Tag Archives: Books

Beating the Odds

I swear I didn’t plan this.

Sometimes when words won’t flow, I use a writing prompt. One of those prompts involves finding a certain page, in a certain book, on a certain shelf.

“Top shelf, third book from the right, page 56.”

I went to my office and looked at the top shelf. Among other books were some that contain short stories of mine. “Huh, what are the odds that the third book to the right is one of those?” I asked myself.

I counted and the Blood Is Thicker anthology, which contains one of my short stories, was third from the right. “That’s pretty amazing,” I thought, “but what are the odds that my story is on page 56?”

I opened the book and flipped to the right page. Yep. My story was there.

The line that stood out: “NOTE TO SELF: Those are pretty good odds.”

The title of my story?

Beating the Odds

I guess I’m supposed to write that even if something seems unlikely, if you set yourself in motion, you might beat the oddsand have a laugh while you’re at it.

Title page of the short story "Beating the Odds"

Freedom to Read: What do Peter Rabbit and King Lear have in common?

FTRW2013_square“Freedom to read can never be taken for granted. Even in Canada, a free country by world standards, books and magazines are banned at the border. Schools and libraries are regularly asked to remove books and magazines from their shelves.”

Several years ago during a long car ride, I read Cheaper By the Dozen out loud to the family. (My Grade 6 teacher, Mrs. Judd, had read it aloud to our class, and I remembered the book fondly.) I got to the point where the mother in the story talked about a low-class or unrefined person, and I stopped reading.

What?” my kids asked

I silently considered my options. The author, when describing a vulgar, low-class, person, used the word “Eskimo.” I couldn’t in good conscience:

(a) use this word to describe the First Nations group without some explanation about why we don’t use the word anymore, or

(b) let that word be associated forever in my kids’ minds with ill-mannered people.

I took a few minutes to explain the back-story of the word, give it some context, and then I read on. It’s a good book – except for that one word.

I’ll tell you what though, I would NEVER read Huckleberry Finn out loud.

This story came to mind because it’s Freedom to Read Week, a time to open our minds to books and book content. What seems subversive and inappropriate to you might be just what someone else needs. Books like Cheaper By the Dozen and Huckleberry Finn give us valuable historical context, even if we don’t like the history, maybe especially because we don’t like the history. They remind us of where we were and the costs that came with it, so we never visit that place again.

If you read Bannings and Burnings in History, the list includes Galileo, Hemingway, and Shakespeare. My favourite on the list is Beatrix Potter’s A Tale of Peter Rabbit because it contained only “middle-class rabbits.”

Freedom to Read week honours freedom of expression. It encourages us to fire up our brain cells to discern quality reading material for ourselves—for ourselves, but not for others.

So, pick up a volume of Shakespeare, or Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, or even go to the movies to see Les Misérables. Do your bit to honour those spectacular controversial works of art.

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Read the Position Statement of Freedom of Expression and Freedom to Read

http://www.freedomtoread.ca/who-we-are/position-statement/