second challenge to the book "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian." The rejection is due to timing: Appeals to a book the school board has previously ruled on will not be considered for two years.

For more on that one, see these posts.

Waterloo, IA: In mid-March, copies of Part-time Indian were pulled from all middle school classrooms in response to a parent complaint: 

The debate over whether the book should be pulled from classrooms has been eclipsed by questions of whether the decision was made in violation of district policy.

The district administration maintains the book is “inarguably inappropriate” for middle schoolers and therefore does not require a review process.

Some teachers disagree, arguing district policy calls for a review of the book before a decision can be made.

Ah, yes. Because skipping the review process—not following your own rules—is alwaysssss an awesome precedent to set, not to mention setting a GREAT example for the students. 

Choice quote from the article: “If you ask yourself if maybe a text might be controversial, then it probably is,” Lee wrote, “so don’t use it.” 

Another choice quote from the article: “If people in Ms. Lee's position can decide for themselves what is appropriate and not appropriate in the classroom, without involving at least a ‘book reconsideration committee’ ... where does something like that stop?" Copeland said in an email.

The NCAC, ALA, and NCTE have all released statements about the book's removal:

“Although we are often tempted to shield students for as long as possible from the world’s more difficult realities,” the ALA letter reads, “limiting access to books does not protect young people from the complex and challenging world that confronts them. Rather, it can deprive them of information that is important to learning and development as individuals.”

“I don’t know who told you it was okay to boo anything that you think girls like, but it’s not okay with me. That will stop."

In which Shannon Hale continues to be my hero:

Notice the girls did not boo Thomas or Justice League or cars. Many cheered those things too. But the boys booed Barbe and EAH in unison, loudly, as if it was only natural, expected.

I’ve put up with it for awhile. And all this booing is after I’ve even talked with the kids about how unfair it is that people claim there are boy books and girl books. How untrue. Why can girls read anything but  boys are told that they can only read half the books? And we’ve talked frankly about this. Still, the loud, fearless, angry mocking of any mention of “girl” media.

I’ve stopped putting up with it.