LIS- Post #2

My initial interest for the subject was inspired by my own experiences as a Quidditch player here at the University of Southern Mississippi. A lot of the questions and criticisms I’ve received for playing can be refuted by a simple explanation of the rules and athletic skill it takes to play the game. I did have difficulty finding sources because Muggle Quidditch is a contemporary subject. It has only been in existence for ten years and most sources were not very credible. My best sources were the United States Quidditch website and direct interviews I did with a few of my teammates on the USM team. The USQ website contains a full PDF file of the 200 page rulebook and that was the most helpful source I used. I learned how to better refute criticism and backing up my own opinions with credible information. I also learned how to adequately incorporate journal articles when researching. As Quidditch grows, I feel my own opinions will be easier to back up.

Advertisements

LIS- Post #1

I plan to write about a sport called Quidditch. Originally, Quidditch was a fictional sport played in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. A couple of college students in Vermont in 2005 made the sport a reality by adapting it to the real world. It is a sport, not for the feint of heart as it is a full contact, co-ed sport. Reasonably, Quidditch is met with a lot of judgement due to its origin from a children’s book series. Quidditch also has a very intricate set of rules that to the ordinary eye are difficult to follow. However, as more information about Quidditch reaches the public, it is beginning to grow in popularity. I believe that Quidditch should receive credit as a real and legitimate sport. I plan to establish it’s credibility as a sport through an explanation of the rules and by refuting criticisms made about the sport

Another Harry Potter Paper

I wrote this for my World Literature class. We were to defend a song, book, poem, film, or “anything with words” from the 20th or 21st century that is not in our anthology of world literature as great world literature. When we were told of this assignment, I spent the rest of class planning this essay. I’ve never been more excited about an assignment before and I hope my enthusiasm for it is well represented in what I have written.

The Value of Harry Potter

Fantasy books are seldom regarded as great works of literature. Such books are considered “lowbrow” and purely fiction. Because of these stigmas, the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is not and will never be included in the canon of great world literature. However, it is a crime to deny such a valuable work to all who might benefit from it. Harry Potter though fantasy, is one of the greatest books series of all time because it presents social issues of the 20th and 21st century in a way that is comprehensible to both adults and children. Harry Potter is about an ordinary orphan boy who is treated poorly by relatives. He discovers after a decade of enduring his relatives that he is not so ordinary after all. He enters a new world of magic where he learns he is famous for stopping the greatest dark wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort. Harry spends his entire education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry fending off Voldemort as he attempts to rise to power once again. Harry Potter has been discredited as great literature because it is easily the most misunderstood series of its time. All seven of the books in the Harry Potter series that undeniably teach the power of friendship and love to it’s readers through the characters and their actions. The Harry Potter series is generously blind to gender and race. In addition, Harry Potter stretches beyond the page, inspiring it’s readers to spread love in the form of activism and fandom. Though it is doubtful that Harry Potter will ever be included in the Norton Anthology of World Literature, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most valuable works of literature from the 20th and 21st century. This is because it inspires moral responsibility in its readers.


Harry Potter provides a number of characters who are generously blind to various social issues and standards. As a female, it is very fulfilling to see books that center around a strong and accurately represented woman like The Hunger Games series rise to fame. Frustratingly, women are often severely underrepresented in books. Women are too often stuck in stigmatized and cliche roles in fiction and this occurs a lot in children’s books. Though the series is centered around a male, there are great examples of gender equality in Harry Potter. Hermione Granger is one of Harry Potter’s friends. Hermione is often referred to as “the brightest witch” of her age. Her talents are not only rewarded with complements but with house points for Gryffindor or rather the faction of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to which she and Harry belong. Harry often credits Hermione as the reason he and his best friend Ron escape many dangerous and hairy situations. It is noted in the books that she is able to produce enchantments well beyond her years. For example, in the fifth book the gang must figure out a way to meet in secret. Hermione enchants a coin to project the date and times of meetings. It is said that this is a level of magic two years beyond her own. Hermione is hardly the only female in Harry Potter that is not hindered by typical gender roles. Ginny Weasley, Ron’s younger sister is very much interested throughout the series in a wizarding sport called quidditch. It is very rare that athletic roles are rewarded to female characters but Ginny is credited as one of the best quidditch players in the school. She becomes chaser for the Gryffindor team in the sixth book. Ginny, though one of the best players is not the only female quidditch player. Harry competes with many females, some of which even surpass his own skills in quidditch. Gender equality is well established in the Harry Potter series through the brains of Hermione Granger and braun of Ginny Weasley. Women are just one of many minorities represented thoroughly and accurately in the Harry Potter books.

