The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

Books-a-Million Listens to Customers and Changes Display


Thanks to all of you who have followed the incident that happened here in Tennessee when I was shopping for Mother’s Day at Books-a-Million.  You contacted the store, you Tweeted, you Facebooked, you called, and they responded!

Yesterday, WKRN Channel 2 News here in Nashville did a segment on the issue, and right as we were about to film I got great news from the corporate headquarters after several days of pressure: 

We appreciate your input on this matter and that you took the time to contact us with your concerns. 
It is not our intent to offend any of our customers with any product that is sold in the store. Books A Million offers a large selection of titles on various topics so that we may provide selections of interest to all ages. We value our customers and consider it a privilege to serve our stores communities. We wanted to let you know that we have taken action to respond positively to your concerns. We are removing the top shelf presentation and ensuring that no graphic covers are front-faced within the Personal Growth section.

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance. 
Best regards,

Jeanne Nelson

Please see the video above on WKRN, when my main goal was trying not to look like a book burner.  Thanks to Channel 2 News, to Books-a-Million, and to everyone who spread the word via social media!

Latest Sugar Study Has Little To Do With Sugar


Time for more terrifying food headlines. Today, Drudge links to a story about the latest food study that makes me want to run out and eat a dozen Krispy Kremes. This one says sugar makes you dumb. Sugar? I thought living in a red state made you dumb…and watching Fox News? Goodness…it’s so hard to keep track of these studies.

Anyway, be patient with this me; I put a little sugar in my coffee this morning so clearly this won’t be my best work. 

The study, conducted by researchers at UCLA and released this week, found lab rats got dumber after being fed a diet of sugar…except that sugar wasn’t the only thing those chubby little rats got to eat. The study was simple: a group of rats was fed a water solution containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  The rats were then divided into two groups; one group continued to get the HFCS-treated water, the other was given omega-3 fatty acids along with the HFCS-treated water. Then both rats groups were observed.

Surprise! The rats given the fatty acids performed better than the rats deprived of the fatty acids.

This is news?  I’ve had three children and with each pregnancy, my doctor drilled it into my head the importance of omega-3 fatty acids for my baby’s brain development. Is it really a surprise to these doctors that the rats given the fatty acids performed better?

We don’t really need a study for this, do we? Common sense should tell you that your diet should be rich in healthy food — like fish that contains omega 3 fatty acids.  Studies like these that rely on stuffing animals exclusively with one substance tell us little about the real-world impact of an occasional surgery treat. 

Yet it appears, the study’s researchers are focused on the villain food du jour — sugar.  In fact, the study’s lead researcher, Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, summed up the study’s findings by saying “our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body.” Or….it could be that we have more proof that omega-3 fatty acids are good for your noggin. 

But that scientific discovery might not get the headlines (or an interview on 60 Minutes).


Meet the Five-Year-Old Girl That Can Pick a Padlock


I believe the children are our future; teach them how to pick a lock and let them lead the way; show them all the beauty that’s inside. . .a locked house.

I must admit, however, I kind of want to learn this and teach it to my kids:

The Tennessean Investigates Books-a-Million Stores for their Pornographic Displays


Well, this is interesting. Yesterday, I got a call from my home state’s newspaper about this blog post I told you guys about yesterday. I had been shopping with the kids when I saw a book cover that obviously should not have been in plain view of children. I’ve been accused of overreacting — people have said that I simply want to avoid the topic of sex and that I needed to relax. Really? At least part of that is true. I’m not quite ready to talk to my four-year-old about 365 sexual positions, since we’re just starting her A, B, Cs.  (Maybe once we get the alphabet down, I’ll feel differently.) 

Sadly, I’m not overreacting, folks. Here is the book cover that is currently in full view of any children walking down the aisle: Warning, it’s a photograph of two people having sex.

The Tennessean went to several stores in the Nashville area to compare displays. In other words, the Spring Hill employees who told me it was corporate policy were either misinformed or dishonest. Or perhaps the other stores’ employees decided they didn’t want children to see people having sex as they innocently walked through the store.

