Tag Archives: banned books

Banned Books and You

2 Oct

To wrap up Banned Books Week, last Saturday we invited our readers to post pictures of themseles with their favorite Banned Book(s), and we agreed to do the same!

Here are the results -scroll to the end to find out who won our giveaway prize!

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LTWF Contributors

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I don’t have all my books with me right now, otherwise I’d have just taken a picture with my bookshelf, but Lord of the Flies is a good stand in for the rest of them. I found the book thought-provoking and fascinating when I read it freshman year of high school and I’m pretty sure my education would have been poorer without it.

-Jenn Fitzgerald

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Being at school right now, I unfortunately don’t have access to my books. Otherwise, I’d also be holding THE GOLDEN COMPASS (though I only have the spanish translation!) and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. My school bookstore actually has a special “Banned Books” display going on right now, though, so I nabbed this book to take a picture! I was so surprised to find it there….right next to MEIN KAMPF no less!

-Kat Zhang

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Because I couldn’t fit all the books in (and my webcam sucks), you can’t really tell which books are there. But I have: Speak, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Amulet of Samarkand, and His Dark Materials books 2 and 3 (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass). I’ve lent my copy of The Golden Compass to someone, so sadly I couldn’t take a picture with it!

-Vanessa Di Gregorio

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LOLITA has been interpreted in many different ways – as a metaphor for the loss of power of the “old” countries of Europe to the “young” country of the United States, as a metaphor for the oppression of individuals by a totalitarian government – yet it has never been banned for political reasons.  French officials banned LOLITA for being “obscene,” as did the United Kingdom, Argentina, New Zealand (uncensored 1964) and South Africa.  This amazes me, because although I read it at a very young age, I never thought of it as “the book with sex in it,” but rather as the book with the most lyrical prose I’d ever read.

-Julie Eshbaugh

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-Sarah J. Maas

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-Samantha Bina

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You can’t really tell, but behind me is every banned book I own, from Harry Potter to Fight Club. Silence of the Lambs, Divine Secrets of the Ya -Ya Sisterhood, Lolita, A Wrinkle in Time, Giovanni’s Room, The Virgin Suicides, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Good Earth, A Passage to India, Postsecret, and The Bluest Eye.

And, of course, my favorite… Beloved, by Toni Morrison.

-Savannah J. Foley

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-Vahini Naidoo

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The three books in the picture are HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE, THE GOLDEN COMPASS, and a Serbian Cyrillic version of the Bible (Serbian because I don’t own an English version). Harry Potter I included for the obvious “Tis witchcraft!” reasons; Golden Compass is there for the supposed promotion of Atheism; the Bible is actually there for reasons different from just “I’m a Christian too.” I am a Christian, traditionally, but I’m not particularly devout.

The reason I included it is because there was a time when you weren’t allowed to have Bibles that weren’t in Latin. You could say they were “challenged”. This was because of supposed mistranslations and biases that would appear in, for example, English Bibles, but I thought it was interesting to note that a book whose content pushes certain people to ban other books was once banned itself.

Another interesting thing that they say, is that the reason it was only allowed in Latin was so that only Church men and women and very highly educated people (they were usually rich) would be able to read it. In a corrupt area, it could’ve easily led to the manipulation of a devout public.

And last little interesting tidbit.

In Latin, the word liber means book. Liber also means freedom.

Coincidence?

-Biljana Likic

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LTWF Readers

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Thanks for holding banned book week. I think it`s great that you`re bring attention to an act that is totally wrong.

The book I took a picture with is Wild Swans by Jung Chang. It hasn`t caused any controversy in the United States. In fact, it`s banned in China for political reasons, because the author is critical of the Communist Party. I hope that`s fine, because most of the banned books mentioned on the blog are mostly YA that have been challenged in the United States. I thought it would be nice to bring attention to a book that is banned for reasons that have nothing to do with bad language or sex. Maybe this will highlight the fact that compared to the US, other countries have it worse. Just imagine not being able to voice your political opinions!

