Banned Books are the Best Kind

Banned Books Week was last week, September 21 through September 27, and I love that we have a whole week set aside to celebrate the freedom to read. Freadom, if you will. (I stole that from someone else, so don’t hold me accountable to the cheesiness.)

Reading takes you on adventures. Reading teaches you about good and evil, about who you are, about how people think. You cheer for the good guys, boo the bad guys, or you’re confused because you suddenly realize when you’re reading Lord of the Flies in your senior lit class that good and evil are messy, blurry things, and the world is not clear cut. When you read “The Awakening,” you’re puzzled and confused and maybe annoyed because, What the heck, lady?, but when you look back on it again when you’re 24, you suddenly understand a bit more about what Kate Chopin was talking about, and you applaud the strength it must have taken to hurl those words into a world where they would assuredly be rejected and scorned.

We have to keep reading them.

When we ban books and deem them “unreadable,” we ban ideals. We ban education. We ban questions. We ban learning from our mistakes. We ban open-mindedness. We ban words, and when we ban words, we ban the power and ability to grow and change and better ourselves.

It’s interesting that all this hubbub in Jefferson County in Colorado has reached its head during this week, too, because as it turns out, censorship can affect what we learn in the classroom beyond the literature we read. In case you haven’t heard, a woman in JeffCo wants to alter the AP history curriculum to put the United States in a “more positive” light—which is the politically correct manner of stating that she wants to lie to make America look better than we really are. Thankfully, students and teaching are rising up against that, calling for honesty in the classroom. I am sad that this idea to manipulate curriculum came from my home state, but I am so proud to see the reactions against it are also from my fellow Coloradoans. Read more about the JeffCo issue here. (Check out Twitter, too, because there are some funny hashtag conversations going down. #jeffcoschoolboardhistory)

But I digress.

When I was in about 4th or 5th grade, I was avidly reading the Harry Potter series—I mean, I could hardly put it down. I have a picture of me with some of my extended family and I wouldn’t even put the book down to take the picture. I was cradling it in my arms. My mom decided to read it, too, to see what it was all about because Focus on the Family was implying it would turn my generation into a bunch of satan-worshipping drones.

My mom actually found a lot of good in the books. Good triumphing over evil. A down-to-earth, hesitant “chosen one” becomes a hero through sacrifice, friendship, trust, and love. Friends look out for friends. Family sacrifices for each other. Evil fails because it lacks love. Good succeeds because they have love.

I am thankful that I grew up in a household that gave me the freedom to read books that were challenging, mature, and good. They are part of who I am. I’m not afraid of ideas that challenge or contradict me anymore. How many wonderful lines would have not been highlighted in chapter books. How many pages would have no annotations. How many journal entries about quotes and themes and characters would never have been written if I hadn’t grown up in a home where books were never banned and were always embraced.

Here are some of my favorite banned/challenged books, in case you’re looking for some good books to read!

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    “I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
    “Maybe there is a beast … Maybe it’s only us.”
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin
    ”The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.”
  • Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness. Nothing more.”
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
    ”So, I guess we are who we are for alot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
  • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
    “It seemed funny that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
    “I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be.”
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
    “I’m more than just a piece in their Games.”
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
    “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
    “Murderers are not monsters, they’re men. And that’s the most frightening thing about them.”
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    “Let the wild rumpus start!”
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
    “They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others.”
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
    “I told him I believed in hell, and that certain people, like me, had to live in hell before they died, to make up for missing out on it after death, since they didn’t believe in life after death, and what each person believed happened to him when he died.”
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
    “She comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy.”
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

What are some of your favorite banned or challenged books?

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enjambment.

(1.)

Sad eyes,
haunt me
no longer.
Will I love you
like the autumn wind
and a spring rain?
There is nothing between us
but the break
of winter.

(2.)

Sad eyes
haunt me.
No longer
will I love you
like the autumn wind
and a spring rain.
There is nothing between us
but the break
of winter.

(3.)

Sad eyes
haunt me.
No longer
will I love you.
Like the autumn wind
and a spring rain,
there is nothing between us
but the break
of winter.

on yoga, worship, headstands, and being brave.

*Originally written earlier this year.

——–

This week I am keeping track of the brave moments.

/

Putting yourself out there is painful.

Your heart leaks out words. You take a stand. You express yourself. You press publish, and you wait, or you speak up and are met with silence.

Breathe in, breathe out. What will they say? Think? Feel?

Sometimes the hardest part of the waiting is the never hearing anything back.

You fling out parts of yourself, and no one seems to notice.

Breathe in, breathe out. Open up, let it out. Wait. And don’t forget to keep breathing.

//

Some Sunday mornings I am given the opportunity to lead the congregation in worship for a couple songs. I would be lying if I said I didn’t love it because I absolutely do. I love every beautiful, terrifying moment.

But it is utterly exhausting.

I’m standing in an open field–no trenches, barracks, or shields–and I’m raising my flag. Showing my colors.

Worship is an outcry of the heart, and each person I’ve ever met worships in a different, beautiful, powerful, amazing, unique way. Hands lifted high, hands in your pockets, eyes closed, eyes opened, I don’t care. No matter what you physically do, it’s your heart that’s talking.

So leading a congregation in worship to me feels like vomiting my heart all over them.

To be that open and vulnerable with a church full of people is terrific and tiring and beautiful and one of the scariest things I do on a regular basis—and not because of stage fright.

