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A “Brief” History of LGBT Book Censorship

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A few weeks ago was banned book week, a time where we celebrate and fondly read, a little out of rebel instinct, such classic banned books as Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. However, it is a good time to look at what books still get banned today. Yes, even in the Good Ol’ U.S.A we still ban books.

The trend in banned books in the 21st century is a little disturbing. According to the American Library Association (ALA) Top Ten List in 2016, half of the books on the top ten list, the top five to be exact, were challenged because of LGBT characters and mentioning trans characters. Books like This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jenning.

This is not the first time that LGBT books and writers have been banned or challenged by the public, since the Renaissance. So, for LGBT history week, let’s take a look at some of the popular and extreme classes of LGBT censorship.

The Poetry of Sappho 570 BC (but censorship probably happened during the 14th century)

Oh, if you have not heard of Sappho my friends, you are in for a treat. Sappho was a Greek poet who lived on the island of Lesbos, which, fun fact, is where we get the term Lesbian, because her poetry was all about loving women, in every sense of the word. In her day, her work was extremely popular, being required reading for Greek Citizens and praised by Plato himself as the tenth Muse. It’s said that she wrote nine volumes of poetry. Unfortunately, most of that is lost, with only fragments and one full poem remaining.

So what happened?

Censorship, that’s what. Historians suspect that Sappho’s work had been censored or destroyed by leaders of the early Roman Catholic and Byzantine churches in order to destroy Sappho’s message of erotic female love, paganism, and just female empowerment. It also could be assumed that, until the invention of the Gutenberg Press, most Ancient Writings was copied out by hand by monks, who were bothered and intimidated by Sappho and her lady love and refused to copy it, or censored out all the gay parts.

However, in 1960, Sappho was saved from obscurity when Mary Barnard, a poet, and English-to-Greek translator, reintroduced Sappho to the reading public by translating her work using fresh language that better reflected the clarity of Sappho’s lines, thus creating new interest in Sappho’s poetry, which you can find here.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855)

Leaves of Grass is a collection of poetry which, just like Sappho, was censored for its homosexual themes and sexual imagery. So much so that Walt Whitman could not get a publisher for his work and had to self-publish his poems. During his lifetime, his poetry was heavily critiqued. When the poetry collection was first published, Whitman was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior when his boss read it and found it offensive. Literary critics thought the homosexual themes and images in the collection were “disgusting.” However, Whitman always believed that he would be accepted by the American people, and today Leaves of Grass is considered one of the most important collections of American poetry.

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde (1895)

It feels like Oscar Wilde was legit the embodiment of the term “Too Gay to Function.” When Wilde first took his book The Picture of Dorian Grey to publishers, they thought the book was good, but a little too gay for sensitive Victorian readers. So Wilde cut out about 500 words from his already short novel. It was published which led to a huge public outcry because it was “still too gay.” It was taken out of print and Wilde rewrote a lot of his novel, changing it from 13 chapters to 20 and doing much more character development. It was published again and the Victorian people rioted, “It’s still too damn gay!”

Oscar Wilde was gay and as open about it as a person living in Victorian times could be about it. Because of this openness, Wilde was put on trial not once, but three times, for being gay. During his three trials, the opposing side read aloud from “Dorian Grey” calling it a “sodomitical book.” Wilde tried to defend himself by saying the book is about art for art’s sake, not to have some kind of meaning, and that an artist’s rights should be defended. Basically kind of saying, “if you think it’s gay then you’re gay.”

This didn’t work. Wilde was sentenced to two years in prison and died in exile at the age of 46.

An article from the New Yorker may have put it best: Wilde went to prison not because he loved young men but because he flaunted that love, and “Dorian Gray” became the chief exhibit of his shamelessness.”

Screen Adaptions to Tennessee Williams’ Work (1950’s-1960’s)

I think my favorite saying of all time is “That’s not what happened in the book!” We are all familiar with certain changes that happen when we adapt a book into a movie. White-washing is a very popular (though it shouldn’t be) trend that happens. There is also a thing such as straight-washing, where a gay character is made straight or their sexuality isn’t stated, and that’s what happened with Tennessee Williams’ famous plays A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof when Hollywood got a hold of it.

Tennessee Williams was a gay playwright, active in the 1940’s-1970’s, where it was still not okay to be out. Williams channeled his own sexuality into his work, mentioning, or at least implying, gay characters in his work. For example, the main character, Brick, in the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof who was in love with his now-dead best friend, Skipper, and the play itself having heavy homosexual themes. There is a rather long monologue in A Streetcar Named Desire where Blanche talks about her dead husband who killed himself after people found out he was gay.

