Library launches “Banned Book” Book Club 


Growing up in South Africa  during the apartheid era, we were all very aware of government censorship of movies and books, and the refusal of the regime, until 1973, to permit television of any kind for fear the broadcasts might stimulate revolution.

One of the Censorship Board’s most egregious and much-mocked actions was the banning of the children’s book Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, apparently because the regime did not like to see the words “black” and “beauty” in the same sentence – and because no one bothered to open the book to see that it was a story about a horse.

I’ve heard that the story of the ban’s origin might be an urban legend. Another version claims that copies of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book were being smuggled in with Black Beauty book covers, and so the censors, rather than check which books were which, decided to embargo the whole lot.

Either way, the Black Beauty story is emblematic of the absurdity and the discriminatory racial, political and/or religious bias that usually goes along with book bans.

And then there is the fear that one’s stated (and sometimes one’s State’s) beliefs might be undermined by a book that challenges them: for example, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species was banned in Tennessee right up until 1967. 

Descriptions of sexual acts, of course, have long been cited as reasons for bans, and not only in the States: to wit, James Joyce’s Ulysses and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. (DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned in South Africa, perhaps in part because a gardener – who would almost always be black in SA – dared to consort with an upper class woman).

And sexuality may be one reason why Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been challenged by quite a few school districts (though, to be fair, assigned as part of the curriculum by others). 

The novel, which is partly autobiographical, tells of the coming-of-age of a Native American in an all-white school, at which he says he is “the only Indian other than the school mascot.”

 (I recently read Alexie’s memoir, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, dealing with the same material, and I doubt if too many high-schoolers would be shocked by any of the passages in The Absolutely True Diary, if they are similar in nature.)

At any rate, happily, on Jan 6, the Laguna Beach Library will discuss Alexie’s book to launch their “Banned Book” Book Club. The event will take place from 10 - 11 a.m. in the Library Program Room. 

The Library says that this “rebel reading group” will meet once a month to discuss a book that has been challenged and/or banned.  Both the book and the controversy will be discussed. Meetings will be facilitated by staff member Heather Bradley. 

The tale of the banning of Black Beauty is one of the most well known of its kind – at least for South Africans and former South Africans – as an example of censorship gone wild, not to mention prejudice exemplified.

A more modern example of this insanity (in my view) is the fact that the children’s book And Tango Makes Three has apparently been one of the most challenged books of the twenty-first century in the United States, appearing on the American Library Association’s 10 Most Challenged Books every year from 2006 - 2010.

That’s because the main characters are based on two actual, living male chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo, who cohabited, showing (heaven forbid!) obvious signs of mutual love and affection, made a nest together, and took turns sitting on a donated egg until it hatched into a baby penguin named Tango, which they reared together for a while.

Gay penguins in the US – say it ain’t so, say the naysayers…I wonder, what do they worry will happen if kids read this book – that their kids will want to be penguins?

Banning books – it’s absurd, in my humble opinion. Better to discuss than dismiss ideas – that should surely be what education is all about. 

To register and pick up a copy of the book at the library’s information desk, visit

Dennis’ Tidbits


December 12, 2017

Resilient high pressure offshore ridge is the reason we’ll likely have a dry December after record Santa Ana wind event

On this date in 1979 the mercury soared to 85 here in town, tying with Dec 3, 1958 for the warmest December days on record. Downtown LA set a new record warm day on December 12, 1979 with a high of 91, eclipsing the old record of 88 set on Dec 3, 1958 and became the only time the high temp has surpassed 90 in December and that means every month of the year has seen at least 90 in L.A. 

I can’t remember, at least in my time here on planet Earth, a Santana wind event lasting this long, eight days and counting. This huge ridge of high pressure has been the most resilient ridge I’ve ever seen, both over the Great Basin and offshore. The Pacific Northwest has now had nine consecutive days of daylong bright sunshine and that’s almost unheard of as the entire month of December up there averages only four or five days of sunshine for the entire month. 

There is some relief in sight, at least for the firefighters as a shift in the wind to onshore with accompanying higher humidities will be a welcome change, however rain is still out of the equation for the entire state for at least the next seven to ten days and looking even further out, the next two weeks, which would bring us to Christmas.

Looking further back in Laguna history there were also two rainless Decembers back in 1958 and again in 1960 on top of the 1989 and 1990 bone dry Decembers. 

Along with the lack of rain is the lack of any significant swell from the west and northwest thanks to that huge persistent high pressure offshore which extends well over a thousand miles out to sea. The swell producing storms are way out in the North Pacific but once they come in contact with that huge high they track to the northeast into the Gulf of Alaska actually giving coastal areas of Alaska a southwest swell leaving the entire Pacific West Coast flat even way up in Oregon and Washington where normally it’s always ten foot or bigger this time of year. 

Down here unless we get an occasional pulse from the southern hemisphere, we’re left with nothing but knee high or smaller dribblers. Don’t expect anything anytime soon, not until that offshore ridge breaks down.  

We’ll get together on Friday, so until then, ALOHA!

