Thursday, February 25, 2016


How quickly the week goes! It's Thursday again, and I was in danger of failing to make a TBT post. My brain has been pulverized by linguistics and anthropology and sociology for the last few days. But here are some pictures, right under the wire.

1. Zak and Memere at the Bonnie Doon house. Not positive, but I think this is Easter 1993.

2. Memere, Pepere, and Dale in Brooks, house at Evergreen Park. Again, not positive, but I think this is Christmas 1996.

Missing people, missing home. At least there are pictures ...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Top-Ten Tuesday: Banned Books

Apparently the new thing on Tuesdays is a top-ten list. Well. You know how I love being on trend, and here in Canada it's also Freedom to Read Week, so I've compiled a top-ten list of censored, banned, and challenged books I've read.

(OK, after starting to compile the list, I decided to make two: one of books intended for adult readers and one of books intended for kids and teens. And, so that my method is clear, these are my rankings of these books, NOT how often they have been challenged or banned.)

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Laurence, The Diviners
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness
William Styron, Sophie's Choice
Kate Chopin, The Awakening
Hugh MacLennan, Barometer Rising
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials trilogy
Judy Blume, Tiger Eyes
Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
Lois Lowry, Anastasia series
Robert Cormier, I Am the Cheese (my favourite of the many Cormier novels banned or challenged)
Robert Newton Peck, A Day No Pigs Would Die
Virginia Euwer Wolff, Make Lemonade trilogy

Notice, because top-ten lists are short and restrictive, that I haven't mentioned several key Modernist novels I've read — Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ulysses by James Joyce, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck — nor several hugely important later-twentieth-century works I've read like The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Wars by Timothy Findley, Beloved by Toni Morrison, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, or The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. All of these books have been censored, burned, pulled from libraries, or challenged, as have dozens more that I haven't read or that I have read and haven't listed here.

I've invested a lot of academic energy in learning about censorship, book banning, and freedom of expression. As an editor, I recognize that editors hold tremendous power over which books are published and which are not — but I also know enough history to recognize that at least some editors take chances, take risks, to ensure that books are published. I feel strongly that editors have an obligation to defend freedom of expression — particularly those texts we wouldn't read ourselves and prefer that others would not read.

When I teach print culture, we do a unit on censorship and banned books. Recently I've asked students to write reflective commentaries on their experiences with "challenging" books and their feelings about keeping books from younger readers. The number of students who have experienced some form of restriction on their reading and who intend to apply similar restrictions to upcoming readers is striking.

Our freedom to read — and write — whatever we choose was hard won; we shouldn't take it for granted. I hope my foray into top-ten lists has suggested some "challenging" texts to explore. These books can take us on amazing journeys — if we let them.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Proud ...

... of GMJ. Congrats!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

That stuff? Oh, that's tough.

How I love language. Right now I am reading about linguistic anthropology, which has required a dip into basic phonetics, stuff I haven't touched for years. But it's just as fascinating now as when I first explored it; and better now I'm able to apply some of the ideas in the grammar project I'm working on.

In case you didn't notice, the title of this blog represents differences in perceived junction that might easily be misunderstood. (Ditto A werewolf versus Aware wolf, gracias, B.) But we don't, because our brains are amazing.

Next up, morphology and syntax. Also, a trip to the stationery store because I've used up my highlighter and half of my colourful pens.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Poetry Friday

Here's another poem that delights me.


My father has a parenthesis
on either side of his mouth.
His new words
live inside his old words.
And there's a strange semicolon
birthmark on my neck —
what does it mean,
my sentence is incomplete?

live with me in the open slope
of a question mark.
Don't answer it!
Curl up in a comma
that says more, and more, and more ...

— Naomi Shihab Nye, from her collection A Maze Me: Poems for Girls (2005)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reading week and Zzz

This is Zak's first Reading Week, and I hope he's enjoying it. Because we've been away and I miss him, today's TBT post is about Zak.

First, a picture from Christmas in Brooks. I think this was 2005.

Next, a picture from Zak's sixteenth birthday party, also in Brooks. (We're all a little tanned because we had just come back from sailing in the Gulf Islands.)

 And finally, Zak at eighteen, in the St. Albert house.

Here's to more success in the second half of the term. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A spot of poetry, today

I love love love this poem!

"Night-Spider's Advice"

Build a frame
and stick to it,
I always say.
Life's a circle.
Just keep going around.
Do your work, then
sit back and see
what falls in your lap.
Eat your triumphs,
eat your mistakes:
that way your belly
will always be full.
Use what you have.
Rest when you need to.
Dawn will come soon enough.
Someone has to remake
the world each night.
It might as well be you.

— by Joyce Sidman, in Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, a Newbery Honor Book

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Well, if he can do it ...

The him/her/them issue is troubling, isn't it? But look how long we've been using they/them — and particularly themself, the word most currently vexing grammar purists — to obscure the gender of a sentence agent or object. And from no less a canonical authority than Thomas Wyatt.

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Happy gender-mashed Valentine's Day!