Harry Potter represents a number of minorities in very subtle and unique ways. It teaches the importance of acceptance through Harry and his friends. One of the greatest conflicts that Voldemort provides is the his desire for the creation of a “pureblood” race of wizards. It is a conflict that aligns with antisemitism during World War II as well as the civil right’s movement of the 1960’s. This is because similar to the Nazi’s view of the Jewish and the white supremacist’s view of blacks, Lord Voldemort and his followers believe that “muggles” or those without magical and blood and wizards born to muggles equate nothing more than insects or rats that should be exterminated. Readers sympathize with Harry who believes that all life is precious and even sacrifices himself for this belief in the seventh book. Because this conflict so closely parallels world history, readers can relate easily to it. It also further emphasizes the importance of adversity to crimes against equality. Harry also has a number of friends who belong to a lower social class because of their race. Hagrid is both a teacher at Hogwarts as well as a friend to Harry. Hagrid is a half-giant which is revealed in the fourth book by a notorious reporter named Rita Skeeter. Skeeter writes an article that she hopes will raise concerns from parents and the wizarding community about the employment of a half-giant. It is through Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s love and support that Hagrid learns that though many are prejudiced against giants, he should wear his heritage proudly and prove his critics wrong. Because the reader sees the wizarding world through Harry and those closest to him, the reader sympathizes and sides with their beliefs. This provokes the readers to be more empathetic, just like Harry.

Beyond the page and screen, Harry Potter continues to have a strong presence in the real world. Harry Potter has inspired an entire genre of music about his world called “wizard rock” or “wrock” for short. The books have also inspired fan conventions and conferences like Leaky Con that accommodates over 5,000 of Harry’s biggest fans and provides a home for those to celebrate the books and films together. Most of all, because of Harry’s strong and positive morality, the books have inspired an entire activist group called The Harry Potter Alliance. They run a number of campaigns in Harry’s name to help better the world. For example, they have raised over 200,000 books for the Mississippi Delta, a region of the U.S. in which 30% of the adult population reads on a first grade level, in their annual “Accio Books” campaign. Their most recent success story that gained them worldwide attention was their campaign “Not in Harry’s Name”. Since its opening, the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios in Florida sold candy and products inspired by the books including the iconic chocolate frog. However, this was not fair trade chocolate. In other words, the cocoa used was the product of outsourced child labor. Thanks to the support of 400,000 people led by the HPA and even JK Rowling herself, Warner Bros announced in December 2014 that all the chocolate they use will be fair trade certified. The battle stretched over the course of four years but it is proof that the Harry Potter books series has stretched beyond the page and inspired its readers to make the world a better place. Strange though it is, that a book about an orphaned boy wizard fighting for the greater good can incite such activism but The Harry Potter Alliance is just further proof of the value of the Harry Potter series.

Good books are the books whose messages and themes inspire us even in the real world. It is without a doubt that because it is intended for children and because it is a books series about wizardry, the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling is not and will never be an addition to the Norton Anthology of World Literature. Despite this, the Harry Potter series is a book with immeasurable value. It is a series that teaches its readers gender and racial equality. It also inspires its readers to act in Harry’s name and make the real world a better place. The overall themes of love, friendship, and acceptance in Harry Potter render it one of the greatest works of literature from the 20th and 21st century and arguably of all time.

