S2 Ep1: We read banned or reconsidered books

Right now in our country there are towns, cities, and states making lists of books that certain people want banned from schools and libraries, and we are absolutely horrified by this. So, each one of us picks an AMAZING book that is on one of these nefarious lists and read the heck out of ‘em.

Aileen read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and had her mind blown. Morrison is a master, truly one of the Greats of American literature. We all agree that this phenomenal book is a work of art, and that it should be required reading in high school. Period.

Alisa found Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard by Echo Brown on a challenged list in Kansas and decided to read it. This true story inspired her, moved her, and while discussing it Alisa gets as riled up as we have ever heard her at the thought that a human being’s actual life experience is something that others believe they have the right to ban.  

Lauren read Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. This Newberry Award winning book made the challenged list because it has a scene depicting the near rape experience of a young girl. We decide that instead of banning a beautifully written book like this because it broaches such a difficult topic, adults could be using it to discuss violence against women with our young teens.

Josie re-read the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and had a hard time figuring out why this touching story about an intersexed individual was being challenged. Was it because it discussed the race riots in Detroit? Maybe it’s because of all the incest, or teen sexuality? A lot of grown-up topics are broached in this book for grown-ups, but ultimately, Alisa suggests Middlesex is being challenged because it points out that scientifically there are more than two genders, and that freaks people out.

The following transcript was translated by an AI program so unfortunately, we can’t vouch for its accuracy.

Aileen: [00:00:00] But I still do

that thing where, where I hide The tampon in my sleeve, like at

work, when we used to go to work. Cause you don’t want to like walk out, waving around your tampon, you just kind of like hide it and your sleeve and oh, nobody notices.

It’s kind of like announcing you’re going to go take a shit. Like

Josie: Um,

Aileen: that. Like, why, why be like my vagina’s bleeding, I’m going to go into the bathroom and take care of it. You know? It’s like

Josie: Hello and welcome to fiction between friends, a podcast, dedicated to books and book lovers like us. I’m Josephine Angelini

Lauren: I’m Lauren Sanchez.

Alisa: I’m Alisa Hillfinger,

Aileen: and Aileen Calderon,

Josie: we’re four childhood friends from the suburbs of Massachusetts.

Lauren: I’ve always loved to read almost as much as we love to talk to each other.

Alisa: We started this podcast as a way to celebrate how a really good book can come into your life and change it.

Aileen: So if you’re looking for fun and engaging conversations about books, stick around.

Josie: This is fiction between friends. And we’re glad you’ve joined us.

welcome back and happy new year. This is episode

one, season

two, I’m Josephine Angelini. And joining me are my

[00:01:00] dear friends,

Aileen Calderon,

Aileen: Hello.

Josie: Lauren Sanchez

and Alisa hillfinger.

Alisa: happy new year.

Josie: how’s

everyone doing?

I’m freezing. It’s freezing in

LA. Are you guys, is It freezing over


Aileen: It is actually

Alisa: Yes. He’s east coast. Winter.


Lauren: low

Josie: It’s 60 out.

Aileen: shut up.

Alisa: oh,

I don’t

Josie: I’m so cold.

Aileen: LA has made you soft.

Josie: I went to sleep last night and


and like,

Alisa: went to sleep


night with a hat, a sweater socks

because it was legitimately cold at like 17 degrees.

Aileen: Oh

Josie: legit

cold. That’s

Aileen: house not have


Alisa: no, it does. I just, I like

to be

ridiculously warm when I go to sleep.

Josie: me too.

Lauren: Uh, I had such a night’s what the other night, I don’t know if it was my booster or my hormones, but I woke up and I felt the sweat just pouring off my boobs.

Josie: Little boob sweat at night. Oh, it’s horrible.

Aileen: see. I like to be cold

when I go to bed, like I [00:02:00] like the house. Nice and cold.


like to snuggle up

under a blanket. I

can’t sleep. If I’m

Alisa: I like the

house cold, but I

be cold. I

have to be snugly.

Josie: So this week we decided to do

something different. We

each picked a book that was on

the list.

They’re not

banned yet, but they’re books that are being

to challenged

in the state of


reconsidered in the state of Texas. So

Lauren: Okay. Hold on. Was my book on my list? Cause I just chose a

Josie: you chose a challenged book. That’s perfect.

Like I think any challenged book.

Aileen: wasn’t on the Texas list, but

it’s been on lots


over the

Alisa: your, book is on the Kansas list where I got my book


Josie: you’re on the Kansas list.

Lauren: Oh the

Josie: That’s

Lauren: list.

Josie: how many lists are there? I mean, how

many hundreds of books


Aileen: so many and it’s

so gross.

Alisa: it’s vile.

Lauren: It’s the school libraries. Is it the, the state

Josie: Yup.

Lauren: departments or


Alisa: It’s like, I think it depends on where you are. It’s a combination of all of that. You can [00:03:00] find

various, um, towns and cities and states all participating at different levels.

Josie: you guys imagine when we were in high school, if they were

suggesting to ban

books from our high school, could you imagine like how much we would rebel

against that and how much we would protest that?

Alisa: much

Josie: Like

Alisa: just read those


Josie: we would all go our, our teachers would say, okay, we’re going to read this book and we’re going to talk about why it’s being challenged right now.

Lauren: yeah.

Aileen: do you think they would have, I mean, do you think, I mean, cause banning books, isn’t a new thing and I mean,

Josie: No, cyclical though.

Aileen: yeah, the

Josie: in the in the nineties that, I mean, if anybody suggested a book, be banned, people would have freaked out. And I feel like people aren’t freaking out to the

proper level.

Alisa: think a lot of it now is it’s school committees that are saying, we want to re investigate the books that are being put forth for our students. And a lot of what’s happening. Politically is that candidates are

trying to insert themselves [00:04:00] into smaller local government structures.

So that change and influence can take place at a much lower level, closer to all the people.

Josie: Isn’t that freaky.

Alisa: very

freaky. So, so you have town elections where have larger, political structure, backing candidates who are going to take a particular approach, whether it be conservative or liberal and, they, will back the campaign for these people to run at a local level.

And that’s where you make change say, well, we need to reconsider these books. And then those, those simple

challenges have huge repercussions because that’s a whole school system.

Aileen: I wonder if any of this was,

sparked by the whole discussion around critical race theory.

know what I mean?

Because just talk, just talk, you know, talking about

books that the kids are reading and how they’re learning about history. Like, that started to freak a lot of people out people don’t like change

Alisa: right?

Aileen: [00:05:00] interesting. it’s

it’s, uh, it’s adults

trying to restrict

kids to information and to art.

it’s so crazy to happen now, because

Lauren: for sure.

Aileen: right now kids have more access to

information knowledge and they’ve ever had in the history of the world because of the

internet. why are you choosing to

take away printed books when kids are just going to go

learn whatever it is they want to learn anyways,

Josie: but they don’t know what

to learn. Okay. So when you’re young,

like how do you know to look up.

The race riots in, Detroit,

if you’ve never heard about them, if you’ve never read a

book, like the book that I picked

as apart

where the race riots in Detroit are discussed openly and how they sent in the national guard with tanks and I mean

tanks an, in our

country to like put down a race riot that was

happening in Detroit.


had to look that up. You’d have to first know what happened

Alisa: Right.

Josie: how do you know it happened? Well, you read a book that mentions it.

Alisa: several years ago, when the internet first starting to become bigger and more ubiquitous, we would

[00:06:00] have technology

literacy Classes for the kids to help learn how to identify

appropriate And, inappropriate sources.

Aileen: I mean, that’s, that’s the whole

thing. We need

to teach kids

to think critically, rather than trying

to shield them from things that are difficult or really what adults are doing is they’re

taking the parts of culture that like, that makes them uncomfortable. And because they don’t


it, they’re trying to keep kids away from it.

Josie: right.

