24 September 2018

Banning Books Silences Stories

graphic design by SDEDM
Our stories shape the world around us, a world that is diverse and complex. Banned Books Week is a time to celebrate, preserve, and fight for freedom to tell our stories and to fight against banning books and silencing stories. 

Censoring our stories is, essentially, censoring our world: denying a perspective is denying the richness of our human experience. Right now especially, culture needs all of our voices, all of our stories. And you have the power to make sure information and stories are heard. It’s simple: read, process, and share your insights. 

Learn more:
Seek out stories and perspectives. Because, as Banned Books Week’s video “Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017” explains, 
"Often the most frequently challenged books, are the stories that need to be heard the most." 
Listening to stories (reading books) can help us glean not just perspective, but also context. Master storyteller John Green recognizes that “text is meaningless without context” in his video response to the banning of his 2005 novel Looking for Alaska (LibraryBorrow/IndieBuy).
Banning a book due to an offensive word or difficult subject doesn’t necessicarily take into account the entire story, or that being affected by a difficult or stressful story can help us learn.  John gets to the heart of an essential truth about the side effect of reading: “we are all better off with a well-informed, well-educated population.”  
In his video "On the Banning of Looking for Alaska", John goes on to express why stories are such important catalysts to understanding humanity,  
“Instead I believe books challenge and interrogate, they give us windows into the lives of others and give us mirrors so that we can better see ourselves.”


Read more:
Scientific research helps us understand that reading literature actually can help us empathize with one another. With the aid of story, we can begin to seek out and understand the intricate and complex within everyone. Julianne Chiaet's Scientific American article Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy elaborates, 
“This psychological awareness carries over into the real world, which is full of complicated individuals whose inner lives are usually difficult to fathom. Although literary fiction tends to be more realistic than popular fiction, the characters disrupt reader expectations, undermining prejudices and stereotypes. They support and teach us values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.” 
When we ban books that challenge our set ways of thinking, we close off an opportunity to become more empathetic. Raymond A. Mar and Keith Oatley's 2008 study The Function of Fiction is the Abstraction and Simulation of Social Experience dives deeper into the study of how fiction helps us coexist,
“The simulation of social experience that literary narratives afford provides an opportunity for empathic growth. It trains us to extend our understanding toward other people, to embody (to some extent) and understand their beliefs and emotions, and ultimately to understand ourselves. Fictional literature brings close attention to distant worlds that would otherwise remain unknown.”
Speak Out: Everyone can get involved: support and advocate for free speech and expression, or report challenges and injustices.

The American Library Association (ALA) created this handy pyramid chart of public, reported, and silent challenges. It's discouraging that so many challenges go unreported, but don’t let the data get you down, you can do something. Use the ALA Challenge Reporting page, become a champion for challenged books.  
And if all this information got you as fired up as us, take a second to share on social media or why not use the old-fashioned way: word of mouth. Start a converstion about why you think your favorite banned book is an important read. And ask people in your community to do the same. If you post on social media, use the hashtag #BannedBooksWeek. Give us a shout out, we're on twitter @BooksforWalls.
For a little fun, check out New York Public Library's Banned Books Quiz, test your knowledge of challenged books
While you are at it, go ahead and support your local library --visit in person or online. Find your nearest library: www.worldcat.org/libraries

21 June 2018

How to Hold Hands with the Darkness

All stories begin somewhere, they can often take us far away from where we are comfortable, sometimes the hardest part is just letting ourselves go.

In A Beginning, a Muddle, and an And: The Right Way to Write Writing Avi weaves his usual story magic, this time exploring the writing process through narrative. At one point the characters are talking about the tricks of observation, they arrive here, 
“Creatures usually only see what they are looking for.”
“Are you suggesting we should look for what we don’t see?”
“You can see more that way,” suggested Edward.
One way to observe what we can’t see is through storytelling. And listening to (or reading) stories often involves trust, trust in the storyteller, trust in another person.
“Can you really see?” She asked.
“It’s dark,” said Bod. “But I can see.”
He began to lead Scarlet down the steps, deep into the hill, and to describe what he saw to her as they went.
Bod, the main character in Neil Gaiman’s Newberry winning The Graveyard Book uses his sight to lead Scarlet into a dark and scary place, a place where his fellow five-year-old friend can see nothing at all. 

Trust, like this especially, can be quite a scary thing. Seeing from another person’s perspective sometimes is surprising because they see things differently, but it is very important to see other people’s perspectives. 

Trust in storytellers also involves some trust in darkness, which can be the beginning of many things. According to classical mythology, the universe began as Chaos and darkness, but eventually, the mayhem bore love, as Edith Hamiton's Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heros sheds light,
“From darkness and from death Love was born, and with its birth, order and beauty began to banish blind confusion.” 
A dark beginning may turn into a muddle, but from the muddle, the process, the darkness can be transformed into a kind of beauty.

And beauty can be found in the midst of chaos. Often this kind of beauty relies on a translator, a storyteller, an artist. Painter Vincent van Gogh, during his time in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole Asylum inadvertently depicted the scientifically elusive and invisible turbulence. 

TED-Ed’s video The unexpected math behind Van Gogh's "Starry Night” explores the correlation between Van Gogh’s own darkness and his ability to express the unseen, 
“in a period of intense suffering, Van Gogh was somehow able to perceive and represent one of the most supremely difficult concepts nature has ever brought before mankind[.]” 
From Van Gogh's darkness, his art; from his art, his story...





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As for stories, we urge you to take this story, process it, add your own insights, your own experiences, and then, share your story —with us, with a friend, with your journal, on social media. 

Tell a story, one of darkness, of light, of turbulence, of art, of muddles, of beginnings, or perhaps of an end.

If you do share on social media, please add the hashtag #LookWonderDiscover and we’ll look out for your story -because that’s what we do, we look, we wonder, we discover.

collaboratively written by: The Observer, The Thinker, and The Researcher

graphic art and design: The Observer