-Angela Kubo

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Thanks for spreading the word; you guys rock as always. ❤

-Ella

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Hi guys! I’m Heather, aka Postaxial. I’ve attached my photo for your banned books week blog. I can’t wait to see everyone else’s- this was a really great idea 🙂

-Heather (Postaxial)

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Here I am pictured with (from top left to bottom right): SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, 1984 by George Orwell, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, The Boy In Striped Pajamas by John Boyne [technically was only challenged, not officially banned – but I love it too much to leave it out], my 4 favorite Gossip Girl books [because the entire series would take up the whole picture], and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Other books that I have read but sadly don’t own (or ran out of money before I could buy them) include: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Things My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Pigman by Paul Zindel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, TTYL by Lauren Myracle, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Catcher In the Rye by JD Salinger, and Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Save for Things My Mother Doesn’t Know and TTYL [both of which I checked out of my school’s library], all those other books listed were required reading for my school. So I guess that means my high school promoted promiscuity, satanism, racism, and demoralization, right?

I am also wearing my cross necklace and a bracelet with Jesus and Mary and several other holy figures painted onto it. As you can see by my pillow shaped like a cross and the Holy Bible resting on top — I AM A PROUD CHRISTIAN WHO THINKS BANNING BOOKS GOES AGAINST OTHERS’ GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS TO CHOOSE!!

-C. Borchers

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-Lincoln Law

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Hey LTWF!

Here’s my shoddy attempt at a nice photo of me with my favourite banned book. As you can see, I took large amounts of effort to make it look interesting (obvious sarcasm). But yes, I love TKAMB. This novel is one of the great American reads! My – I might have had a crush on Atticus at one point. With regards to banned books, well, I think it’s absolutely shocking. Books are supposed to be about issues and ideas, we can hardly quash human thought and reflection without obliterating freedom and truth. Book inception? Haha.

Love,

Kim

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Here’s my entry for the banned book weeks picture post 🙂 My choice is The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which is most frequently banned in middle schools.  I suppose because it’s narrated by a fourteen-year-old girl, the first thought is that it’s for that age group, and then they see it’s about a girl being raped and killed and automatically set off the alarms.

-Joana Hill

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And the winner of the giveaway prize, selected through an online name picker, is….

Kim!

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Thank you to everyone who took a picture, commented, blogged, or read a banned book this week!

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Book of the Month – SPEAK

1 Oct

Today marks the start of a new month – and in honour of Banned Books Week, this month’s Book of the Month is Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the #SpeakLoudly twitter movement, and the voices of many bloggers crying out in outrage over the accusation that SPEAK’s rape scenes equate to nothing more than soft porn – and that it should be banned from schools.

First off, the fact that this man sees a rape scene as titillating and exciting is disturbing. That he thinks that a story centered around a rape victim’s silence is somehow morally degrading is ridiculous. That he is using religion to back up his argument is weak. That he is a man wanting to silence the voice of a rape victim (fictional or not) is sadly ironic.

Banning books is not an answer, or a solution. It is an attempt at silencing those whose voices are deemed unworthy, or morally questionable, or too vulgar. The opinion of a few should not dictate the choice of many.

I read SPEAK ages ago – probably when I was 13 or 14. And it impacted me greatly. Melinda is a character I will always remember. This is a book that speaks out for rape victims when they can’t.

By this point, I’ve lost a lot of the anger I felt when I first heard about Scroggins’ call for banning. Now I feel a sick, heavy feeling; a painful weight in my chest. When I first heard about this, I raged; I spoke out over Twitter, on Facebook, in the office, in class; anyone and everyone heard about how incredibly upset I was.

I think I wanted to throw something when I first read his argument – that was how upset I was.

Now, I’m still angry – but more than that, I am disappointed. It is sad to me that people are so willing to keep themselves and their kids so ignorant. That some people think themselves so above everyone else.

So here are some statistics. Did you know that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in America have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime? Did you know that every 2 minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted? Did you know that 15% of all sexually assaulted victims are under the age of 12? Or that victims of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression? Or 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? They’re also 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

And did you know that sexual assault and rape are one of the most under reported crimes, with 60% still being left unreported?

Yeah. And this man thinks that kids shouldn’t be aware of rape, that it will somehow corrupt them or teach them too much. Oh, and while we’re at it, he thinks kids in Elementary school shouldn’t learn about reproduction.

Let’s just tell kids that babies come from storks.