Aileen: kids need to be exposed to


kinds of things. They can’t live in this little bubble where they don’t learn about

difficult topics or controversial topics, but you have to trust that they have the skills to about them and they have the knowledge

they need to examine


Josie: Yeah, but can’t, we just agree in general that if you’re trying to

get books banned, you’re the bad guy. care what political party you say you’re

from. If you’re trying to remove a book. from a library

You’re the bad


Lauren: it’s not easy to remove a book from a library.

Alisa: But it is easy to remove them from schools.

 I feel like there has to be aligned somewhere [00:07:00] with, there are some

books that are to advocate for bad things, and I think the bad things concept would be something that

we would all agree. Like really deviates from a very general moral compass, you know? So we don’t want books available that talk about like, how do you build a bomb out of kitchen materials and do you subvert security in various places?

Uh, and I I think for the safety of a community, there has to be some type of standard for what is and is not allowed, but I don’t know how you write that as policy. And, and I think if you try to write it as policy, then you have people bending that policy other

Josie: Nefarious reasons.

Aileen: Yeah.

Alyssa, how does schools decide what books to teach?

Alisa: English department just redid its whole curriculum. A couple years ago. They, they relooked at all their books and they decided that, there weren’t enough female authors. There weren’t enough [00:08:00] authors of color. there weren’t enough LGBTQ characters and several of the books in our school. Curriculum are on the reading list, I was able to go to my school library and I had my pick of the books on the list. I felt so proud. and some of them aren’t even just available in the library. That’s they are intentionally being taught as part of the curriculum, but, I also live in a very liberal town where we get a lot of academic freedom to say, we’re going to teach a certain skill set for and we’re going to use different books to do that.


Alisa: And these are the books we’re going to choose. And, and I think just we’re, we’re trusted. We, we, as shocking as it might sound that teachers are trusted because lately it doesn’t feel like we are, but that’s my own issue with town politics and parents being upset with us at the moment. Um, I think teachers are also to a certain extent, trusted to pick things to use as [00:09:00] resources for teaching.

I mean, they, we want to connect with our kids. So we pick books that we think the kids can connect to. Or we pick books that are going to push the kids to examine themselves in a way that that will cause growth. And that sometimes means reading books about people who aren’t like you, which is equally as important.

Aileen: And it does seem like you constantly need to be examining the books that are being taught because it needs to keep up with the world and with culture and

Alisa: Right,

Aileen: the things that are going on and give new perspectives. Like again, thinking about the books that we read, I feel like those books have probably been taught in our school system for like 50 years.

Alisa: right,

Aileen: changed

Josie: just makes you think that like, maybe there’s Are we getting like different educations in our country?

Is, are places? Yeah. Are there

places where, and when those kids are applying to colleges, like all over the place, is that do college boards sit there and say, this kid went to a [00:10:00] school in a state that doesn’t prepare them for what we believe

a curriculum should be,

you know?

Aileen: because it’s become so politicized. Like

Josie: Yeah.

Aileen: about liberals versus conservatives or Republicans versus Democrats. And on some level it’s just and morality, you know? there are just basic human things that should be taught and shouldn’t be a political issue.

Josie: Right. alien. So

Aileen: Yes.

Josie: segue for us to start with all of this. the book that you picked is one of my personal favorites. So do you want to

Aileen: So

Josie: about it?

Aileen: the bluest eye by Toni Morrison.

Because I realize I have never read anything by Tony Morrison. And I think that is so embarrassing and sad. don’t know how that happened. I’ve always known who she is. And somehow, I mean, I don’t think we ever read her in school.

which after reading this book, it blows my mind that this something that we read.

Um, she’s amazing. Her writing is incredible. I started reading this book [00:11:00] and I started highlighting all the beautiful passages and I have so much highlighted in here. I don’t even know how I’m going to go through and choose which ones to read because her writing is just phenomenal. so it’s the story.

It takes place in the forties. It’s um, it’s basically the story of a poor black girl, bread, bread, love who is raped by her father. So right there, you can see

Lauren: Yeah.

Aileen: it probably ended up on a banned book list. Um, but it’s really it’s. Oh my God. I I’m so uncomfortable talking about this book because I don’t feel.

Like intellectually capable to do it justice, because there are so many heavy themes in it. And like, just the way that she raised it, like there’s so much, I feel like I need to read it five more times and really digest it. So I hope, I, I don’t know, I’m not going to do it justice, but it’s, it’s incredible.

But so

Oh, my God. It’s about racism. It’s about feeling like you’re not enough. It’s about how black people in this country have historically been treated, how they’re [00:12:00] made to feel less than that. it’s called the bluest eye because She wants blue eyes because she’s, that’s always been presented as like, this is what’s beautiful.

Like, you know, in this time it was Shirley temple, it was like blonde hair, blue eyes. Like that was was

considered beautiful. And

she feels ugly because she has her, skin and she’s not considered to be at the same level as other people because of the color of her skin. Um, but the book, it’s just so poetic and

Alisa: Yeah.

Aileen: structure, it kind of jumps from character to character.

Josie: Yeah.

Aileen: about generational trauma too. It’s just about you meet these characters, they do awful things. And then you hear their stories and you learn about how they’re treated and why they have become the people that they are and the horrible things that have happened to them.

it’s a heavy book, obviously. I mean, it deals with like incest and abuse.

Alisa: Yeah.

Aileen: topics that are hard to read about.

Lauren: Yeah.

Aileen: And it’s interesting because her writing is

so amazing. It’s like this beautiful language describing these awful [00:13:00] things,

 Okay. This is, um, this is talking about, so this is the scene with the father. Coli, I think is how you say his name? C H O L L Y. Um, no less did Coley need her. She was one of the few things important to him that he could touch and therefore hurt. He poured out on her, the sum of

all his inarticulate fury and aborted desires, her.

He could leave himself intact when he was still very young Coley had been surprised in some bushes by two white men while he was newly, but earnestly engaged

Lauren: Yeah.

Aileen: eliciting

sexual pleasure, pleasure, from a little country girl,

Josie: Yeah.

Aileen: men had shown a flashlight right on his behind. He had stopped terrifying.

they chuckled the beam of the flashlight did not move,

on. They said, go on and finish

a nigger, make it good. flashlight did not move some reason. Coley had not hated the white man. He hated despise the girl,

a half remembrance of this episode, along with

myriad, other humiliations defeats and emasculation could stir him into flights of depravity that surprised himself, but only himself.

he could not

He could only be astounded. [00:14:00] So he gave that up too. And so this is, this is the

Lauren: Okay.

Aileen: who then goes

on to his and impregnate his daughter.

But you’re kind of starting to see the awful things that happened to him and how he interpreted these events and internalize them and then goes on to kind of become a monster.

it’s, it’s so

Lauren: Yeah.

Aileen: because there’s just, there’s so many things like she structures, structures it into seasons. So it’s there’s winter, summer,

spring, fall. she starts it off by reciting a, like a Dick and Jane type story, which was like a story of like a white family that was taught in that time.

And starts

with that. then each chapter is broken into like a piece of that story with the words, like all kind of running together.

And it’s sort of showing the contrast between the

white experience and then the black experience, which were two very

very, different and you know, and it’s, it’s talking about things that are [00:15:00] disturbing

and upsetting, but.

Josie: But you know what?

is very upsetting to read and yet it’s, it’s required reading. Um, Lord of the flies is required reading

and that’s disturbing. so it can’t just be that this is disturbing material. Why would they want to take it off? Why this book is being challenged?

Aileen: yeah,

Josie: just because this is difficult to read.

You know, it’s about the subject matter. It’s about comparing black and white America that people don’t, they don’t want anybody to take a look at that for some reason.

Alisa: that’s my book too. And, uh, when, when we, you know, switch to talk about my book, a lot of the same themes are gonna come up and I it’s the same, thing.

Aileen: Here, here’s a, here’s another section. So the breed loves our Brie love his little girl. the Breedloves did not live in a storefront because they were having temporary difficulty adjusting to the cutbacks at the plant. They lived there because they were poor and black and they stayed there.

because they believe they were ugly. Although [00:16:00] their poverty was traditional

Alisa: Um,

Aileen: stultifying, it was not unique, but their ugliness was unique. No one could have convinced them that they were not relentlessly and aggressively ugly, except for the father coli, whose ugliness the result of despair, dissipation and violence directed towards petty things.

