Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear Gadsden or Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads Fahrenheit 451

There were several disturbing photos on the front page of the Gadsden Times a couple of days ago.  The images were of Gadsden Public Library director Amanda Jackson and yours truly pulling banned and challenged books off of the shelves of our library.  These books were temporarily taken out of circulation to the public and will remain out of circulation until September 23rd, which is the date of our first Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads Fahrenheit 451 program.  On September 23rd, we will put all those books back on the shelves from which they were pulled and celebrate their being released back into public circulation.  During the month that our banned/challenged books are out of circulation, any student who needs any of those books for a school assignment will be allowed to check those books out.  Otherwise, those books are not available to the general public.

Why is the GPL doing this?  That is a question that I have been asked many times in the past three days by concerned citizens who saw the photos in the Gadsden Times of the books being removed.  My answer is this:  As American citizens, we have access to, and the right to read any book that we desire at any time we desire it.  We have earned this “freedom to read” by virtue of being a democracy, a democracy that has been defended by its citizens and its armed forces for a very long time.   Our pulling of the banned and challenged books from our GPL collection for a few weeks will be inconvenient, but it will not be anything like the inconvenience that people all over the world experience every day of their lives when they are denied access to information-a denial of access to information that is not temporary.

This is an exercise in experiencing what it would be like to not have access to Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  But it is also an exercise in experiencing what it would be like to not have access to Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House On the Prairie and Martin Hanford’s Where’s Waldo.  To Kill A Mockingbird.  Webster’s Dictionary.  The Holy Bible.  All of these books have been challenged and/or banned here in the United States and all over the world.

But what the GPL is doing is just an exercise.  Next month all these books will be back on the shelves of our public library, and we will go back to living our lives the way we were living them.  But if even one person in Gadsden thinks differently about the relationship between books and reading to a healthy society, if one person in Gadsden is more willing to stand up for their Freedom to Read, if one person in Gadsden is more likely to call their local library to fight to have challenged books put back on their shelves, then we will have accomplished what we set out to accomplish for Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads.

And as for all of the folks here in Gadsden with whom I’ve spoken over the past couple of days, folks who saw the photos in the Gadsden Times and were concerned that we were removing books permanently from our collection, folks who saw the photos in the Gadsden Times were worried that something terrible was happening in their community, I want to thank you for your concerns and for your calls.  I am thankful that you noticed something was wrong and that you spoke up.  I am thankful that you were willing to stand up for your right to read and to fight to keep books on the shelves of your public library.   I am thankful for your vigilance.

Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads Fahrenheit 451 is supported by funds granted through the Freedom to Read Foundation Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund.

More on our September programs soon.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cedar Dreams

Home-made dog beds of cedar-filled pillows, fashioned from tarp cloth.  We’ve covered them in pillowcases sewn from the softest old bed sheets.  Booker sleeps on a cedar-scented field of lavender flowers, a happy forty-one-pound hamster.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Biscuit Rain

Eric and I were in the kitchen the other night, he rummaging around in the catch-all drawer while I was standing in the doorway thinking of scouring pads and abrasive cleaners, when we had one of those moments that every couple who have been together for a long time has:  one person speaks their interior monologue while the other person selectively miss-overhears what is spoken. 

Eric:  “Something, something, something…biscuit rain.”

Me (Snapping out of my trance):  “Biscuit rain?  Is that anything like acid rain, but with biscuits?”

Eric:  “I said, ‘There’s that biscuit ring.  Not biscuit rain.’”

Me (Disappointed):  “Oh.  But wouldn’t biscuit rain be cool?”

Eric:  “Polluting our atmosphere with unnaturally high levels of buttermilk?”

Yeah, he went there.  And I love him for it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Passion Flower & Its Fruit

One of the most prized possessions of the horticulture school I worked at in Golden, CO was our passion vine.  It was valued above all of the plants in the greenhouses because it was not native to Colorado and when it bloomed, it was breathtaking.  It was valued by me above all other plants in the greenhouses because it reminded me of home.

Here in Alabama, the passion vine is native and prolific.  It reaches its tendrils out to climb high and sends forth intricately layered flowers that would make a sea anemone hide its head in shame.

Our passion vine came from the ditch at my mom and dad's house, transplanted into the backyard last year only to be accidentally and unceremoniously string trimmed by my sweet mate.  I think that the violent trimming last year only made it stronger.  It has grown wildly this year and has bloomed multiple times.  And now, there is a fruit hanging from where one of the flowers wilted.  One fruit.  If we have just this one fruit, I will be happy.  And Eric and I can enjoy the thimbleful of juice together...

Friday, August 2, 2013


I’ve had the 1974 hit Come and Get Your Love by Redbone stuck in my head for three days now.  When a song embeds itself in my head for longer than a day, I have to demystify it by Googling it and looking up versions of it on YouTube.  Which is what I did two nights ago.  Which led to my discovery that the group Redbone was a Native & Mexican American band.  And that the members of Redbone chose their band name because the term redbone is historically a southern word referring to mixed blood.   And that they formed because of the encouragement of their friend, a successful guitarist of Native and African American descent…a guy named Jimi Hendrix.  And all of that is just cool.

A wonderful live version of the song here.

Now that I have exorcised the song in my head by putting it in yours, I hope that you enjoy singing it to yourself for the rest of your day.  You can thank me later.