These plays were extremely popular, so Hollywood quickly snatched them up to make them big pictures. However, due to the Hollywood mortally code at the time, they couldn’t mention homosexuality in any of their movies. So Blanche’s husband was cut, and Brick was made totally straight.  

Tennessee Williams was reportedly so upset with the changes made in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that he told people “This movie will set the industry back 50 years. Go home!”

Tango Makes Three and Other Children’s Books (2000’s)

While books are no longer being banned on a government scale, they’re being challenged at the community level, in small libraries all over the country. Most of the books that are being challenged in America today are about gay families. The most famous example is the children’s book Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell, a story about two loving penguin parents that happen to both be male.

It’s number four on ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged books:2000-2009. Also challenged are the books “Heather has two mommies” and other stories that normalize LGBT families. To attack these books and try to get them out of libraries is an attack on the LGBT family.

Even though it’s 2017, we still have a lot of work to do to stop censorship. Because you can’t censor LGBT. Speak out against censorship, and read some banned books! 

Originally posted 2017-10-28 17:02:27.

Ellen Ricks is a word-for-hire, fashion blogger, and bibliophile living in upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam and has been published in a number of literary magazines, both in print and online. She runs the fashion blog Sarcasm in Heels.  When not writing, Ellen enjoys frolicking in fancy dresses, consuming pumpkin spice everything, and dismantling the patriarchy.

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How To Complete NaNoWriMo Without Losing Your Sanity

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When most think of November, they conjure up images of turkey, cozy sweaters, and the seemingly endless preparations for the Holiday Season. However, if you’re in the writing community, November brings up images of frantic typing and the fear of a looming deadline.

That’s right folks, NaNoWriMo is here, and it’s getting cray.

  What’s NaNoWriMo you ask? It’s a fancy acronym for National Novel Writing Month. This month-long creative “holiday” was created by freelance writer Chris Baty in July of 1999 with 21 participants in the San Francisco Bay area. The next year, it was moved from July to November to “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.

The objective? Write a rough draft of a novel (about 50,000 words or more) in 30 days. Anyone else screaming yet?

This is a free event that anyone can do, just join their website and start writing in any format. Just as long as you get 50,000 words before the end of the month. Participants can submit their novel to be automatically verified for length and receive a printable certificate, an icon they can display on the web, and inclusion on the list of winners. Also, bragging rights.

 Hey there,  I’m Ellen, a Features Writer here at TravelPride and a writer by occupation. I have a BFA in Creative Writing and have written a novel already. I’ve always wanted to do NaNoWriMo and I thought this would be the perfect time to do it. Plus I want to take a break from writing my current memoir and do the fun interconnected short story collection I’ve been dying to write for years. I thought this was going to be so easy. I mean my senior thesis was 50,000 words. My novel manuscript is 96,000 words. 50,000 words will be a piece of cake.

Me, Writer and actual Fool.

I was wrong. It’s hard ya’ll.

       To complete NaNoWriMo on time you need to write 1,667 words per day, which is roughly 6 pages, double-spaced. That may not seem like a lot, but with everything you have to do in a day, plus find the creativity and energy to write 6 pages seems overwhelming.

   Then there’s something I call the “NaNo slump” which happens around the second or third week of November. The first week of NaNoWriMo you’re all excited and ready to write, cranking out 2,000+ words a day. Then you get busy, writer’s block or just plain fall behind and then quit because you think you can ever catch up.

   Well, stop write there (get it?). I’ve got some great tips for how to complete NaNoWriMo without losing your inspiration, hope, and sanity.

 

Write Everyday

The most important part of writing for NaNoWriMo or just being a writer is creating a writing schedule. One of the genius things about NaNoWriMo is that it allows you to become a better and more successful writer after this is over since it takes 30 days to create a habit. By writing every day in the month of November, you’re setting yourself up for writing all year long.

Carve a period of time out of your day and set it aside just for writing. It can be early in the morning, late at night, an hour, two, whatever you can and use that time to just write and only write. If your life is a little crazy and can’t form a schedule, write when you’re on the go. Carry your tablet with you, use the Notes app on your phone, or do the old-fashioned pen and paper and write whenever you get a free moment. Waiting for your flight? Write. Commuting to home or work? Write. On your lunch break? Write! You’ll be surprised how all those little moments of writing really add up. It’s just important to write every day. Just write it!

Prompts

   Oh, Writer’s block, the sworn enemy of a writer. That blank page causes so much anxiety and could lead you to giving up on your project because you’re “stuck.” A writing prompt could help you. NaNoWriMo’s website is awesome because they have a feature called “word sprints” which is a timed writing challenge. You set a timer, open up your draft, and race against the clock to add words to your novel. They have a cool “dare me” button that gives you little writing prompts such as “Write a scene that takes place in a house of mirrors.” or “Have one character have a sudden personality switch with another”. It’s a fun little way to get the juices going. You can also just google “writing prompts” to find some good ones. Have fun with it!

