Thursday 28 April 2011

Fight for the right to write: Supporting Judy Mays.

The school where Judy Mays teaches.
Image source: Here
Earlier today on Twitter thanks to @sleighanne, I caught wind of a ruckus in Snyder County, Pennsylvania. A 10th grade English teacher has been outed as a published romance novelist. A romance novelist, can you believe it?! The woman actually had the nerve to have a life of her own outside of the classroom! Detect the sarcasm yet? 

The poor woman has only been following her dream of being a published author and this is the treatment she gets. Publicly outed and shamed. Personally I found this so ridiculous that I wrote the below email to the WNEP website. I'm reproducing it here because it's a good summation of my feelings on this point.

Dear ----,

I am writing to you in support of Judy Buranich aka Judy Mays. I read and watched the piece about her on the WNEP website this afternoon and was horrified. Public humiliation for being a published author is what constitutes news? I am not from the area from which you are reporting. Heck, I'm not even from America but this is something that goes beyond local news and beyond borders.

Ms. Buranich surely did not cross any legal, ethical or moral boundaries by writing and publishing these books. She hasn't used student's identities or relationships for content, she hasn't written any novels that touched on inappropriate student/teacher relationships and I'm certain that she hasn't, as one neurotic mother suggested, been eyeing up any of her students in a sexual manner. Sex is a normal and regular part of life. Is writing about it really any worse than engaging in sexual acts? Are we really suggesting that Snyder County is a celibate area? Then where are all the children coming from?

Teachers are in a position of responsibility and they have great influence over the minds of our future generations, but they're also people. They are entitled to have lives and so long as they don't do anything illegal then I think it's nobody's business, frankly, what they do in those lives. Ms. Buranich has kept her teaching and her writing separate. The only reason that anyone knows about this is because a few people have assumed the role of moral police and decided that outing her as a, shock and horror, romance novelist is their duty.

Good teachers, those dedicated to educating kids, are becoming harder and harder to come by these days. If Ms. Buranich decides to quit the profession of teaching because of this incident then I think it will be a huge loss to her students. I think this article was a biased and sensationalistic attempt to grab media attention. I would hope that in the future more time could be taken to consider the human impact of your reporting.

Yours sincerely,


Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion and you may disagree with me on this point but once in a while, I like to take a stand. Judy Buranich has done nothing wrong. You may not like romance novels or erotic writing but confusing the content of her writing with her ability to be a good teacher is clearly flawed logic.

Tell me what you think.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Sunday Salon: The Reading Slump

Now if I had a nook like this
I'm sure I'd never have a reading
slump, like, ever.
Image copyright: Kath Liu 2011
Yep, the first slump of the year has hit and my blogging mojo has also somewhat hit the skids. I'm not sure exactly what causes these slumps. I mean, really - what is my life without reading? I'm a book lover, a reading nerd, the bookish girl that everyone asks for reading recommendations. Why, then, do I have these periods of time where I don't pick up a book for ages? Right now I really need to not be in a reading slump. I have to get The Lacuna done and read and write the review within the next 2 weeks. I'm currently on page 21. Come on!! What's going on in there, brain?

Having just written that first paragraph, sat back and reflected, I think I can pinpoint the cause of my slump. It's performance anxiety. It's that nagging little voice. You know the one - the annoying little nay-sayer that barges in, makes himself comfy in the back of your mind and sighs and shakes his head and occasionally comments "You're never going to make it, you know..." or "It's all going to fall down around your ears soon..." I often have this little bugger hanging around telling me that I'm never going to get my thesis finished on time. Unsatisfied with this, it seems he has moved on to my reading and blogging.

This year, I've been making a massive effort to blog regularly and interestingly. It's been going quite well and I've been very happy to welcome about 50 new followers (hi guys!) But I logged in today to find that the air had been let out of my "OMG I have 100 followers" balloon when someone un-followed me. I know, I know, I shouldn't take it personally - but I do. Of course, this was just fuel for the nay-sayer's fire: "See? The decline in your success is already happening..."