Sources:

http://www.thehpalliance.org

(The statistic about the number attendees of Leaky Con comes from my own experience. I attended the con last year)

The Weapon We Have is Love: Why Banning Harry Potter is Criminal

Harry Potter is undoubtedly growing into a classic children’s story. Statistically, every thirty seconds someone starts reading the Harry Potter series. At a glance, Harry Potter is about an ordinary orphan boy who is treated poorly by relatives and in an instant on his eleventh birthday finds out he is not so ordinary after all. He enters a new world of magic where he learns he is famous for stopping the greatest dark wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort. He learns that Voldemort is still alive and trying to rise again and Harry must stop him. Yes, this is Harry Potter at a glance and a very accurate summary but if you were to ask me what Harry Potter was truly about, that is not how I would respond. Harry Potter is about a power that is the closest thing we have to real magic: love.

In 2011, JK Rowling released an extension of Harry Potter on the internet called Pottermore. It serves as an interactive extension of the reading experience where users could follow Harry through the story, unlock new information not in the books, and even can be sorted into one of the four Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry houses thanks to a test designed with help from Jo herself. Pottermore released a riddle for seven consecutive nights so that fans could have a chance to score a spot as a beta user. I was one of these fans and by the time sorting had come around, I was nervous as ever. If you are unfamiliar with the houses let me explain: there’s Gryffindor: the house of bravery of which Harry belonged, Slytherin: the house of ambition of which Lord Voldemort belonged, Ravenclaw: the house of wisdom, and Hufflepuff: the house of loyalty. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what house I would belong to but now it seems so obvious. I was sorted into Hufflepuff and I have Harry to thank for it. Studies show that reading Harry Potter makes you a more empathetic person. Surrounding my life with Harry has ultimately made me a more loving and open person. This is because Harry himself is an open and loving person. Harry is kind to all creatures including Dobby the house elf who Harry frees from servitude of the Malfoys in book two and Hagrid who is persecuted and discriminated for his half giant identity. In addition, Voldemort is obsessed with creating a “pure” race of wizards. In other words, he wishes to rid the world of both non-magical people and wizards born to non-magical parents. Harry Potter advocates empathy and acceptance. It does not just teach tolerance of stigmatized groups; rather it teaches children to fully embrace friendship with all despite whatever differences you may have. This parallel is extremely prevalent in the Harry Potter fan community.

Personally, the biggest reminder to me that Harry Potter is a story that inspires love and empathy is the Harry Potter Alliance. Established in 2005, the HPA is a collection of Harry Potter fans who use the “power of story” to inspire young people to fight for the greater good just as Harry did. They take parallels from Harry Potter and other stories to “turn fans into heroes.”

Since their start, they have helped to promote literacy, equality, and human rights across the globe. I have only lived in Mississippi for a year but I am no stranger to the lack of books available to people living in the Mississippi Delta. The Delta region has alarmingly low literacy rates, with 30% of its adult population reading on a first grade level. The Harry Potter Alliance’s Accio Books campaign helped to send 20,000 books to community centers in the Mississippi Delta. This, among other success stories of the HPA just help prove how incredibly inspiring the Harry Potter series has been to young people. The HPA truly illustrates that the story of Harry Potter has helped its fans to use the power of love to do good in the world. In fact, the adopted slogan of the Harry Potter Alliance is, “The Weapon We Have is Love.”

So at this point, you might ask yourself, why is Harry Potter one of the most challenged books of all time? Because Harry Potter is about an orphan boy wizard, religious organizations have tried banning it, arguing that it goes against what the bible teaches. It is true, the bible advocates against participation in witchcraft and the supernatural. The bible even confirms their existence and urges Christians to stay away from them. I won’t argue against religious teachings but rather argue that despite this you can find many parallels of Christian doctrine in Harry Potter. Love and forgiveness are just two of the major themes carried through both the bible and in Harry Potter. John Granger outlines this in his book, Looking for God in Harry Potter. This book helps to justify coexistence between Christianity and fantasy.