All about books at LBB: Publishers’ reps recommend holiday picks for bibliophiles and bibliomaniacs 


For a booklover, what could be better than hearing six reps from prestigious publishing companies talk about their favorite new books? Not much. This event was perfectly timed to celebrate the eleventh year of Laguna Beach Books (as of fall) and the holiday season, when many rack their brains attempting to find that special gift. (And yes, the word “bibliomaniacs” does exist. I know several people who have an excessive fondness for acquiring and possessing books.)

Unfortunately, these reps only aided a bibliomaniac’s obsession. Last Thursday, at LBB, Amy Comito (Penguin Random House), Kelly Stidham (Simon Schuster), Nicole White (Penguin Young Adult Reader), Joe Murphy (W.W. Norton), Steve Atinsky (Penguin Random House), and Wade Lucas (Peguin Random House), made the holiday gifting task a whole lot easier.

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Dianne Russell

Madeleine Peterson of AAUW

As a fitting opening, Madeleine Peterson of American Association of University Women started the evening. She decided to hold their December meeting at LBB.

In the ten-minute time slot reps were allotted, each chose favorites in different categories to fit all shopping (and book club) needs. Here is compilation of picks: 

Gift books: Remarkable Books, an illustrated guide to 75 of the world’s most celebrated books, Painting California by Jean Stern and Molly Siple, 

Fiction: My Absolute Darling, a novel by Gabriel Tallent, The Heart’s Invisible Furies: A Novel, by John Boyne, In the Midst of Winter: A Novel by Isabel Allende, The Vineyard: A Novel by Marla Duenas, The Burning Girl by Claire Messud, Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories by Kurt Vonnegut.

Click on photo for larger image

Submitted photo

(l-r) Steve Atinsky, Amy Comito, Jane Hanauer (LBB owner), Joe Murphy, Nicole White, Wade Lucas, and Kelly Stidham

Non-Fiction: Devotions by Mary Oliver, collection, Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt, Endurance by Scott Kelly, The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks, L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home by David Lebovitz, State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook from the restaurant, American Wolf: The True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee, Spineless by Juli Berwald, The Future is History by Masha Gessen, Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman, Cuz by Danielle Allen, Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell, The Grand Central Market Cookbook: Cuisine and Culture from Downtown Los Angeles, Women and Power by Mary Beard. 

Favorites for younger readers: Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers, The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken, See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, #1 on best seller list, Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley, Sneakers by Rodrigo Corral, Alex French and Howie Kahn.

For book clubs: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

Spy stories: A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carre.

This wide selection of rep picks should satisfy anyone’s holiday wish list and more.

Evidently, as noted in the Huffington Post, there’s a Japanese word for book hoarders: tsundoku, which means stockpiling of books, possibly more books than anyone could read in a lifetime. But that doesn’t sound so bad to me.  One can try.

Laguna Beach Books is located at: 1200 S Coast Hwy. 

For more information, go to:

Zen and Keanu’s book “Skimstories: Riding Waves” is now available following a book launch party at Ripcurl

Story and photo by Mary Hurlbut

Zen and Keanu Mir-Scaer, ten year old brothers with a passion for the ocean and riding waves – plus, clearly, a literary and artistic bent – had a party at Ripcurl during last Thursday’s Art Walk to celebrate the launch of their book, Skimstories: Riding the Waves.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

World famous Skim Board Champion Austin Keen showed up to support Zen and Keanu at the Ripcurl book launch party

Laguna Beach boys Zen and Keanu self-illustrated their book with beautiful watercolors. Oh, and fun fact – all of the skim boarders mentioned in the book are local Laguna riders.

On Thursday, the accomplished skimboarders happily signed and sold their book on skim boarding to friends and fans. 

And today, Tues Dec 12, the brothers, who say they have been influenced by Laguna’s art culture and take much joy in painting (as well as writing), will be giving a reading at Laguna Beach Library from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. 

They’ll sign books and answer questions about their process as well, of course, as the art of skimboarding.

Copies are available on Amazon or contact them via

Women and $s: Save the date


Too many women still have no notion about managing their personal finances, according to many experts.

“We spend more time planning our vacations than planning our finances,” said Barbara Crane, vice-president of Crane Investments and a financial advisor for 25 years.

Crane will be a member of a panel that will present basic financial information every woman needs to know at a special meeting presented Jan 16 by the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club. The program will cover mistakes to avoid and resources to ensure a financially secure future.  

Club membership is not required to attend the program. 

The panel will also include attorney Nicole Anderson, founder of Anderson Law Group in Laguna Beach. She specializes in advanced estate and business planning and asset protection.

In addition to professional expertise, both women are active in community affairs.  Crane is the immediate past president of the Woman’s Club and a member of SchoolPower. Anderson has been associated with the Laguna College of Art & Design, the Laguna Beach Community Foundation, SchoolPower and Next Gen.

A third panel member will be announced at a later date.

Scott’s silhouettes in silver and gold

Photos by Scott Brashier

Click on photos for larger images

Last weekend: Silver and gold along Laguna’s coastline

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