The manager of the Spring Hill, Tenn., store, who only identified himself as “Eric,” had no comment for the newspaper. Heidi Hall’s article begins:

SPRING HILL, Tenn. — Author Nancy French had to do a little extra mothering on a pre-Mother’s Day shopping excursion to Books A Million in Spring Hill.

She was steering her children — ages 13, 11 and 4 — down the military history aisle when saw something that shocked her. She told them to freeze and turn around.

There, on a shelf labeled “Sexuality,” was the book 365 Sex Positions, complete with a cover photo featuring a nude couple demonstrating one.

Read all of her article here.

Since I came out with this blog post, people from all over have commented about similar experiences:

I just read the article in The Tennessean about your recent experience in Books a Million. I too had a similiar experience around Valentine’s Day in Books A Million in Mt. Juliet. Several copies of the 365 Sex Positions were placed on a “Valentine” table — 2nd one in from the main door — at waist level. I spoke to the Manager who advised me it was a corporate decision and gave me a 1-800 number. I immediately attempted to contact the Corporate office, but was unsuccessful. Needless to say, that display was shocking, especially to be at waist level and close to the front door. I too am a fan of Books A Million, but disappointed in decisions to display material that is inappropriate for children in areas where children frequently browse the various books displayed on “themed” tables.

And a former manager of a Books-a-Million encouraged me to take back my discount card:

BAM lives and breathes their discount cards. Without them they would have no advantage in their market. They force managers to threaten the associates with termination if hey don’t make a certain goal. The twenty dollars spent on the card is pure profit for them. They honestly don’t care whether they sell books or not, only the discount card and in the last few years their magazines for millionaires program. As for the pornographic books, they do indeed get paid by the publishers of those books to keep those specific titles on display, so they are making money whether anyone buys them or not. In fact next time you see a display like that, they’re called “top shelves”, check behind the books on the shelf and you will find the complete list of he books that they want up there. This also is true for their magazines. There were many times that BAM would prominently display pro marijuana magazines such as High Times or homosexual lifestyle magazines on their showboards because they had been paid to do so. My BAM was located in a small conservative town and this did not go over well with our clientele. I substituted the titles one time and was reprimanded for doing so. BAM has lot of dirty laundry they would rather the public did not know.

Would you help me try to talk some sense into this store? If you haven’t already called thecorporate headquarters, the number is 1-800-201-3550.

Also, here are some suggested tweets for those of you inclined to approach the store via Twitter:

@booksamillion ok with #porn near the kids’ section? The one in Spring Hill, Tennessee is! Please RT 2 fight indecency:

Check out what sexual book covers @booksamillion believes is ok for kids to see: #porn

I guess it’s no wonder these brick-and-mortar book stores are closing all over the country. I think I’m beginning to feel less sad about that.

A Way to Guarantee You Aren’t Invited to Give Commencement Addresses


In a recent blog post, my husband David daydreams about what he’d say to a class of graduating seniors:

Congratulations on your important, though modest, achievement. Your graduation is important because it is — for all too many people in this country — considered a necessary prerequisite for full participation in our nation’s economic and cultural life. This belief is misguided for a number of reasons — we significantly over-value economic advancement, stress education over hard work, and often go deeply into student loan debt which will handcuff us for decades. But it is widespread nonetheless. 

Read his fantasy speech, entitled “It’s Not All about You,” here.


Review of Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity


Let’s start from the beginning: Jeremy Lin is an Asian-American, Harvard-educated basketball player who became a New York Knicks phenomenon. The combination of his skill, his ethnicity, his Christian faith, and the improbability of his rise took the sports world by storm. Innumerable puns on his name, some ethnic slurs about Asian stereotypes, and a spate of books inevitably followed.

