Sunday, 7 February 2021

Book club highlights on a snowy morning...

Winter has definitely arrived, and it looks like a fiercely shaken snow globe outside my windows this morning.  But I have a steaming cup of chai and a delicious date bar, as well as a small cup of steaming apple cider, to keep me warm and cozy as I write this week’s post.  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, my kitty is fully recovered.

My Volunteer book club met virtually yesterday to discuss Beartown by Fredrik Backman, and it was a success.  The small forest town of Beartown is dying.  People are moving away, the factory is laying off more and more people, and the boys’ hockey teams have met with losses year after year.  You see, Beartown is a hockey town.  Hockey permeates every aspect of the town; it’s all anyone cares about, and now there is a rising star named Kevin who could put the town back on the map.  If the Juniors win the final against their biggest rival team in nearby Hed, Beartown could be chosen as the spot for the new hockey arena and training centre; maybe they will get the new conference centre that’s been promised for years; maybe they’ll even get a new shopping centre built, and new schools, and new families… well, it’s obvious that they are pinning all their hopes on this one team, and more specifically, this one player.  During a party at his house following the semi-final victory, Kevin rapes the GM’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Maya.  What can Maya do, knowing how strongly the town feels about Kevin and the team?  And what could be the fallout if she goes public with the accusation?  You’ll have to read the book to find out the answers to these questions and more!  This novel came to my attention while I was searching for a book to add to our list for Freedom to Read Week, which is scheduled for the last week of February this year (I'm using my Banned Books mug right now!).  I’d never heard of this book and wondered why it was banned or challenged.  Well, in 2018, this novel was banned by the North Carolina School District of Rockingham County.  A new English teacher chose this to be on the reading list for a grade 10 Advanced English course, and the school district voted to ban the book on the grounds that it was “vulgar” and “graphic”.  This issue with this decision was that the school district did not adhere to its own book challenge procedure (https://ncac.org/news/beartownnc).  There were four of us in the meeting yesterday: two listened to it as an audiobook and two of us read it in print.  One of the audio people found it difficult to follow, as there were so many characters to keep track of.  The other audio person loved it.  All of us thought it was too long and could have done with significant editing, but at least with the print copies, we could skim some of the less interesting parts.  The more we talked about it, though, the better we liked it.  The story was certainly interesting, with so many different themes to discuss:  the powerful men and nearly-invisible women;  family, community, team and loyalty;  the violence in hockey culture.  We all agreed that this book was not suitable for grade 10 students, but thought that it might be appropriate for grade 12  English students, or even, as one member suggested, for a course on Ethics or Social Justice.  We talked about our favourite characters (Ramona, Amat and Sune) and our favourite relationships (Maya and Ana, Benji and his sisters).  It was a long book that was overly repetitive, but the main theme of rape and its consequences is a story that needs to be told, and not just to adults, but to teens as well.  I would recommend this to anyone interested in novels about family and community, and you don’t need to know much about hockey to understand the story.  I’m going to wait awhile before requesting the sequel, Us Against You, from the library, but I will eventually read it.

That’s all for today.  Get outside, but bundle up… it’s cold out there!

Bye for now…
Julie

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