This year’s Banned Book Week is focusing on the diversity of authors and ideas that have prompted a disproportionate share of challenges. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom estimates that more than half of all banned books are by authors of color or ones that represent groups of viewpoints outside the mainstream. As a result, this week we will be sharing some reviews of our favorite banned books that fit this category.

The ALA’s website has a list of Frequently Challenged Books with Diverse Content and another list of Most Frequently Challenged Books Written by Authors of Color 1990-1999. Check out these lists for suggestions of books to read that fit into this year’s theme.

This first day we will be looking at a couple graphic novels that frequently make this list: Habibi by Craig Thompson, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. There are many other graphic novels that have been banned and frequently challenged, but we’re just focusing on these three today. (Stay tuned and you may see more later this week!)

habibiHabibi by Craig Thompson frequently finds itself on the top ten list of most frequently challenged books. In fact, this graphic novel is number 8 on the top ten list of 2015. Habibi is frequently banned for reasons of nudity, sexually explicitness, and unsuited for age group. The challenging and banning of this graphic novel deprives readers of this intense story of love and relationships, more specifically the commonalities found between Christianity and Islam, as well as an examination of the cultural divide present between first and third worlds.

Habibi tells the story of Dolola, a young girl sold into marriage to a scribe who teaches her to read and write. She is captured by slave traders, but escapes, taking with her an abandoned toddler. They take refuge in an abandoned boat in the desert for the next nine years where Dolola teaches Zam how the world works by telling him stories from the Qur’an and the Bible.  They are separated and fight for the next six years to get back to each other.

persepolisPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi did not make the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2015 list, but it still made the longer list. It was #2 on the 2014 list. Persepolis is frequently banned for the following reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, graphic depictions, and for being politically racially, and socially offensive.

Persepolis is a cultural eye-opener, a story that shows that the grass is not always greener on the other side, no matter your life circumstances. This graphic novel centers around the Islamic revolution and tells the story of Marjane’s childhood in Tehran. Growing up in a country in the midst of political upheaval means that her public life and her private life constantly contradicted each other. Her free-thinking family gives Marjane the strength to find herself even though her youth was formed during such a tumultuous time.

fun-homeFun Home by Alison Bechdel, just like the previous two graphic novels, is a frequent flyer on the challenged list. This graphic novel is frequently challenged for violence and other graphic images. The reason Fun Home finds itself as one of our diverse banned book selections is because of the subject matter.

Fun Home is Bechdel’s childhood autobiography. She tells the story of her closeted gay father, a man who was an English teacher and the owner/operator of the local funeral home. His secrets overshadow the lives of everyone else in the family, throwing Bechdel’s emerging womanhood and her homosexuality as a side player in the drama of his life. In her early teens, he goes to court over his relationship with a young boy while his death, most likely a suicide, trumps her coming out. This book is full of death, suicide, homosexuality, family strife, tragedy, desperation, violence, and other graphic images that make Fun Home a key player on the banned/challenged book list each year.

Check back tomorrow for more banned books!

BlackScience_vol1-1Across an alien landscape, two people in space suits race for safety. At each turn, they are thwarted. The woman is killed, but the man runs on, clutching a container, cursing himself for his mistakes, his obsessions, that have brought him – and his family – here. A race against time, it seems, to reach the Pillar before it is too late.

This breathless scene opens Rick Remender’s Black Science. Grant McKay, our narrator, does make it back to the Pillar, moments before it jumps. Along with Grant are is two children, teenaged Pia and younger Nathan, his five (now four)-person team of scientists and the man who bankrolled the project. We learn that Grant and his team have done the impossible – punched through the barriers between the multiverses’ dimensions, allowing humans to travel to new dimensions not only to explore, but also to exploit, possibly finding the keys to preserving our species. The method is called black science, and the Pillar is the tool. But the tool has been sabotaged, and now it and its passengers have no control over when or to where they will jump.

Grant laments his hubris and his recklessness for taking his children and his team with him on the first manned jump throughout the story. Each new dimension is as strange as the next, dumping the team into war and circumstance that are truly alien. There appears to be no way of repairing the Pillar, and now that the multiverse has been breached, nothing is certain, especially survival.

Remander’s (Uncanny Avengers, Fear Agent) novel moves at a frenetic pace, the art is both stark and riotously vivid. It harkens back to the era of pulp science fiction with non-stop action and lurid details. With three more volumes already published, this is a great choice for anyone looking for a true science fiction adventure. Fans of “The Venture Bros.,” will enjoy this considerable darker series (and the close similarity Grant McKay bears to a certain winged super-villain).


miss you alreadyCertain movies tug at your heart strings and leave you pulling for every character to get their happy ending. Miss You Already, starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, had me rooting for their friendship to stay strong and last through whatever they faced.

