30 Day Book Challenge: Day 24 – A Book that I Wish More People Would’ve Read

8565083 (1)15569

 

I love this book because I’m fascinated with Girl Culture, what it means to be a girl, and how our society is changing girlhood. Being a young girl today is SO much different than being a girl a few decades ago. You have to be sexy, innocent, girly, smart, stupid, everything and nothing and adfshfasd;fjaslkv;jbera;g

tumblr_inline_mq18oeo5Rv1qz4rgp

The worst part is that we’re so indoctrinated to our culture’s beliefs on how girls should look and act that we, even the most passionately feminist among us, don’t even realize what we’re doing sometimes! This book gives great insight into the problems facing young girls and how our cultural practices can either help or hurt them. Since the beginning of time, women have been subject to double standards, objectification, and a whole multitude of other crappy stuff!

tumblr_inline_ms4bwpN6Vm1qahu1s

 

In my opinion, the best place to act against misogyny is to build strong girls. (Which just so happens to be my sorority’s philanthropic mission!) We have to build girls a strong foundation so that they can deal with all the bull they’re going to encounter in the world. Then they’ll be better able to put a stop to it!

A Goodreads summary of Orenstein’s book:

The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.
Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source, the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.

But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway, especially given girls’ successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization, or prime them for it? Could today’s little princess become tomorrow’s sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality, or an unwitting captive to it?

Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she – or we – ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable; yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters’ lives.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a must-read for anyone who cares about girls, and for parents helping their daughters navigate the rocky road to adulthood.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 5: A Book that Makes You Happy

Underneath my tough exterior (who am I kidding?), I have a deep love for sweet, sweet romance. Not even the kind that you read about in paperback romance novels where the man is a duke and the woman a secret princess (I really love those too). I love romantic comedy books, even more than I love rom com movies. I think that books just offer so much more in terms of letting my swooning imagination run wild.

That is why my selection is Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot, the third and final book in the Queen of Babble series. First off, I ADORE Meg Cabot, of The Princess Diaries fame, WITH A PASSION OF A THOUSAND ETERNAL FIRES. I’ve read basically everything the woman has even written. I chose this particular book because it’s so sweet and funny and light that it never fails to make me smile. I have read the romantic scenes between Lizzie and the man she ends up with so many times, I probably have them memorized. I just love the characters.

tumblr_lqlyayyDVd1qmurjfo1_400 hitched

 

Publisher’s blurb:

Big mouth. Big heart.

Big wedding. Big problems.

It’s the wedding of the century!

Things are looking up at last for Lizzie Nichols. She has a career she loves in the field of her choice (wedding gown restoration), and the love of her life, Jean-Luc, has finally proposed. Life’s become a dizzying whirl of wedding gown fittings—not necessarily her own—as Lizzie prepares for her dream wedding at her fiancé’s château in the south of France.

But the dream soon becomes a nightmare as the best man—whom Lizzie might once have accidentally slept with . . . no, really, just slept—announces his total lack of support for the couple, a sentiment the maid of honor happens to second; Lizzie’s Midwestern family can’t understand why she doesn’t want to have her wedding in the family backyard; her future, oh-so-proper French in-laws seem to be slowly trying to lure the groom away from medical school and back into investment banking; and Lizzie finds herself wondering if her Prince Charming really is as charming as she once believed.

Is Lizzie really ready to embrace her new role as wife and mistress of Château Mirac? Or is she destined to fall into another man’s arms . . . and into the trap of becoming a Bad Girl instead?

Looking for Alaska by John Green

If you’re not familiar with John Green, you have either never been to a book store/ library or you’re incredibly lame. I feel sorry for you if either case is true. John Green has become well known in pop culture as a result of his award-winning young adult novels as well as his YouTube contributions which include video conversations between himself and his brother, Hank Green, known as the Vlog Brothers as well as the channel Mental Floss where he uses his knowledge to enlighten the masses in a fun, pithy way.

Vlog Brothers: http://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers

Mental Floss: http://www.youtube.com/user/MentalFlossVideo

In short, John Green is something of a phenomenon right now. And it all started with this book.