And wheat people was behavior. The rest of the family misses, breed, love Sammy Breedlove and Nicola Breedlove wore their ugliness, put it on so to speak, although it did not belong to them, the eyes, small eyes that closely together under narrow foreheads, the low irregular hairlines would seem even more irregular in contrast to the straight heavy eyebrows, nearly met it.

It talks so much just about and how people look and being judged. And it even gets into like people who have dark skin being treated more poorly than people who are,

Alisa: Yeah,

Aileen: lighter, dark skin. So, you know,

And how much your skin color just impacts how you’re treated and where you stand in the social hierarchy and just being treated, not even like a human, just because of the color of your skin.

It’s like a, it’s like a [00:17:00] burden you have to bear.

And it seems like such a, mean, it is such a horrible thing. And you realize like, yeah, have been dealing with this for long as America has been around. This is a real thing.

Alisa: so for this story, does it Chronicle her life? Does it Chronicle the characters? Um, a certain experience of just a portion of her life.

Aileen: she’s in it and it’s sort of the thread throughout, but it’s, it’s told by Claudia, who is, um, a girl whose family fosters her at one point, whole thing. It’s very abstract and it of it jumps around in time jumps around from character to

Josie: yeah.

Aileen: So it’s not like a

Lauren: Yeah,

Aileen: telling of what happens.

so it, yeah. it just, it, sort of, and one chapter will start and be talking about a different person and you’re not sure what their connection is to her, but eventually it all connects ends up connecting back to her.

Josie: Morrison does that a lot, like in paradise, she does it. I mean, that’s, that’s kind of like her writing style.

she has this globe like way of looking at,

the story. [00:18:00] So she sort of shifts only perspective, but through time and she goes around it and in this circular way, she gets every single point.

Does that make any sense,

Aileen: yeah.

Josie: her eye shifts around all of these people? it’s a, it’s a unique and a really difficult way to tell a story, tell you that


Aileen: it can be a

Josie: like

Aileen: can be a little hard to follow. I mean, I,

Josie: right.

Aileen: way I tend to read really fast and sporadically, which is not the way to read this book, that’s why I feel like I need to go back and read it more because I think there’s, mean, it’s an excellent book for, to be discussed it

Josie: Just in terms of structure, like if you just want to talk about writing structure, she’s a master


Aileen: is gorgeous.

Josie: oh yeah. That’s impeccable.

Aileen: like, there’s this one sentence I destroyed white baby dolls. I don’t know. Just that sentence is just so great.

like unexpected things like that and that her descriptions and it’s I mean, reading it, I’m like, Yeah,

I get why people would have a hard time with this book and incest. Isn’t really a nice topic, but flowers in the [00:19:00] attic is out there. So But these are all things that are real. And part of the human experience, they’re just a disgusting part of the human experience, but there’s still a part of it. And it’s, you can’t just hide it and pretend it’s not there. You need to look at it, examine it and try to understand it.

Alisa: but I think that’s why these books are on the let’s reevaluate it list because it’s not truly, oh, we don’t want to expose the kids to the idea of incest, because you said, flowers in the attic keeps coming back a that stands the test of time. Like, what is that bullshit? if this book that has so much more literary depth and literary opportunity to be talked about in school is, is being called out as too much it’s that this human experience is threatened.

To the people in the communities that are questioning it.

Josie: And is it threatening because it’s making people. Re-examine history or is it threatening? Because it’s making people empathetic [00:20:00] to a group that they don’t want to be empathetic toward.

Alisa: think

Josie: was, that was something that, that came up in my book. I was like, why is this a banned book? And why is this something that people don’t want to think about?

Is it just because of the topic? Is it just because the topics raised or is it because the main character is so human and so relatable that the people who want to take this book out don’t want that kind of empathy? Like, is it the empathy that frightens them,

Alisa: I think in part, because if you can people in an other category and if

Josie: right.

other, you don’t belong.

Alisa: Then you don’t. Feel badly about things they are going through because there are other.

Josie: Right.

And they don’t have to

be like.

Aileen: we we’ve, we’ve written history, you know, there’s a way that we tell history in schools and that’s the way it was. And more you examine it, you realize that that’s not actually true. That is just a white man perspective of what happened in history. And there’s so many other experiences that [00:21:00] people have that need to be told. Um, all right. This is another passage. This is, um, from the Cola’s point of view, wondering about her parents, did love feel like. She wondered how to grownups act when they love each other eat fish together into her eyes came the picture of Coley and Mrs. Breedlove in bed. He making sounds as though he were in pain as though something had had him by the throat and wouldn’t let go terrible.

It has as noises where they went, where they were not nearly as bad as the no noise at all from her mother. It was as though she was not even there. Maybe that was love choking sounds and silence.

Josie: Wow.

Aileen: holy shit,

Josie: I don’t know. Tony Morrison is a national treasure. I think she should be required

reading, but

Aileen: to go read all of her books.

Josie: I know.

Alisa: you hadn’t had mentioned that the ending can be a little ambiguous. I love of books? Can you.

Aileen: when you come in and

actually, actually, Alyssa, I think I

wait. I think that’s, I think, I highlighted the end. all right. [00:22:00] This is the

very last passage of the book, which doesn’t give anything away. It’s just, beautiful. this. soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers,

certain seeds. It will

not nurture certain fruit. It will not there. And when the land kills


its own volition, we acquiesce acquiesce, and say, the victim has

no right to live. are wrong of

course, but it doesn’t

matter. It’s too late, at least on the

edge of my town among the garbage and the sunflowers

in my town. It’s much, much, much too late.

Josie: Um, it reminds me of strange fruit, Billie holiday


Aileen: yeah. There’s, there’s a lot of symbolism and

I was sort of overwhelmed by her writing when I first started

Josie: yeah, it is overwhelming. You sort of read it and you don’t

even know what to do with it. Cause you’re feeling so much stuff when you

read her and you think that it’s just like this emotional read and then you. Uh, you can realize that it’s

not just that she makes, you feel so much it’s you have to be thinking something behind it to inspire

that many emotions.

So, I mean, is it. the thought process that frightens people?

Aileen: I mean, it’s yeah, [00:23:00] it’s

Lauren: Yeah.

Aileen: black woman’s perspective.

Josie: Right.

Maybe that’s the scariest thing of all.

Aileen: we

don’t like

Alisa: No.

Aileen: we, we already have our version. We don’t, we don’t

need to hear a black woman’s perspective. It’s

Lauren: Yeah. And I think the

parents, if it

makes, like we said earlier, if

it, if it makes them

uncomfortable, you know, they, they think about, well, I

don’t, don’t,

necessarily want my kid reading about incest. You know, it makes them

uncomfortable. They think

Josie: But then they shouldn’t read Oedipus


Alisa: Right,

Josie: it’s incest, that bothers

them. Um, okay.

Alisa: right. Or

Lauren: It’s graphic.

Alisa: I mean,

Josie: Yeah. Oh, you shouldn’t read job.


Aileen: And take

Lauren: Yeah.

Aileen: from the

Alisa: right?

Aileen: former I’m your 15 year old daughter.

Josie: So, Alyssa, do you find that your book has a lot of crossover with Amiens?

Alisa: Oh, incredible. Amounts of

Josie: Let’s go to you and then we’ll do


Alisa: I read an relatively new book called black girl unlimited the remarkable story of a teenage wizard. And it was

Josie: Oh,

Alisa: January [00:24:00] of 2020. And echo brown is the author, and this is a fictionalized autobiography. So, echo brown is the name of the main character and her actual family and, and the names of her brothers Rhone and Dre are in it.

Some of the events are true, obviously. Um, some of the events aren’t true and it’s hard to know. You don’t know what’s true and what’s not, but it is identified as a fictionalized So, so you go into it with that information. It’s also very curiously done, because it inner. A sense of magic.