One of these books, Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity, has already hit shelves after its author Timothy Dalrymple churned it out in an amazing three weeks. The beautifully written book tells the story of the unlikely sports hero who captured the hearts and imaginations of Americans everywhere. Dalrymple chronicles how Lin was recruited in 2005 by then–Harvard assistant coach Bill Holden who noted that Lin was 6 feet 3 (perfect for a ball player) and had a 4.2 high school GPA (ideal for a Harvard student). Though he wasn’t amazing physically, he was impressive spiritually and academically. The coach figured that he wasn’t going to be a star, but also that would make the team better. That’s how Lin became the “David” of this David versus Goliath story, even though he was 6’3”.

Dalrymple presents the against-all-odds story well. He himself was an elite athlete: a gymnast who broke his neck before the Olympic Trials of 1996. Because of his past experience, he understands competition as well as the pressures, joys, and opportunities of sport. In addition, the author is Ivy League–educated (Stanford, Princeton Theological Seminary, Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences) which gives him a special insight into Lin’s educational background.

But the book isn’t a rote retelling of Lin’s life and history. Written in an accessible, engaging style, the book provides the behind-the-scenes stories that are even more inspiring than the pun-heavy headlines suggested. For example, Dalrymple reveals that Lin had to ask friends to pray that he wouldn’t be cut from the team. He had to beg coaches to give him a chance, and — at one point — he had to convince the guards at Madison Square Garden that he wasn’t the physical therapist. Dalrymple does a great job explaining how this same guy became so popular that a Manhattan lawyer’s wife bid $40,000 for his jersey and the chance to meet him. In fact, his was mentioned on Twitter 5 million times after a certain game against the New Jersey Nets.

But even though the author wrote this book in less than a month, it still wasn’t fast enough to make it to the market before Lin was sidelined with injuries. How does this recent turn of events affect the story? Did Dalrymple chronicle a fantastic life of an amazing man, only to have a bad ending?

Not at all.

Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity underlines the sovereignty of God in every chapter of Lin’s amazing journey so far. The story has had ups, downs, and zig-zigs that could make most people lose heart. But not Lin.

After a game in which he got favorable but reserved reviews, Lin tweeted to his 26,000 followers: “God is good in our ups and downs!” This book — and Lin’s life — underline the hope, the steadfastness, the hard work, and the good humor of a man who’s ultimately surrendered his career and fate to God. Even the fact that he now has almost three quarters of a million followers seems like a small part of God’s plan for his life.

And that’s what makes Lin’s story so poignant. His life — like ours — is not perfect, but it is still being written by the author of life. This book is an excellent primer for those of us who will be watching with hope and expectation as it plays out on courts across America.

This book would be a great one to use for a discussion over dinner with your teens. Here are some conversation catalysts:

1.     Why do we have a national obsession with “underdogs” in sports? 

2.     In what contexts would Lin be considered an underdog and in what contexts would he definitely not be considered an underdog?

3.     Why did Lin consider his basketball career a miracle even before he became a sensation, and in what ways does God orchestrate our lives and careers?

4.     How did Jeremy’s ethnicity inhibit his career?

5.     How did his ethnicity make him a better ball player?

6.     Is having a “chip on your shoulder” sometimes a good thing when it drives you to work harder? 

7.     Is “ethnic pride” good? When could it be negative?

8.     What did the ear-piercing incident suggest to you about Lin’s sense of adventure and his respect for his mom?

9.     How did Lin deal with his sudden fame and how do you think you’d deal with it?

10. Would sudden fame be easier to deal with than a disappointing injury? How do his injuries change the story for you as a reader?

Full disclosure: I work with Dalrymple at where he’s the director of content and I’m the editor of the Faith and Family channel.

Modern Family Star Gets Kidney from Her Father


Yahoo reports:

On “Modern Family,” Sarah Hyland portrays Haley, a boy-crazy teen who’s most worried about the relationship with her on-again, off-again boyfriend and whether she’ll get into college. But in real life, the 21-year-old actress has quietly been dealing with a medical issue that make those problems seem, well, quite small. As she reveals exclusively to Seventeen magazine in a new interview, Hyland’s fought a lifelong battle with kidney dysplasia, a condition in which a baby’s kidneys don’t develop properly in the womb. In early April, she received a kidney transplant from her father, actor Edward James Hyland. “I have a second chance at life, not a lot of people get that,” she tells the mag in her first interview about the transplant.