When it comes to banning or censoring the Harry Potter series, I fail to see a justification. I recognize that religion plays a major role in some households; I also recognize the major role that Harry Potter played in mine. Having grown up with the series and with Harry, I gained a generally accepting sense of morality. I have also met dozens of people at fan conventions and on the internet who feel the same way. Harry Potter has inspired a generation of readers to be empathetic and do good on a global scale. Personally, it has brought immense positivity to my life and I hope that attempts to censor it fail; I hope that it continues to inspire and teach love.

Sources:

Harry Potter Banned?

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/banned-harry.html

Harry Potter Teaches Empathy

http://www.businessinsider.com/harry-potter-teaches-empathy-2014-9

The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter: Reducing Prejudice

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jasp.12279/full

Third World Mississippi

http://www.peoplesworld.org/third-world-mississippi-shows-failure-of-conservative-policies

The Harry Potter Alliance

http://thehpalliance.org/

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

From the outside, the beautiful Sinclair family is perfect. They escape each summer to their perfect private island, Beechwood near Cape Cod. However, Cadence Sinclair Eastman recognizes that the Sinclairs are nowhere near perfect. Cadence is part of the Liars, which consists of her first cousins Mirren and Johnny and Johnny’s step-cousin, Gat. They are all adolescents. Cadence and Gat fall in love but it is a love that is confined to the island. Before the 15th year Cadence spends at Beechwood, Cadence’s father left her and her mother for another woman, completely breaking Cadence’s heart. She returns to Beechwood that summer to find that her grandmother died. Her mom and aunts have a feud over their fathers will, most importantly who will inherit the largest house on the island. The Liars find this disgusting and selfish and plot revenge on them.

I read a handful of brand new books each year. At the end of the year, I pick which was my favorite. I can promise you this book will earn that title, if not it will be seriously considered. We Were Liars was profoundly twisted. I find that twists have become trendy in literature and normally, I am very turned away from books whose entire purpose is to shock and surprise you. However, We Were Liars is the exception. I read with such ease because of how well composed it was stylistically. The way Cadence describes emotional pain is incredibly moving. I would not be shocked in the slightest if We Were Liars was the recipient of this year’s Michael L. Printz award.

Though it is difficult to pick problems with this book, no book is perfect. I plan to keep this blog spoil-free but it is difficult to mention the problems I had with this novel without giving away anything. The balance between Cadence’s reality and fantasy is uneven. To sell a relationship between characters, or in other words to get your reader to “ship” two characters you must have very real evidence that chemistry is there. In my opinion, there is not enough evidence of chemistry between Cadence and Gat. Had the book been longer, I think this would have not been an issue.

We Were Liars was the first book that has made me feel real enough emotions to lose sleep over in a very long time. We read to feel entertained but we mostly read to feel. That being said, I cannot recommend this book enough.

Five Books From My Childhood

It has been a busy week for me. School always takes priority over this project so I did not have time to complete a novel this week. However, rather than neglect posting entirely, I figured writing about my top five children’s books would ease my guilt. These books are in no particular order and the only thing they have in common is that I read them before I was even old enough to go to Hogwarts.

1.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane By Kate DiCamillo

This story is about a custom-made stuffed rabbit named Edward. He belongs to a 10-year-old girl named Abeline who pampers him in silk clothes and attention. Edward is aware of just how special he is and as a result is very self-centered. Abeline takes Edward on a cruise where misfortune separates him from Abeline and his former life. Edward is then shuffled between ownership on a humbling journey during which he discovers the meaning of love.
I read this book when I was in fourth grade. My teacher had sat us around in a circle and read the first chapter to us. After just that first chapter, I was so eager to read more that I went home and begged my mom to take me to purchase the book so that I could finish it. I refer to this book as my favorite children’s book because it has the best message without being blatantly preachy. Tragedy has a way of bringing out the best in us. Though adults are not the intended demographic, this is such a beautiful story that I think can stretch passed its genre.

