Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Maus Censorship, JAHA, My Book and Me


Maus by Art Spiegelman was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer prize.  It tells the story of the Holocaust with the Jews depicted as mice and the Nazis depicted as cats.  The news that a school board in Tennessee has banned the book  (summarized by David Corn in MotherJones) has made me think of my own book, Wuthering Depths in Johnstown: By the Numbers, being excluded from being sold in the bookstores of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA) for similar reasons.

The reasons that the school board gave for banning Maus was that there is nudity and that there are the swear words "bitch" and "god damn" in the book.  They said that that was inappropriate for kids.  I was told that because I wrote in my book about the numbers surrounding the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and the crime statistics (including rape) was inappropriate for them because they had a children's museum.  

Ironically, JAHA had an exhibit on the holocaust three years ago with a survivor of these terrible events as a speaker.  Apparently, they thought that that was appropriate for children as well as a book about the mafia in Johnstown.  JAHA director Richard Burkert can be seen discussing the holocaust exhibit below.

Of course, JAHA is not a government entity whereas the school board in Tennessee is.  They are not accountable to voters but are to their stake holders.  According to Guidestar, JAHA has $7,603,010 in assets and $636,908 in gross receipts.  My book could have increased their gross receipts.

Sales of Maus have increased since the ban.  My book has sold around 118 copies without my raising a stink about JAHA's rejection.  There is no nudity in my book.  I did say in the book about how the area voting overwhelmingly for Trump, after it was reliably Democratic, was the equivalent of the area giving the rest of the world the middle finger.  

Censorship can work in many ways.  A business may have the right to sell or not sell anything that they want.  JAHA claims to represent the history of the area.  The Catholic Church sex abuse scandal and crime in the area are just as real as the holocaust.

**Related Posts**

Sunday, November 29, 2020

A Tie for First Place in the Best Nonfiction Book of All Time Poll

I'll take another break from Coronavirus to talk about my book and the second anniversary of my Best Nonfiction Book of All Time poll.  Hopefully it's more inspiring this holiday season.  First my book.

Christmas tree created by Duane Webb showing books by local authors (myself included).  You can bid on it at the Community Arts Center of Cambria County's silent auction on Menoher Blvd

Wuthering Depths in Johnstown: By the Numbers now ranks tenth on the Made in Somerset County best seller list out of 46 books.  It is now listed as sold out so I will have to get them more copies for the holidays.

As a reminder I will be having a book signing at AT Merchant in the Galleria Mall in Johnstown this Saturday from noon to three.  Hope you can make it.  

My book is now available at Riek's of Brownstown in addition to the other bookstores:  Classic ElementsYoung Hearts Books and ToysChameleon BookstoreSecond Chapter Books in Ligonier, and the Bottle Works Ethnic arts Center.

This week marks the second anniversary of my poll for the best nonfiction book of all time.  This time last year, the poll had 45 responses.  This year it has 57 total responses.  The top 6 responses are in the table below.


Number (%)

1.    On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)

15 (26.3%)

1.    Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

15 (26.3%)

2.    Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)

13 (22.8%)

3.    Night by Elie Wiesel (1956)

11 (19.3%)

4.    On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (2000)

9 (15.8%)

5.    Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)

8 (14%)

As you can see, there is currently a tie for the top spot between the Origin of Species and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.  Last year, Darwin's book held the top spot while Anne Frank's diary was in the tie for second with the Silent SpringNight by Elie Wiesel moved up one spot.  Stephen King's book On Writing entered the top 5 while Henry David Thoreau's Walden moved down one spot.  

You are more than welcome to break the tie or create new ones by voting in the poll in by clicking on the tab at the top.  There is no finality to the poll but you can make your voice heard.

**Related Posts**

Creative Nonfiction Awards

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Best Nonfiction Poll Update

It has been 3 weeks since I posted my online poll for the best non-fiction books of all time.  I have received some good responses so far.  I have received several suggestions for books that I may have missed.  I have added most of these suggestions and the number of options has increased from 100 to 110.  

