Banned Books Week, 2020

Warning: This post gets a little inappropriate. I’m going to say some words like vagina and fuck. You’ve been warned. 

It’s that time again, my favorite bookish holiday of the year. Banned Books week!

I love this yearly reminder that we’ve got to fight for our right to freedom of expression. No surprise, it’s sort of a big deal. I like to write and read about difficult topics. Maybe you do too. Maybe you don’t, but you still think other people should be able to. Maybe you also just think books get banned for really stupid reasons and you’re just not down for censorship. 


All that being said, let’s get into the good stuff. Here’s the list of the top ten most banned books from 2019. This information is from the website If you can, please check them out and help out with a donation. 

Ten-And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole

Banned for LGBTQIA+. When are we going to stop doing this?

Nine-Harry Potter by JK. Rowling

Banned due to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells and for characters using ‘nefarious means’ to obtain goals. 

Really? Actual spells. Someone tried to come at this discussion by stating that Harry Potter has actual spells. Let me assure you, it doesn’t. What in the actual hell are these people thinking? Having known quite a few witches and Wiccans in my life and being honored to call them friends, I promise none of them are whipping up Polyjuice Potion. It’s more like, “Let’s put some herbs on this candle and light it, then pray that your grandma gets over that bad head cold. But also, here’s some cold medicine.”

Oh look, I just gave you a real spell! Scandalous! 

Eight-Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Banned for  LGBTQIA+. 

Seven-The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Banned for profanity, vulgarity and sexual overtones. 

Allegedly. I think it’s banned for putting wild ideas like freedom in people’s heads. This isn’t a good book for people who want to, I don’t know, run for a third term (fourth, fifth), suspend rights to peacefully protest, strip people of their right to vote and you know, ban books.

Six-I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Banned for sexual content and matter that is sensitive, controversial and politically charged. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we taught kids how to have a conversation about difficult topics? Just a thought. Seems like having a book as a jumping-off point would be a great tool.

But what do I know?

Five-Prince and Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Banned for, and I’m paraphrasing here, making it seem like being gay is, you know, okay. 

Four-Sex is a funny word by Cory Silverberg, Illustrated by Fiona Smyth

You know what, it is a funny word. I mean, I guess every word is funny when you think about it. Fork, pickle, card, typewriter. How do we decide these things?

Anyway, this book was banned for sexual content, LGBTQIA+ content and discussing sex education.

Our country needs sex education. Honest to goodness, there are some men who still thing women pee from their vagina. I don’t want to draw a diagram here, folks.

Three-A day in the life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Please understand that this is a book for little kids. It’s a picture book. I bought a copy for my friend’s little son. It’s a cute story about a cute bunny who happens to be gay.

But of course, that’s not okay. Why let kids know it’s okay to be who they are? Or that there might be people who are gay, and that’s okay.

Maybe we’d prefer to let people continue to force themselves into molds they were never built to fit in, then sit around and wonder why they’re breaking.

Two- Beyond Magenta: Transgender teens speak out by Susan Kuklin

Banned for its effect on any young people who would read it. What, are they afraid it would give them wild ideas about not judging people based on their gender or sex? 

One-George by Alex Gino

This one made me laugh. It’s also banned for LGBTQIA+ material. But there’s a quote here. I don’t know who said it but I wish I did. 

“Libraries should not put books in a child’s hand that require discussion.” 

Well, what the fuck do we have libraries for, then? I was pretty sure that a book was supposed to require discussion. What was the last book you read that didn’t make you ask questions? I bet it was a boring one. 

I’ll leave you now with my banned book choice of the year. This year I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. What are you reading for banned book week? Let us know in the comments below.

Why Upload Works

Why isn’t everyone talking about Upload? It’s a clever, funny show that the husband and I binged in two days. Now everyone else needs to binge it in two days.

Upload is about a man named Nathan, a computer programmer. The show starts with Nathan being in a horrible car accident. His body isn’t going to make it. So his wealthy girlfriend, Ingrid, pressures him to let his mind be uploaded into a simulated afterlife called Lake View. 

So yes, this show is about a dead man living in a computer simulation. 

