Sunday, September 26, 2021

It's Banned Books Week.

Today is the first day of this year's Banned Books Week. The event is sponsored by a coalition of groups, including the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers Association, the Association of University Presses, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, PEN America, and the People for the American Way Foundation.

This year's slogan is: "Books Unite Us -- Censorship Divides Us." The organizers are sponsoring a whole bunch of events this week, many of them virtual; if you're not Zoomed out yet, you can check out the list here.

So which books are we talking about? The ALA put out a list earlier this year of the top 10 most-often-challenged books of 2020. Here they are, with title, author(s), and a short description of the reason why people didn't want them in their library.

  1. George by Alex Gino. LGBTQIA+ content and conflicting with a religious viewpoint.
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. "Selective storytelling incidents" and "does not encompass racism among all people." Also folks didn't like Kendi's public comments.
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Profanity, drug use, alcoholism, and containing anti-police views and "divisive topics".
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Rape, profanity, contained a political viewpoint, and was biased against male students.
  5. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Profanity and sexual references.
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. "Divisive language" and was thought to promote anti-police views.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Racial slurs and its perception of the Black experience.
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Racial slurs and racial stereotypes.
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Sexually explicit and contains child sexual abuse.
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Profanity and was thought to promote an anti-police message.
You might have noted a theme here: Seven of the ten books are about race or an "anti-police message" -- which is to say the challenges might be the result of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, although To Kill a Mockingbird and The Bluest Eye are perennials on the list. 

And these are just the top 10. In all, more than 270 books were challenged last year, and while there was an increase in requests to ban books about minority issues, the biggest reason people wanted certain books gone was LGBTQIA+ content.

Every year I say I'm going to read more banned books, and every year I realize I've only read a couple of the books on the list. For example, I've yet to pick up Sherman Alexie's book, even though it has been on the list more than once over the past several years, and I'm kicking myself because he is hilarious. So on the Kindle it goes -- along with George, which I just found out is about a girl who was born a boy. Hoo boy, no wonder the prudes want it banned. Looking forward to reading that one!

Happy reading!


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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Gratuitous kitty photos.

I owe y'all a blog post, since it's Sunday and all. But I don't have much to say tonight, and I'm sure you'd rather just look at pictures of my new kitty anyhow.

So here's Tigger, a.k.a. Tigs, a.k.a. the Tiggenator. He's just shy of four years old and still pretty playful. He's settling in okay; I only caught him hiding on top of the kitchen cabinets for the first few days. Today, I clipped his front claws for the first time. He wasn't happy about it -- there was a lot of growling and complaining -- but I didn't end up bleeding, so I'm calling it a win. And he got treats afterward for Being Such a Good Boy, so maybe he'll let me do it again sometime.

Here he is, trying to be a loaf cat. He needs a little more practice -- gotta get that tail tucked up under him.

Lynne Cantwell 2021
He is much better at helping me knit. Well, actually, what he's good at is keeping me from knitting. Here he's lying on my pattern with his head pillowed on the project itself.
Lynne Cantwell 2021
I bought a tall cat condo so he could see out the living room windows (and also to encourage him to quit jumping up on top of the kitchen cabinets, as if that would work). He was a little leery of that top level, but a spritz of catnip spray took care of his reluctance. 
Lynne Cantwell 2021
And finally, here he is, being his snuggly and adorable self.
Lynne Cantwell 2021

That's it. That's my life right now. Have a great week.


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Sunday, September 12, 2021

Autumn is coming, and I couldn't be happier.

This weekend was the Fiesta de Santa Fe: a celebration of my adopted hometown's creation myth, if you will. Last weekend's annual burning of Zozobra -- Old Man Gloom, a giant marionette stuffed with memories and things that people would just as soon get rid of -- sort of cleared the decks of bad stuff so that everyone could celebrate the Fiesta with a light heart. 

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2021

The Fiesta itself is a three-day fair centered on the historic plaza. There are food stalls, craft booths, dance performances, and music by local bands. There's also a pageant associated with the event: one local man with Hispanic heritage is cast as Don Diego de Vargas, the general who led Spanish troops (including more than a few Mexicans, but anyway) to the "peaceful" reoccupation of Santa Fe in 1692 (twelve years after the Pueblo Indians ran the Spanish out). A local woman with Hispanic heritage is chosen to be La Reina -- the Queen. And a Native Princess is chosen from amongst the nearby Pueblo Indians. Part of the story involves parading a statue of Mary, dubbed La Conquistadora, to and from the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Fe.

