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Banned Books 2018 – MARCH READ – Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Published March 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

An exciting, eye-catching repackage of acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers’ bestselling paperbacks, to coincide with the publication of SUNRISE OVER FALLUJA in hardcover.

A coming-of-age tale for young adults set in the trenches of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, this is the story of Perry, a Harlem teenager who volunteers for the service when his dream of attending college falls through. Sent to the front lines, Perry and his platoon come face-to-face with the Vietcong and the real horror of warfare. But violence and death aren’t the only hardships. As Perry struggles to find virtue in himself and his comrades, he questions why black troops are given the most dangerous assignments, and why the U.S. is there at all.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the third banned book in our series for 2018! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

APRIL: Saga Volume 3 -Brian K.Vaughan and Fiona Staples
MAY: Blood And Chocolate -Annette Curtis Klause
JUNE: Brave New World-Aldous Huxley
JULY: Julie Of The Wolves -Jean Craighead George
AUGUST: I Am Jazz– Jessica Herthel
SEPTEMBER: Taming The Star Runner– S.E. Hinton
OCTOBER: Beloved -Toni Morrison
NOVEMBER: King & King -Linda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My Life– Charise Mericle Harper
For now, back to this month:

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

First published: 1983

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2001  (source)

Reasons: offensive language

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  I’ve mentioned before how I like to go into our banned books completely blind about what the reason for challenging/banning it were and I always like to try and guess why people might not have deemed it appropriate. Well, when I looked at the reason for Fallen Angels being banned in 2001 (still can’t believe that was 17 years ago!!) I had to rub my eyes and look again to see if they’d missed anything. Yup, just offensive language. I have to admit, yes there was a tiny little bit of bad language in this book. It didn’t offend me however and it seemed realistic given the traumatic circumstances that the soldiers found themselves in at times. I’m going to draw from personal experience now and tell you about this lovely older lady I used to work with. Instead of swearing, she would substitute the word for a plant beginning with the same letter. For example, I’ll use the relatively tame: “Damn!” Instead of “Damn!,” she used to say, “Dandelions!” It used to make me smile, bless her heart. Anyway (and there is a point to this little tale) I can’t really imagine very young soldiers i.e. seventeen/eighteen year old getting in a horrific mess and saying “Oh, Fuschia!” or “Buttercup!!”

It felt real to me anyway and the utterances of “bad words,” was so few and far between that to be honest, I barely noticed it. I don’t personally make a habit of swearing on my blog, I know that some people would be offended by it and I would hate to offend anyone but I really do think teenagers/children hear worse things out on the streets/at school/on television than anything written in this book.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I don’t really read up on the reasons why a book has been challenged. I just read it for myself and then try and work out if I knew why it was challenged. I did think the reason this book was challenged was because of the violence and racism casually littered into the story. Offensive language? Teenagers (and unfortunately younger children) hear much worse in their family homes/media/from their peers/music!

How about now?

BETH: As there’s only one reason why this book was challenged/banned, I want to just touch on reasons that I was surprised didn’t come up. We’ve been doing this Banned Books feature for a little while now and a lot of times, the theme of violence, overt sexuality or racism comes up as a reason for the book being thought inappropriate (by some!). Now there was less sexuality (although quite a bit of homophobia) but there was quite a lot of casual racism in Fallen Angels and definitely A LOT of violence. I mean, it’s set around a group of young soldiers in the Vietnam War so if you were expecting anything different, you’d be sorely wrong. As this book was mostly war and soldiers getting injured/dying, I have to say I was really surprised that this didn’t come up as a reason for challenging it? Not that I’m complaining, I don’t agree with banning any books of course, but if you were going to choose a reason…..CONFUSED.

CHRISSI: I’m confused too. I really didn’t think the swearing was that bad. I’ve read a lot worse language in some books. Of course, this book was about soldiers in Vietnam so there was bound to be violence, but I thought that was going to be the reasoning behind it. I’m genuinely baffled as to why the subject matter wasn’t questioned. If you’re going to challenge a book, challenge it for something more substantial than language. Pfft.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  Unfortunately, I didn’t get on with this book too well. Some of the scenes are incredibly powerful, especially when Perry and his friends are in the midst of fighting and generally, I find war horrifying anyway so it was always going to be quite an emotive read. However, I just felt like I wanted a bit more character development. I didn’t feel like we got to know any of the boys as well as we could have done if they weren’t fighting all the time. Yes, I get that it was meant to be about the Vietnam War and their traumatic experience of going to war so young but I just feel more could have been made of their characters.

