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LETTERS / A Few More Books We Really Should Look Out For

Dear Editor,

So with The House of the Spirits back in the news for a third time, and the controversy still ongoing about what constitutes offensive reading material front and center. I thought I would do my part to suggest other offensive and dangerous books that the concerned citizens of Watauga county should protect their children from. But I also feel like having some fun and making a game of this. So I’m going to describe them without actually giving the titles till the answer list below. See how many you can guess before peeking.

#1 A series of stories where the main character is noted on more then one occasion to openly use cocaine, including a personal mix containing a “seven percent solution” stored in a special syringe. On top of his constant use of tobacco, and on a couple occasions even indulging in the use of morphine. Surely our children should not be exposed to such a person right? No matter how superior his wit and various other talents are. Given that a trail of murders tends to follow him as well. Much less his attitude towards women. Often using and manipulating them, even getting engaged, and then dumping them once they no longer have his interest.

#2 An adventure about a young girl who rather then listen to the lessons being taught follows a curious and complete stranger into a world full of strange reality altering drugs. Some of which cause many an emotional mood swing including fits of crying. Not to mention twisting her reality so much she mistakes a baby for a pig. And along the way she experiments with even further temptations by sampling various bits of mushroom offered to her by a rather unsavory character. Is trapped in a moment where time seems to stand still. Engages in strange acts of animal abuse involving hedgehogs. And in the end has to escape an interrogation by a crazed ruler of the neighborhood who is obsessed with severed heads. Definitely the kind of disturbing imagery and glorification of drug use children should never be subjected too.
#3 A group of children (the oldest being a mere 14) who rather then submit to the authority of adults who clearly know what’s best for them (even if it means their separation) decide to instead become runaways. And glorify the life of homeless vagrants hiding in the woods, along with the belief that children do not need a shred of adult supervision to live a proper life.  The oldest the only one going to town to do odd jobs. Even though such a lifestyle endangers the health of one of the younger siblings. And only then do they finally realize that perhaps their life choices are the wrong ones. 

#4 The story of a young girl who isn’t even in a strange new town for an hour before she ends up being implicated in the murder of a Eastside gang leader. However with the help of those who control the north side of town she is able to escape from the crazed attentions of a sibling out to avenge her sister’s murder.  Along the way she places her hopes in a mystery man known to the town only as “the wizard”. But a man who refuses to help unless she engages in an act of thievery and steals a valuable item from the Westside leaders property. Recruited to help her with this is three total strangers she met along the way and ones trusted without question despite their own pressing personal problems. But the robbery attempted is botched, the girl is caught, she ends up responsible for the “accidental” murder of the second sister, and is even left in a lurch by those who promised to help her. However in the end she is still able to ditch a double homicide rap and escape with her felonious footwear with no consequences at all. Seriously, do we want our children to know they can get away with murder if they just wish themselves out of it?

#5 The classical tale of a man doomed by his own actions. And given a terrible curse when he is told he is fated to not only kill his own father, but sleep with his own mother. All of which occurs without any of the players of this tale being aware of it. The man even fathering two daughters / half sisters upon her. And when the truth is revealed he orders the servants to bring a sword that he might cut out his mother’s womb. But he is too late as she has by then already hung herself. So instead in a fit of despair he blinds himself using the pins that held her dress together and begs for exile. again is this REALLY the kind of disturbing tale full of pornographic incest filled filth and bloody violence children should be reading?

#6 Speaking of the classics, there is another we could mention. The story of a youth not even 18 and a girl not even 14 who are so smitten with love that they get married within the span of two days. Even over the objections of both families and a feud that results in murder and the groom only able to spend one night with his new bride “As man and wife.” Before the grief stricken bride resorts to faking her own death to escape to him. Only to have the whims of fate lead to another violent murder, and in the end a double suicide as both lovers take their own lives. And god forbid such violent material much less implied underage sex be something 15 year olds are exposed too. They might get ideas…

#7 Another personal favorite. We have the tale of a member of upper class society who finds himself laid low by those with more money and power then him. And through acts of corruption they not only murder his family but steal his home right out from under him. Homeless and forced to live in the woods he finds himself resorting to a life of crime and robbery. Yet the local law enforcement is stymied as the people in the neighborhood come to hail him as a revolutionary hero. All thanks to his policies of socialist wealth redistribution that dares to upset the ruling elite. Leftist indoctrination at it’s finest.

