Quotations on Censorship — Revisited

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.”

                                                                   Henry Louis Gates Jr.

 

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.”

                                                                    Judy Blume

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The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society Guest Post by Amanda Cade!

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I want to thank Amanda Cade for her wonderful guest post for the ULS, The Underground Library Society. She has an excellent blog, and I hope you take the time to visit her site: Amanda Cade

Underground Library Society: The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is, without question, one of the most captivating and disturbing books I’ve ever read. I was an early reader, and by the time I was five or six years old I was spending hours each day lost in the fascinating worlds of fiction. I received books for birthdays and Christmas, made weekly trips to the school and county libraries, and was the only kid I knew who was grounded from reading instead of television when I got in trouble at home. I still read every day, and in any given week I’ll finish between two and six books, depending on how busy my life is. So the picture of a world without books was, and still is, a deeply upsetting image.

When Dr. French extended his invitation to join the Underground Library Society, I knew I had to accept immediately. There was no question that I would, in this scenario, happily memorize and preserve a book. The difficulty was in choosing one of the thousands I have read in my lifetime, one of the hundreds that have played an important part in who am and how I see the world. At first, that decision was almost paralyzing, but when the answer came, it was so obvious I couldn’t believe it hadn’t immediately occurred to me. The book I can’t imagine being lost to the world is another work by Bradbury himself: The Martian Chronicles.

When I was in junior high school, one of my English teachers selected a short story or poem every week to read aloud to the class and form the basis for discussion. Her selections varied widely in tone, content, and genre, and looking back I realize that she must have been deliberately giving us a “tasting menu” of literature, hoping we would discover something that truly captured our interest. One week, her selection was Bradbury’s story “There Will Come Soft Rains”.

I think it’s important to emphasize once more exactly how much I had read at this point in my life. I was the stereotypical bookworm, with some (well, to be honest, a lot) of difficulty on the social scene, so for years I had spent most of my spare time reading. I was already reading on a high school level, and would finish most books in a day. On a weekend, I might read five. My point is that I was very familiar with the power of a good story, and if I had been self-aware enough to wonder if one of my teacher’s stories was going to create the transcendent moment she was hoping for, I would have been skeptical at best.

So I was unprepared for the impact of this particular story. If you haven’t read it, it’s set in Bradbury’s image of a smart house, a concept that is familiar today but was a pure dream when Bradbury wrote the story in 1950. It was still a dream when I heard the story in a 1980s classroom. As my teacher read, the picture of the house, with its cheerful robot voices and pampering machines, gripped my imagination more strongly than anything I had read in a long time. You see, for all of my years of nearly obsessive reading, I had yet to explore science fiction.

Shortly into the tale, my fascination with the setting was overcome with the uneasy realization that this magical house was empty. Now there was a mystery, and as Bradbury continued to describe the house’s routine and weave in clues, the unease gave way to understanding, and then to horror. The final image was so profoundly sad and disturbing that I found myself crying…and desperate to hear the story again.

I’ve searched my memory while writing this post, and while I can recall many times since then that I have had such a profound reaction to a story, I can’t think of one prior to that Friday afternoon class. That was the day that I began to move beyond reading for pleasure and started to read for theme, for understanding, for that so often elusive emotional resonance that Stephen King describe as something that “will recur. And recur. And recur…Until it shines”.

At the end of class, I asked my teacher where I could find the story, and she simply handed me a copy of The Martian Chronicles. I started reading as soon as I got home, and finished the entire collection that same evening. I could speak at length about every story in the book, but let me simply say this: in addition to adding to my newly kindled desire for more science fiction, every story pulsed with deeper meaning. Through stories of technology, telepathy, exploration, and so on Bradbury prompted his readers to think deeply about jealousy, loneliness, relationships, bigotry, fear, perception, and so many other essential elements of the human condition.

I was enthralled. I was confused. I was disturbed, and shattered, and exhilarated, and desperate not only to read more but to understand, because for the first time in my reading experience I also truly grasped that there were messages and ideas here that were still out of my reach…and I wanted them.

The following Monday, my teacher was ready with a copy of The Martian Chronicles and a collection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, because she had guessed (correctly) that I might want to understand the context of “Usher II”. By Wednesday, I was in the library checking out every Bradbury book they had. They would take me weeks to read, and years to fully understand, but I was ready for the challenge. Within a month, I was pestering librarians to point me to more science fiction, and then to other books, in any genre, that meant something.

For me, that search for meaning and resonance continues to this day, and so The Martian Chronicles is a book that I believe we simply cannot afford to lose.

 

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An Invitation To Join The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society

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I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S.,the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. You do not actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I hope many of you choose to join.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

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Quotations on Reading

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ERA:  CIVIL WAR/BACKGROUND: SLAVERY & ABOLITIONISM

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

                                                                   Frederick Douglass

 

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

“Feelings, too, are facts. Emotion is a fact. Human experience is a fact. It is often possible to gain more real insight into human beings and their motivation by reading great fiction than by personal acquaintance.”

                                                                  Eleanor Roosevelt

 

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(https://pixabay.com)

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

                                                                  Ray Bradbury

Guest Post by Joshua Fisher for the ULS, The Underground Library Society

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I want to thank Josh Fisher for his guest post for the ULS, the Underground Library Society. Please check out his blog JDFISHER840 .

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

If for some reason, some entity decided to make books illegal, I would be hard pressed to pick but one.  I would have to pick The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.  This book is a fictional book about a squad or element that is fighting in Vietnam.

Tim O’Brien goes into many details about fighting, living and surviving in a war that he did not wish to fight in, but he did not have a choice.  The book tells numerous war stories about this controversial war.  The stories are just that, stories.

This is a work of fiction about Vietnam but it is also a book about writing and telling stories.  This book is something I will always love and will always be a book that I recommend to other people to read.