Alright! Enough already! You. Nay-sayer. Out! I am officially evicting you. Pack your sad little suitcase and get out of my head. Go on. Shoo!

Image source: Here
OK. I feel better already. I'm sure I will get another follower sometime. I still have 2 weeks to read The Lacuna. I will get back on track with my War and Peace mission today. Reading is supposed to be fun and I'll be damned if I'm going to let it become a chore.

Do you ever have reading slumps? If so, what causes yours?

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Taiwan Book Festival 23rd and 24th April

View from the top of Taipei 101
Image copright: Kath Liu 2006

For those of you who love books and are located in Taiwan, there is a Book Festival happening in Taipei this weekend. It is being organised by Mark, of Alleycats Huashan and John, a long term Kiwi expat and author. There will be group discussions on pre-set topics, question and answer sessions, presentations from local authors and, most importantly, the chance to stock up on hard-to-find and second hand titles. It is also going to be the launch of the Taiwan Book Exchange. Can I get a "whoop whoop"?!

The details are as follows:
When: 23rd and 24th April, 12-6pm both days
Where: Alleycats, Huashan Creative Park,
No. 1, Section 1, Bade Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City
More information:

I am going to be there in both an official and a buying armloads of books that I'm not entirely sure where I will put when I get home capacity on Saturday. In my official capacity I will be at the Community Services Center table helping to sell our range of fabulous publications and provide resources and information for the International Community in Taiwan. Hopefully I will be able to get sufficient time in my second capacity to have a look around, take a few photos, check out a few books and report back here once the event is over. If you're in Taipei that weekend I might see you there!

Sunday 3 April 2011

Someone Knows My Name: Review

Someone Knows My Name
By Lawrence Hill
Published by W. W. Norton and Company Inc.
Published in 2008
ISBN: 978-0-393-33309-1
Note: This novel was first published in Canada under the title The Book of Negroes.

Some books are pleasant enough reads but drift out of memory not long after the last page is read and the cover closed. Others, however, affect you in such a way that you walk around in the grip of the story for a good while after finishing the book. Someone Knows My Name was one of those books - spanning 56 years and three continents, it follows the life of Aminata Diallo, a young girl snatched from outside her village in Africa and sold into slavery. Her story is one of survival, a constant battle against seemingly insurmountable odds. The narrative tracks her journey from her village Bayo to the coast of Africa, across the Atlantic ocean to Southern Carolina, north to New York, further north still to Nova Scotia in Canada, back across the Atlantic to Sierra Leone and then finally to London, England. It is here in London that Aminata is writing out her story as testimony that will be used by those seeking to abolish the slave trade.

The inspiration for this story is the Book of Negroes, a little known document listing the names and details of all of the Black Loyalists (those on the side of the British, that is) who were evacuated from New York during the American Revolutionary war. In the novel, Aminata, thanks to her exceptional literacy, is one of the scribes for this document. The novel goes far beyond just the creation of this document and the evacuation, however. It covers the all sides of slavery, from acquisition to freedom to abolition.

The character and story of Aminata is one that will keep you enthralled. She is strong, capable, sassy and incredibly smart - someone who makes herself at home in your heart and mind and doesn't leave. The only quibble I had with this book was that her story was a little too exceptional at times. Although no single event was necessarily implausible, it seemed that for everything to have happened to one person was too convenient. It was as if the story that the author wanted to tell was too big to be restricted to the experiences of one character. If you can suspend your disbelief, however, this is certainly a great read. There is plenty of action, a colourful cast of characters, excellent historical and geographical detail and plenty of food for thought. Although the events described happened a long time ago, their effects still echo down the generations. Novels like this provide us with real access to histories we might not have encountered otherwise and illuminate that which may not previously have seen. I definitely recommend this book.