…and they’ll offend you and you and YOU! Well, if I’m doing my job right they will. There are books in the library that offend everyone because there are books FOR everyone. It’s like going down the rabbit hole — follow me around that circular logic, my friends. Wheee!
Just in time for Banned Books Week, a coworker sent me an email about this crazy-crazy happening that took place over the weekend. I didn’t hear about until now because my computer has died and it just sits there, taunting me, like a big, silver paperweight….holding my music hostage!! *sniffle* Anyway…
SPEAK up for SPEAK!!!
An associate professor of management at Missouri State University, Wesley Scroggins, has written a diatribe about how Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson is basically soft porn and should be removed from the school libraries in the district where he lives.
Yes, he’s talking about THAT Speak, which ten years on is still an extremely popular young adult novel. I’ve mentioned it in this blog before: briefly in a review and as a book that’s been made into a film – incidentally, the film stars Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame).
…and please, oh please, play the video of her reading her poem “Listen”, which she created based on reader response to Speak.
Now, I took a sharp left turn when I could have been a teacher, so I’m going to go to an expert on this one.
Here is an extremely well-reasoned and literary rebuttal to Mr. Scroggins’ “willful misreading” (I like that, that says it so well) by Philip Nel, Professor of English and Director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature.
This story has been all over the interwebs and Twitter has kinda exploded (Follow the thread #SpeakLoudly) and Ms. Anderson and Sarah Ockler, whose book Twenty Boy Summer is also being challenged have just done interviews with the paper that printed the initial opinion piece. (he’s also going after Slaughterhouse Five, but Kurt Vonnegut can’t fight back…) So anyway, keep an eye out for that article.
Here Ms. Ockler explains a bit more about the situation (who the challenge/opinion piece writer is, why this is a bigger deal than just the removal of one or two books from a school district’s library, and how you can get involved if you want to do something more). Apparently this is the same area where another school board recently removed Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.
I just have to say…this reminds me so much of the craziness that happened with Sarah Dessen’s book, Just Listen. In Florida, an upset parent stood up in front of school board members and began reading portions of the date-rape scene, which by necessity is horrific.
Yet instead of saying that yes, that particular scene was unsavory but necessary and that there is more to the book than just that scene, the parent and the school board member running the meeting painted the whole book with the same brush, disregarded the fact that the book was important for so many reasons, and that perhaps, by describing that situation, other teenage girls might recognize that a situation they’d been subjected to was non-consensual…or they might recognize a situation getting bad and get themselves out of it before they are hurt.
*okay…deep breath* Go here for Ms. Dessen’s response at the time.
Earlier today I set up the Banned Books Display for the teens in my library. Every year someone will inevitably say, “…but no one really bans books anymore, right?” Um, no. …and people still hold book burnings, too (that Qu’ran incident is only the latest and greatest), though they’re mostly symbolic and feel-good events, “Throw another Harry Potter on the barbie!” Perfectly fine, yay First Amendment rights and all that…they can burn them as long as they bought them…no worries.
What I worry about is when somebody other than a child or teenager’s parents comes in and takes books away from those teens. The theme for this year’s Banned Books Week is particularly apt, “Think for yourself and let others do the same.”
Putting up big walls around teenagers will not keep them safe, for someday they must go out into that world. Refusing to let them see the reality of choices, even bad choices (for example, what can happen to you when you’re addicted to methamphetamines like the main character in Ellen Hopkin’s book Crank), leaves them vulnerable.
So, I’ve gone on a bit, but please, share with me and those people who read this blog…have you read Speak, or Just Listen, or any one of the top hundred books banned this decade?
Please, #SpeakLoudly. The next book facing a challenge might be one you need to read.
Some folks around the blogosphere who are Speaking out for Speak:
YA author Jo Knowles
YA author Cecil Castellucci