So, I mean, even in the title, it says the remarkable story of a teenage wizard. And so it’s allegorical with the pieces of this, that refer to the wizardry is being able to talk about the resilience of, the black experience and the resilience of black women in [00:25:00] particular. And I think

the last let’s see there are all these lessons as the book unfolds about lessons in wizard training.

I had, let me see, and like a lean, I have so many, so many different pieces to highlight. I’m not even sure I would know where to start. Um, maybe I’ll, I’ll go chronologically.

Aileen: How weird for you?

Alisa: I know, I’ll start at the beginning. Is everyone seated for that revelation? Um, it’s she echo is six years old when story begins and

I felt very uncomfortable when I read the opening couple of lines.

I thought, don’t know if I, can be this uncomfortable while I read, and then I thought that’s exactly why I need to read it. So it opens with my mother is a wizard wizards can freeze time and sit on ceilings. My mother [00:26:00] isn’t doing either of those things right now. However, because she’s passed out on the bathroom floor where she’s been. I can see her bear brown ass. It’s protruding awkwardly in the air. Since her pants are down ruffled around her ankles. I’m embarrassed for her. I want to simultaneously cover her up and to cuddle up next to her. I tried to wake her up. She is needed in this moment it’s, it’s her as a six old, seeing her mother

Aileen: Well,

Alisa: out in a cocaine induced coma while her apartment building is on fire and there’s smoke billowing in her two baby brothers in their cribs screaming, and she do anything to help anyone because

Josie: Yeah.

Alisa: And so then, so you have this juxtaposition of the harsh reality of what’s going on, but the opening lines of my mother’s a wizard, but then what you realize is is,[00:27:00] Like the comment of my mother can sit on the ceiling and my mother a shell. We’ve learned how to create shells. And we rise from the dead.

She says, I rise from the dead every morning. And as a, as a six-year-old you start to see how she’s interpreting her world. As these miracles to escape the feelings of trauma and pain, have an out of body experience and you

Josie: Yeah.

Alisa: sit on the ceiling and later she refers to it as going to the upstairs plane.

Um, or

the in-between she in, in the next chapter, she’s in third grade and she’s talking to her teacher about the in-between and she wants to understand what the in-between is between heaven and where we are now. where, when she it’s really beautiful, the way they talk about prayers, the kids. And the adults, they spiral their prayers up to the in-between

Josie: Hm.

Alisa: starts quite literally with the [00:28:00] kids. They would spin in their rooms and they would say these prayers as they were spinning, them up into the universe and they call it the in between. I also really liked the beginning of the book, the way it’s written, you know, how little kids just talk, they just incessantly talk.

And it’s

Josie: Yeah.

Alisa: to the next, right?

Josie: My little chatty Cathy. Yup. I got one of those.

Aileen: He just narrates everything he’s doing constantly.

Alisa: And, And, I feel like the opening, right.

Aileen: Correct.

Alisa: It’s everything is announced. And one thought leads to another, even though it doesn’t seem connected, it is. And the beginning chapters, because it’s when echo is little. Kind of have that tone of just chatting in that stream of consciousness of little kid and, and you don’t quite understand what she means, but you sort of understand what she means.

And then one of her third grade teachers, I asked my third grade teacher, Mrs. Samuels’, if she’s ever seen the, in between, at the [00:29:00] top of the sky where the aliens live and where we spiral our prayers, she cranes her head confusedly to the side and says, there’s no such thing as the in-between. I stare at her doubtfully, but my mother went there.

I say definitively. So it has to be hidden somewhere. We can’t see, sweetie. I don’t know what you’re asking me. No one knows what’s above all that, but I very much like your curiosity, you know, and you can picture a third grade teacher, know, kind of patting someone on the head being like, oh sweetie, like your curiosity.

So a character, she was relatable. and then you realize her, her parents are no jobs addicted to drugs. try to be loving to the best of their ability, but with her mother being a wizard, her mother is always in a protective shell. Her mother is always detached and. They talk about how her mother can perform miracles and produce food out of thin [00:30:00] air because they, they won’t have food.

They, and then all of a sudden mom leaves and they watch her go in the red car that sometimes comes by their house. And when mom comes back, she has of McDonald’s food and two bags of groceries. And you realize the mother has just gone out and prostituted herself in order to get food for her kids.

But the kids interpret it as mom’s a miracle worker. It’s amazing what she can do.

Aileen: What a, what a fascinating perspective to tell a story from

Alisa: It really is. Oh, and sprinkled throughout all of this is the idea of white privilege and

she is very black and she calls that out early, early about how I wish I wasn’t as dark as I am. I was a little lighter because that is valued more. And she refers to herself often as just a beast and she hopes nobody else sees the beast that I am because then they won’t want to be my friend.

mean, it’s truly [00:31:00] heartbreaking.

Aileen: so does a story. It starts when she’s little. And then do you start to hear her perspective as she becomes an adult and really understands what’s been happening in her life? Or does it keep this kind of

Alisa: It’s interesting. it

Aileen: view?

Alisa: keeps the fantastical point of view, but what she realizes is that the wizardry stems from trauma and, and one of the rules of, being a wizard is to fight the imposter that is trying to take over who you are. And the idea is that the imposter is image you feel like you have to live up to and you can’t be your true self.

And if you’re a true wizard, you will fight that and you will let your inner light show and

the generational trauma and the cycles that seem to keep being repeated because learned throughout the story, her mother was abused by a family member, sexually abused, and that destroyed the mother and the mother swore that she would never let that happen to her.[00:32:00]

Baby. And then you learn, of course, that echo was abused by an uncle from the time she was six till the time she was 10, but And that’s when echo started to develop her wizard powers of being able to sit on the ceiling and to be able to grow her shell. And it’s

family’s coming to terms with the cycle of trauma that everyone is experiencing.

And the beauty of calling on a community of women to raise each other up when echo experiences, um, of very traumatic event and

she shuts down and she doesn’t get out of bed. And the mother realizes what is happening. And this is when echo is a junior in high school and the mother calls upon the other master wizards to come and they perform a ceremony.

And you don’t know how much of this is. Real versus, know, the allegory idea. So these women come and they lay towels and [00:33:00] mats down on the floor and they carry echo from her bed and lay her down and they start chanting and singing. And there’s a portal that opens up and the ceiling releases and there’s lights and stars and the connection to the ancestors.

And they infuse in her, the ability for the light to return and they help her to, they call it cultivating the darkness, but you cultivate the darkness in order to be able to grow. Exactly.

and so echo at that point, talks about this experience of these wizards, these three women who come to rescue her and perform the ceremony, but that’s when she learns lesson about.

On day seven, I rose from the dead

Josie: Oh, wow.

Aileen: Alyssa. What, what reading age is

this book for?

Alisa: has been classified as age 15

to adult, according to a couple of places that I [00:34:00] looked and. It’s heavy and uncomfortable topics,

including drug abuse, sexual violence, depression, poverty, intergenerational trauma, and the work required

to end cycles that seem sell deep. It’s it very much has everything you were talking about, Eileen.

Aileen: Yeah, people, I think people get scared talking about emotions.

And like impersonal things. Like when I think back to the books that we read growing up, it was, everything was very factual. And like happened and this

happened, if a bad thing happened, it


like a war or a murder. It wasn’t anything as personal as rape or incest or sexual abuse, or even

like drug use or racism yet, like deeply like things

that are such

a part of

the human experience.

And think so many people just want to pretend those things don’t happen. those are the things

that impact all of


Josie: And why are so many books, like, especially that have rape in them, Okay. I understand. It’s one of the hardest things to

read. It’s one of the hardest things to [00:35:00] face,

but it happens to so many women in our country.

Lauren: it’s actually in this Julie of the wolves is that’s the

reason why it was, um, I mean, my,

my interpretation was that she wasn’t actually raped, but she was a sexually assaulted. but a school in Pennsylvania had it removed in 19, I think like 1996, because, that’s the way the parents interpreted It

Josie: but


Aileen: read

about a person stabbing and killing another person,

Lauren: yeah.