2.
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Coincidentally, this picture book also follows the story of a character separated from her kind. Stellaluna is a bat that gets separated from her mother and is raised by birds. She tries her hardest to fit in with the birds and act the way they do. Eventually, Stellaluna finds her mother and is taught how to be a bat.
I love this book because not only does it counsel readers to be themselves but Cannon is also saying that similarities do not measure compatibility. Just because someone doesn’t like the same things as you does not mean that you cannot be friends. This is evident in the fact that even though Stellaluna wants to be a bat, she remains friends with the birds.

3.
Gossamer by Lois Lowery

Gossamer is an imagining of how dreams and nightmares are conjured. Dream-givers, like the protagonist Littlest, are responsible for producing dreams. Sinisteeds are responsible for producing nightmares. Littlest must produced happy memories and good dreams for an 8-year-old boy name John in order to overpower the hoard of Sinisteeds trying to give him a horrible nightmare.
It is a classic retelling of good vs. evil but the mythos about dreams created by Lowery is what makes this story both interesting and unique. Though I read this book quite young, I think that it has themes that can carry through adulthood.

4.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl arrives on the first day at Mica High School, sticking out like a sore thumb. Everything about her is weird and different to the other kids. However, the quality that separates her from the rest of them are her acts of kindness. Despite this, the other kids are still tentative to befriend her as she is odd and they fear social rejection. One of the boys at school, Leo, is intrigued by Stargirl and begins to fall in love with her. However, just like the others, he is frantic to hide any association with her for fear of being perceived to be as strange as her.
Jerry Spinelli literally wrote the book on the importance of kindness and the dangers of insecurity. This has always been a favorite book of mine because never was a character more relatable to myself as Stargirl.

5.
The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

I do not think I need to summarize the most popular children’s book series of all time. Without these books, I would not even be a reader. Harry Potter is responsible for the kind of person that I am as well as dozens of my closest friendships. There is something so special about it; how it brought together multiple generations of people and inspired those people to make music, become activists, and ultimately to love reading. It is a series that is blind to age, gender, race, and geographic location. Constantly, I hear people telling me that it is too late for them to start the series. I can promise you that it is never too late to delve into something so incredible. I think it is safe to say that even though Harry Potter’s story came to a close in 2007, it has become a timeless introductory series for young readers.

How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

In the midst of an emerging war, Elisabeth who prefers Daisy is sent off to England by her parents to live with her cousins and her Aunt Penn. Daisy, while not thrilled her father was so quick to ship her off is relieved to escape her evil stepmother but Daisy is especially excited to avoid the arrival of her new half sibling. When Daisy arrives in England, her cousin Edmond picks her up. Daisy feels as though Edmond can see into her mind. She grows closest to him and eventually, a romance sparks. However, this book is not about doing the naughty with your first cousin; it is a book about survival. War breaks out and the kids are separated after the British Army sequesters their house. Daisy must take care of herself and the youngest of her cousins, Piper. Together they fight to survive, sacrifice and plot to make it back to Edmond and the others. Published in 2004, this was Meg Rosoff’s first novel. It won the 2005 Michael L. Printz Award as well as the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. In 2013, it was adapted to film.

There is naturalness to the narrative that is unlike any I have ever read. Daisy’s voice is snarky and stubborn. Rosoff breathed life into Daisy by making her selfish and vindictive which in turn makes her a completely believable 15-year-old girl. For example, Daisy’s anorexia is an attempt to divert her father’s attention from her stepmother to her; this is both irresponsible and immature but overall it is realistic. All of the characters in this book have a rare kind of spirit as well that helps make this alternate history so compelling.