#8 How about the story of a young girl whose beauty leaves her mother so jealous with rage that she actually plots to have her murdered. Though in the end the girl does escape from this fate. But instead finds herself in a strange co-habitation with seven other unwed men. Who agree to take care of her if she promises to mind the house, do all the cooking, and tend to the washing. Of course the naive girl agrees (hmmm maybe some out there actually would approve of this theme, what with women knowing their place and all?) and ignores the warnings of the men as her mother not once, but three times sneaks into the woods to try and murder her daughter. Finally succeeding with an overdose that puts her in a coma. A coma she only escapes from as a total stranger convinces the men to let him have the coffin she’s in, a whim of fate awakening her, and a marriage to said total stranger (what is it with girls in these stories being so trusting?) follows. The final scene at the wedding featuring the girls mother put to death by being trapped in red hot iron dancing shoes and forced to dance till she drops. Definitely the kind of violent imagery 15 olds shouldn’t know about on top of the rest.

#9 Another dangerous tale to look out for. A story about a happy home owner who has his nice normal life turned upside down when a deranged old friend of the family shows up leading a band of rowdy brigands. Ones that convince him to join them on a dangerous planned robbery of a highly guarded vault full of treasure. But what starts as a simple heist job soon turns into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with murderous criminal gangs out for revenge. Other factions who would not see that treasure found. Dealings with deranged individuals who have to be outwitted. And the slow slipping of the homebody turned burglar’s sanity as he tries to hide one piece of treasure from the others. Even as the raiding of the vault leads to the  countryside degenerating into a bloody and fiery turf war that ends with the death of thousands.

#10 One that’s a real threat to kids everywhere. We should never expose them to a tale about a charismatic youth much older then he appears. One who breaks into homes in the dead of night, and then attempts to lure children away using his magic drugs (known on the street as “fairy dust”) Along with his promises of a life free from any adult cares forever. Of course this proves to not be the case as one heroine is quickly swept up into a love triangle with the hero, his loyal sidekick, and a princess to boot. On top of that she has to evade two attempts on her life, one inspired by a sidekicks jealousy, which nearly leads to the heroes death. But in the end he manages to drive off a rival captain of the other local gang (one whose hand he had previously cut off) steals his ship, and runs off with his own gang who decide that pesky adult supervision just isn’t for them.

#11 Now if we want truly violent there is a popular story about a young lad bullied at home by a dominant older brother, taunted by classmates. And near the end of his time there gets into a fight with a fellow student and fatally wounds him, just to prevent any future bullying. The incident then is covered up and our main character is actually promoted to a military academy. And subjected to even further psychological manipulations by the staff of the facility. All to push him right to a breaking point, which results in the death of a second individual, and another murder hidden from his knowledge. All of this pales in comparison to his future deeds however, when as a renowned military genius he ends up being responsible for the deaths of billions in a campaign of mass genocide. All over a simple mistake, one that sadly is not realized till it’s far too late. and one that in the end proved pointless to a degree, as the many powers that be continued to fight each other and fight over him afterwards. Not that it matters though, I mean who want a mass murderer to be discussed by their children?

#12 Speaking of war. and given the specific objections raised about content in The House of the Spirits. Would we really ever want our youth reading a collection of short stories and parables that contains an account where men who go off to war are allowed by not only their generals but their spiritual leaders to bring home women captured on the battlefield. And force them into every aspect of marriage without their consent? God forbid we titillate them with the naughty bits though while trying to teach a lesson.

#13 A dark and very disturbing story involving a group of young boys stranded on a tropical island. While they attempt to stay civilized and form a political structure suffer many setbacks.  Including the death of a child in a forest fire. But the true horror comes as they succumb to more darker impulses, the eventual leader of one group of the boys becoming obsessed with violence and hunting more then actual rescue. While he and the rest of the children are also swept up in fear and mythical superstitions that lead to ritual sacrifices, more savage behavior, and one boy who realizes the truth too late killed by all the others when he mistaken for a monster by those caught in the frenzy of the moment.  Soon their society devolves to a factional power struggle resulting in another murder, torture till some boys agree to join the new tribe, and the old leader hunted down by all the others. His survival only a chance accident when the boys are discovered by a ship passing the island. and again is such a tale containing such violence and dark imagery really what our youth should be reading? do we want them to act like that?