Lakeview is a paradise. It’s everything you could ever want. Like a retirement village you wish you’d end up in. The rooms are amazing, the food is magnificent. You can change the weather anytime you like. You can eat, sleep, swim, love, have sex. It’s just like being alive.

Except it isn’t, not really. And Lakeview is expensive. Nathan doesn’t have the kind of money someone would need to exist there. So Ingrid is paying all the bills. She’s entirely in control of Nathan, even down to what he wears. He’s entirely at her mercy. This isn’t a great set up under the best circumstances. Then, Nathan starts falling for his handler, a woman named Nora. As his very existence depends on Ingrid’s goodwill, this is a dangerous crush.

Hilarity is sure to ensue.

So, let’s talk about why this works.

To start with, this is the rare original concept. There’s nothing else like it. While it does share some traits with other stories, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a show like it.

Now, this is hard to hold up as an example to follow. I mean, coming up with original stories is what all writers are trying to do. It’s freaking hard! As a side note, I don’t see a huge issue with retelling an old story with a fresh voice. Fairy tale retellings, quests to save the kingdom, a young woman befriending dragons. I’ll consume those stories all day long and ask for more. So long as the voice is fresh and the writer brings something new to the story, I’m going to love it.

That being said, sometimes writers use that as an excuse to play it too safe. We’re afraid to reach out to the weird. To experiment outside of set genres, or blend them in weird and new ways. Don’t be scared of this! It’s exactly what people want. 

Now, let’s take a look at the characters. At the start of the season, everyone seems like the asshole. Nathan’s wrapped up in his own tragedy, not noticing that he’s surrounded by people going through the same thing. Or worse. Let’s not forget that his mom and girlfriend watched his head get chopped right the hell off with no warning.

Ingrid, the girlfriend, is entirely an asshole. She is aware that she’s financially responsible for Nathan. And she’s not afraid to use that power to make him heel. And it’s not like he’s upset that he doesn’t have a big enough allowance. Early in the series, we find out that the people who don’t have money to pay for Lake View are called Two Gigs. They have only two gigs of data a month. When that’s gone, they can’t do anything until the next month. That’s the fate that waits for Nathan if Ingrid cuts him off. She’s not shy about threatening it.

Then there’s Nathan’s friend and partner, Jamie. He’s been letting Nathan’s calls go to voicemail since he died. There are reasons, and they have something to do with the app he and Nathan were making. The app that Nathan can’t remember anything about. 

All that being said, the characters make some really hard choices. Like, things I don’t know if I could do. 

Ingrid is having a relationship with a dead man. Even if she’s being a bitch about it, she’s actively choosing to not leave him for someone who is, you know, alive. And she’s a sexy blond with a shit ton of money. It’s not like she doesn’t have options. 

Do you remember I was talking earlier about the Two Gigs? They become a crusade for Nathan. He can’t stand that these people have nothing when it would cost nothing to give them anything. He didn’t have to care about these people. He doesn’t have anything. Not anything that’s his. But he wants them to be okay.

There are harder decisions than that, for sure. But to go into them would ruin some truly wonderful surprises. 

Sorry, I know that was super vague. But a lot of the fun from this season was the misdirection. I’m going to try to explain what I mean without ruining too much. You see, there’s a mystery in this first season. Part of Nathan’s memory is missing. Someone removed it and deleted it. That’s not spoiling much, it’s in the very first episode. This sets off a list of mysteries that gets deeper and darker. 

And it’s not what you think. That’s the great thing about this whole season. Whatever you think is going on, you’re wrong. 

Finally, let’s talk about the morals of the story. There’s always a moral, whether writers mean there to be or not. Sometimes the moral is hidden, soft like a whisper. Sometimes it smacks you in the face like a dead fish. You didn’t need it, didn’t want it, and it smells rotten.

Sometimes it smacks you in the face like a cold wave in the ocean. It’s undeniable and it’s cleansing. That’s how the moral was here. I’m pretty sure you can guess it, just based on this post.

There was a lot to love about Upload. A lot to learn too. Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below. 

Want to know why another show, movie or book works? Suggest it in the comments.