Aileen: somebody raping something, we should just stay away from that. Let’s not,

let’s not talk

Josie: Let’s let’s pretend it doesn’t happen and take it off the bookshelf. And it’s like, but

this happens to way more people than people who get murdered

Aileen: And

think, and think about it for so long people thought rape was like, Man in an alley, knocking a woman down that they didn’t know and raping her. And it’s such a nuanced thing. But I think because our culture never really about it and the stories of

rape weren’t shared people

didn’t fully understand what it was

Lauren: Um,

Aileen: we were shielding everyone from it

Alisa: I think, um, so aspect of this that I

just wanted to mention [00:36:00] in another review, which they end by saying a

much needed story, just

brilliant, totally captures it, um, through Echo’s lessons, readers, learn what it’s like to persist despite homelessness

in a world propelled by oppressive and exploitive systems and cope with feelings of connection and disconnection.

So I think, I think, with this, it’s a very personal story, so it’s difficult.

to separate yourself because you feel for this character. And as soon as you start having empathy for

them, you start thinking, wow, that’s bad.

But if part of what’s bad is this, you know, the exploitive systems that we all keep in place.

I mean, there are laws in the books that keep the oppression in place. And if we start having empathy for this person, we have to question the

rules and the laws that work in our favor. And that gets


Josie: because that means we have to change things.

Aileen: that people are

wrong and that maybe the wrong people are in power and maybe that needs to

Alisa: Right. [00:37:00]

Aileen: And.

Josie: Yeah.

Alisa: I guess my last thought for this book, because otherwise I could just,

there are so many different things that I would want to talk about, but this is the true story of a woman.

This is real. This is not some pure fiction

up that you can just say, That doesn’t happen.

when I realized that this was autobiographical because I didn’t at first, I was infuriated to think that Somebody would have the

gall to say that someone’s personal story is not valid to be shared.

Josie: Right.

Aileen: Yeah.

Alisa: is untenable.

How do you deny someone’s experience? that. is absolutely taking away any shred of humanity. And that just reflects so poorly

on anyone who would say, well,

let’s reconsider this book. We don’t think this is okay for people.

Aileen: that person

survived it

and chose to share.

Josie: Yeah.

Aileen: a book and

shared their really personal hard

[00:38:00] experiences and sharing stories is so important. That’s how you learn

and grow.

Josie: Yeah,

Aileen: or you the, or you learn about horrible things that you didn’t know happen. And suddenly you’re going to re-examine everything and think more about the people that you encounter and what they might be going through, because it’s so different from what

you go


Alisa: right. And, one of the things when, echo transfers to the more prestigious school on the east side of this all

takes place in Cleveland, Ohio. So she’s now

going to school.

Aileen: in Ohio to

Alisa: Oh,

what, one of the comments that she makes is even though the school that she went to on the west side, even though.

they have less

money and fewer resources. I’m convinced we have better teachers

Lauren: um,

Alisa: we

have teachers who assign us books written by people who look like us and who can truly see our potential and encourage us to go to college. So that was her middle school that she was commenting on before she transferred to the prestigious

school on, on the east side.

But it’s so [00:39:00] true that of being able to see yourself represented. And so the more you ban or question these books, the less, the, group of people who are in the other category see themselves. And so If, if

you don’t have books for them, then you don’t give them space to be acknowledged.

 Oh, I get so riled up.

Josie: I’ve never seen Alyssa so angry.

Aileen: I mean, it’s also, I mean, this book and Tony Morrison, there’s such intense

subject matter, but also both of them. I, mean, even the passage you read, they’re beautifully written. There’s so much to discuss like the narration

style to the

topics. Like why would you not want kids to these books?

you imagine sitting in a classroom, like we had sat in a classroom and discussed a book like this, like we probably would have started own personal experience. We would have learned more about our classmates. It would have been such a different experience than reading, like Faulkner or whatever we were reading.[00:40:00]

Josie: So Lauren, you went younger.

Lauren: Yes.

I, it’s a book that I actually read, probably in my

twenties. It’s a Julie of the

wolves by Jean

Craig had George. Um, it was the winner of the new barrier, I believe in

1976. Um, I loved it when I read it,


twenties. I loved it when I read

it two days this weekend I had to plow

through it. Um, but I definitely had a


perspective on it, reading.

it this time.

And I think. Just maybe

because of more of an awareness


why books are challenged and we’ve



about today, but it takes place in day,

Alaska. I, it doesn’t say exactly the


it, it does mention that there was a war, um, because her

dad was

drafted, but he

avoided the draft. I think that’s my impression

of what happened.

But, um, So I don’t know, it, I’m not, it’s not specified, but in my mind I was thinking

Vietnam war, you know? Um, so it centers around a [00:41:00] girl named Maya

X, that’s, her, in-unit

name. Um, and her, her American or

English name is, um, Julie. And she is

very much connected to her, uh, traditional Eskimo heritage, but she’s also very

much drawn to you know, the modern,

Alaska and modern, contemporary pop culture, you know, And she’s a lovely character.

she’s 13, she’s joyful, you know,

she’s just simple

but intelligent. Um, connected to


earth, loved her dad.

Um, it just a


character. I love the way Craighead. George writes very,

the point,

also descriptive. she doesn’t overuse language at

all when she’s describing,


wilderness or the animals in the


So it’s written in three parts and Julie, opens with, uh, my


actually at this point, she’s calling herself my ex she’s on the Tundra. She has run

away from a marriage too. [00:42:00] And then you had boy, who’s also around her age,

and she’s running away into the

Tundra prepared to survive for a while,


You know, she’s definitely got some


survival skills that she learned from her, her dad

Capuchin. Um, but she’s not really

prepared to

cross the

Tundra. And, um, and she’s trying to get to

some part of Alaska where she can board a boat

or get on a plane and go visit her pen pal in San Francisco.

I mean, it’s just not a very well thought out plan, but she’s enamored with the idea of San Francisco through postcards and this, the writing that she did with her pen pal, and she thinks that’s where she needs to be. That’ll be her, you know, she’ll be once she gets there. so that’s the beginning of the book.

She’s, she’s also that the wolves are introduced at that point and she’s given them names. Amarok is the Wolf pack leader. She named a pup after Capuchin, her dad, she calls kupu and there’s nails and silver,

two [00:43:00] other wolves in the pack. And then one name jello. Who’s kind of a Yeah. So she and she’s, and this is where, Jean Craig had George had studied, or she had written an article for the reader’s digest and gone to Barrows, Alaska to talk to people who were studying wolves Wolf communication. And she uses a lot of what she learned there. Um, and it’s really interesting. I actually ran into a lady, uh, walking my dog and the dogs were doing, you know, snout, touching and all those things that dogs do when they’re introducing them to.

And, um, because I knew this woman, I felt like I could say to her, have you ever originally I’m needing that again right now and, it’s so interesting. Look at what they’re doing. They’re touching each other’s bowels or, you know, they’re deciding who’s in charge. And she was like, okay. But, okay. So that’s the first part of the book.

And then, she wants to be accepted by the Wolfpack because she knows [00:44:00] that her survival depends on them. And she’s learned about them from her dad who is a, um, he was a well-known hunter and, um, knew a lot about the wilderness and the Tundra. The second part of the book takes you back in time to find out how she became, how she got to where she is now.

You know, you’re wondering, why is this girl on a Tundra? Why is she married? She’s 13. but that’s the, that’s the second part of the book that gets you there. you you’re introduced to her dad who, um, I said, he was a hunter, he lived seal camp. She learned about hunting and survival skills, you know, traditional, native American Eskimo.

You know, cooking, sewing, and she, she has a really good base of skills, but nowhere near what she needs to actually survive in the, in the Tundra, uh, her dad disappears and she, well, her aunt visits one day and says, you know, my ex has to go to school. She’s nine years old and you’ve been drafted into this war.