Hyland is particularly grateful for the lessons she’s learned from all of this. The greatest, she says, are that “You know that family is always going to be there for you — no matter what. My dad gave me a freakin’ kidney!” Hyland explains. “But it’s also the families that you create outside of your family. And you really find out what kind of people you’re friends with. It was just amazing, and it really opened my eyes to see who’s there for me and who’s not.” Someone who’s certainly been there for the New York City native in this particularly trying time is her boyfriend since 2009 that she now lives with, “High School Musical 3″ actor Matt Prokop. “He helps me with my medication and takes me to doctor appointments and all the stuff that I need to do to take care of myself,” Hyland notes. “Any other 21-year-old guy would not be there, I guarantee it. I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have him be there for me.”

The rest here.

Books-a-Million Displays Books with Pornographic Covers in Plain View of Children


What’s more fun that taking the kids for a leisurely day at the bookstore?

That’s what I was thinking when I went to Books-a-Million in Spring Hill, Tennessee — a great store, and I’m not just saying that because they’ve helped me hold nice book signing events (for this, this, and this). We arrived in the wonderful brick-and-mortar store, ready for a day of walking down aisles and finding new reads. However, I came across something pretty shocking.

Someone had pulled a prank.

There, right next to the nice Civil War section (this is Tennessee, after all) is apparently a “sexuality” section, showing various sexual positions in plain view.  And when I showing, I mean showing.

One book promised to make this the most erotic year of your life with 365 sexual positions — one of which was shown in plain, naked view on its cover. Another was about the art of erotic massage, and had a naked woman’s torso with a man’s hand — barely — covering her.  (And no, I’m not being a prude. I’ve blocked out the image of the book shelf above, but here are two of the images in case you are wondering what kids walk by in Books-a-Million stores all across the nation: here and here.)

Read what Books-a-Million told me, and what you can do here.

Politics and The Avengers: If Iron Man Is Libertarian, What’s The Hulk?


Rebecca Cusey finds the modern-day political counterparts of Avengers characters in this fun little post to take you into the weekend. (Captain America’s political counterpart? Sean Hannity!) If you’re one of the only people in America who haven’t seen the movie yet, The French Movie Club — comprising my husband and two older kids — gave that movie a definite thumbs-up!

Review: The Dictator Bravely Offends One and All


Rebecca Cusey has the scoop on the new movie by the famous Borat star, Sacha Baron Cohen:

You can say this for Sacha Baron Cohen: he’s never been a coward. His fearlessness in his latest work, The Dictator (opening Wednesday, May 16), is by far its greatest strength. He raises issues no one else touches and proclaims a passionate love song to democracy that would make George W. Bush proud.

She continues:

In a world in which regular reports come of attempted terrorism on American soil and actual terrorism overseas by radical elements of the Islamic faith, Hollywood tiptoes around Muslims in general and Muslim villains in particular.

Sacha Baron Cohen doesn’t give a fig if you — or the entire Middle East — are offended, just as he had no problem with selling the nation of Kazakhstan down the river.

Except he’d say it in much more colorful language.

As Aladeen, he continually “goes there,” offering to throw a newborn baby girl into a trash can because girls are worthless, comparing educated women to trained animals, ordering assassinations for questioning him.

Sound good? Well, be warned. He “goes there” in other ways too — including full male frontal nudity — which might make you think twice before making this a Mother’s Day outing. Read the entire review here.

The New Time Cover That Is Not an Onion Spoof


It will be in your mailbox soon. The brand new Time magazine, featuring a cover story on mothering and breast feeding . . . just in time for Mother’s Day. What could more heart-warming and down-home?

