Bradbury, Ray- Fahrenheit 451 (read by Tim Robbins)
Ng, Celeste- Our Missing Hearts
House, Silas- Lark Ascending
Once again, I'm pulling together books that don't really have alot to do with each other, but there are some common themes here. These books would never be shelved in the horror section, but they scared me to death. Give me a good ghost story any day; I can't take much more of this! But I go on reading it, because these are glimpses of possible futures, troubles that we might really face in our lifetimes, or that might come in a generation or two, if we go further down the road to totalitarianism and environmental ruin.
A fellow nerd friend of mine found out that I hadn't read this book and threatened to disown me, and I've always meant to read it, so when I saw it on a list of available e-audiobooks, I was glad to give it a try. One of the reasons that I put it off for so long is that I felt like I had read it. Everyone knows the story. I've seen parts of the movie, and I've read SO MANY summaries and excerpts from the book. But I was pleasantly surprised. I should have known that I wouldn't get the full depth of it from all that glossing over.
Parts of it were pretty terrifying, even with the book being so ubiquitous. The idea of having television screens that cover whole walls with reality-type shows that can talk back to the viewer... yikes. I suppose that'll happen someday, although maybe holding small screens up to our noses isn't much better. The way the dumbing-down and the intolerance is described was chilling, and of course, the thought of all those books... of hoarding them away, trying to save them, and then an informant calls the "firemen" to burn them. Horrifying. When I was younger, I'd always heard of this as a classic and thought that it was too over-the-top, but it all seems sadly possible now.
Our Missing Hearts
Another horrifyingly possible, sad book. I think I'd call this speculative, although there's nothing sci-fi about it. Censorship, racism, surveillance state, economic instability. It's all going on now, but this imagines it projected just a little bit into the future. I liked that libraries feature in the book so prominently, although the description of gaps in the bookshelves where books had been pulled is so scary... and then, the Florida classroom bookshelves are being, literally, emptied out. It's all too easy to imagine people lazily blaming the next depression (or The Crisis, as it's called in this book) on Asian-Americans and passing a stupid law to crack down on them. Everyone is encouraged to look out for each other by watching their neighbors and co-workers and informing on them; anyone of Asian descent might be suspected of being a Chinese sympathizer. (I remember a passage in Studs Terkel's The Good War: An Oral History of World War II in which a woman tells how they were supposed to get rid of any Japanese things, but she hid a cat figurine just because she really liked it).
The scariest thing in this book is the idea of taking children away from people who aren't deemed good, patriotic Americans- like journalists who question the government. Since this book was written by such a popular author, everyone is probably familiar with it and doesn't need much of a summary, so I'll just say, it's told mostly from the view of a young boy, around eleven or twelve, whose mother has left the family. Her parents immigrated from China, and she grew up in the states. Her son, who goes by Bird, is mixed-race and is already at some risk because of his Asian features. He doesn't understand why she left and completely cut off contact, and he gets a few clues about where she is and has to unravel a mystery. It isn't an easy book, but the characters are likable and I enjoyed it.
I wrote about this before, in my post about my favorite books of 2022, but I'm bringing it up again because I thought about it often while reading Our Missing Hearts. I read Lark as a advance reader copy, in August or late July, so it has been about six months since I read it, and it's still on my mind.
It's hard to read about cruelty and destruction, but the book is also about family and love. There is hope in it, and parts of it are really beautiful. As I've said about the other books, it seems like everything in this book is something that could happen in the not-so-distant future, and it scares me.
I think it's good to read books like these, which are warnings. This is what can happen. It has probably happened before, or something similar. Imagine what the consequences will be, if we stay on this path.
Maybe if enough of us get freaked out by stories like this, we will fix things.
More about the current book bans
An article from Washington Post:
Book Riot has ongoing coverage of all the book bans and other library issues. Their censorship tag links to tons of good information.