CHRISSI: I was not a fan. Despite there being a war going on, I didn’t feel like much happened in the story. I don’t feel like I got to know any of the characters. I found myself skim reading it which isn’t a sign of a wonderful book…I do know that others would enjoy it. It just didn’t work well for me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

 3 Star Rating Clip Art
Coming up on the last Monday of April on Banned Books: we review Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

Sweet Caress – William Boyd

Published August 8, 2016 by bibliobeth

26073125

What’s it all about?:

When Amory Clay was born, in the decade before the Great War, her disappointed father gave her an androgynous name and announced the birth of a son. But this daughter was not one to let others define her; Amory became a woman who accepted no limits to what that could mean, and from the time she picked up her first camera, one who would record her own version of events.

Moving freely between London and New York, between photojournalism and fashion photography, and between the men who love her on complicated terms, Amory establishes her reputation as a risk taker and a passionate life traveler. Her hunger for experience draws her to the decadence of Weimar-era Berlin and the violence of London’s Blackshirt riots, to the Rhineland with Allied troops and into the political tangle of war-torn Vietnam. During her ambitious career, the seminal moments of the twentieth century will become the unforgettable moments of her own biography as well.

In Sweet Caress, Amory Clay comes wondrously to life, her vibrant personality enveloping the reader from the start. And, running through the novel, her photographs over the decades allow us to experience this vast story not only with Amory’s voice but with her vision. William Boyd’s Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

What did I think?:

I haven’t read much by William Boyd before although I am very aware of the genius of his writing and Sweet Caress is a beautiful example of just how amazing he can be. What makes this book really special though, is the inclusion of multiple photographs (supposed to be taken by Amory) but actually amassed from Boyd’s own collection of intriguing and anonymous photographs he has amassed. The entire narrative has actually been written around and occasionally altered by the author to fit some of the photos. It blends historical fact and fiction seamlessly to the extent that I actually had to go investigating after reading this novel as to whether Amory Clay as a person actually existed! Unfortunately, she seems to be entirely fictional but it represents the strength of writing that I actually believed this woman was a “real life” historical figure.

The story is told in two parts – the first is Amory’s journal entries from the 1970’s where she is happily ensconced on a Scottish island enjoying her retirement and taking the occasional photographs, her one true passion and something she did very successfully in her youth to middle age. Then as Amory reminisces over her life, we learn of her early life experiences at boarding school, her troubled relationship with her father – a war hero who has been deeply psychologically affected by what he experienced during the war and, as a result, tries to kill both Amory and himself by driving their car into a lake.

Her life continues to fascinate and compel the reader as by defying the standards of society at that time as to what is an acceptable career for a woman and she is determined to become a world class photographer. She starts small with the help of her uncle by assisting him in photographing society ladies but soon develops a bit of a reputation for herself when she starts to push the boundaries of what photographs should show. This leads to her completing occasionally risky assignments, like going to the brothels of Berlin in the 1920’s, covering fascist riots in London in the 1930’s and being very close to the front-line in World War II and Vietnam. She makes some very wobbly decisions regarding her career, her personal safety and the men she chooses to love but despite everything comes across as an independent, dynamic and endlessly intriguing character that led such an admirable and exciting life.

I simply loved Amory as a character and because the reader gets to see her whole life in its entirety from tentative girl to assured and brave woman, you really felt like you knew her and when it ended, it almost felt like you were leaving a friend behind. As I mentioned before, the beauty of Boyd’s words is increased exponentially by his decision to include some riveting photographs that really enhanced the text and the story as a whole. Even though some of the images were quite shocking (I’m thinking of a particular photo showing a dead German soldier), you couldn’t help but go backwards to look at them again and I thought it was a really unique way to tell a story. I’ll definitely be checking out some more of William Boyd’s work – he’s a force to be reckoned with!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0