Miss You Already is a very powerful story that follows two best friends, Milly and Jess, through life’s many challenges. The two have been friends since childhood and have lived through many secrets, pregnancies, boyfriends, weddings, and sharing of clothes. Inseparable for as long as they can remember, both Milly and Jess are certain their relationship can survive anything. A trip to the doctor hits Milly with life-altering news, something that sincerely tests their friendship, as well as Milly’s relationship with her husband and Jess’s relationship with her husband. Everything is flipped upside down as Milly and Jess forge out a new path through their shared lives and find that even though life throws you curveballs, true friendship will last forever.

heads in bedsHave you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of hotels? What the front desk attendant, concierge, bellman, or housekeeping person is thinking as they check you in, follow you around, or clean up your room? Having spent a fair number of my summer vacations in hotel rooms, I was curious as a child what these people actually did at work and what they thought of everyone they came in contact with on a daily basis. Lucky for me, I found just the book to ease my curiosity: Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality.

Heads in Beds is written by Jacob Tomsky, a pseudonym the author adopted to keep his anonymity since he was, and is still, a member of the hotel industry at the time this book was released. Every hotel he worked for, as well as every person he worked with and each hotel guest, has a pseudonym, allowing Tomsky to go into great detail about everything that happens behind the scenes of hotels.

This book is a hilarious ride through Tomsky’s journey from a valet to manager to front desk attendant. Want to know how to get an upgrade? Tomsky tells you. How to get a late check out? Tomsky again. What about those pesky mini-bars and in-room movie fees? Tomsky knows all about those. He is full of tips and tricks about how to make the most out of whatever hotel stay you’re experiencing. Check out this book for glimpses into the inner workings of the hospitality business, what valets really do in your car, what goes on in empty rooms, and even why you should never turn down a bellman’s help.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Burntburnt is a comedy drama telling the story of Adam Jones, a chef in Paris who lost everything because of drugs and alcohol. Adam was a two-star Michelin chef at a restaurant in Paris, known as an incredible chef who spent his days working on creating recipes that exploded with flavor in your mouth. He strove to NOT be consistent and to be different every time he cooked.

After a disastrous blowout at his restaurant and an abrupt disappearance from Paris, Adam puts himself on a self-imposed three year exile in New Orleans. Once he feels he has paid his a-million-oyster-shucking penance, he moves to London, looking up old friends from when he worked in Paris and hustling to get a job as a head chef in a fine-dining restaurant.

Adam desperately wants to get that elusive third Michelin star. In order to do so, he must find a restaurant willing to hand over the reigns to him. Working to make his dream come true, Adam scours London looking for the best chefs and restaurant people to have at his side as he works on recipes and designs a menu to his standards. The people Adam meets force him to confront issues from his past, as well as force him out of his cooking comfort zone. This movie is full of second chances and redemption as Adam works to overcome his reputation and reach for that third Michelin star.

cruisingthroughthelouvreAre you someone who enjoys art? Or maybe you are one of those who feels like you don’t know much about art, but would be interested to learn more if your interest was piqued in just the right way. Consider yourself piqued.

I think you may enjoy taking a vicarious walk through one of the world’s most famous museums. Notwithstanding the hour of the day (past museum hours? no problem!) or the number of miles between you right now and the Louvre in Paris, you can do just that by reading the book Cruising Through the Louvre by David Prudhomme.

The book is a vehicle that, while telling a brief but entertaining story about human behavior in relation to art in graphic novel form, highlights just some of the 70,000 works of art in the Louvre. You can even catch your glimpse of them without having to pay admission (library cards are free, after all!) or navigate through any of the 8.8 million annual visitors. Although, if you like people-watching that may be the best part of all. Fortunately, Prudhomme recognizes that and manages to create characters arguably as interesting as the works of art they visit.

Sound like a good deal? Then I implore you to check this book out! When you read it please tell me what you think of the ending. It has a strange twist that I think lends itself to multiple interpretations.

i hate fairylandI Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young is a twist on the classic fairytale. This volume begins by introducing readers to Gertrude, aka Gert, a six year old who wishes she could go to a magical world full of fun and magic and laughter. Her wishes are granted and she is sucked down into Fairyland. Once there, Gertrude wishes she could go home. Queen Cloudia gives Gert a map of all of Fairyland that she has to follow in order to find a key that will open up a door back to her world. This whole process should only take her about a day and she’ll be back home with her parents.