#14 Back to the classics, a poor young youth trades his only source of income for a secret access to an exclusive gated community. Whereupon he starts to engage in acts of thievery, even as the homeowner engages in violent threats as to what will happen should our hero be caught. Including the graphic description of his bones being ground to dust. Not that this stops him as not once, not twice, but three times he sneaks into the house to rob it, making off with all the owners money, livestock, and even his musical instruments. Complete with the final robbery involving the violent use of an axe, and the murder of said homeowner. Obviously something impressionable minds again shouldn’t read. I mean how dare liberal know it all teachers sneak this in under the not so watchful eyes of parents, and warp our youth into violent home invaders with a single story?

Anyway as promised, your answer list.
#1 Sherlock Holmes
#2 Alice In Wonderland
#3 The first Boxcar Children story
#4 Wizard of Oz
#5 Oedipus Rex
#6 Romeo And Juliet
#7 Robin Hood
#8 Snow White
#9 The Hobbit (filthy hobbitttsss)
#10 Peter Pan
#11 Enders Game
#12 Holy Bible / Deuteronomy 21
#13 Lord of the Flies
#14 Jack and the Beanstalk.

Of course when I showed this list to a few friends for their opinions one response was why didn’t I use more controversial books? Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Jungle. So on. To which I said those are already controversial books. The point here was to show how any story when attacked by people who harp on certain portions (or just flat out spin a story into something else like I did here) can make any book sound terrible.

And this is before another friend pointed out I could have filled the whole list with Shakespeare. Given we also have Othello (racism) Taming of the shrew (misogyny) Merchant of Venice (antisemitism) Macbeth (Murder, witchcraft, more murder)   And of course Midsummer night’s dream (sex, sex, and sex)

A third friend also pointed out the 7-10 grade reading list in his area. every book on it is mentioned in the list above, except Midsummer’s and one other I forgot. That being “The Outsiders” Which for those of us that have read it know that one of the final scenes (The store robbery gone fatally wrong) and other incidents in the book could easily land it in the same heat HOTS is in, provided that’s all you look at of course. And you ignore the social and life issues being brought up in the context of the story.

But no, reading such a thing will obviously in the eyes of some turn our kids into greaser juvenile delinquents! We must protect them lest they realize the world isn’t all sunshine and kittens!

Hyperbole maybe but it’s what makes the attacks HOTS so totally ridiculous. As if a single book in a single class is the single fact that will somehow turn the youth of Watauga from good boys and girls into dirty porn loving lefties? Seriously?

And to me it’s why the issue of censorship is actually second to a much larger problem in my eyes. The fact that people don’t think so much as the fact some people willfully refuse to think.

Reading a book, any book controversial or not, is exposing yourself to new cultures, new ideas, and new ways of looking at the world.  Something that is vital to an educated society, something ALL our English teachers do not get enough respect for doing, and something I can speak of from personal experience when 15 year old Jesse Steele checked out “The Rainbow Cadenza” from the Watauga county Library. Trust me when I also say that books sexual content throughout (including a rape that ends in murder within the books opening chapters) makes HOTS look like a girl scout bake sale. But to this day that book sticks with me nearly two decades later not because of the sex. But because it made me question a lot of issues in society, how we treat others around us (trying to explain the book would be another letter entirely) and didn’t turn me into a total deviant because I read a few naughty bits either. 

That’s what good books do. And that why the greater crime in this whole mess isn’t the fact that people want to ban books, but once again  how some see no need to open them in the first place because of their own personal bias. So why should anyone else do the same? 

As Allende says in HOTS “You can’t find someone who doesn’t want to be found.” Why bother discussing anything when I know EXACTLY what it is! You want to teach history then teach history, don’t expose my kids to this! To which I will add one other quote from her. One that is fitting to not just this book. But any story ever written.

“You can tell the deepest truths with the lies of fiction” 

Pity some people can’t see that. Maybe all that filth on the surface is blocking their view?

Jesse Steele

Boone NC