And so [00:45:00] she taken away from her dad. Her dad disappears and his, kayak or boat washes up onto the shore and they presume him to be dead. And she goes to live with this strict cold aunt. And she feels completely unhappy before her dad died. Before she left her dad said to her that she ever needed to get away from her aunt, that she could marry this boy.

there’s like an arranged marriage. Contract and that she could go do that and that would get her out of that situation. And, and at some point it came up and she said, yep, I’m ready. I’m ready to go. But she had

Alisa: Mm.

Lauren: what she was actually getting herself So she’s flown to another part of to a village with other Eskimo.

And it’s a little bit different. There’s, there’s a social life. among the younger crowd, her husband husbands loose terms here, cause he’s just a kid has an intellectual disability of some sort, which he did not know about. And she gets teased by other [00:46:00] that, you know, he’s not really a man and he needs to, you know, prove that he’s and two with his wife.

So he her tries to have sex with her basically.

It doesn’t happen. but that, at that very moment, she’s, she’s like I’m out of here. So she packs up, her things goes to see the one friend she’s made this other girl helps her a backpack. All the things she’ll need food matches a needle for sewing, you know, a special thing to sleep in Eskimo. Anyway, things that contrast with the way she had been living in this village, which was more modern.

Aileen: are the things

in the book that like people had issues with? Like,

Lauren: It was that sexual assault.

Aileen: that one


Lauren: Yeah. Yeah.

Aileen: you found in the book that seems at least


Lauren: the only thing, um, Yeah, there was

no there’s no, uh, racism toward the Eskimo. It’s, it’s, it’s really not [00:47:00] about that. Um, there

is some alcoholism that’s talked about because

you know, native Americans and alcohol,

very susceptible to alcoholism.

Josie: there’s a huge problem with that,

with that.

Lauren: so that that’s discussed, but really


was from what I read, was really the

sexual assault. And I mean, I guess I

don’t condone it by any means,

but this book is often, prescribed for sixth graders,

you know, sixth, seventh grade. And it is a young

age. that being said, I read, roll of thunder, hear my

cry, know, that book by Mildred Taylor.

I loved that book. I read it in



I don’t think parents would want their fifth graders today reading that And I do think that there’s been a bit of change from like, say the seventies or even the early eighties of acceptance of what our kids are reading today. I feel like we’re a lot more

strict about it especially when sex is involved, People freak out.

Which is funny because our

Alisa: I now,

Lauren: everywhere. Literally

Alisa: you think

that’s why though, do you think [00:48:00] because the internet and

Tik TOK and

social media is so prevalent that parents and communities, or are becoming hypervigilant

about trying to control

the things that they can control.

Aileen: it didn’t,

Lauren: I wish I had the answer. I really don’t know.

Aileen: it because all of a sudden kids like kids these

days are aware of so much more than we were aware of,

but then


Lauren: yeah.

Aileen: to

restrict things. It doesn’t make any sense.

Josie: And also in the manner that we’re talking about

young children being

sexualized, when you’re talking

about, you know, people.

Lauren: Um,

Josie: Dancing, very suggestively

wearing very little clothes on Tik TOK. And they’re like 12 and 13 years

old. And it’s, it’s freaky

rather than a book, which talks about

sexual assault, which is something

you can discuss.

You can sit down and you can

say, why is



Why was she afraid? Why do you think he tried to do that? You know, what, what would

happen to you? Yeah. And what

would happen if you were in that situation? if you’re speaking to a girl,

how do you stop it? Do you say no? What do you?

do? like

how do you deal with his situation if it were to ever happen to you [00:49:00] rather than

just watching

sexuality for

entertainment sake, this is an opportunity to talk about sexuality in a really concrete way at about how to navigate it in your


Lauren: Yeah.

Josie: I, I don’t understand why people are threatened by this. Sexuality where it’s obviously a springboard to talk about values


about safety, personal safety for young girls.

Aileen: And

Lauren: and this book was, it’s not

Aileen: treat, your partners, how to what

Josie: Yep.

Aileen: And what’s not

Josie: What’s not okay. right.

Lauren: Absolutely. I mean, the description is not,

well detailed. I mean, it’s, it’s very brushed over, you know, it’s


Josie: It’s sanitized,

Lauren: obvious. Yeah, exactly.


Aileen: like Tony Morrison uses

very blunt, brash language. it’s

Lauren: yeah. Yeah. I mean, this book is written for children. It’s written for

children it’s well


Aileen: but that’s interesting too. All these books that are banned, they’re told so far from the female perspective and they’re really intense, hard topics,

Lauren: [00:50:00] Yeah.

Aileen: talking about.

Josie: and mind starts in the female perspective and then goes to the mail.

Lauren: Is

Alisa: Interesting.

Josie: I chose Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugene nights and it was a Pulitzer prize. Winning novel came out in 2002

Aileen: Um,

Josie: it is about a five alpha reductase. get this right, because this is a lot, it’s a five alpha reductase, pseudo hermaphrodite.

So he is a specific type of intersex individual, not transgendered. And this was something that I was like if, cause if people are trying to ban this because he’s transgender, that’s not right. This is how he was born. It’s um, it’s a very specific type of chromosome. Expression where an individual from a highly inbred population carries an X, Y individuals to somebody whose

Aileen: yeah. [00:51:00]

Josie: are X, Y, which is typically male.

They’re born

very female presenting with very female genitals. And, um, because the scrotum is recessed into the pelvis. And as this individual reaches, uh, sexual maturity and puberty male attributes start to develop. So Calliope who starts off as Calliope Kelly and becomes cow and Calliope is a beautiful girl.

Like she’s, he, he describes it this great way. The world is full of eyes. Like everybody looks at Kaliah because she’s this beautiful girl. And then, you know, She ages and starts approaching puberty. That eyes start looking away, not so not. So this beautiful little girl anymore and becomes male. it’s divided into four books. So it tells the story of the grandparents.

and then it [00:52:00] tells the story of the parents and then it tells, um, Calliope. But it’s all told from the point of view of Calliope. So it’s Calliope is the narrator, and it’s told with this very Iraqi color, this very Greek, um, Calliope is the muse of epic poetry in Greek mythology. And it’s told with this very Homeric thread to it, and Calliope has all vision and all seeing it’s very tongue in cheek.

Like the narrator is very much like, even though I was many years from being born now I knew this and it’s very close third person. So it’s like the emotional point of view of the grandmother and the grandfather. So to recap, soar, Molina’s Desmo name , I’m not even going to try to pronounce that name. It wasn’t only my first cousin twice removed.

She was also my

grandmother. My father was his own mother’s and father’s nephew. addition to being my grandparents, Desdemona and left di where my great [00:53:00] aunt and great.

My parents would be my second cousins once removed and chapter 11. That’s the name of his brother would be my third cousin, as well as my brother.

It’s like his Desdemona in left ear, his grandmother and grandfather on his father’s side and they’re brother and sister.

Lauren: Okay.

Josie: And the way that they get together is actually It almost makes sense. It’s so weird because he humanizes everyone so much that you kind of even understand why grandma and grandpa Desdemona and lefty fall in love.

The Turks sack, Greece, everyone in their village is killed except for these two. And before they leave, their mother makes, um, Desdemona who’s more responsible. She’s the sister she’s like it makes, makes her promise that lefty will marry a girl from their village.

When they’re running away, when they’re trying to get any, trying to get off this beach, and there are people dying left and right.

And throwing themselves [00:54:00] in, and all of the,

uh, the British fleet is out in the water

and they are not allowed to take refugees. And so they turn on music to over to blast over people, screaming to get off this beach. Um, they left, he said they pretend to be husband and wife, and then they just end up becoming husband and wife.

And he’s like, well, you did promise mom you’d make me marry a great girl. You know? So it’s like one of those, like the way that they end up together is they do love each other. They love each other. They’re attracted to each other and they try to

pretend that they’re not like lefty before the war happens before the Turks invade lefty, like goes to see a lot of prostitutes, like just trying to work it out, like stay away from your sister, don’t touch your sister, but it happens.

And you kind of understand it, even though there is still like that X factor.