Flash forward 27 years and Gert is still stuck in Fairyland. Scooting around Fairyland with her guardian, she’s stuck here and she hated it. Gert is trapped in her six-year-old body, but her mind has aged and felt every minute she’s been trapped in Fairyland. Using violence to get what she wants, Gert is leaving a bloody trail across this world and still hasn’t found her key. Queen Cloudia is sick of Gert and just wants her dead. Because of the fact that Gert is a visitor though, her safety is guaranteed(at least from Cloudia). Assassins track down Gert, forcing her to use whatever means necessary in order to survive.

This graphic novel is a twist between Alice in Wonderland and Deadpool with quirky and fantastical drawings with a large amount of battle-axe wielding and blood soaked gore. Gert’s journey to leave Fairyland is fantastic and leads viewers on a trippy adventure of mayhem.

concussionConcussion, starring Will Smith, is based on the true story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist, who is known for looking deeply into the autopsies he performs to learn more about why people died. Dr. Omalu wades through this dramatic thriller by making waves in the scientific community by discovering a brain injury that has the power to topple the NFL.

Running side-by-side with Omalu’s story is the story of several different NFL players experiencing trouble after their careers have ended. They display erratic behavior, aren’t themselves, and the people that they turn to for help seemingly have no idea what to do. When a pro football player shows up dead and Omalu has to do the autopsy, he discovers trauma that will change the NFL forever.

Dr. Omalu made the first discovery of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have a history of repetitive brain damage. After paying for tests out of his own pocket for various football players, Omalu discovers that this traumatic brain injury is something that more football players will suffer from and that they should all be made aware of CTE. After publishing a paper with his findings, Omalu begins fighting for the concussion truth to be heard. He finds major pushback from both the NFL and the public with threatening phone calls to his house, visits from the FBI, and other doctors dismissing his findings among just some of the threats. The National Football League works to quiet Omalu’s findings, something that he simply cannot allow. This movie follows Omalu’s journey to make the NFL acknowledge CTE and the incredible uphill battle he faces to make the public believe his findings.

concussion2This movie is based on a book Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

Jason Aldean — They Don’t Know

A decade into his career, Jason Aldean has scaled the highest level of country superstardom, including being named the 2016 ACM Entertainer of the Year. Now he releases his sixth studio album, which includes Lights Come On.


Bon Iver — 22, A Million

Bon Iver releases their first new album in five years. Justin Vernon embraces the use of electronics by using a sampler-base synthesizer for this new project.



Casting Crowns — The Very Next Thing

The Grammy winning band releases a collection of intimate songs as well as upbeat, fresh sounding tracks with impactful lyrics centered around identifying and acting on what’s right next to you. Includes Oh My Soul, a song Mark Hall wrote in response to his journey through a cancer diagnosis


Idina Menzel — Idina

Tony Award winner Idina Menzel, the voice behind Frozen’s massive hit song Let It Go, releases her fifth studio album. Her latest includes the single I See You.
Of Mice and Men — Cold World

After a lot of hype, anticipation, and a two and a half year wait, Of Mice & Men return with a brand new album. They deliver thirteen aggressive rock anthems that will satisfy their ever growing fan base.


Regina Spektor — Remember Us to Life

Singer-songwriter Regina Spektor is back with her first new album since 2012’s What We Saw from the Cheap Seats. The first single, Bleeding Heart, has already been featured in NPR’s All Songs Considered.

the arsonistThe Arsonist by Sue Miller is my latest foray into audiobooks. Miller has weaved a suspenseful story full of family drama and community intrigue within a small New England town.

Frankie Rowley has returned to Pomeroy, New Hampshire, the small village and farmhouse where her family has always spent the summers. Frankie has worked in East Africa for the last 15 years, but came home after she realized that she has never really quite fit in over there. The adjustment back to the states is hard on Frankie, leaving her walking along a country road on her first night back. Waking up the next morning, Frankie discovers that a house up the road has been burnt to the ground. Fires keep popping up around the community, putting people on edge and dividing the town even further.

In addition to the community drama around the fires, Frankie’s mother Sylvia is becoming more concerned over her husband’s erratic behavior. He is forgetting more and more some days, while on others, he seems just fine. Frankie and her sister, Liz, are trying to help, but Liz has a family of her own to deal with now and is hoping Frankie will help relieve her stress. Frankie, herself, has fallen for Bud Jacobs, a Washington DC transplant to Pomeroy, who has taken over the town’s small newspaper. All of these relationships become even more entangled in a very small town under great stress due to all of the arson activity and the divide between the summer people and year-rounders.

The Arsonist is the second book that I’ve listened to where the author has been the narrator and the stories really benefit from the author’s telling. The author is able to truly tell how she wants the characters to talk and how she sees them interacting with each other. You also notice a distinct connection between the narrator and each character because the author cares more about and has a more vested interest in how the characters are being portrayed. Check this book out and let me know what you think!

This book is available in additional formats: