“They’ll split your pretty cranium and fill it full of air…” ~ David Bowie – 1984

So, I saw a display in our college library that made me so so so so so so so upset, angry, frustrated, and gobsmacked that I had to get up an hour early today to blawg about it.

Now excuse me for asking, but is this 2021? Seriously. Are we living in 2021 or 1921? 1821? Are we living in the United States (or other wonderful countries…I have my peeps from around the globe!! 😍) or a communist state with total control over the media we consume? Does the American constitution not have a little something in it called ‘freedom of press’ which guarantees the right to report news or circulate opinion without censorship from the government? Hmmmm.

Anyhoot, I’m talking about banned books.

Let me say that again in case you thought you were having some episode while reading it and didn’t get it: I’m talking about banned books as well as ‘challenged’ or ‘restricted’ books. The difference? A ‘challenge’ is an attempt to remove or restrict books based on the objections of a person/group while ‘banning’ is actually removing the books. But no matter what nomenclature you use, the result is the same: people NOT being able to have access to books of their choice in the schools and libraries in the areas in which they live.

I was going to give you a list of all the banned books (that’s the term I’m going to stick with) but honestly, if I typed them all out, I would be getting carpal tunnel surgery within weeks and I’d prefer not to do that. So, here’s the link to the 156 books on the 2020 list. Grab yourself a cup of tea (or in my case, and nice wine cooler so I can remain as calm as possible 😳 ) and start perusing.

One reason given for banning Anne Frank was because it’s a ‘downer and depressing’. I kid you not. Also because of sexual scenes which is Anne experiencing puberty: making jokes about it and talking about her development.

Anyhoot, on this gem of a list, we have titles such as ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ (God forbid we learn about the holocaust from a teenage girl living in captivity), ‘I Know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (quite the rabble rouser whose autobiography talks about racism and her own experience being sexually assaulted as a child…2 things we should never talk or learn more about). ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini since it contains ‘offensive’ language, religious viewpoints, and…gasp…sexual situations. ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeannette Walls because her autobiography has abuse and ‘sexual scenes’ in which an older man tries to undress Jeannette and a woman shows her freaking bra. And finally, ‘The Holy Bible’ for religious viewpoints. Well hells bells…who would read the bible (or for that matter, any religious tome like the Quran which is also banned) for a ‘religious’ viewpoint? I just like learning about all the begatting that went on.

Mind you, these books aren’t banned everywhere…but are banned in areas just the same: public libraries, schools and their libraries, and even in ACADEMIA. You know, the place where we are supposed to open our minds to everything. Right.

So…parents are the first to initiate the process of banning books. Nice. Why in the world would they want their little darlings exposed to things such as racism, diversity, disabilities, drug addiction, mental illness,and LGBTQ issues (all of which represent the vast majority of books banned)? Much better to keep them ignorant. OH WAIT! They are exposed to it…all over freaking social media which parents let their kids absorb like sponges. The ALA’s found this: “Books that talked about racism and racial justice — or told the stories of people of color or the LGBTQ community — were among the most challenged as inappropriate for students in 2020.” Charmed, I’m sure.

Now let me get this straight…parents initiate the process of banning books that are classics in terms of their writing, themes, etc. but allow their girls to twerk on Tik-Tok for views, dress in clothes I’ve seen as being too skimpy for call girls to wear, watch Kendall Jenner make an ass out of herself by solving racism with a fucking Pepsi, being introduced to porn at the average age of 11 because of all the unsupervised time kids have online, and seeing people have sex and get murdered in movie after movie. OK…that’s all well and good. But for the love of all that’s holy, ban the books. I understand now. 🙄

And schools? Look…as an educator for 30 years I’m here to tell you this: it’s NOT my job to tell my students WHAT they should believe. It’s my job to give my students the ability to DISCOVER what’s out there that will give them a view of the world much much bigger than what is said in a classroom. There’s a difference there…huh?

Another frightening thought? According to the ALA, surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges – documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries – remain unreported and receive no media. So…more can be added to this extensive list anytime.

But at least children’s books are safe. What could be wrong with ‘Hop on Pop’ by Dr. Seuss or ‘A Light in the Attic’ by Shel Silverstein? Apparently, ‘Hop in Pop’ has been challenged because it could encourage kids to be violent against their dads and a poem in the Silverstein collection called “How Not To Have To Dry The Dishes” obviously encourages messiness and disobedience. Then, there’s ‘My Mom is Having a Baby’ which shows where babies come from. The horror of that is more than I can stand. That’s why O still thinks it’s the stork that brought him to me. Peeps, you can’t make this shit up.

Why am I crying over this? Why did seeing the display of the banned books bring tears to my eyes? Because of this: we need other opinions. We need to hear voices that our different from ours. We need to walk in someone elses shoes. We need to understand that our perceptions aren’t the only perceptions out there. We need to live in a society where we can write and publish what we want to say. We need to be able to talk about race…mental illness…disabilities…LGBTQ issues…without barriers. We need all viewpoints. What we need is books.

And that’s really it, isn’t it? We need books. No one should be able to tell anyone what they can and can’t read. What they should or shouldn’t read. What is available or not available to them at public libraries. Even kids and young adults. Look, I know there are books out there that younger kids simply should not read and of course there needs to be guidance for what a child is ready or not ready for. But isn’t that a parents decision to make for their own child? If O wanted to read something above his understanding, we talked about it…had a conversation, and I made the judgment call myself. I do trust that most books written at certain levels are OK, but I don’t trust the same with what kids consume on social media and believe me, they consume a lot more on that platform than in the pages of a book. I truly don’t believe ‘Hop on Pop’ is going to scar kids forever and reading ‘Anne Frank’ is going to cause young girls to become depressed and sexually active. Look, books open doors for all of us…young and old. And, we can choose to walk through that door or not. But that choice should be ours…and ours alone.

Kristi xoxo

“You Should Have Seen His Face When I Started Taking My Clothes Off. Priceless.” ~ Stephenie Meyer (Breaking Dawn)

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So, one of my Facebook buddies I’ve known since the 7th grade sent me a message the other day and said this:

“And you are so easy to support.  You just put it out there!!  You never ask or demand, and you have this thing with honest reflection of the places and moments that make you whole.  I thought I was the only one with questions attached to things like joys and regrets.”

I loved getting this and it showed me that opening up on this blog really is helpful to others.  We all have our challenges…our burdens…and to write about them and share them maybe helps to distribute that weight a little more easily, or eases the heaviness on some on our shoulders.

When you hear the phrase ‘coming out’, you think of those who have revealed to their family, friends and colleagues about their sexual orientation or gender identity.  And that’s a wonderful thing!  For so long, members of the LGBTQ community were forced into ‘hiding’ so to speak.  To talk about their orientation was societal suicide and often still is.  They can lose family and  friends, be fired from jobs or denied promotions, be denied housing or custody of their children, be a victim of a hate crime, be an outcast in a neighborhood or community and the list goes on.

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What’s so sad to me is that even though things have ‘gotten better’ more than 50% of LGBTQ have faced discrimination in just the last year, and even more frightening is there’s no federal law against this (Center for American Progress, May 2nd, 2017).  What the hell?

The term ‘coming out’ regarding the mentally ill is similar.  Like the LGBTQ community, there’s a lot to lose and a lot of discrimination tied to having a mental illness:  housing, health care costs, work issues (yeppers), criminal justice issues (receiving longer sentences, etc.), loss of friends and difference in treatment among colleagues (been to that freaking rodeo) to name a few (National Alliance on Mental Illness, March 11th, 2020).

So why did I do it?  Why do any of us do it, regardless of the issue we’re coming out for?  Because it’s not only hard to fake your way through life, it’s simply not fair.  Pushing down who you are to pretend to be who you’re not is exhausting, and shameful to the person.  You aren’t ‘good’ enough…’normal’ enough…’right’ enough to be fully accepted in our society, and feeling that way leads to self-stigmatization as well.  It also impedes seeking help/recovery and following through with it, as well as asking for support from others which leads to more feelings of low self-worth.  In other words, your ‘person’ is thwarted and you feel less than.

Of course my family knew about me being bipolar and so many of them were supportive and accepting of the mentally ill ‘me’ which was such a relief and validated my worth.  I also share with my students, when it’s appropriate and in the context of what we are studying.  When I teach about mental illness, if I can’t talk about something I have openly, how can my students believe my lecture in which I state there needs to be acceptance of those with mental illness, education about the various illnesses, and a real effort to end the stigmatization of this population (which is quite large, by the way).  If I can’t talk about being bipolar without shame and share my experiences, everything I teach them is a lie.

But there have been consequences for ‘coming out’ too.  Colleagues look at me differently.  Some are so supportive and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.  Others have told me that it’s all in my head (hence the title of this blog!) and if I just got off those meds and kept a positive attitude, I’d be fine (oooookkkkkaaaayyyyy).  A couple told me to ‘pray it away’ (what the fuck?  I believe I was given this for a reason, peeps…and I would prefer these particular people pray away their ignorance instead).  I think the worst I’ve experienced at work was when I was having a very serious issue with a student at the same time of my mental breakdown and when I was at the bottom of the most serious depression I’ve ever had.  I was treated horribly (after 23 years of perfect service) and my mental state was obvious.  This was used against me as proof I was the cause of the stalking and direct, written threats I received.  I couldn’t fight it.  My illness was too strong right then.

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How transparent should I be though?  Should I share everything?  My sissy and I were yacking about it last night (after I admired her highlights…they freaking rock), and she said I wasn’t being honest when I didn’t share everything going on in my life.  And she’s right.  I promised candor, but I realized there are some things I just can’t do that with.  I have my secrets…and I think we all do.  If I share every piece of me, what’s left that’s just mine?  It’s kinda like when sis and I would go trick-or-treating and take a look-see at our candy after.  I’d keep some of my treats hidden from her (I’m sorry T…I’ll buy you some Reeses peanut butter cups to make up for it) because I wanted those all for myself.  Likewise, it’s not always easy to be completely transparent.  Accountable.  And like all of us, it’s just too hard to be ‘out there’ all of the time.  I guess I just need to keep some of my ‘me’ inside too.

I know my ‘coming out’ has helped people, and that quote at the beginning is only one of scores I’ve received.  Every time I hear that I’ve encouraged others to lessen their shame of having a mental illness and assured them it’s absolutely no fault of their own, I feel justified in this openness.  Is it worth the negatives?  You betcha.

Like I’ve said in previous posts, ‘coming out’ has freed me.  Removed so many of the masks I was hiding behind.  Helped me to live more authentically which has bolstered my self-confidence and worth.  It ain’t always easy doing this, and it ain’t always everything in my life that I put out there.  But it’s real.  Something I wish we could all be, no matter what it is we’re struggling with.

Kristi xoxo