Well, take a look. A boy who looks like a first-grader latched onto his mom’s breast right there, big as all outdoors, looking straight at you, the reader. He’s enjoying his after-school snack: milk and cookies, sans the cookies.

The really sad news is that we will never be able to look forward to the goofiest, most disturbing magazine cover ever. This is as bad as it will ever get.

This poor boy may be diggin’ life now, but will soon be forever teased as the “Got Milk?” boy that Time magazine and his indulgent mom made infamous.

Hail to the Chiefs


Bristol Palin speaks out about gay marriage and questions Malia and Sasha’s role in the president’s “evolution.”

Meet the Ten-Year-Old Girl Who Can Dead Lift 215 Pounds


Video here.

Where the Wild Things Are and a Longing for Home


The author at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.

Almost everyone has read Where the Wild Things Are. By now, its images are a part of our collective consciences — icons of childhood — and its plot is easy to recite. Mischievous Max talks back to his mother (who calls him “wild thing”) by yelling, “I’ll eat you up!” He’s promptly sent to bed without dinner. In his room, he wears a wolf costume and imagines he’s king of the jungle. His room metamorphoses from a bedroom to a forest and into an ocean. On it, he braves dragons to reach the island of the wild things. After his adventure, of course, he returns home to find a dinner sitting on his bedside table — a sign of his mother’s love.

I never read my kids the book until we went to the old Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, which had a nice exhibit of several of his works. The Where the Wild Things Are play area had Max’s bed, a red boat, a jungle made of vines, and “wild rumpus” sound effects. This allowed my kids to act out his books before they read them.

When I finally bought the book and snuggled down to read it to them, however, it made them sad. It always made me sad too. Upon the death of Maurice Sendak, many people have reignited some of the discussion around the famed author’s most famous book and the different emotions it seemed to evoke. The Washington Post obituary provides a clue why the Brooklyn-born Jew might have produced books “darker” than other kids’ stories:

“The Holocaust has run like a river of blood through all my books,” Mr. Sendak once said, explaining that as the child of Jewish immigrants from Poland, the Nazi death camps were never far from his mind.

Yesterday, a southern pastor’s wife, Jill Joiner, reflects on this popular work, with an interesting take:

Many adults and children have expressed sadness after reading this book, perhaps because it is so true to the human experience. People are inclined to chase autonomy, power, and self-reliance only to find themselves lonely and stuck on self-created islands. For me, it created a different sort of emotion, more along the line of an unfulfilled longing.

At the conclusion of the story — the simple image of the loving dinner sitting on the bedside table, evidence of a gracious and loving parent — is not enough. It is an incomplete picture of reconciliation, without the complete abandoning love of the Father lifting his clothes, running to embrace the Prodigal Son. As the stubborn, autonomy-loving fool that I am — I need the story to end differently. I need more than the reminder of love and forgiveness — I want to be with my love.

Read it all here.

Though many words have been spilled about his books — evaluating them, analyzing them, and critiquing them — we know his legacy will live on as we continue to debate why that dinner on the bedside table is such a punch in the gut, every time.

Did you like Where the Wild Things Are as a kid and did your feelings change as you got older?

R.I.P. Maurice Sendak Dies at 83


Details here.

Family-Friendly Orlando is America’s ‘Smuttiest’ City?


Miami Herald:

Orlando, the home of Mickey Mouse and all those Disney family values, has been named the smuttiest city in the United States.

Men’s Health magazine added up the number of adult DVDs purchased, rented, or streamed; the number of adult entertainment stores; the rate of porn searches (Google Insights); and the percentage of Cinemax-subscribing households

And Orlando came out on top. Las Vegas is No. 2.

Is Avengers Good for the Whole Family?


Here’s the scoop if you are thinking of taking the kids to the movies this weekend!

What’s Better than Being a Palin?


Bristol reflects on being “the daughter of Todd and Sarah Palin” and being a single mother here.

The Power of Music


This should be an encouragement to all of you musicians out there. (Kleenex warning!)

How to Create a Prodigal 101



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