Also calliopes mother and father are second cousins, but they don’t know since Desdemona and left your brother

and sister. They’re not just second cousins. They’re also aunts and uncles. So it’s like peace. So in bread at this point, like they’re so impressed.[00:55:00]

It’s sort of like,

of course, Calliope is Calliope has this gene and there are, there are a lot of huge themes that go on through this.

There’s like, The silkworm box, because it’s also a sign of the gene that gets carried. And they’re all of these beautiful symbolism in this book, and it’s very literary and there’s a lot going on.

And there’s also a lot of history that’s brought into it. So the first book is all about Desdemona and lefty. And what happened in Greece with the Turks invading and how, you know, everybody basically looked the other way because of there was oil was scarce and it was a problem with

all, of like America looked away, they allowed this to happen to Greece because they needed oil basically.

And then that sort of happens

again in Detroit because the second half of it, that’s where they moved to that takes place in

Detroit. So Calliope grows up and, and Jeffrey

is, um, a Detroit native and he talks a lot about the dissolution of. The car culture and the

dissolution of America and [00:56:00] the race

riots that happened and white flight and how basically the riots in Detroit that happened in the late sixties, early seventies, no

early seventies.

Sorry. That was basically the second American revolution that was put down. It was the

black American revolution and they called them snipers. Instead of

insurgence, when really there were like, there were war lines set up and they had to send in tanks to break it up. Like, I didn’t know any of this stuff before I read this book.

I was like, what, how did

I, how did we not

learn about this when we were in high school? Cause this happens

Lauren: I have no idea how we did

Josie: right. It’s

Aileen: is so complicated where you think about the few things, the storylines that we’ve been taught, missing so much.

Josie: yup.

Aileen: Like we just want things to be very simple and black and white and people are so complicated and there’s always more to

a story. And think at some point they had to

distill it into textbooks and they were like, well, this is a good narrative.

We’ll just stick with

Alisa: Right.

Josie: Right.

Like this is something kids can understand [00:57:00] and, Ultimately, this is, this is like a story about somebody claiming their

own sexual identity.

So Calliope, by the time we get into the

fourth book, Calliope has

always been sexually attracted to girls and is a girl is still

identifies female at this point. And, um, like even later he says I was attracted to girls even when I was a girl. And he never, when he becomes cow, he never says that he was a boy

when he was younger too, because he identified completely female then, and then identify as completely male later in life.

Not just when he

finds out that he was X, Y chromosome, And it really is. it’s a wonderful thought experiment that you tonight’s has gone on.

I’m like, why are you trying to ban this book? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not about a person who is choosing to go through a sex change opera. Like, is your problem with trans people or is your problem with hermaphrodites? Like how can anybody have a problem with hermaphrodites? They’re just born that [00:58:00] way.

Like, oh, but maybe that’s the argument. Maybe trans people are just born that way too. And they’re just realizing, anyway,

this book does get into the

point of,

um, a lot of people who are intersex too are born at this time,

they were pressured and their parents were pressured to quote unquote, normalized them to have their genitals.

So they start to form. Something, that’s kind of like a small penis type of thing. They were said, just cut it off.

Basically cut that off. You’ll they’ll never enjoy sex. And from that point on sexual pleasure is beyond them, but they’ll still look female. And since they were raised female, that’s what you

should continue to do it’s less damaging for the psyche.

And that’s when Cal runs away, Cal is like, I’m not going to allow you to take that away from me because it is it’s mutilation. It really is. And if the

person does not, he never

gets an opportunity to choose. And it’s like, the

parents are supposed to make this decision for the kids because it happens. It [00:59:00] happens to Calliope when she took

cow, she to, he is 13.

and I could see how parents would be

pressured or feel like, oh, well, for 13 years, this individual has been female. I want my daughter

back. I don’t want this boy. I want my daughter. And. Calliope very bravely no, I’m, I’m a boy now. Yes. I was a girl. I was a girl up until today. And the very opening line of the book is, you know, I was born twice first as a baby girl on a remarkably slog list Detroit day.

And then again, as a teenage boy,

Alisa: Hmm.

Josie: and it’s like, he’s capable. She to, he is capable of that transition. Shita he

is emotionally capable of going through that. It was everybody else around cow who wasn’t, they didn’t want

that. And

this is when he. he.

comes back like after having run away,

he comes back to his mom and his mom

loved that she had a [01:00:00] daughter, you know, we embraced tall as I


I laid my head on my mother’s shoulder and she stroked my hair while I sopped

why she kept crying softly, shaking her head. Why? I thought she was talking about

Milton father,

but then she


Why did you run away, honey?

I had to don’t you think it would have been easier

just to stay the way you were?

I lifted my face

and looked into my mother’s eyes and I told her, this is the way I


Aileen: Well,

Josie: bawling. When I

read that, just balling, it

broke my heart and brilliant

This is the way I always was.

You didn’t see it.


raised me a certain way, and this is my true identity. And

here it is. And I think that’s what people

find so threatening about this story.

 in the book are discussions of all

different kinds of intersex people. So there are, there are X, Y people with this alpha five alpha reductase thing.

Would that go from girl to [01:01:00] boy? Then there is X, Y Y chromosome. There’s the lonely X.

People. So there are all different kinds of intersex people. There are people who are androgen resistant, they’re like, they look like beautiful, tall supermodels they’re male, but they

look like they have breasts.

They’re just resistant to

testosterone. There it’s like, there are so many different types of

intersex people and you can’t

put a label on one

experience. and this very,

clearly from the beginning says, this is the type of

intersex individual I am.

this was my experience. And I

felt like it was just, so there

was so much love and there was so much about the family and about how this

individual was loved by father and mother who are



Republican, and still loved even

after Calliope becomes Cal.

 And I,

I can’t imagine. Y you would want to ban this book [01:02:00] apart from the

fact that it’s just, it only

makes you love human beings of all different kinds


Lauren: so

Josie: that’s why.

Alisa: Yeah.

Lauren: maybe. And the thing is, that’s a book written for adults

Josie: Yes.


Lauren: adult fiction. So what is the problem? Just

Josie: Why,

Lauren: read

Josie: Why, can’t grant? Um, there is sex between teenagers. There’s

like 13 year olds, 14

year olds are having

sex, like young teens or,

Alisa: I wonder if some of it is the truth of the science, because for so long,

Josie: Hmm.

Alisa: as a society have just said, well, we have

two flavors of, of sex based on chromosomes. We have, you know, X, X, and X, Y, but that’s not


Josie: That’s not real. It isn’t.

Alisa: much that we have learned

about genetics in chromosomes and, what actually contributes to

what we call sex. Right? The, the genome based

Josie: Gender is so [01:03:00] much bigger than

just male,


Alisa: like, this

is yes. And so this

is threatening because it’s adding a layer of truth

that. is based in science to say how narrow society is acting is not representative

of what is really


Josie: just to

wrap this up really quickly, I think you have to be right that the fact that this opens the door

for so many

different interpretations of what it is, what gender is that it’s never

been just

black and white and maybe that’s what is so

terrifying to other people.

But all I

saw was,

a beautiful story and beautiful

characters. Um,

Lauren: I haven’t read that. I really have always wanted to, and I

Josie: let me, let me just say,

it might be a little on the long


Alisa: looks like a big


Lauren: Yeah, this was

Josie: I


Lauren: was really my style this way.

Josie: you could’ve, you could’ve probably told



Lauren: 60

Josie: You could have probably taken out

one of Lauren’s books from this book and [01:04:00] still told the same

story, but I don’t know.


Lauren: pages.

Josie: So, and everybody else, so

alien, do you have final thoughts on



Aileen: to go first?

Josie: Oh yeah. Lauren,

Lauren: Sure. I, what I, like I said, I had read this in my twenties and reading it now 20 years later. just a different perspective on it. Um, just such a beautiful commentary on tradition and, you know, modern cultures. Um, and Jean Craig had George, she’s not native American, so I know we were talking about,

Josie: whose story

is this? Right?