Why Mexican Gothic works

So often I’m behind on my reading list. But not this time! This book came out this year, and I got to read it!

Well, listen to it. I got the audiobook because I just have more time to listen than to read. 

On one hand, I wish I had read it. It was such a delicious story, the thought of spending hours with the book in hand, sipping tea while rain pelted my windows and I was lost in a gothic castle is fantastic. On the other hand, hearing the story read by Frankie Corzo was a treat. She did a fantastic job, especially jumping from accents and characters. 

The story starts simple enough. A young socialite, Noemi, gets a frantic letter from her cousin. She goes to check on her, at her father’s request.

When she arrives, she finds a cold, dark castle better suited for Transylvania than Mexico. It’s inhabited by a family of depressing English, old aristocracy whose money is all gone. It appears clear soon that Catalina, Noemi’s cousin, was only brought here for her money.

But it’s hard to suss that out, as she’s not in her right mind. The family keeps the two girls away from each other most of the time, leaving Noemi to wander around the castle and the graveyard. 

In doing so, she finds out more and more about family secrets. Secrets that are doing their damndest to wrap around her neck and strangle her.

There’s a great amount of symbolism that I only realized in hindsight. The story is about two young women trapped in a castle. But it’s also about an older generation that refuses to let go. Old ways, old customs, old hatreds. Especially old ignorance. It festers and grows, infecting younger generations who are struggling to break free from this toxic behavior. This is met by a younger generation that wants to escape, evolve. But they’re trapped by the needs and traditions of those who have come before them. Who refuses to leave, no matter the price.

All of this is wrapped up in the story of a haunted house. Something is creeping in the corners and shadows. Something haunting Noemi’s dreams. Something that seems to be driving Catalina mad.

Woven among this story, is a love story between Noemi and Francis, the youngest son of the family. It blends through brilliantly and seems like a natural process. The book wouldn’t have been half so good without it.

Sylvia Moreno-Garcia is one of those authors that makes you add all of her books to your to-read list as soon as you finish one. The story was classic and clever. It was nestled in a haunted house story that we’ve read a hundred times, with a new twist I didn’t see coming. I loved every second of it.

Have you read Mexican Gothic? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below. 

September 11, 2020. Looking back after 19 years

Today’s cover art is from F<a href="http://Image by <a href="">Frank Nürnberger</a> from <a href="">Pixabayrank Nurnburger.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to write this. I actually forgot that this anniversary was coming up if you can believe that. Maybe someone who forgot shouldn’t be the same person writing about one of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil. I’m not the voice of my generation. Hell, I’m barely a voice of my generation. This day, this anniversary doesn’t mean as much to me as it does to someone who lost somebody on September 11, 2001. 

But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t mean something. If it’s not a moment that I’ll never forget. 

It was the first time I understood that there was a world outside of my little town. My little high school. My little life. Some people hated enough to kill. Some people believed so strongly in that hate that they were willing to give their lives for it.

Now, at thirty-four, I’m well aware of this. We see it every damned day, don’t we? The domestic terrorist attacks far outweigh those from outside forces. We’re all scared, all worried. 

It’s hard not to feel lost, in moments like this. I thought, foolishly, that maybe our country would rally together because of the attack on the Trade Center. I’d hoped that we’d get over our name-calling and work together to be better people. Now, lacking any real leadership, we’re more divided than ever. We can’t agree on basic facts. Can’t even all get on the same page about wearing a damned mask to keep each other safe? Can’t even agree that maybe police shooting unarmed citizens is, you know, a bad thing.

I’m sad today, and I guess that’s coming out. I’m angry, too. We lost lives on September 11, 2001. Families who weren’t even able to bury the bodies of their loved ones lost more than I can imagine. People, vultures, have made money from this. So we have a right to be sad, and angry. 

But the worst thing about it. The thing that makes me furious, is that we are where we are. We didn’t come together, we didn’t learn to think of each other before we think of ourselves. It’s been nineteen years, and we don’t act like a nation that cares about each other. 

Too few people vote.

Too few people get involved in their local politics.

Too few people are informed about what’s going on around them.