I guess there's usually more than one parade, but the parades were canceled this year due to the pandemic. Last year, the whole Fiesta was canceled; Zozobra burned in 2020, but I didn't realize it was supposed to be the kickoff event for the Fiesta until this year.

Anyway, my point is that Fiesta feels kind of like a New Year's celebration: leaving all the bad stuff behind in the old year and starting the new year with a party. In fact, I read a quote somewhere this past week from a longtime Santa Fe resident who said she feels that way -- that Fiesta is the city's own New Year.

For me, September has been a month for fresh starts nearly all my life. The new school year always started right after Labor Day. And way back when, the TV networks' new seasons began in September, too. The air would turn crisp and the leaves would don brilliant colors before they dropped. I loved it. Autumn is still my favorite season.

Which creates a bit of a conundrum for me as a Pagan, because a whole lot of us think of Samhain -- Halloween -- as the start of the new year.

The Wheel of the Year is based on the Iron Age agricultural cycle in the British Isles. That's always been troubling in North America because almost nowhere here has a comparable climate. Lughnasadh, in early August, is known as the First Harvest, which is a bit of a head-scratcher for those of us who have been picking tomatoes and berries all summer. And Imbolc, in early February, is supposed to be a dairy festival, when ewes give birth and their milk comes in -- but the weather is too harsh in our northern states to even hint at spring then. Snowdrops blooming? When the snow is still a couple of feet deep? Yeah, no. And the disconnection will only get worse with climate change. 

About the only things that do equate are the solstices and equinoxes. Daylight hours still begin to increase at the winter solstice and begin to decrease again at the summer solstice, and the spring and autumn equinoxes are still the points of balance, when the day is half light and half dark.

For those of us who aren't beach lovers or who live in places where summer is miserably hot and sticky, the cooler weather that autumn brings is a blessing. And too, some of us simply love the dark.

Druid priest John Beckett has made a persuasive argument for celebrating the autumn equinox as "the triumph of the dark." Instead of being sad that the light is fading, he suggests looking forward to the dark half of the year and the advantages that darkness brings. 

Since fall is my favorite season anyway, I'm on board. My "gloom" of the past year has already gone up in smoke with Zozobra. Come September 22nd, I'll smile as I  observe the sunset and be glad that the season is turning at last.


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Sunday, September 5, 2021

And the Summer Reading Challenge winners are...


Illustration 174468593 © Kornetka |

And that's a wrap on the hearth/myth 2021 Summer Reading Challenge. Thanks to all who entered, and congrats to the rest of you who found new books to read by consulting our curated list. 

The grand prize winner of a signed copy of The Payoff is Tom Dent. The winners of the Pipe Woman Chronicles mugs, in no particular order, are: Tabitha Ormiston-Smith, Meredith Townsend DeVoe, Smoky Zeidel, Melody Stiles, and Vickie Koehler Averhoff. Congrats! I'll be contacting each of you to get details on how to get your prize to you.

That contest took a very long time from start to finish. Thanks to everyone for hanging in there.

As for my total? 72 books. I wouldn't have won my own contest! I knew I should have tried harder...


So I've just tonight uploaded the final few episodes of The Atherton Vampire 2: Out of the Coffin. They will be dropping on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on Kindle Vella through October 22nd. 

In addition, every episode of the first Atherton Vampire novella is available on Kindle Vella right now.

I'll be releasing them both next month as regular Kindle ebooks, in time for your Halloween reading pleasure. There will be at least one more Atherton Vampire book -- book 2 ends on a sort of cliffhanger and I am going to have to resolve that if I want to sleep at night. Details on all of that, including preorder info, will be coming shortly. Stay tuned, as they say on TV.


That's it for tonight. I have other stuff to say, but it's too serious in tone for this particular post.

Besides, I've been at the computer for hours and I need to go hang out with my new kitty, Tigger, who I adopted from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter just yesterday. Here he is, a little high on catnip. No doubt you'll be seeing more of him in the weeks to come. 

Lynne Cantwell 2021


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