Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Friday, September 30, 2011

Banning a Secret Place & a Forbidden Love

I'm going to try a larger font in today's posting to see if it's easier to read.  What do you think?  Comments, please and thanks.

To celebrate ALA Banned Books Week, you might want to watch our book trailers below to see if you would like to read the two books I'm recommending in this post.

I talked about The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, on my Catch It @ MPL (Cauli 4 Kids) blog. There have been attempts to ban this classic children's book in schools and libraries. 

Why have some grown-ups tried to remove The Secret Garden from libraries and schools?  They argue that the book is too depressing for children ages 9-12, because it talks about death, sadness, and loneliness.  But most kids have experienced the death of an elderly relative by the time they are reaching the upper elementary school grades, so this subject is hardly outside their personal experiences.  The book is mostly about finding new friends and a special place where they can bring their secret garden back to life, and, at the same time, bring happiness back to their lives.  The book's message is overwhelmingly positive.

Other adults who want to censor The Secret Garden criticize the author's portrayal of the wealthy uncle to whom Mary Lennox is sent after her parents died in India.  Apparently, the grouchy old man upsets these grown-ups, because they think it unfairly portrays how the rich care for their kin.  But the uncle has his own sorrows, and he, too, must find his way back to happiness, and Mary and her friends will help him.  Again, readers feel good about how these people cope with their heartbreak and learn to live full lives again.

The best way to decide whether or not you should read a book is to give it a try.  If, after reading 30 or 40 pages, you decide that the book isn't for you, then return it to your favorite library, wish it well, and send it along its way to the next reader.  However, you may find yourself engrossed in the book, and that is always worthwhile.

James A. Michener's Sayonara was released in 1953, which marked the end of the Korean War. This novel, especially short by Michener standards, followed the tradition of "star-crossed lovers" made famous by, among many other writers, William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet) and Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights). Sayonara stands among these great love stories because of its poignancy and its honesty to the time period. Michener knew first-hand about the societal barriers to interracial marriage (he married Mari Yoriko Sabusawa in 1955, and Sayonara was framed partially from an autobiographical perspective). He clearly understood the stigmas and associated difficulties such couples endured in the 1950s and continue to endure today. But love is blind to national boundaries, skin color, religious and cultural differences, and other such superficial characteristics. Human hearts connect, regardless of anything, when love brings them together. That makes for a great story, and Michener delivers what many consider to be his finest work.

It is this direct, honest treatment of interracial relationships and the societal tensions generated that has infuriated those wishing to ban Sayonara from schools and libraries.  Protestors may talk about rough language among military characters, and the development of intimate relations (translation: sex) between an American airman and a Japanese woman, but, make no mistake, those people who wish to pull the book from the shelves are upset because an interracial relationship is being favorably depicted. This is exactly the societal reaction that Michener is criticizing in his novel!  The irony surely did not escape him.

Our book trailer borrows some images from the motion picture adaptation (1957), starring Marlon Brando, Miiko Taka, Red Buttons, James Garner, and Miyoshi Umeki, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Likewise, Red Buttons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The film was directed by Joshua Logan.

Michener novels are typically gigantic tomes with broad, sweeping vistas of plot covering enormous time spans. He had a lot to say, and he said it very well, in his longer books. But this novel showed, as did his other short work, Tales of the South Pacific, that he was a master of shorter forms, too.  Sayonara is a quick read, but here, too, there is much to tell.

Saying Sayonara 'Cause It's Getting Pretty Late, Way Past My Bedtime,

Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
BBW News Beat

P.S.  Speaking of sayonara, here is "Hello, Goodbye," by the Beatles, released as a single (1967) and shown here in the group's remastered music video.

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