Book Beat: Alias Grace Fairies and Banned Books Week

Hi book lovers! Ashley here again! The most exciting thing I read this week were the corporate policies I have to edit at my new internship, sigh. It’s during the fall that I curse myself for not taking advantage of leisurely reading in the summer. For example, this weekend I missed my local Word on the Street festival because I had a family wedding. The Canadian based festival is a non-profit organization that celebrates Canadian writing, reading and literacy through the annual outdoor event in Toronto, Halifax, Kitchener, Lethbridge, and Saskatoon. I’ve attended in previous years and urge you to go if you’re in Canada! Luckily I did get to see lots of pictures from the people who went this year… mostly of the amazing book deals!

Margaret Atwood & Adaptations

I saw a quote, I think in a tweet, that summed up how I feel about Margaret Atwood: she is not just a Canadian/worldwide literary titan, she is a brand. And wow, is her brand selling. It was easy to predict that The Handmaid’s Tale would be a success; the iconic book about women’s and human rights is a classic, but in a world where abortion rights and LGBTQIA rights are still being fought for, the book and its adaptation were timely and thus resonated with audiences. In fact, just this September, pro-choice protesters in Ireland wore the infamous white bonnets and red cloaks to protest the draconian abortion laws in the country. So yeah, her messages are still relevant.

Tweet of Pro-Choice Protestors in Ireland dressed like Handmaids in the white bonnets and red cloaks standing in protest with heads bowed
Tweet about pro-choice protesters in Ireland dressed like Handmaids

The book fairies are at it again in Canada, hiding copies of Atwood’s book Alias Grace across the country with a note from the Canadian literary queen herself! Based on the true story of a young Irish immigrant convicted of the murder of her rich employer, the book will be adapted into a six hour miniseries by Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley. You can read more about the adaptation here and about what inspired Atwood to write the book over at CBC.

Dangerous Reading

Speaking of rights, it’s Banned Books Week! The annual campaign celebrates the inherent right to read as upheld by the First Amendment (for my American friends). Statistics show that there was actually a 17% increase in book censorship complaints in 2016. Interestingly, a good portion of the top ten challenged books of last year consisted of YA fiction, illustrated narratives, and books that feature LGBTQIA characters. This includes books about real people, like I Am Jazz, the biography of trans teenager and YouTuber Jazz Jennings. The list also includes books I didn’t expect. Looking for Alaska by John Green has been challenged because of a sexually explicit scene. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, which I cherished when I first read it, has also been banned due to offensive language.

So clearly there’s a trend. The books that celebrate, include and uplift diverse stories are consistently being challenged. Aren’t books supposed to be a wonderful pathway to seeing actual representation, to finding yourself in books, to teaching the new generation that there can be acceptance and diversity in the world? It’s such an unfortunate situation. You can read more about the ten books and the outrage both in defense and against them at The Guardian. You can also test your own knowledge of banned books with a New York Public Library quiz.

Happy Thursday and Happy Banned Books Week!


Editor’s Note: Original Featured Image is the 2016 Banned Books Week Logo
Ashley Ash

Ashley Ash

Ashley is a proud Torontonian, third year social worker student, full time child advocate and national award winning writer. She will defend Anakin Skywalker and Jon Snow till she dies.