Ban me!

It’s a curious experience to consider well-intentioned attempts at censorship. I don’t mean the assholes who object to the word vagina, or to children being empowered to think for themselves, or to uppity talking animals. I mean the mother of the only black child at the school whose daughter says she feels like she’s being punched every time she hears the n-word while the class reads Huckleberry Finn. How many times do we have to read the rape scene from Tess of D’Urbervilles, or Streetcar Named Desire? Or the romanticized felony relationships in Wuthering Heights, Twilight, Beauty and the Beast? Of course it’s troubling to be inside the mind of a pedophile in Lolita.

Sometimes books make us feel uncomfortable. I’ve thrown books across the room. I’ve put them in the car so I don’t have to sleep near them. I’ve gotten into vicious arguments over themes and viewpoints.

I feel for the mother of that child. Nobody should be put into the position where you HAVE to educate the people around you on their privilege.

Which is why we have books. It is. Books exist to tell the story of human experience. All those experiences. And any given book may only speak to some of the kids in the class. To some of the people in the book club. To a handful at work. But that makes them more vital, not less so. Books are meant to spark discussion not pat your head and tuck you in. The ones that bug the shit out of me — the ones I can’t bear to touch — those are the stories I need to read most. Precisely because they require that I reconcile my objections. That I think critically. They inspire debate. They require that I consider the whole of humanity, not just my own experience.

I can go the rest of my life without reading stories of World War II, or anything with a rape. These stories bother me more than they used to. And not the good bother, but the kind with a trigger. I don’t know what I would do if she were my daughter. But I know it would involve more books and not fewer of them. I would surround her with stories that used words that didn’t feel like punches, but felt like ladders and pathways and wings. This is why we need an arena and not a hallway. We need more viewpoints and more stories.

The world won’t improve if we gut the libraries. It’ll improve if we educate ourselves. If we become more enlightened than we have previously been.

2 thoughts on “Ban me!”

  1. “I would surround her with stories that used words that didn’t feel like punches, but felt like ladders and pathways and wings.”
    I love you Jill Malone!

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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