Too few people care about the protestors fighting for all of our rights.

Too few people care that Flint Michigan still doesn’t have clean water. 

Too few people care that we are cooking the planet.

Now look, I know that is all freaking depressing. I get it, I wrote it. I largely wrote it in a fit of deep melancholic depression It had to be said because it’s the reality of where we are right now and we have to face it.

We have to face it because we have to now rise above it. Please, God, let us rise above it. 

Let’s all take care of each other. Let’s wear our masks. Let’s call a friend who isn’t feeling great. Let’s vote, and understand who and what it is we’re voting for. Let’s give to worthy causes when we can. Let’s volunteer at the polls if we’re able. Let’s raise our voices and speak for those who need help. Let’s reach out a hand and help them. Let’s write songs and make art that brightens people’s day. Let’s get pissed off because we should be pissed off. Let’s take today and use it to remember what we can be as a country. And let’s never stop working toward that.

If you have a good story, please share it below. If a neighbor helped you out, or you just got some good news, we’d all love to hear it. Let’s take this day, use what we have, and start building the country we want to live in.

No one is going to build it for us. 

The Boys, Season Two

Let’s see, I watched Frozen II and the first three episodes of The Boys season two. Which one should I talk about?

Yeah, let’s talk about The Boys.

At its core, the story is about a man named Huey, doing what he can to make the world a better place. He’s trying to do that by systematically taking down a corrupt group of superheroes who routinely abuse their power to rape and murder as they please.

This season starts with everyone pretty much in hiding. Butcher, the man who recruited Huey to start with, is missing. The rest of the team is in hiding because they’re wanted for several murders. A few of which they actually committed.

Meanwhile, the superhero group known as The 7 is trying to fill its ranks. They’re down two people. One was killed (by Huey). One, The Deep, was removed from the team for being a borderline rapist.

The newest team member is named Stormfront. Let me share with you an actual discussion I had with the darling husband over this character.

Me: She seems cool.

Him: Stormfront is a Nazi group.

Me: Yeah, but it’s also a weather thing. Maybe they don’t know it’s a Nazi group. 

Him: They’re making her too likable. She’s saying all the right things. You’re going to regret liking her. 

Spoiler, he was right. 

The writers, as always, did characters right. None of the characters on either side of this battle are all good or all bad. It’s all shades of gray. Everyone’s relatable. 

Like Homelander. Let’s talk about Homelander. Because he has got some really clear and apparent mental issues.

He’s a narcissist. And you’ve probably heard that a lot. But most people don’t understand what a real narcissist is. It’s not just that they love themselves. They don’t see others as less than human. It’s that they see everyone else as human, but themselves as something better than, bigger than. Narcissists often don’t like themselves because they think they should be more. They should be better. 

Homelander thinks that. He also thinks that everyone else should listen to him, should care about him before everyone and everything else. He expects that Mave, Starlight and everyone else around him will love him the most. Even as he doesn’t love anyone.

What’s scary is when someone like that finds someone they think should be their equal. This happens when Homelander finds that he has a son.

This is his son, his heir. This little boy, named Ryan, should be just as good as Homelander. Just as strong, just as fantastic. Also, just as obsessed with him like everyone else.

This is horrifying, and it leads to exactly the sort of horrifying reactions that one might expect. 

Homelander is terrifying. He’s not to be trusted around anyone, least of all people he loves. I think that’s the scariest thing. Normally a villain will attack and hurt people he doesn’t like or doesn’t care about. The people that they love live in a happy bubble of safety. Think of President Snow’s granddaughter in The Hunger Games. He’s not mean to that kid. He loves her with all his heart, like any good grandfather. She has nothing to fear from him.

But Homelander has murdered people he loved. He’s missed them, mourned them, and not regretted it for one bloody second. 

This show is emotionally crippling in that way. I want Homelander to suffer but also I feel really bad for him. 

Now, let’s talk about the structure of the episodes so far. Rather than release the whole season at once, or putting out one episode a week, Amazon has decided to release the first three episodes, then one a week from now until the end of the season.

This is brilliant, and more shows should do it.

Releasing the first three episodes allows the audience to binge them. To get into the story and have the stage set. This is invaluable with a story like this. Because it’s not the episodic stories from our past, where you could pick up just one random episode of a show, you need to be neck-deep in the story. Giving three episodes allows the audience to get the foundation of the story.

I hope you get a chance to watch The Boys, season two. I’ll probably do a season wrap up when it’s all over. So post your predictions below in the comments. Let’s experience it together. Because so far, it’s been a hell of an experience.

We don’t get to know every story

I just finished listening to a wonderful podcast. If you want to read my review about it, click here to go to Haunted MTL. 

I won’t talk a lot about it here. What I will say is that some stories in this podcast weren’t finished. Some questions were left after the last episode. 

These questions will haunt me. I’ll come back to them every so often, and wonder what happened. What’s the story I didn’t get to hear?

I can tell you that I’ll remember because I already have those questions from other works of fiction I’ve loved in the past. I also have these questions from living in a world with other people.

This is something often overlooked in fiction. But it’s something we’ve all experienced.

Think of the coworker you lost touch with. The one who was having that trouble with her mother. How did that turn out?

What about the couple you heard whispering about their relationship at Denny’s? Are they still together? 

Here’s one of mine. I was out for a walk on Main Street, many years ago. A woman I’d never met before stopped me. She asked me if her makeup was okay. I looked her over and was able to truthfully tell her she was fine. She said, “Thanks because I’m fucked up right now and I need to go to work.”

I’ll never know what happened to her after that. Did she keep her job? Did she often go to work hammered? Why was she going to work in that state to begin with? Questions upon questions, that I will never have the answer to. 

I was probably the topic of one such story. Hell, I’m probably the topic of a lot of these kinds of stories. I moved around a lot as a kid and wasn’t very good at keeping in contact with people. But this one is funny.

I had to go downtown in the middle of the night. I don’t mean like 11:30 or so. I’m talking like four in the morning. I was meeting a friend of mine who was going to give me a ride out of town. It was a whole work-related thing. I had to go to a conference. It was a whole thing, but nothing shady. But it did involve me walking downtown at for in the damned morning with my little purple suitcase.

A man was walking toward me. No idea why he was out there. But I’m sure that I was a more confusing sight than he was. 

He stopped, and asked, “Honey, are you okay?” 

I assured him that I was fine, and continued on my way. So to the nice man who saw me in the middle of the night and worried about me, I’m okay. Thank you for worrying. 

These stories prevail in our lives, but they’re not as common in fiction. And I can see why, for the most part. It’s not as satisfying to have these questions. It’s far more satisfying, more rewarding, to know how the story plays out. We all like a mystery, but we like more the mysteries that can be solved. 

Not always, though. I’m among many who watch Unsolved Mysteries and BuzzFeed Unsolved. I sort of love stories that don’t have a satisfying ending. Stories that are real, that we’ll never know.

It’s the very questions that keep the story alive in our minds. Think of things like the story of the Romanov Princess, Anastasia. Did she survive the murder of her family? Did she live in secret until the end of her days? And what about the Keddie cabin murders? Who did that? 

These things haunt people. They are kept up at night wondering about them. Most people aren’t kept up at night, worrying about an answer. Though I could think of some answers that would elicit that response.

Take caution with this advice, though. You should be giving answers to most of your story’s questions. I’ll never forgive certain podcasts for having no end, not as long as I live. Please, unless you want people to find you and express their displeasure, give your story a satisfying ending.

But don’t be afraid to leave some things unanswered. The man your character meets at a bar, wishing he could see his mom. The friend from college who dropped off the face of the planet. The dog that steals someone’s dinner at a restaurant and runs out before anyone can catch him. These things bring up all sorts of questions that don’t necessarily need answers.

This isn’t to say that these things won’t impact your story. These are things that happened to your character. If they happened, and if you took the time to write them down, then they should have an impact on the story. Your character should be touched by this, make a different decision about her mother or dog or college roommates.

In short, some mysteries aren’t there for your audience to solve. They’re there to have an impact on your character. 

So what do you think? Are there any mysteries that still haunt you? Let us know in the comments below. 

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