This is the book I would become.

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A Guest Post for the ULS, The Underground Library Society, by Jennie Fitzkee

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Thank you to Jennie Fitzkee for her guest post for the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society. She deals with a book that is easily misunderstood as being racist, and she details that the story is really about India and not African-Americans. It is important to make the distinction between perception of racism and actual racism, as Jennie does.  Now for her post:

In 1899 Helen Bannerman wrote a children’s book, Little Black Sambo, after she and her husband had lived in India for thirty years.  Helen was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, and she fondly remembered those years in India.  The classic story is about a little boy who outwits tigers in the jungle.  I dearly loved this story when I was a child, particularly the tigers turning into butter when they ran in circles around the tree.

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The boy’s name is Little Black Sambo, his mother is Black Mumbo, and his father is Black Jumbo.  That is perhaps (most likely) the root of controversy and the banning of this book.  Over the years people have projected the story to be about blacks in the south.  Different versions were published, even a board game.  The degradation of blacks was both sad and appalling.

 

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And so, it was banned in many places over the years.  “A typical pickaninny storybook which was hurtful to black children.”  Those were the comments and reasons for banning the book.  When I heard the story as a child, I also thought the characters were blacks from the south.

 

Fast forward to 1996.  Fred Marcellino, an artist and illustrator, read the story.  He said, “There are no racist overtones.”  And there are none.  Zero.  It’s merely the perception because of the names of the characters.  So, Fred illustrated a new edition of the book.  He did not change one word of the text.  He simply changed the names of the characters to be authentic to India – Babaji, Mamaji, and Papaji.

 

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I read this book all the time in my classroom of preschoolers.  They revel in chanting the words of the tigers.  They love the book as much as I did as a child.  We do play performances about this book.  Really!

And of course, tigers live in India, not the southern states in America.  So, shame on those naysayers and book banners.  They should have known better.

I vow to memorize the words to this classic story.

Thank you Jennie for the post, and welcome to the U.L.S.

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Guest Post for the ULS, the Underground Library Society, by Sue Clancy

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Here is a wonderful guest post by Sue Clancy for the ULS, the Underground Library Society. Please visit her site: sue clancy visual stories: fine art, artist books .

 

The Art of Life

by Sue Clancy

In a world where books were illegal the two books I would memorize, attempt to smuggle out under cover of darkness and then would recite/read from until people rolled their eyes (or killed me) are: “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” and “The Art of Color And Design” by Maitland Graves.

“Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” is the collected and illustrated stories of Dr. Bob Hoke a psychiatrist who practiced what is now known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – basically he had the idea, developed in his Emotional Repair Program, that people have the resources and the emotional strength to resolve their own problems and create emotional growth. People do not need to wait for a savior or to wait until they feel better – there are constructive, practical, actions one can take regardless of circumstances or feelings.

When I met Dr. Bob Hoke he had constructed a series of “teaching stories” as he called them that would help people think about their ways of thinking, think about their self-talk vocabulary and the rhythms of the mundane life that they were creating – and he wanted an illustrator to illustrate them for his use during his lectures. Many years later I told him I wanted to collect them into a book. He agreed – on the condition that I make it an ebook and or a very thin small printed book – he didn’t want people to be intimidated by lots of text. So, the book is about half graphic novel style illustrations.

Dr. Bob Hoke wanted cartoon illustrations because he wanted people to laugh while they learned as he believed laughter aided learning.  At that time, I was a professional cartoonist so I took on the project.  And his concepts so revolutionized my own thinking that his concepts became foundational for my own life. Including my way of approaching fine art.

Before I met Dr. Bob Hoke I had taken art classes at my local high school.  Art was taught by Jackie Faulkner who assumed that everyone taking her art class was planning to be either a professional artist or to have art as a hobby so seriously that their art activities would be listed in their obituary.  She taught us from “The Art Of Color And Design” by Maitland Graves. The book had been originally copyrighted in 1941.

The root concept in the book is that the principles of art-making/design are the basic vocabulary of art. The principles are knowable and can be learned and practiced. The principles are not mystical or magical. An art guru is not needed.  Artist’s do not need to wait for “the muse” to strike or to wait until “feeling inspired”. There are concrete steps toward learning and practicing the principles of art that can be done by anyone regardless of circumstance or momentary feelings.   

Maitland Graves writes in his introduction “In the following pages it will be demonstrated that all art, Modern, Primitive, Classical or Oriental is built on a few simple, fundamental principles of structure. This common basis is the key to understanding. It also provides a standard of comparison that makes possible a keener perception and a more intelligent appraisal of design.”

What follows in the book are pictures that illustrate the principle concepts, guided questions and exercises – suggestions of practical, technical, things to do that will help an artist at any skill level help themselves in their own artistic growth.

Later, in college, when I met Dr. Bob Hoke and learned the concept of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy I realized that Maitland Graves was – essentially – teaching Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for artists as applied to the visual arts. And the two books became bound together in my mind as essential tools for living the creative life well.

Dr. Bob Hoke says at the end of the First Aid Kit “This Emotional First Aid Program is something to “do”! It is a practical guide for creating an ongoing practice of thinking about your own thinking and creating your own regular Therapeutic Conversations with yourself! The good news about this “First Aid Kit”: When you consistently practice you will notice changes in your self and in your relationships. Start your practices in small doses and keep up your courage when you fail at first. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first! Just keep practicing.”

As it is with life so it is with art. Which is why I would memorize, smuggle and risk annoying people (or death) for the sake of these two books.

Resources:

Information about “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” can be accessed here:

https://store.bookbaby.com//bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit
“The Art of Color and Design” by Maitland Graves, copyright 1941, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc

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Thank you once again to Sue Clancy for this post!