While I’m singing, while I’m raising my hands or hanging them at my side or closing my eyes or opening them or smiling or not, there is no fear there. There is stability and strength and joy. There is me, all of me, and Jesus, all of Jesus.

But the minute I have to step off the stage, I feel unsteady because I realize I was out in the open. All of me.

They’ve seen who I am, and they can now do with it what they will, feel about it what they will. I did not perform it. I did not perfect it. I didn’t even touch up the rough parts.

Some Sundays, I shake and I quiver as soon as the service is over. My eyelids flutter uncontrollably sometimes, but I try not to fidget. Sometimes my hands tremble, or my leg twitches. It’s a release of so much of who I am–emotions, anxiety, stress, joy, sadness.

Oh my. I think. I just let them see all of that?!

I let them see my heart, and I revealed emotions and devotion and love, and I wonder, what do they think of that? Anything at all?

“Breathe in, breathe out. Be brave,” I wrote in my notebook. “Reach inside, grab the heavy things, the thoughts about their thoughts, the fears about their thoughts, and toss them out. Release them.”

And so I breathed in, breathed out, reached, released. Because I’m worshipping and I’m loving God with all I am, and it’s some form of art and heart that I’m sharing with people, and that is something worth sharing.

Breathe in, breathe out.

///

Today I did a headstand for the first time since I began yoga and Pilates. I used no wall for support. It was just me, head on the ground, cradled by clasped fingers and sweaty palms, a yoga mat, and legs in the air.

Yoga really is all about the breath. They’re not lying when they tell you that. It’s not about beauty, brawn, or even brains. Guts and breath.

Breathe in. Reach my toes into the mat. Grasp, steady, ground, cling for a moment.

Breathe out. Be brave. Know that you can topple over, fall, fail. Do it anyway.

Breathe in again. Grasp what you know. Right leg in the air, toe pointed to your goal: high.

Breathe out again. Release, push, press. Left leg up in the air, not too quick but not too slow. Committed. Balanced.

Breathe in, breathe out. Stillness, balance, breath, core-shaking quiet.

When I came back down, I was refreshed. I have wanted to do a headstand unsupported for years, but I’ve always been afraid. I cannot commit. I prepare myself for the stand, I lift my right leg in the air, and when I push off the floor, I find a way to push myself back down.

C’est la vie.

Today I was brave enough to commit, which really means I was brave enough to fall.

And when I tried a headstand again, I did fall (sideways, too, all contorted–who knows how someone can fall incorrectly, but I did) because I forgot to breathe in and out with confidence.

I smiled when I whacked my foot on the coffee table because I realized: the falling was not nearly as bad as the fear of falling.

I know now that I can’t forget the breath. It’s all about the breath. Headstands, worship, vulnerability, perseverance. Life. It’s all about the breath and what you do with it.

Breathe in, breathe out. Both legs in the air. Steady your core, find your ground. And when your legs want to push you back down, you breathe in (reach) and breath out (release) the fears and the shaking and the hesitancy, and you just commit.

You will come back down when you’re good and ready to come back down, and you’ll either fall or you’ll fold gracefully, and that’s the truth.

five minute friday | because

Oh, I haven’t written in ages, and there’s an ache within. Here’s my hurling of words in an attempt to get the juices flowing again because lately it’s just been a matter of getting through the days and sleeping through the nights the best I can.

“You don’t have to make something that people call art. Living is an artistic activity, there is an art to getting through the day.”
Viggo Mortenson

[start]

Because even when life is hard, it is so, so good.

That’s why I get up every morning, even on the worst days.

Because the Lord sustains me.

That’s how one foots moves in front of the other, even when it hurts.

Because I have dreams and aspirations.

That’s why I keep trying even when I am terrified of royally screwing up.

Because even when life is hard, it is so, so good.

There are times when life takes it all out of me, and when the rough days end, and I throw on a baggy shirt and sweat pants, and I curl up in bed and sigh, wishing I were stronger. Heartier. Steadier. Smarter, prettier, healthier, kinder, less selfish, less anxious, more ready, more prepared.

Why do I even bother?

Because even when life is hard, it is so, so good.

When you wake up in the morning after a restless night, and you have bags under your eyes, a pit in your stomach, and a quake and quiver in your bones, there is something so good and beautiful about choosing to keep on going anyway. When you look yourself in the tired eyes and say, “You will get through today anyway,” that’s your because. That’s your answer to why do I even bother.

Why do I even bother? Because even when life is hard, it is so, so good.

When you drive into work and you’re running late and you hit every red light, and you get to work and everything is going wrong, and you’ve said the wrong thing to your boss and your coworkers just want you to get your shit together, but you can’t because it’s just one of those days, weeks, months, years, and you can’t catch a break, and your bills are late, and you’ll be paying off your student loans until your kids have their own student loans, and dammit, this headache is killing me, there is something lovely and true and empowering about sneaking into the bathroom during your lunch break and reminding yourself, “You can do this. You will get through this. This too shall pass,” and then walking out and just doing the very best you can.

Because even when life is hard, it is so, so good because the beautiful things come out of the mire and the muck, the shit, the mud, the dirt and soil, the digging and planting and sowing and harvesting and the hands that get dirty in the process.

So why do you even bother?

Because.

*Honesty moment: I went longer than 5 minutes, so sue me.


Every Friday, join the blogosphere for five minutes of free-writing on a single-world prompt, and watch where the Muse takes you. Find out more about Five-Minute Fridays here.