John Green_custom-912a0be92914ab07c29e84c0d30a871a90afa9ab-s6-c30 looking-for-alaska

Just a few awards this book has won:

  • Winner, 2006 Michael L. Printz Award
  • Finalist, 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize
  • 2006 Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults
  • 2006 Teens’ Top 10 Award
2006 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
  • A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
  • A Booklist Editor’s Choice Pick
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
  • Borders Original Voices Selection

After begging his parents to let him go, Miles Halter leaves his Florida home to travel to Culver Creek Preparatory High School where he meets a cast of characters including his roommate, Chip “The Colonel” Martin and Takumi, the school bullies, the “Weekday Warriors,” and Alaska Young, the beautiful, bipolar enigma. The students manage to get into the controversial pastimes of young adulthood like smoking, drinking, and sex- and then Alaska’s death that leads the boys to uncover her life’s mysteries and the mysteries of life.

I read Looking for Alaska when I was in high school after reading a short story Green had written that I really enjoyed. However, I had no patience for the book. I think the writing is gorgeous. I just couldn’t stand the characters. They were too brooding and needlessly “complicated” to endure.  I’m also not a huge fan of books set in prep academies. Maybe it’s because I can’t identify with the experience. Now that I’ve (in my opinion at least) matured a little, I have a new appreciation for the novel, but first, my annoyances with the book.

I have a particular pet peeve for Alaska, the girl, because she feeds into the stereotype that I see in many male-written stories. She’s the all too mysterious, unattainable, troubled, and gorgeous girl that the male protagonist pines for. She’s not real. She’s one-dimensional and a flimsy portrayal of a female character. It’s the same thing Green does in many of his books. He creates his female characters to be ideas instead of real people. I think this is dangerous because I’m not sure young readers understand the concept of the unreliable narrator. Just because the narrator views a person in a certain way doesn’t mean that is how they truly are. Green touches on this, but I worry readers won’t consider it enough.

tumblr_mq7earQ4Ke1r8062go1_500

I DID like Miles’ fascination with biographies and famous people’s famous last words. I think it guides the book in a great artistic direction. I also think the story is a fantastic one for young adults. It’s not my favorite work by Green, but I think it’s worth a read for the narration’s pure gracefulness.

tumblr_mq62wquqkG1rkmnolo1_400

Essentially: I did not personally find Looking for Alaska to be my cup of tea, but I think other people should try it because we don’t all like the same flavors of tea. Some of us like coffee or soda or just water so…  yeah…

To no one’s surprise, this book has been surrounded by controversy. To begin with, Green dared to write about anything other than teenagers behaving.  The sexually explicit scenes have been called “pornographic” and “disgusting” by concerned parents when teachers in Buffalo, New York taught the book.  Other parents have been angered over the smoking, drinking, and explicit language featured in the novel.

tumblr_mq7earQ4Ke1r8062go1_500

Green’s defense:

“Some people say, ‘You wrote a dirty, dirty book.’ But there are very old-fashioned values and even a lot of religion in it,” Green said. “There are some adults who think that the only kind of ethics that matter are sexual ethics. So they miss everything else that is going on in the book.” Green also said, “The book has never been marketed to 12-year-olds. Never. It is packaged like an adult book; it doesn’t even say it’s published by a kids’ book imprint on the cover, and it’s never shelved in the children’s section of bookstores.”

Controversy even surrounded the book’s cover art. Learn about it here:

To best sum it up, I hand the microphone to Michael Cart, former president of the Young Adult Library Services Association and former chair of the Michael L. Printz committee who says in the publisher’s discussion guide:

“There is nothing (I repeat, NOTHING) gratuitous in this book. Everything in it serves to define character, give style to voice, and develop theme.” This probably describes 95% of all books banned for similar reasons.

My opinion as a future teacher:

  1. I HATE the entire (if sometimes necessary or required) practice of book permission slips. Why don’t I just send home a piece of paper that reads, “I’m going to teach a book that challenges ideas and conventions. Please sign below if you’re ok with your child reading a novel that will expand their horizons.” It’s like a red flag for Complainer Parents.
  2. I think this would be a great novel to teach to upperclassmen in high school. I think there could be fun, rich book discussions and essay topics and writing prompts. The only issue would obviously be if there were any controversy coming from parents or my school that would prevent me from doing so.
  3. It’s IMPORTANT to read books that are controversial/ have been banned. I mean, hello! If there’s something in a book people don’t want me to read, I WANT TO READ IT. The reason people have been oppressed since the beginning of time is lack of knowledge. The best way to keep control is to manipulate people’s minds and make them think like you do, which is exactly what book-banners want. I want my students to challenge everything they know because it may be the first or only chance they get.

If you’re interested in reading from the people who disagree with my stance on censorship:

http://www.safelibraries.org/pushers.htm

Let me know either in the comments or through email if you’ve read or taught Looking for Alaska in the classroom or if you agree or disagree with my review.