I rejected the suggestion of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand as it is a novel and the suggestion of The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Fredrick Engels as I have limited the list to one author per book.  He is already listed as an author of the Communist Manifesto with Karl Marx.  This is done to help ensure diversity of the list, not for political purposes.  I added books by Latin American (such as Eduardo Galeano) and African (Nelson Mandela) authors to improve geographic diversity.  I have added two women authors, Rosa Luxembourg and Jane Goodall, as another diversity enhancement to the list.  

The line between fiction and nonfiction can be a blurry one.  The two broad categories of books can feed off each other.  Sherlock Holmes novels helped revolutionize how crime fighting is done.  Sigmund Freud's ideas on the subconscious mind have influenced everyone from Sesame Street to Woody Allen.  Religious texts such as the Bible and the Quran are excluded because they are often a matter of faith rather than fact.  In my last post I promoted fiction authors that I know.  This time I will feature nonfiction authors that I know.

--> **Related Posts**

I Figli della Madre Terra (The Children of Mother Earth)

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Great American Read-Nonfiction Edition

I thought I would take a break from the recent election to discuss another topic I was thinking about.  I really enjoyed watching The Great American Read (GAR) on PBS last fall.  They put together a list of 100 novels and or series of books and profiled them on their program.  They had celebrities endorse their favorites on the list and then asked viewers to go on their website and vote for the ones that they liked.  You can see the list of books they chose and who won here.  To Kill a Mockingbird won the online poll (people could vote for more than one and more than once) followed by the novel series Outlander and Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, and The Lord of the Rings series.

All of this is interesting but I wonder why non fiction books do not receive the same attention.  They can have at least as great of an impact on society as 1984 or Huckleberry Finn (it didn't make the GAR list of 100 but Tom Sawyer did).  The most impactful books are often the most controversial such as Charles Darwin's the Origin of Species or Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto.  Others can fill a void such as Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care.  

Like fiction, nonfiction covers a wide variety of Genre's.  26 of the 100 books in the GAR poll were science fiction/fantasy as were three out of the top five finalists in the poll.  Nonfiction can cover any book based in fact be it a cookbook, a dictionary, biography, science, or history.  To their followers religious texts like the Bible, The Quran, or the writings of the Buddha are factual books but nonbelievers of those faiths may not see it that way.  The biggest challenge is which books to include.  

Goodreads has an online poll for the best nonfiction books of this year with the sub-genres of biography, history, and science.  Robert McRum published his own list in the Guardian of his top 100 nonfiction books of all time written in English presented in chronological order.  I say why not have the crowd weigh in on the top text books of all time?  Why just focus on English texts?  I might be willing to create such an online poll if no one else will.  I have advertised many nonfiction books on this site

**Related Posts**

Wuthering Depths

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Wuthering Depths

Emily Bronte 1818-1848
I write here when I am inspired by something and when life does not get in the way.  This past Monday was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emily Bronte, the author of the novel Wuthering Heights.  For this blog I considered the title Wuthering Depths as a tongue in cheek pun on the novel but went with CSI without Dead Bodies as the TV show was still popular when the blog began.  

The details of Bronte's early life can be seen in the image above.  She had a younger sister Charlotte who wrote Jane Eyre and Anne who wrote Agnes Grey.  She had a brother Branwell who struggled with alcoholism and his image was removed from the portrait above with his sisters.
Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as Catherine in the most famous movie adaptation of Wuthering Heights from 1939

Emily was reserved and quiet but she knew the people around her well.  In Wuthering Heights (her only novel written shortly before she died in 1848) the main characters are Heathcliff, an orphan from Liverpool brought to the Moors by the father of Catherine Earnshaw, the other main character.  After the father dies Catherine's brother Linton shuns him and treats him like an indentured servant.  Heathcliff and Catherine have a complicated love affair where she marries a rich man and he becomes cruel and vindictive as a result.  The next generation on the Moors is able to overcome their hatred and be happy and the protagonists are finally reunited in death.

I first read the novel in high school.  It didn't grab me until a few years later as I sympathized with Heathcliff's struggles in a harsh landscape.  Yes he was a product of his environment where the right guidance might have produced a very different outcome.  We all struggle with these issues in life and we all need the right guidance to overcome.  The depths that this blog searches are the patterns that others might miss.  

**Related Posts**

Ambiguous Symbols in 2001:A Space Odyssey