Ignorance is not bliss. But it does lead to a lot of misunderstandings. People hate what they don’t understand. People ignore what they don’t understand. And we shouldn’t ignore the fact that sexual assault and rape happen, and that a lot of people choose not to speak about it.

The one good thing about this whole situation is that people have been coming together to show their support. To have seen people so passionate about SPEAK and many of the other banned and challenged books out there is inspiring. It gives me hope that one day we’ll be past all of that. That we’ll all be free to Speak Loudly. Kudos to everyone out there who speaks up for the freedom to choose what we (and our children) will read – and to everyone who stood up for a book like SPEAK.

So if you haven’t read this book yet, I highly suggest you pick it up.

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Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

QOTW: Favorite Banned Book

30 Sep

CHAT TONIGHT!

We will be hosting a chat tonight at 9 EST. The topic will be ‘getting to know the LTWF girls’, in honor of the fact that we are accepting applications for membership!

You can visit the chat through this link.

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Saturday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week. Here at LTWF we’re dedicating the whole week to awareness about banned books. We’ve got a lineup of fantastic articles, culminating in our announcement of our banned books-inspired book of the month for October on Friday. This coming Saturday we will post pictures of ourselves with our favorite banned books, and pictures that our readers send us. One lucky reader will even get a giveaway prize!

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This week, in honor of our Banned Books celebration, we thought we’d answer the question: What is your favorite Banned Book, and how has it affected your life?

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My favorite banned book is BELOVED, by Toni Morrison. For me it beats out all the others (even Harry Potter!) because of how much it influenced me as a writer. I think the first copy I ever read was from my teacher’s personal library in high school. I didn’t know much about other writers at that time (though I was calling myself one), and Toni’s forward to the book was part of what convinced me that I was an actual writer, not just crazy. She described the idea for the story coming to her as she stared across her backyard: an imaginary woman climbed up out of the river and leaned against her gazebo. ‘Nice hat.’

The personal way that Toni interacted with her characters really resonated with me as a young writer. When I read the actual book itself, I fell in love. BELOVED is rich and spooky, with characters more complicated and human than any others I’ve ever read. I get why it’s banned: it takes a shockingly realistic look at the trials of real life, and the spiritual emptiness that came for many former slaves. It has abuse, rape, adultery, infanticide, explicit sexuality, and shows various types of segregation and discrimination. And guess what? It was based on a true story.

I can’t understand why anyone would want to cover up such a beautiful story that takes a hard and honest look at life post-slavery. The writing is magnificent, and inspired me to take my own to a new level. There were so many fragments stuck out at me, but the one I want to leave you with is this:

“She cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don’t know her name?”

-The Writer Condensing Three Books Into One

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I got TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as a birthday present sometime in late elementary school or maybe early middle school. I can’t remember who gave it to me, but I remember loving it from the very first read. I adored Scout and somehow, identified with her immensely though we were very different. I loved Atticus and Jim.

To be honest, I didn’t catch much of the political or racial themes of the book. It’s kind of like how I read ANIMAL FARM when I was eleven and then when someone remarked in eighth grade about how the book commented on socialism in Russia, I gave them a look like they were crazy. All I’d gotten from the book was a weird but interesting story about…well, animals on a farm.

Does my younger self’s utter lack of understanding of the some of the main themes of these books mean I wasn’t ready for them? That my librarian and whoever gave me TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD should have told me to wait a few years? I don’t really think so. In fact, I would have loved it if, instead of preventing me from reading these books completely, someone had been open to discussing them with me afterward. That, I think, would have done a lot more good.

Either way, I have since gone back and reread both books, and I’m really glad to have had two experiences with each–the more innocent, simpler version of my childhood, and the one I glean now after having grown up a little more.

edit:  Wow–I completely forgot that NORTHERN LIGHTS/THE GOLDEN COMPASS is banned/controversial in some places. You all know how much I love that book!

-The Writer Who Just Signed With An Agent!

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My favourite banned book, and this is somewhat cliched, is probably FIGHT CLUB by Chuck Palahniuk. This book was the first thing I’ve read which I considered truly subversive — and no, I hadn’t seen the movie — and I’d read a lot of rather edgy realistic fiction before reading this. The central concept of FIGHT CLUB, a bunch of guys getting together and bashing each other up in an attempt to find some kind of spirituality, is disturbing.  At the same time, on some levels, it’s also an interesting exploration of the emptiness and dislocation that can occur in a modern world.

I can see why the book’s been banned. But at the same time, I think that we need books like this that are provocative and gritty. FIGHT CLUB made an impact on me as both a reader and writer — as a reader, it made me seek out other books to challenge and unsettle me, and as a writer it made me appreciate minimalism and the power of a dark, entrancing voice. More importantly, I think, reading banned books that are subversive like FIGHT CLUB, gave me the confidence to unflinchingly explore any subject matter in my own novels.

-The Newest LTWF Contributor Out on Submissions

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I’m going to go with THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK on this one. You can tell how much I’ve read it because my battered copy is missing the back cover, and the pages are stained from me eating while I poured over it. I don’t usually dog-tag pages, but these ones are folded over, passages are underlined, and I have notes in the margins. I even have a copy in German, and one in Italian; that’s how much I love this book.

I first read THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK in fifth grade. Even then, I felt a powerful pull to the book, and it’s stuck with me ever since. People claim that it’s “sexually offensive,” and that the nature of the book is just depressing, but I disagree completely. I always thought Anne’s words were uplifting and hopeful. Despite the horrible things going on around her, she still believed in the inherent good in people. That’s a message I’d think we’d want our kids to understand and take to heart.

My high school actually did this as a play, and it is my most treasured memory from those years. Some of my favorite lines, the ones I often repeat in order to ground myself, seemed even more profound coming from someone’s mouth. It’s amazing to me that one girl could embody so much hope in times of utter despair, and I will never forget the lessons this book taught me.

-The Writer Working on Three Novels At Once

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I think you might have guessed that my choice would be LOLITA.  I can’t remember much of how I first encountered the book; I can’t even remember how old I was when I read it the first time.  The thing I do remember is how stunned I was that any book, no matter how brilliantly written, could make me empathize with a character as treacherous and selfish as Humbert Humbert.  It was my first experience with an “unreliable narrator,” and LOLITA made me see for the first time that even the vilest villain sees himself as sympathetic.  That experience, combined with Nabokov’s incredible prose, the sharp descriptions of the beautiful and the grotesque found in the many suburban American towns through which the main characters traveled, and the irony (and even humor) that can be found in every chapter, gave me my earliest ideas that maybe one day I might want to be a writer.

-The Writer on Submissions

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What Banned Book has affected your life the most?

Banned Books, Metaphors, and Cultural Identity

28 Sep

Saturday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week. Here at LTWF we’re dedicating the whole week to awareness about banned books. We’ve got a lineup of fantastic articles, culminating in our announcement of our banned books-inspired book of the month for October on Friday. This coming Saturday we will post pictures of ourselves with our favorite banned books, and pictures that our readers send us. One lucky reader will even get a giveaway prize!

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What I learned from Azar Nafisi’s

READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN

by Julie Eshbaugh

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Oppressive regimes, such as those in power in North Korea, China, and Iran, ban books.  This is a fact of which most literate citizens of the world are aware.  However, as a woman who has had the benefit of living all her life in the West, I was rather ignorant of the impact a seemingly apolitical book might have on those living in a society where the free exchange of ideas was suppressed as a dangerous evil.  I learned quite a bit about the power of what I and many of my friends might consider an “innocent” book – Fitzgerald’s THE GREAT GATSBY, for instance – and how access to such a book might feed the minds and fuel the souls of the many people who are subjects of governments that fear ideas.

 

Before I discuss Professor Nafisi’s memoir, let me say that I am not ignorant to the fact that my own society is home to many people who would limit my access to ideas they do not approve of.  Here in the United States, a professor in Missouri, as most readers of this blog are well aware, is campaigning to limit access to Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK, out of his misguided apprehension that it will corrupt the morals of young people.  I realize that the citizens of no country can let their guard down and assume that the flow of ideas is truly “free.”  We must all be vigilant.  I have, however, recently been enlightened by Professor Nafisi to the ways in which different books can take on widely different meanings in different cultures.  I have learned that a book that might be challenged in the United States because of its sexual content –Nabokov’s LOLITA, for instance – might contain a widely different message when read by women living under the repression of a government that would deny them not only the right to read the book LOLITA, but the right to read any book at all.

Azar Nafisi was a professor of literature at the University of Tehran at the time of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.  She was expelled from her position at the university in 1995 for refusing to wear the veil.  In 1997, she left Iran for the United States.  But during the two intervening years, Professor Nafisi taught clandestine classes in literature for a small group of students that met on Thursday mornings in her home.  The theme of the class was the relationship between fiction and reality.  They read Persian classical literature, as well as Western classics such as PRIDE & PREJUDICE, MADAME BOVARY, and THE GREAT GATSBY.  But LOLITA was the book that perhaps best demonstrates what the students and teacher came to discover in those intimate classes.

Why LOLITA?  Why LOLITA in Tehran?  Professor Nafisi endeavors to answer this question by quoting from Nabakov’s masterpiece.  This is from the scene where Humbert arrives at Lolita’s summer camp to bring her home.  Her mother has recently been killed in an accident that was, in a way, indirectly caused by Humbert himself.

“Let me retain for a moment that scene in all its trivial and fateful detail: hag Holmes writing out a receipt, scratching her head… photographs of girl-children; some gaudy moth or butterfly, still alive, safely pinned to the wall (‘nature study’); the framed diploma of the camp’s dietician; my trembling hands…”

To many a Western reader, this brief description within this seemingly minor scene might go unnoticed.  But to Professor Nafisi and her students, it holds the key to the book.

Consider the butterfly, or is it a moth?  Humbert couldn’t care less.  The true nature of this creature, pinned to a wall, still alive, matters not at all.  He is indifferent to it, just as he is indifferent to Lolita’s mother’s death, and to Lolita’s own nightly sobs in the arms of her rapist and jailer, because, as Humbert says himself, “she had absolutely nowhere else to go.”

Some Western readers of LOLITA may find it to be a story of misplaced passion.  To others it may be a story of a little vixen who deserved what she got.  But to women living in Iran after the Islamic revolution, LOLITA is more than that.  It is the story of a man’s confiscation of a young girl’s life.

Nafisi writes,

“To reinvent her, Humbert must take from Lolita her own real history and replace it with his own, turning Lolita into a reincarnation of his lost, unfulfilled young love, Annabel Leigh… Yet (Lolita) does have a past.  Despite Humbert’s attempts to orphan Lolita by robbing her of her history, that past is still given to us in glimpses.  Nabokov’s art makes these orphaned glimmers all the more poignant in contrast to Humbert’s all-encompassing obsession with his own past… Like my students, Lolita’s past comes to her not so much as a loss but as a lack, and like my students, she becomes a figment in someone else’s dream.

“At some point, the truth of Iran’s past became as immaterial to those who appropriated it as the truth of Lolita’s is to Humbert.  It became immaterial in the same way that Lolita’s truth, her desires and life, must lose color before Humbert’s one obsession, his desire to turn a twelve-year-old unruly girl into his mistress.

“When I think of Lolita, I think of that half-alive butterfly pinned to the wall… Humbert fixes Lolita in the same manner that the butterfly is fixed; he wants her, a living breathing human being, to become stationary, to give up her life for the still life he offers her in return…

“That is how I read LOLITA.  Again and again as we discussed LOLITA in that class, our discussions were colored by my students’ personal sorrows and joys… And more and more I thought of that butterfly; what linked us so closely was this perverse intimacy of victim and jailer.”

LOLITA has always been one of my favorite books, but I have never seen it as a metaphor for the oppression of a totalitarian regime.  Not until now, that is.  Professor Nafisi’s memoir of the study of literature in a secret class in the Islamic Republic of Iran has opened my eyes, not only to the various possible interpretations of LOLITA, but to the innumerable ideas that can be contained in a single book.

Banned Book Week has made me feel, in turns, frustrated, angry, and, finally, motivated.  Motivated to be vigilant.  To guard against any threat to the free exchange of ideas.  And for this motivation, I owe a sincere debt of gratitude to Professor Azar Nafisi and her brave students in Iran.

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Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. You can follow her on LiveJournal here and on Twitter here.