Reader’s Bill of Rights

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Sometimes a novel’s story summary sounds interesting but fails to deliver. Sometimes it’s a matter of it just not being the right time for you to read that particular book. Sometimes the opening “hook” does its job and pulls you into the story, but the following pages fall short and your interest wanes.

Life is short. There are too many good books out there to spend time reading one that does not measure up or appeal to you.

I used to think if I started reading a book, I owed it to the author to finish reading it. I no longer abide by that. When I joined a book club a few years ago at the Kannapolis branch of the Cabarrus County Library system, I was introduced to a “Reader’s Bill of Rights.” Perhaps you are familiar with it. It is attributed to Daniel Pennac in Better Than Life, published by Coach Press in 1996:

“Reader’s Bill of Rights

  1. The right to not read
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right to not finish
  4. The right to reread
  5. The right to read anything
  6. The right to escapism
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to browse
  9. The right to read out loud
  10. The right to not defend your tastes” – Daniel Pennac

If you do not live in the United States, “Bill of Rights” might be an unfamiliar term for you. That is what the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are collectively called. It is not coincidental that Mr. Pennac listed 10 items in his “Reader’s Bill of Rights.”

In the United States, we take for granted our access to books and other reading material. Millions of people in the world are not that fortunate. Americans tend to take free public libraries for granted until elected local government officials threaten to close libraries or radically curtail their hours of operation due to financial constraints. Many of them see libraries as an easy target. They see libraries as “fluff.” We suffered through this in the county in which I live during the downturn of the economy that started in 2008. What was taken from us in a proverbial “blink of an eye” took several years to reinstate.

We have wonderful public library systems in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg Counties in North Carolina. I utilize both systems most weeks. The Harrisburg branch of the Cabarrus County system is a very inviting hub of activity. When Harrisburg’s public library branch opened in 2001, our community started to feel like a real town.

I do not take my right to read lightly. I hope you have the right to read anything you want to read. As you can see from the table of flags on this blog page, people from at least 73 different countries have read my blog. When I write my blog posts, I try to be mindful of that.

Some of my readers live in countries where there is no free press and there are heavy prices to pay (such as prison life at hard labor or even execution) if you read something that is banned. Knowing that a few individuals in such countries are putting themselves at risk by reading one of my blog posts has put unexpected pressure on me.

Please don’t take your right to read for granted! This Thanksgiving season in America, I’m thankful for my right to read and for free public libraries.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving Day with family and friends.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius.

If you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

I hope you live in a country where you have the freedom to write and read anything you want.

Janet

X is for Xenophobia

I’ve had five or six weeks to come up with a word beginning with the letter “X” that has something to do with writing. This is Day 24 in the 26-Day 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge. Hence, the letter “X.”

Xenophobia

Not finding an X-word that has anything to do with the craft of writing, I decided to write about xenophobia. It has been a topic of conversation in the United States during and since the 2016 presidential election season.

Xenophobia is not a pleasant topic to write about and, in choosing it as today’s topic, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say.

The Tenth Edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines xenophobia as follows:

“fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”

The word’s origins

The word first came into usage in 1903, according to Merriam-Webster’s. I couldn’t help but wonder about the word’s etymology. It comes from xen or xeno. It has its origins in the Greek, xenos, which means stranger. A second meaning the dictionary gives for xen or xeno is “strange” or “foreign” with the example being “xenolith.”

That led me to look up the word “xenolith.” Xenolith came into usage in 1894 and is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as

“a fragment of rock included in another rock.”

I probably should have remembered that from the year of geology classes I took as a college freshman 46 years ago, but geology is like a foreign language. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

As far as I could find, xenolith was the first word used in the United States that had “xen” or “xeno” as its root. A decade later, xenophobia was first in common usage.

Getting back to the 2016 US Election

Xenophobia reared its ugly head during the 2016 US Presidential campaign. The nominee of the Republican Party was outspoken about foreigners. His rhetoric brought out the worst in a lot of people. When someone in that position freely spews hatred and fear of another group of people, it emboldens other citizens to express their fears, distrust, and hatred of groups of people different from themselves either in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, or country of origin.

Is the USA still a melting pot?

I naively thought Americans were a tolerant people, so I was blindsided by the xenophobia that last year’s election exposed. We are taught in school at an early age that the United States of America is a “melting pot.” People have come here from all over the world and have been accepted and assimilated into American society.

Give me your tired, your poor”

The words on a plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York famously say,

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:  I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

I type those words from memory. I learned them in elementary school. We even learned a song composed by Irving Berlin that included those last words of a sonnet, New Colossus, written by Emma Lazarus.

Many times when there is an influx of people from another country, they are looked down upon and are slow to be accepted. I have never understood this. People generally come to America seeking a better life. I’m sure that’s why my ancestors came here from Scotland in the mid-1700s.

Few people come here wanting to do us harm, but the rhetoric of the Presidential campaign last year made many people think that everyone coming from certain Middle Eastern countries were terrorists. I’m afraid we will reap the results of that rhetoric and the fear it incited for many years to come.

Call me naïve, but, as a Christian, I just don’t understand other Christians who are xenophobic.

Until my next blog post

I need to find “Y” and “Z” words to write about for my blog on Saturday and Sunday, and I don’t apologize for “stepping on the toes” of any of my readers in today’s post.

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

#Immigration and Other Issues

For days, I have struggled with what to blog about today. My blog’s editorial calendar told me to write about the progress I’ve made over the last month or so on my southern historical novel manuscript with the working title, The Spanish Coin.

“Stand on your own two feet.”

While I’m establishing my “brand” as an author, on the one hand I’m advised to stay away from politics. On the other hand, I’m advised to stay true to myself. I have decided that if my political views cause someone to stop reading my blog, to vow to never read anything I write, to “unfriend” me on Facebook, or “unfollow” me on Twitter, I can live with that. What I cannot live with is myself if I sit idly by and fail to speak out when I see injustice or abuse of political power. One of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “Stand on your own two feet.” She taught me by example to speak up when I see a wrong.

US Travel Ban

Every writing-related subject I considered blogging about today seemed trivial in light of what has transpired in the executive branch of the US government since Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20. I am compelled to speak out against the travel ban he has put into effect. Choosing the seven countries he did smacks of religious discrimination. People who have lived and worked in the US for years and some who at great personal risk assisted the US military in other countries were caught up in the confusion that has resulted from the issuance of this executive order.

Immigration & Refugees

I’m surprised France hasn’t asked us to return the tear-stained Statue of Liberty as the new “leader of the free world” also put a stop to immigrants entering the US for 120 days with the promise of “extreme vetting.” The vetting protocol already in place has worked well. No refugee or immigrant has perpetrated a terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001, while 28 Americans have done just that.

World Refugee Day (June 20, 2017) will bring attention to the refugee issue. I hope by then the United States of America will once again be welcoming refugees who are trying to escape religious persecution and war.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” ~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839

Our new president’s war on the US Constitution’s 1st Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press is most troubling of all. If reporters are shut out or merely fed a never-ending barrage of “alternative facts,” what is to become of the USA?

For at least the time being, I still have a right to have and to voice my opinion. My blog will continue to be about my journey as a writer, but as a citizen and a writer I have a responsibility to speak out. I love my country too much to keep silent.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet