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Archive for the ‘What’s Your Librarian Reading?’ Category

Childism

Title: Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children

Author: Elisabeth Young-Bruehl

Year of Publication: 2012

Genre Keywords: abuse, children, child abuse, child protection, domestic violence, emotional abuse, narcissism, neglect, non-fiction, parenting, prejudice, psychology, sexual abuse, sociology, violence, witch hunts.

Summary: In our culture, adults tend to understand children as the property of their parents, wild and uncivilized creatures who must be made to submit to authority rather than nurtured to fulfill some innate potential. The essential thesis of the book is that child abuse is a symptom of these larger prejudices, which are one point on the continuum that leads from responsible caregiving into abusive behaviour. The author, a trained and certified psychoanalyst, uses her observations of real abuse victims and of well-known studies in Child Abuse and Neglect to make the case that protecting children from abuse requires us to consider and challenge our beliefs about the nature of the child.

Who’ll Love It: Anybody who cares deeply about children will want to at least consider the idea that we interact with them more as possessions to be shown off, pets to be trained, than as real human beings. (Sure, they’re works in progress, but aren’t we all?) Fans of psychoanalytic theory and of topics in Prejudice Studies (like racism and sexism) will definitely appreciate Young-Bruehl’s approach. If your first reaction, however, was “Well, kids are wild animals who require strict discipline to become grown-up people”, you might want to start off with books on child development, investigating the educational and emotional needs of children as they grow. I also recommend How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish; I consider it the definitive guide to treating children with respect while still providing appropriate guidance and boundaries. I basically have it memorized.

Reality Check: Young-Bruehl definitely makes a point of restricting the scope of her book; she discusses childism primarily in the concept of child abuse and its psychological ramifications. But there are so many different places to apply the theory of childism. Consider child beauty pageants, where children are dressed up and made to perform like show dogs, and the related phenomenon of “stage parents“. How about the controversy over prescribing medication to make children more manageable in the classroom? Or the juvenile detention laws in your jurisdiction? These are just a few examples, but the exploration can go on in countless directions anywhere you find children. What examples of childism do you see around you?

Want a first taste of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s ideas about our social prejudices against children? This interview makes a great introduction to her writings on childism and its relationship to child abuse.

Glad Day!

Front alcove of Glad Day Books.

Image via Pride Library at the University of Western Ontario.

I had intended to post a Pride booklist, but there’s something else I want to talk about in this post-Pride blog entry: an experience that made me super-excited about a bookstore for the first time in a good long while.

Oh, I’ve been excited about books at a bookstore, books I have the opportunity to buy or can’t wait to read. But this time, it’s the bookstore worth getting excited about.

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Enter Three Witches

Cover art for Enter Three Witches by Caroline B. Cooney.

Image via Scot’s Blog.

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Rapture Ready

Cover art for Rapture Ready by Daniel Radosh

Image via DangerousMinds.net.

Title: Rapture Ready!: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture

Author: Daniel Radosh

Year of Publication: 2008

Genre Keywords: Bibles, business, Christianity, conservatism, creationism, cultural anthropology, music, non-fiction, politics, religion, theatre, travel.

Summary: Daniel Radosh – a non-believer of Jewish extraction – travels across America to investigate the far reaches of Christian culture. The result of his journeys is this collection of loosely-linked adventures. Meet the sellers of kitschy “Jesus junk”; learn how the Bible continues to be a best-seller even when every Christian’s got one; dance the night away at a Christian purity ball; rock out to the best of contemporary Christian music; investigate the historical anti-Semitism of the Passion Play; ride a dinosaur at Kentucky’s Creation Museum; and get the hell scared out of you (literally, the Christians hope) at a Christian haunted house where evangelizing gets graphic. While many people in the book come across as rigid and doctrinaire, the warmth of the story comes from the few genuine, thoughtful individuals Radosh meets: Christians genuinely grappling with the realities that accompany their beliefs, and trying to engage with broader culture through a Christian lens.

Who’ll Love It: This is a fantastic introduction to fundamentalism, and I say that as someone who has been following Christian culture in America with some interest. If you’ve never encountered the God Squad in the U.S. of A., you’ll get a broad-based view of them here. The book may highlight some of the kookier elements (like the Christian variant of World Wrestling Entertainment!) but it does so in a light, mostly-loving way. Judgment isn’t Radosh’s aim here, which is what gives the book its charm. Avid fundamentalist-watchers will find lots to love here as well, even if they’re already familiar with Answers in Genesis, Christian music, or Left Behind. The conversations with more nuanced thinkers within Christian culture will both inspire and challenge the reader. And I was absolutely riveted by an intensely personal scene in which Radosh, whose children were born through IVF, confronts a pro-life pamphleteer after reading his argument against artificial insemination.

Want More? Christian culture is so fascinating, it can get pretty addictive. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of it on the Internet. If you want to get to know the Creation Museum, check out their ministry at Answers in Genesis. If you liked reading about the Cornerstone music festival, you can find out more about this year’s event. If you were fascinated by the alternate realities of Left Behind and Hell Houses, you should know they were ripped straight from the pages of Chick Tracts. Keep up with the chastity movement at Chastity.com, get political about abortion at LifeSite News, or get it on – but only if you’re married! – with sex advice from the Christian Nymphos. Then, once you’ve found your favourite flavour of fundamentalism, hit Google to see what else you can find out there! (Be sure to comment, so everybody at Bookshelf of the Mind can follow what you’ve found.)

The Bishop’s Man

The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre.

Image via Chapter and Verse: A Showcase for Canadian Talent.

Title: The Bishop’s Man

Author: Linden MacIntyre

Year of Publication: 2009

Genre Keywords: CanLit, Catholicism, Nova Scotia, pedophile priests, priesthood, scandal, sexual abuse, suicide, trauma.

