Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Speaking Loudly Against Book Banning

Censorship and book banning are topics that always get me riled up, but I have to say, never as much as I am right now. I've actually been sick to my stomach since the newest issue has been brought to life. A man named Wesley Scroggins from Republic MO wrote an opinion piece entitled, "Filthy Books Demeaning to Republic Education". He, who's children are homeschooled, has also brought his complaints to the school board who, in his words, "Claim to be Christian" but let their children be exposed to immorality in books such as Slaughterhouse Five, Twenty Boy Summer, and Speak.

While I don't agree with banning any of these books, I really want to talk about Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a book Mr. Scroggins said should be classified as "soft pornography". In case you haven't read the book (there is also a movie) here is the description.

"Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country."

You see, Melinda was raped and she can't bring herself to talk about the incident. That's right. He's calling a book about a young girls rape and how she deals with the aftermath as soft pornography.

Let me stress that I FULLY support a parent's right to monitor what their children read. It's when you take the right away from MY kids that I have a problem. What kills me is pulling this book from a school library or curriculum could prevent a girl who is in the same situation as Melinda, who feels like she has no voice and is completely alone in the world, from learning that she isn't alone. That other girls have gone through this and that the best thing for her to do is SPEAK.

To me, to throw words like "immoral and filthy" around in an piece against a book like SPEAK you're breeding the problem. Rape is immoral. Not giving a voice to those who have suffered it is immoral. Are we blaming the victim here? By shoving this book in the corner and calling it filthy aren't we telling those poor kids who may have experienced this that they should shove their experience in a corner as well? To keep silent about it because its dirty? How about we just pretend this stuff doesn't happen and it will go away. God forbid we let these kids have a voice. Let them know that keeping silent doesn't make it go away and that no matter how they feel, they are NOT alone.

I doubt the girl who is silently suffering at the hand of a parent is going to be able to ask said parent to buy them a copy of Speak. How else would they get their hands on it, even know about it if the book isn't available in their school library? How will they know they're not alone if they don't have a chance to read this book in school and discover that they can SPEAK?

When will people learn that taking education away won't fix the problems? That banning books, closing doors and zipping our mouths is only hurting people? How is a sixteen year old girl who may have gone through this, but is afraid to speak out going to feel when she reads an article calling a rape scene pornography?

Again, yes, parents should only let THEIR children read what they're comfortable with, but I'm telling you, shielding your children from knowing what's out there. By pretending teens don't have sex, drink, or get sexually abused isn't going to make it not happen. Knowledge is protection, POWER, IMO.

I feel really strongly about this topic, but especially when it comes to books like SPEAK.

Speak Loudly.

Visit Ms. Anderson's site HERE
Also, there have been some truly inspiring and brave posts (some who have dealt with abuse themselves) in support of this book. Check them out.

Brave and inspiring post. CJ Redwine

Jeaniene Frost

Sarah Ockler Who is giving away a Wesley Scroggins Filthy book pack and has some great posts about the topic on her blog as well.

Also you can follow on Twitter at #SpeakLoudly

I also wanted to share a poem written by Laurie Halse Anderson written with lines from letters she's gotten from kids about their experience reading Speak.


V. J. Devereaux said...

Hurray!!! Censorship of any kind goes against all of our basic rights, that books like Speak are targeted tends to say more about the censors than the censored.

Jo Ramsey said...

Thank you for posting about this! I've been following this since Laurie Halse Anderson posted about it on Facebook. As you said, parents should have the right to control what THEIR children read, but not what ALL children read.

My 15-year-old was sexually assaulted by a boy she liked about two years ago. Fortunately, it ended at him groping her breast, then running out of the house when she screamed. She read Speak for the first time shortly afterward, as an English assignment in school, and it's helped her heal. I wouldn't have offered her the book to read myself, because I didn't know how it would affect her, but I thank Whomever that the school "made" her read it.

Heck, the main character in my YA urban fantasy series Reality Shift has been molested in the past, and recovers memories of it through the course of the series. I guess that's soft-core porn too. I'll be sure to let my local school district know that, since they made the first book in that series required reading.

Madison Scott said...

Yes it does!

Madison Scott said...

I felt strongly that I wanted to post this. I've been following it all as well. Thanks for sharing your story about your daughter and the book. I'm glad Speak helped her to heal.

It's the porn reference that really gets me. I get angry again every time I think about it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, great words. Can only agree!!!!!

Lets all SPEAK OUT!!!

in Germany

Anne Rainey said...

I'm totally against banning this book! I can't even imagine what he's thinking.

Thanks for posting about this, Madison. I've told Katilyn and she's going to comment too. She's read "Speak". :)

Katilyn said...

I've read speak and I seriously think that guys is insane! I acutally liked that book a lot and it was deep and moving. I didn't feel like it was "bad". To be honest, in the book I don't think it even went into great detail involving her rape. I imagine that a few girls out there have read that or seen the movie and come forward about their own rape or at least were able to deal with it a little better. I think it's completely absurd for him to think that banning it would be a good thing. Personally, I enjoyed reading the book and it made me more cautious about older, more popular guys. I believe that's probably a good thing.

Madison Scott said...

Thanks, Anne and Valerie!

Thanks so much for stopping by! Its great hear from a teen who feels they benefited from this book.

Tess MacKall said...

Great post, Madison. A real hot button of mine. Taking away books based on one man's warped view of life is so wrong.

And you are so right; kids sometimes need to be able to find books they can identify with. I had a small incident with a teacher at my boy's school just two days ago that I'm mulling over. I'll eventually get around to talking to the teacher about it, but for now, I'm gathering my thoughts.

My kid was reading a gaming book. Now the book isn't about how to play games, but takes one of the games he plays, uses a character from that game and gives them a full blown story of their own.

My kid loves gaming. He's an excellent reader. Blew the reading comprehension tests out of the water. But this teacher was upset with what he was reading. He wanted him to read books that my child would never be interested in. Books that would bore him to tears. Books that he could not identify with.

Where's the common sense in all that? The teacher even went so far as to say that children should not be allowed to read gaming books.

Censorship takes all forms. And now I've got to deal with it from ONE teacher it seems. I pray for people to get some common sense.