Alright, I just want to apologize because I’m about to get a little punchy, but as writers and readers I thought maybe if everyone hadn’t heard about this particularly shocking, horrifying book challenge unraveling in the last two days then I should bring it up here since not everyone is a YA reader and may not have heard about it. It’s tense, but it is important.
On my list of banned books I wanted to read was SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Sunday I finally picked it up and read about 3/4ths of it while I should have been going to bed. (What, 1am?!?! How the BLEEP did that happen?) Monday morning I’m sucking down a white chocolate mocha, a little bleary-eyed from my whole 4 hours of sleep, and reading through weekend blog posts I didn’t catch. And Speak is EVERYWHERE on every author and book blogger’s feed I read (And many I don’t because I can’t stop with the click-throughs.) And it is clear that I’ve missed something important happening.
And only a few days away from Banned Book Week, a man named Wesley Scroggins has come out against Speak, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. And we’re not just talking about banning these books from school children, he comes right out and calls them filthy and immoral. He calls Speak soft pornography.
I’ve been like a tornado of fury all day long. Anyone standing still long enough has heard my anger. It’s because this isn’t some concerned parents worried about a bunch of swear words. Speak, for those of you who haven’t read it, is about a 9th grade girl who is raped at a party over the summer. When she gets to school, not only does she have to see this boy every day, she also endures bullying from the kids who got busted when she called the cops on the party, and complete abandonment from her friends who don’t want to be associated with her reputation and depression. The book is about the emotional torment as it slowly destroys her by first stealing her ability to speak about what has happened to her and then the ability to speak about anything. It is not glamorous, it is not sexy. The scene isn’t detailed like some bodice ripper for adults, it happens through the eyes of a terrified girl who tries very hard to bury the memory and disappear into the world forever.
It is not an easy book and it isn’t for everyone. But it isn’t pornography and I’m furious at this man for basically telling all teenage girls who have endured the same horrifying ordeal that their experience, their story, is filthy and immoral. These are the kind of calls for banning that make me crazy. Maybe it’s not a story for him, maybe it’s not a story for his kids. But it is a story for someone. It’s wrong on so many levels to deny a story to someone who needs it. Because Melinda? The main character of Speak? She finds a way to start putting the pieces back together. By the end she’s not whole, but you can see the path she’s on can get her there. And I have a feeling there are plenty of kids and adults alike who need to know that it is possible.
I just wanted to bring this here, to people who might want to know. I finished Speak today and it is a beautiful, heartbreaking book and I love how authors and readers are climbing out of their blogs all over the internet to talk about the way Speak makes them feel, and everyone is screaming for everyone else to SPEAK LOUDLY against the banning of this book, against the banning of any book, by people who aren’t reading a book for the story but instead reading it for the potential platform. The way the YA author community comes together is one of the reasons I want to be a part of it. What is done to one of us is done to all of us, and the show of support, the honesty, the heartbreaking posts by authors with stories everyone is afraid to share but stories no one is keeping silent. SPEAK LOUDLY has become a blogosphere mantra and it makes me swell with pride.
Below I’m including some links of responses. Some of them are very gutsy and some of them are really hard to read. And I applaud each and every author and blogger who has come out with their story and their push back against this particular challenge. The show of support is kind of amazing. If you see #speakloudly cropping up on Twitter updates, now you know what it means.
Did you post about this? Read a post not listed below? Please put a comment below with a link to your (or someone else’s) blog post. Thanks.
The opinion article that started everything
Laurie Halse Anderson
Sarah Ockler (who is giving away prize packs of the 3 books)
CJ Redwine (Very personal response)
The First Novels Club (Also giveaway to get Speak into everyone’s hands)
Saundra Mitchell (Also very personal)
Thanks for listening everyone. By the way, I’ve read Twenty Boy Summer too (very sad and awesome book that deals with first loves and teen death) and his comment on that book is as equally ridiculous. I have not yet read Slaughterhouse Five. I have a love/hate relationship with Vonnegut, but I’m willing to put that aside to see what all the fuss is about.
EDIT To Add:
Reclusive Bibliophile: “Hell hath no fury like a book community scorned.”
Janet Reid says it perfectly: “Banning books about what real people experience in their lives makes us co-conspirators in their shame.”
GreenBeanTeenQueen: When Book Bannings Hit Home
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