Lauren: yeah. But, um, but

it’s not really, I it’s like, it’s just a beautiful

Josie: It’s not about race. This is more about a

person who lives in the


Lauren: would I

recommend it to a sixth grader?

Yeah. don’t have any problem

recommending this to a sixth grader. I think it’s

a beautiful story I

don’t think it should be banned from schools. and I think it’s sad that,


that’s that, that, that [01:05:00] happens really. I really do, because it says so much could be, would be lost, but not reading a

book like

this, so,

Josie: Okay. Uh, alien, do you want to give your final


Aileen: Um, I think everyone should read the bluest eye by Toni Morrison. Everyone should read Toni Morrison. I think she’s such an important author. I think she has. An incredible point of view. It’s, it’s gross that this book is banned. And I mean,

Lauren: Hmm.

Aileen: hard topics to read. writing is just, brutal.

Sometimes she just, the language she uses is so descriptive and graphic, but it makes you really this different perspective and point of view and just horrible things that really do happen to people. And we shouldn’t shy away from it. People are

Josie: Yeah.

Aileen: things aren’t black and white, and it’s so important to understand things from different points of view and just different experiences and kind of unlearned some of the stuff that I think we’ve always learned.

I think that’s part of why this

has been banned because [01:06:00] it tells the ugly side of our history. And I think it’s so important to read it. And it’s also just incredible writing there’s

Lauren: yeah.

Aileen: much to dissect and

learn just from her writing.


Josie: Yeah.

Aileen: amazing. So.

Josie: Technically,

yeah. He was like, she’s technically a

brilliant writer.

Aileen: She’s such a unique writer. Like her voice in her style is just unique and it’s so poetic.

It’s, it’s incredible.

Josie: Alyssa.

Alisa: my last thoughts on echo Browns at black girl unlimited the remarkable story of a teenage wizard. You’ve got to read this book. It is so touching and it’s funny and

heartbreaking, and it’s relatable as a human

being growing up from sixth grade or as a six year old in kindergarten up through entering college.

But it it gives you

Josie: Thank you.

Alisa: into a

world you would never know because it’s the story of a girl living a life that I don’t live because I don’t look like her and I

don’t live where she lives. And so [01:07:00] it’s a

wonderful window into something that I need to be aware of. And, and she tells the story.

So creatively and

well, and touching upon all those difficult topics

of, of, sexual abuse and racism and bias, um, juvenile detention and

story and plight of black

men is part of it that I didn’t even talk about when we talked about it.

Um, it it’s highly recommended. The, the review said brilliant, and that absolutely sums it up. It’s brilliant.

Josie: And really quickly finally for me, um, I read

Middlesex is Jeffrey by Jeffrey Eugena dies. And I thought it was

just a heart-wrenching

beautiful story, about a young girl to boy who

is on. Sure. A tremendous journey

in the self and inside family. And, um,

you know, we need to have

this conversation there.

There is not [01:08:00] medically, there is not

just two sexes medically. There’s more than that.

And I think

emotionally there’s way more than that.

And this is a conversation we should have, so, oh

Alisa: Wow.

Josie: what a heavy week. You guys, I just,

I need to get up and stretch


something or eat chocolate.

Aileen: for

Josie: I know.

Aileen: episode.

Josie: I was amazing.

Alisa: I know.

Josie: Okay. But what a way to start off our new season,

let’s do something

really light next week. Okay. Let’s do something light and fun.

Aileen: Yeah.

Alisa: See what I can

Josie: Okay.

Alisa: Bye

Josie: Bye everyone.

Alisa: Bye

Lauren: everyone.

Josie: You’ve been listening to fiction between friends to find the show notes for this episode, or to subscribe and get new episodes delivered automatically. Visit fiction between friends.com. Also, if you happen to have a moment and you’ve liked what you’ve heard, please [01:09:00] help support our podcast by leaving a review on apple podcasts.

We would be immensely grateful. Thank you for listening.

8 comments on “S2 Ep1: We read banned or reconsidered books

  1. Shauna says:

    Welcome back! Hope you had happy holidays! Sad so many books are banned for such small reasons. I do struggle a bit though. While I do believe no books should be banned, I do think there are a better place for some. A library should not ban anything, but sometimes there may be something that is just too much for a school library. The other problem is that there is such a wide opinion on what is questionable about a book. What bothers one person is totally ok with another, and times change. When I was growing up, I don’t remember my mom ever saying I couldn’t read something. For a few years, my now 14 YO son asked me to read Game of Thrones and I told him it was too much for him. If he were to ask now, maybe. I probably would have read it at his age. I do appreciate my kids school on some of the books they do teach but they do also teach mostly the classics (it is a classical education charter school) and take the time to explain why they have been viewed as bad books such as Tom Sawyer which has been banned at other schools. They explain historical context and how times have changed. Their school has also taught other commonly banned books such as Fahrenheit 451 and Animal Farm. Almost any book can be looked at and banned based on someone’s opinion. Everything is so hard these days!!

    1. Emma says:

      Ha! My brother was also forbidden from reading GoT. And then he went ahead and borrowed it from a friend and read it behind our mother’s back. So I guess what I’m saying is even though I completely understand you, kids will find a way (and also check in your son’s closet – I might not rat out my brother’s hiding spots but everyone else is fair game) and personally I think I prefer the idea of them reading those kinds of books in a controlled environment, like in a school where you would talk about what happens in the story and why and how a character was right or wrong in what they did. Not to say Game of Thrones should be on a curriculum but I think you get the idea 🙂 And also a Happy New Year to you

      1. Shauna says:

        Lol! I get ya! And I agree

    2. Josie says:

      I agree with you that there is a thing as “age-appropriate” and that parents should decide ultimately what their young kids should and should not read. I say no to my daughter a lot while we’re at the library because I know at 7 she isn’t ready for teen books that center around dating. Later, those books (including my books, btw) will be wonderful for her, but not now. The thing that bothers me is that politicians are deciding what is and is not appropriate. Other parents–not the parent of that individual child–are deciding what’s appropriate for ALL kids. Librarians are not being trusted to choose books they find important and putting them on the shelves, and this is wrong.

  2. Emma says:

    Fascinating episode! Also perfect to keep me from crying as I try to revive my laptop which decided to crash 10 days before I have to turn in all my projects for the semester…
    Living in Germany and with our history, I can’t imagine any books being banned anywhere. We do have one book that you actually can’t buy at all… I’m sure you can guess who the author is and why it’s banned.
    Actually, I find it kind of funny that these books are banned (or reconsidered) because they sound a lot like books we might have read back in school. The themes are quite similar, weirdly.
    One thing though, I’ve heard that the Inuit/native people from the northern regions don’t like the word “esk*mo” and prefer, well, inuit. As far as I know, it’s not a slur, but it is a name given to them by others and they prefer their own 🙂
    Also, “America looked away because they needed the oil” – last 100 years of international politics in a nutshell.
    Lastly, some happy news from Germany: a couple years ago, Germany added a third gender to their ID cards so when babies are born intersex, doctors don’t have to choose. It’s not an option yet for trans and nonbinary people, but we have hope that with the government change it might become one. Trans people deserve a bit of good news, honestly. I’ve written a few essays on their situation in Germany and it’s so disheartening and frustrating, especially since I know quite a few trans people who struggle with this every day… and, to bring this full circle, talking through those essays with my teachers, it’s clear that they *want* to learn about it and support their students, so having those kinds books and reading them in class could be such a great opportunity for that instead of banning them and hoping no one ever finds out – which is ridiculous.

    Lots Of Love And Happy New Year,

    1. Emma says:

      update: laptop is saved, crisis averted 😀

      1. Shauna says:


    2. Josie says:

      I can guess Germany’s banned book, but even that surprises me. Know thy enemy, right? Kudos to Germany for recognizing intersexed and trans individuals! We all need to catch up about that.

      …And I believe Lauren was using the name for the Inuit people that was used in the book…which was written a hella long time ago. Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you should use the name as it appeared in the book or if you should modernize it, and I think Lauren just went with what she read in the book. No offense was meant, certainly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *