Friday, October 1, 2010

Banned Books Week... Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson...
Winner of the 1995 PEN/Faulkner award

On San Piedro, an island of rugged, spectacular beauty in Puget Sound, a Japanese-American fisherman stands trial for murder. Set in 1954 in the shadow of World War II, Snow Falling on Cedars is a beautifully crafted courtroom drama, interracial love story, and war novel, illuminating the psychology of a community, the ambiguities of justice, the racism that persists even between neighbors, and the necessity of individual moral action despite the indifference of nature and circumstance.

In 1995 Snow Falling on Cedars was named 1995 book of the year by the American Booksellers Association. It also won the PEN/Faulkner award! What is the PEN/Faulkner award? Founded by writers in 1980, and named for William Faulkner, who used his Nobel Prize funds to create an award for young writers, and PEN, the international writers’ organization, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation brings together American writers and readers in a wide variety of programs to promote a love of literature. It's also one of the foremost prizes for literary fiction. Snow Falling on Cedars has also been challenged 4 times by parents who have objected to the books sexual content and obscene language. First challenged in 1997 by parents in the Snohomish, Wash. School District, who at the same time acknowledged the book's literary value. Next in 1999 it was pulled from the Boerne, Tex. Independent High School library and barred from the curriculum, although later it was returned to the library. In 2000 it was restricted by the South Kitsap, Wash. School District board, and then challenged, but retained, again in 2003 by the Modesto, Ca. City School Board for the advanced English classes. In this last case the school board said administrators should give parents more information about the books their children read, including annotations of each text. Parents can then opt out of any assignments they find objectionable.

What's really interesting is that David Guterson credits another frequently Banned & Challenged author as a major influence in his writing Snow Falling on Cedars... Who was that? None other than Harper Lee, whose To Kill a Mockingbird if one of the top 10 frequently challenged books...

"During his years as a teacher, Guterson discovered another major influence in To Kill a Mockingbird. "No other book had such an enormous impact [on me]" he has said of Harper Lee's splendid Southern classic. "I read it 20 times in 10 years and it never got old, only richer, deeper and more interesting." He admits freely to borrowing many of the novel's structural and thematic elements for his own 1994 tour de force, Snow Falling on Cedars. When he won the 1995 Pen/Faulkner award for Snow Falling on Cedars, Guterson quickly recognized the reclusive Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird for his success. He wrote to Lee asking her to come to the award ceremony in Washington, D.C., but being a highly private woman, she didn't attend."

Have you read Snow Falling on Cedars? I haven't yet, but now it's definitely going on my TBR list! Isn't it amazing how many Banned & Challenged books end up as "Books of the Year" and host to other literary prizes!

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