Category Archives: Intellectual Freedom

Review: America by E.R. Frank

This year, in honor of the ALA’s Banned Books Week, I will write a review of a challenged book I recently read. For anyone unfamiliar with Banned Books Week, the American Library Association uses the last week of each September to call attention to our right to intellectual freedom and the necessity of vigilence to keep that freedom alive.

Review of America by E.R. Frank

The first thing I have to admit is that I can completely and totally understand WHY this book was challenged.  There is a ton of profanity and child sexual abuse throughout the book. But having said that, it’s also probably one of the most well written and thought provoking books I have ever read in my life. I would not personally recommend this book for children, because it’s very disturbing, but I would definitely recommend it to adults.

The story starts in the middle, told from the point of view of a young, disturbed, institutionalized youth.  It’s told in his thought patterns and memories, how he reacts to the people and situations around him, what he thinks is happening.  From the middle of this young boy’s life the story progresses in snapshot memories of his childhood until the end of the book when he’s older and a more adjusted member of society.  The way the story unfolds is captivating, if not heartbreaking, because you see how tragedy destroys his childhood and innocence, how he “got lost in the system,” how he blamed himself and what he thought about what happened to him. You think you know what messed him up even though he gets “rescued” from his neglectful mother, only to find out that the situation he’s brought into is both better (his Mrs. Harper) and much, MUCH worse. It makes the flashbacks to his early childhood that much more powerful, because you know that love and innocence is destined for a terrible end.

Luckily, the book does have a happier ending.  Lucky for me at least because otherwise I probably would have been crying for the next month.  This book gripped me like very few have, and I am not at all sorry I read it- especially because I think facing pain and trouble are an important part of life. It made me want to reach out to abused children. The only thing I could fault the book for is that in the end, I was left wondering “What can I do?”… and that was also it’s biggest strength.

Other Articles about Banned Books Week:

American Library Association: Banned Books Week

Mur Lafferty’s “I Should Be Writing” blogpost about “Banned Book Week.

Stacked (blog): Thoughts on Censorship

Tablet: A new read on Jewish life (complete with a wonderful anticensorship poem)

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Filed under Action Alerts, All about books, Current events, Intellectual Freedom, Reviews Audio/Visual

Free to Read

Free to Read

As a follow up to Banned Book week, I thought I would continue the celebration of our freedom to read and share ideas by highlighting some of my favorite websites and other free resources. These sites are perfect for free resources such as books, reference materials, etc.


This is my favorite site for getting free ebooks. I prefer ereader format, but they offer many other formats including PDF, Mobipocket, Doc, Plucker, iPod Notes, Sony Irf., iPhone PDF, etc. They carry a large selection from Project Gutenberg, many classics, and also some new releases. New ebooks are frequently added to the site. All the books they offer are free, although they do accept donations.

This is a great site for free audiobooks (MPEG Layer 3 Audio) to download. They feature several genres including everything from non fiction to science fiction. They are donated by authors who receive 75% of any donations made to the site as well as exposure for their work. Of the books I have listened to, the authors generally do the voices and act out the parts that they are reading. My favorite podiobook so far is “How to Succeed in Evil” which is a comedic look at supervillains.

This is a web-based encyclopedia whose articles are contributed by anyone who has information on the existing knowledge of a subject and can site references. They do have to follow Wikipedia’s editing policies,and the articles can then be edited by others for accuracy. For this reason, Wikipedia articles differ from conventional encyclopedias in that the older articles tend to be more accurate than newer ones. The overall accuracy in differing subjects is comparable and sometimes greater than Encyclopedia Britannica.

The Merriam-Webster online search includes an online dictionary, thesaurus, Spanish-English and Medical dictionaries. I frequently use this site to look up terms I’m unfamiliar with.

These two search engines are incredible. However, the advantage of using Good Search first is that they will contribute to charity whenever you use them. Just go to their homepage and designate your favorite charity out of the thousands offered. GoodSearch donates half of its revenue to the charities and schools designated by its users. Yahoo powers GoodSearch, and money from advertisers make donations. Neither you nor the charity spend anything!

If you are skeptical of the idea that small donations add up, here is an example. I picked “Farm Sanctuary (Watkins Glen, NY)” as my designated charity. Since January of this year, there have been 84,665 searches made (with them as the designated beneficiary). Those searches raised $846.65 to be donated towards helping Farm Animals.

Don’t forget to use YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY! Chances are your library has its own website where you can conduct searches, access online reference materials such as encyclopedias and other reference material that would require a fee otherwise, request holds, and find out the status of items you have requested. Even if you cannot find something through the website, you can call the reference librarian and in many cases they can obtain material outside their system. Most libraries offer computer access and even WiFi. Also available are movies, VHS and DVD older and recent releases, CDs, and occassionally even items such as overhead projectors and VCRs. All of these are usually available for free (or a small fee in some cases). Check with your local library for details…

If you are looking in your fridge with no idea of what to make for dinner, this is the site for you. FatFree: The Low Fat Vegetarian Recipe Archive has a searchable recipe archive that really comes to the rescue in a pinch. If you can’t find what you need there, other convenient sites for ingredient and recipe searches include

though of course you would want to choose vegan recipes both for ethical and economic considerations!

The premise of freecycle is to give items that would otherwise go into a landfill to people who actually want them. Members join at no cost and post items that they would like to get rid of. Other members see the post and respond and with approval by the original poster receive a freebie they really wanted. It’s a beautifully brilliant and simple concept. Cleaning out the garage or attic and don’t know what to do with those old clothes, books, excess wood, or baby carriage? Simply post it and see if someone wants it. If you need or want something you can post that too. There are no guarrantees that simply because you post someone will respond, but many times they do and both parties are happy. What could be simpler?

And of course, anyone who is visiting my site here at Care2 is already familiar with the donation link at the top right corner of the page. An additional free charity site for anyone interested is where you can click on multiple links to save the Earth.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog celebrating freedom and freebies. Have fun! And may the force be with you.

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ALA Banned Books Week

ALA Banned Books Week


September 29 – October 6, 2007


The American Libray Association Banned Book Week this year is from September 29th through October 6th. It draws attention to the importance of the freedom to read and disseminate ideas, even unpopular ones, in a democratic society. And it reminds us not to take this precious freedom for granted.


A Challenge is when someone seeks to remove or restrict access to materials. It is not simply lodging a complaint about the content. It is an attempt to limit the access of others to the material. A Banning is the removal of those materials. Every year books are challenged by well meaning individuals or groups seeking to protect us from what they deem as dangerous or offensive. The top three reasons books are challenged are that the material is considered sexually explicit, offensive (language) and “unsuited to age group.”

The reason we have access to materials that are continually challenged is that hard working individuals such as librarians, teachers, and the average American speak up and fight for our right to read. The importance of Intellectual Freedom cannot be overstated.

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”—Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas,” The One Un-American Act.” Nieman Reports, vol. 7, no. 1 (Jan. 1953): p. 20.

Please support our right to read.

To find out more of what you can do, please visit the following websites.

ALA Banned Books Week.

What you can do to celebrate Banned Book Week.

What else can I do?

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Filed under Action Alerts, Intellectual Freedom