Buddy System

   Teamwork makes the dream work! NaNoWriMo has a cool feature where you can have a writing buddy with friends who are also doing NaNoWriMo, which is a fun way to help encourage each other or be a shoulder to cry on. One of my dear friends, Cassie, who’s also a writer has been doing NaNoWriMo for years and she’s been a great resource (she also made a book cover for me, because she’s the real MVP). My friend Kelsey is doing NaNoWriMo for the first time too. It’s just nice to not feel alone in my frustrations and have someone who is also going through this. NaNoWriMo also has forums where writers can talk to one another because, despite popular belief, writers are not solitary creatures, but communities.

Let Go and Have Fun

   I personally put so much pressure on myself, not only during NaNoWriMo but in my everyday professional life. When something I write isn’t perfect on the first try, or I don’t meet my word count, I beat myself up over it. You have to remember that NaNoWriMo is all about having fun. No one is reading your novel right now, no one is judging you but yourself. You have 30 days to write 50,000 words, it’s okay if you take a break or write something crappy. You can always write more words and it’s better to write something crappy and edit it later than to never write at all.

   For some more words of advice let’s talk to TravelPride’s own Editor and Weekly Columnist, Summer Kurtz. Summer has actually completed NaNoWriMo in the past. Here’s how she completed the writing challenge:

“I had to set a schedule/goal and really stick to it as closely as I could. I think I tried to do a certain number of words daily and if I didn’t quite hit that I had a weekly goal to try and meet or even exceed if possible. It really helped me to become a more disciplined writer but also learn not to beat myself up over not reaching every single goal. On days I got stuck I would write a couple hundred words on any other topic I felt like until my motivation returned.”

   Fantastic advice. How are doing in NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments and follow my own NaNoWriMo journey here. Remember: we’re all in this together!

Happy Writing!

 

Originally posted 2017-11-15 18:30:10.

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Ten Literary Landmarks For Any Traveling Booklover

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Books are magical. They can take you to far-off places without even moving your feet. But what if you want to see the places of people you’ve read about in real life? Luckily, organizations such as the American Library Association, global historical society, and die-hard bookworms, have preserved and created literary landmarks that anyone can enjoy all across the world. From childhood homes, museums, and even statues. Here’s a list of 10 places to add to your literary bucket list.

 

 

 

Edith Wharton(1862-1937) broke gender boundaries and society’s exceptions to become one of America’s greatest writers. She was the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel Age of Innocence. Most of her novels have themes of declining morals and wealth in the late nineteenth century. The Mount is not your typical author home tour. Not only does it offer guided tours and exhibits, it also has ghost tours, mimosas on the terrace, a cafe, a women’s writer-in resistance program, and a pet cemetery. Heck, you can even have your wedding at the Mount, but honestly, you had me at ghost tours.

  1.  The windmill at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, Southampton, NY

  

 Okay, so I’m down for anything that has to deal with windmills but the story behind the Windmill at the Stony Brook Southampton Campus is both interesting and sad. In 1957. the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams lived in the campus windmill after the death of his friend and Abstract Expressionist painter, Jackson Pollock, and wrote the play “The Day on Which a Man Dies” based on Pollock. Sad, but the fact that he lived in a windmill is pretty cool.

  1. Charles Dickens Museum, London , England

Making a trek to London during the holiday season?  Make sure you plan to visit 48 Doughty Street, the London Home of Charles Dickens. This is the home where the famed writer wrote the classic novel Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers. The Charles Dickens Museum holds over 100,000 items including manuscripts, personal items and more. There are exhibits, a garden cafe, as well as a lot of activities for children such as the Costumed Christmas walks, performances of “A Christmas Carol” and “A Very Dickensian Christmas Eve.”

  1. Sleepy Hollow, New York

Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has become a classic Halloween spooky story still read today. However, many don’t know that Sleepy Hollow is a real place, one which has fully embraced its celebrity status. There’s the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Tour, The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, The Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse Tours, Haunted Hayrides and so much more. They even take on some other classic works such as a circus-theater adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and a one-man show of A Christmas Carol.

  1. Walden Pond, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Get lost like Thoreau by visiting Walden Pond! Perfect for nature lovers, you can take a lovely nature walk/hike, spend the day at the beach, go kayaking or canoeing on the water or fish; you can even cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter. You can visit Thoreau’s original cabin and the reproduction. Since the land has been left unchanged it’s almost like you’re walking through the Walden that Thoreau knew.

  1. Shakespeare’s Globe, London, England.

Shakespeare and book lovers go together like pretzels and Nutella. Even if you haven’t read any of the original Shakespearean text, you’ve probably been exposed to some adaptions (10 Things I Hate about You anyone?). The Globe is still standing after many rebuilds, and still holds performances as well as exhibitions and tours. They still put on Shakespeare’s plays; last season they put on King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet, some with a modern twist.

  1. Platform 9 ¾, King’s Cross Station, London

Every Harry Potter fan dreams of one day going to Platform 9 3/4 and getting on the Hogwarts Express. While you might not be able to hop on the Hogwarts Express, you can now find the actual Platform 9 3/4 and have your picture taken holding the handle of a trolley, making it look like you’re running from one world to the next. Don’t forget your wand and house scarf!

  1. James Joyce’s Dublin, Ireland.

Author James Joyce made his beloved Ireland famous with his epic novel Ulysses and other novels that also take place in the city of Dublin. It’s so popular that there is even a holiday known as “Bloomsday” in honor of the character. You can take a walking tour of James Joyce’s Dublin, a 3.5-mile route broken up into two days for the full experience. Some of the stops on the tour include the James Joyce Center, The Writer’s Museum, Merrion Square where you’ll find a statue of laid-back Oscar Wilde, and lots of bars.

  1. Jane Austen’s House and Museum, Hampshire, England

As a Jane Austen fan, I’m all about the Jane Austen House and Museum. Especially since this year is the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death. There’s a lot of bicentennial events going on including exhibits, film screenings, talks, walks, and even picnics. You may even find your match!

  1. Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Richmond, VA

As a huge Poe fan, I would be remiss to leave him off the list. The Poe house, while not in some haunted mansion or catacomb, is still pretty cool. They have an enchanted garden (with a Pumpkin Patch), a shrine to Poe where people like Gertrude Stein and H.P. Lovecraft have visited, as well as a large collection of Poe’s artifacts. The museum also has two living black cats: Edgar and Pluto, that live in the museum. There are also a lot of parties going on at the museum, such as a Halloween Bash, an “Unhappy” Hour of live music, and Poe’s Birthday Bash on January 20th. They host weddings at the Enchanted Garden, which is the only way I’ll ever have a wedding.

 

Have you visited these literary landmarks or have more destinations to add that will make any book lover put down their book? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Travels!

Originally posted 2017-11-14 20:32:01.

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#FiveFilms4Freedom LGBT+ Film Festival

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The #FiveFilms4Freedom 2017 film festival is travelling across the pond this November. Originally hosted in Britain this past March, it is the first and largest LGBT+ film festival, and has featured independent LGBT+ short films from around the globe.

The film festival began in 2014 in Britain, sponsored by the British Council and the British Film Institute. It is a part of the larger BFI Flare film festival, which began in 1986, and is sponsored by the Love is GREAT Britain Campaign. .

This year’s #FiveFilms4Freedom festival marked 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. As such, all five films were created by UK filmmakers.

After the films premiered in the UK in March, they were brought to Washington, D.C. on November 1, and will be shown in Los Angeles on November 13 and in New York City on November 16. The festival will also feature a panel of prominent LGBT+  rights advocates from the US and the UK, as well as two participating directors.  

The films focus on a range of LGBT+ relationships and issues. The majority of them are love stories; Crush tells the story of a young girl who finds herself smitten with another girl she sees at a train station, Heavy Weight deals with a young male boxer and his reaction to the arrival of a new fighter, and Jamie is a very modern story about a man who bravely decides to meet with the man he has been talking to on a dating site. The other two films explore very different experiences in the LGBT+ community. Still Burning is about a young migrant living in Paris who shows his brother the exciting and freeing voguing movement. The title is taken from the film Paris is Burning, a documentary about the voguing movement in New York City and its effect on the African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities. The final film is a documentary set in Scotland, entitled Where We Are Now, and focuses on a transgender parent and her bisexual daughter.

The BFI Flare festival as well as #FiveFilms4Freedom have given the LGBT+ community an excellent place for celebration and representation, especially in the UK. With the decriminalization of homosexuality 31 years ago, British LGBT+ representation is extremely important because it has only been able to exist for a short amount of time. The festival allows filmmakers to make LGBT+ people and relationships extremely public, and continues to encourage and support the idea that LGBT+ people can make and star in incredible pieces of media. The move from showing the films in Britain alone to showing them in the US will hopefully continue to encourage the rise of LGBT+ relationships in mainstream media as well as in independent media.

Tickets for the festival in New York City are still available for reservation here. The festival is on November 16 from 6 – 9 PM at the Barclays-ASK Auditorium on Seventh Avenue. The festival is also currently accepting submissions for next year’s festival here.

Originally posted 2017-11-13 21:00:23.

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