It is hard not to be fixated on the weirdness of Daisy’s incestuous relationship with her first cousin. It is also hard to stomach books that glorify underage sex. Piper, always asking questions, is unfazed when she asks Daisy if she loves Edmond and Daisy answers yes. The other characters are accepting of the situation, which I think makes it easier for the reader to accept as well. However, their relationship is generally off-putting and uncomfortable. Despite this, I think the relationship between Daisy in Piper is the best in the novel. Daisy takes on a big sister role with Piper who has grown up with three older brothers. Daisy and Piper must transform in order to survive occupied England. Daisy loses her unreasonable selfishness to take care of Piper and Piper significantly toughens up. The book quickly changes from a coming of age romance novel to an adventure/thriller as the girls fight to get back to the house after being taken away.

The biggest issue I had with this book was that it lacked details about the war itself. I would have liked to know the motivation of the terrorists. I believe Rosoff had room to reveal more of the nature and specifics of the war. The ending also fell very flat to me and lacked that natural voice that the rest of the novel had. Despite its flaws, this book was one of those rare gems that you have to read in one sitting simply because you cannot stop yourself. It was a pleasure to delve into How I Live Now.

Palo Alto by James Franco

His work on screen, on stage and PhD from Yale University remind us that James Franco is no stranger to the arts. In his debut novel Palo Alto, Franco uses a series of vignettes to tell the stories of troubled teenagers growing up in Franco’s hometown: Palo Alto. Each narrator is different but all are struggling through adolescence. Though his education shines through his writing style, as a fan of his work in film I am afraid this book fell short of my expectations. However, the novel was successful enough to have already been adapted to film starring the author himself, Emma Roberts, and Nat Wolff.

Franco provides a sense of believability to his characters and their stories but I found that the further I progressed through one, the less I liked the characters. Vulgarity in books has never truly bothered me so long as it is necessary. Vulgar and explicit language and situations are often necessary because it helps us to sympathize and understand the domestic life of its characters. When used unnecessarily, vulgarity can distance the reader from the narrative by rendering the characters unlikable. Chinatown in Three Parts is a perfect example of Franco’s inability to create likable characters. The narrator, Roberto, and his friends emotionally manipulate a girl named Pam and convince her multiple times to perform sexual acts. I wanted growth from Roberto but his apathy remained until the very end. I also wanted so desperately to feel bad for the masochistic Pam, but the only thing I was given was the fact that she was an orphan and the reader was only told of the events through Ronny’s perspective. After finishing Palo Alto, I realized that there were eleven stories, and not a single character that I sympathized with or cared for.

I did often found myself swooning over Franco’s use of imagery. “The atmosphere was a held breath, and the shadowed house fronts were sleeping dogs” is just one of the many captivating lines Franco uses. However, I found that Franco was overly location-specific. I could tolerate a few street names as they bring a sense of realism to the work but the amount used was overwhelming. I also found him describing characters and details that served no purpose to the plot. I do not care about what the person who picked a fight with Ronny in Lockheed looked like; I only care about what he did and said. Most of the descriptions were also repeated or said in very similar ways. From a very young age, my mother always warned me of the dangers of redundancy. I was scorned for saying phrases like, “whole entire” or “same exact”. Therefore, redundant language has become a pet peeve of mine. In this particular novel, the redundant language was incessant: “Jordan middle school reopened because there were so many kids in Palo Alto. More kids than the old generation”.

I do not believe that this book suffers from poor authorship; I believe it lacked thorough editing. As a whole, this novel was nothing more than mediocrity but it is important to keep in mind that not many debut novels are this well written. James Franco is very sound stylistically, which makes for a very promising literary future. Despite not enjoying this novel, should Franco publish another novel I would most definitely check it out. The film adaptation of Palo Alto is to be released this September.