Friday, February 12, 2016

More for my commonplace book

"We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already." — J.K. Rowling

An apt thought for this day and this week.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Libraries in my life

This week I am reading a wonderful book called The Artist's Library: A Field Guide, courtesy of the marvellous Ms C. The book invites us to be inspired by the wondrous work of the humble library. Libraries have been important to me for the entirety of my life, so today's post is a reminiscence about my formative libraries.

Centennial Library: Some of my earliest memories, which are little more than flashes of image and feeling, involve the Centennial Library (now the Stanley Milner branch). It's a very different place now, and poised to receive yet another facelift soon. But it is perhaps the library at the heart of who I am. When my parents took me to the library, it was a very special event. The children's section at the Centennial kept animals, which I found fascinating, and then there were all the books. I have memories of my mother reading library books to me (which she tells me she did only to keep herself entertained). When I was older and in Mr Van den Born's enrichment program, he took us to the Centennial Library to do research and write our first "articles." (He later took us to the University of Alberta, which was ultimately much more important for me, although as I sit here and fumble about what to write next academically, I do wish I'd formed a stronger habit of research and dissemination back then...) Strangely, Centennial was not one of my teenage haunts, despite that I spent many hours downtown. But it still feels welcoming whenever I go there.

Fife Library: Perhaps this is the library of my heart. I still dream of this library; it formed the core of the school, and I would be crushed to go back to Fife today and discover that the library's glorious crow's nest and open area shelves are gone. My early elementary schooling was somewhat strange, but I imprinted on Mrs Campbell, who was my grade two teacher and also the school's librarian. She was a delightful woman and a fabulous teacher; I stayed in touch with her until I finished high school. (To be clear, I don't know whether she was technically a great teacher, as I was far too young to notice such things when I was her student, but she inspired me and many other students to read, to learn, to know things. That makes her great to me.) When I was finally in "Division Two" (grades four to six), I joined the library team and was an assistant captain in grade five and a captain in grade six. (Yes, a sports metaphor for librarianship. Go team!) Working in the library was SO much fun! I loved shelving, filing sign-out cards, stamping pink return date cards ... all of it. And of course I read many many many of the books in this library. In dreams I walk around the shelves trying to find books that I miss. Of course they're never there.

Dickinsfield Branch: This is the library where some integral parts of my being formed. I became independent and individuated from friends and family in part because of this library. In Todd Babiak's history of the Edmonton Public Library system, he dedicates only a few sentences to this branch (in part because it no longer exists), but that does not reflect the place it held in the community. Dickinsfield branch tried valiantly to contribute to the growth of north Edmonton and had an admirable collection for a small, out-of-the-way location. It is another place I can walk through in my memory, although not a place I dream about. Still, I was sad when the branch moved to Londonderry Mall (though Londonderry Mall was and is one of my safe places).

This reminiscence seems to be developing a theme of loss and change, but if libraries teach us anything, it is about permanence, resilience, and adaptability. For continuing to be champions of books, reading, and learning, libraries are amazing. And if you want to learn more about how libraries can incubate creativity, be sure to read The Artist's Library.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Not my usual advisor ...

... but I completely agree with his position.

"He who would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself." — Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer

Another piece in my commonplace book!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Reading Riot

Greetings! As you know, over the last few weeks I've been trying to finish my long-promised book-editing textbook. When I haven't been writing, I've been reading. Yet January hasn't been a good month for writing down books toward my annual count, according to my rules. Although I record most books I read, I make some exceptions. For instance, I don't usually record graphic novels (although I have in a few cases) and don't record picture books. So the number of books I've read in January looks pretty terrible, but that's not the whole picture. Here's what I haven't counted as "read":

Exquisite Corpse (Penelope Bagieu)
Sex Criminals V. 1: One Weird Trick (Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky)
Sex Criminals V. 2: Two Worlds, One Cop (Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky)
Nimona (Noelle Stevenson)
In Real Life (Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang)
El Deafo (Cece Bell)

By the way, I loved Nimona: so sweet! And I think the Sex Criminals series is excellent, though certainly not to everyone's taste. I'm keen for the third volume to arrive at the library.

Kids' Picture Books
This Is Sadie (Sara O'Leary, Julie Morstad)
Louis I, King of the Sheep (Olivier Tallec)
The Skunk (Mac Barnett)
Today I Will Fly! (Mo Willems)
Bears Don't Read! (Emma Chichester Clark)
Big and Little (Ruth Krauss, Mary Szilagyi)
You're Just What I Need (Ruth Krauss, Julia Noonan)
The Happy Egg (Ruth Krauss, Crockett Johnson)
Goodnight Goodnight Sleepyhead (Ruth Krauss, Jane Dyer)
Posy (Linda Newbery, Catherine Rayner)

Right now, as you can see, I'm very interested in writer Ruth Krauss. I've read most of her books (she was one of Ursula Nordstrom's authors, so you know I'd have to like her) and think I may have an article / chapter to write about her; but so far I haven't found much written about her, other than a single book about her and her husband. But that's what research is all about.

So, welcome to February, and here's to more reading — of the kind that I can record and count!