Summary: Father Duncan MacAskill has spent his priesthood as “the Bishop’s man”, the priest who swoops into a parish in the wake of sex-abuse allegations, removes the offending clergyman, and attempts to set the community right in whatever way will best preserve the holy image of Mother Church. Now he’s been placed in a different role for a change: returning to his hometown on the Nova Scotia coast to be a parish priest. It’s a somewhat quieter life, in which he has a chance to reflect on some of the demons in his past: the time when he witnessed a priest’s abuse of another young man, for instance, or his experience of love and death in South America. But when he becomes close to the family of a friend from his youth, he begins to confront the consequences of his life’s work: did a priest he once moved to a nearby parish assault his friend’s troubled teenage son?

Who’ll Love It: Fans of a vivid setting, realistic action, and a delicately-woven tapestry of past and present will find this story delightful. Be warned, though: if you have trouble following stories told out of sequence, or tales in which key information is fed obliquely (and sometimes ambiguously) to the reader, you might have a hard time making sense of this subtle tale. I’m sure there are new bits and pieces I could pick up on reading the book a second time; it seems like the sort of work that would reward that. So even if you don’t have all the details straight by the last page, it’s a worthwhile journey just for the vivid portrait of life in coastal Nova Scotia. Having read the book, I felt like I had been there – and of course it doesn’t hurt that Father MacAskill spends some time in Ontario, visiting some local landmarks I see on a regular basis.

Authors Abounding: Linden MacIntyre is a frequent guest host on CBC Radio One’s The Current. It’s available for download, but I usually listen to it on the radio; CBC can tell you which frequency you’ll need to hear it on weekday mornings at 8:30 (EST).

Perfect

Perfect by Natasha Friend

Image via Library Thing.

Title: Perfect

Author: Natasha Friend

Year of Publication: 2004

Genre Keywords: appearance, bulimia, death, depression, eating disorders, family, friendship, grief, parents, popularity, psychology, sisters, teen, young adult.

Summary: When Isabelle gets caught making herself throw up, she gets sent to a therapy group for people with eating disorders – and to her overwhelming surprise she finds Ashley, the most beautiful and popular girl at her school, also in attendance. The two become friends, bonding over binges and purges and the relief of finding somebody else who understands what they’re going through. But Ashley can’t help Isabelle deal with what’s really wrong: the unhealed grief she still carries from the death of her father nearly two years ago. How can Isabelle heal if she and her sister have been taught to pretend it isn’t there?

Who’ll Love It: Often fun and light-hearted in tone for such heavy subject matter, this quick read will appeal to anybody interested in the emotional lives of teenagers. The rags-to-riches fantasy element of an unpopular girl invited to the “popular table” in the lunchroom is a fun exercise in fantasy, but the story really drives home the point that popularity, prettiness, and seeming perfection doesn’t guarantee happiness, and can conceal some pretty painful demons. It’s a very readable study on the difference between appearance and reality.

The Real Story: Isabelle may be a fictional character, but bulimia is more common than many of us might imagine, with between one and six of every hundred people affected, depending where you are and which study you take seriously. You can get a good general overview of the sickness here. Lots of people believe that bulimia happens primarily to young girls who think they’re too fat, but anybody can be bulimic, and the link between eating disorders and stress or emotional trauma (as with Isabelle’s grief or Ashley’s family issues) is very real in situations where people don’t feel they can deal with their problems directly.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Image via the English at Katikati College blog.

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie

Year of Publication: 2007

Genre Keywords: belonging, cartoons, First Nations, high school, popularity, poverty, teen, tragi-comedy, young adult.

Summary: Arnold Spirit – known on his Spokane reservation home as ‘Junior’ – is a smart guy. He knows he’s not quite strong enough to fit in with the other kids on the reservation, and he knows he’s never going to survive, much less succeed, unless he gets away. So he takes the first step: he asks to transfer to the nearby “rich white kid” school, Rearden High. He does a lot better there, making friends and even finding a girlfriend, and he’s a lot more likely to get a worthwhile education that might one day mean he can live his dreams of being a cartoonist. But the more he fits in at Rearden, the more unpopular he is back home, with people who think he’s sold out big-time. Is Junior strong enough to survive the judgment and rejection of his own people – and even if he does, will it give him a shot at rising above the crushing tragedy of Native American life?

Who’ll Love It: If you’re fed up with syrupy inspirational stories about ordinary people battling great odds, you may find this book refreshingly realistic. While most such stories focus entirely on whoever’s beating the odds, they tend to ignore the systemic problems that made the odds so darn bad in the first place, and they barely even glance at everybody else left below. But this is as much a story about other people’s failures as it is about Junior’s struggle to succeed, and it doesn’t shy away from depicting the hard knocks of reservation life: violence, poverty, alcoholism, and child abuse are just a few of the problems Alexie takes on through Junior’s eyes. I particularly loved the spin he puts on the familar “sports grudge match” sequence we know from the movies: does it really count as winning when you come from the team who has every advantage and your opponents probably couldn’t afford to eat breakfast?

The Real Story: The heartbreaking poverty in this story is a real and persistent problem for actual families and individuals living on reservations in North America. Spotlight on Poverty offers up an article on the topic, and the Property and Environment Research Center looks at some government-related problems that keep the problem alive. If you’re American, you can find the reservation nearest where you live on this interactive map. (Nothing nearly that nifty for Canadians, but at least we’ve got a list of bands available.) It’s strange to think that this level of poverty, comparable to what you find in Third-World nations, exists within a couple hours’ drive of where you’re sitting in front of your computer screen.

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