Friday, October 1, 2010

Banned Books Week & SPEAK

What I'm reading right now: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson 

Here is another one where I cheated. I'm not actually reading it now; I've finished it. However, it is particularly relevant this week, being Banned Books Week. It was the focus of Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of management at Missouri State Univeristy, who considers the book to be pornographic and as such wants it pulled from school libraries and curriculums.

I first read the book after a recommendation from James Dashner, author of the Maze Runner. I found the book to be poignant and honest. Something I never could have written. The subject matter aside, try writing a novel where, for the majority of the book, the protagonist has little to no dialogue. Speak: an impressive novel by a skilled writer.

I found the following from the blogulator dot com:

Laurie Halse Anderson is considered one of the most formidable talents in children's literature. Popular with teens, teachers, librarians, and booksellers (and, one would imagine, her publisher), Anderson debuted with Speak, a grim, sad, but redemptive novel about a young woman who is slowly coming to terms with having been raped. Speak won the Michael L. Printz award, a coveted YA prize, and was a New York Times bestseller (. . . Kristen Stewart starred in the 2004 indie film based on the novel). Naturally Speak garnered negative attention as well, from potentially well-meaning but ultimately misguided folks who, confusing "protecting the children" with "censorship", tried to have the book removed from public libraries, especially those in schools.

I don't know a single author who can abide censorship. Anderson herself wrote, "[C]ensoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them."

 You'll want to read Ms. Anderson's own blog about it here and here.

That second link contains a link to the Springfield, Missouri paper (who ran Scroggins's story) and also ran a rebuttal from Ms. Anderson, where she said the following:

 According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 44 percent of rape victims are under age 18 and - shockingly - 15 percent are under the age of 12. Every two minutes, someone in our country in sexually assaulted.

Our teens need us to be honest with them about the harsh realities of life. Knowledge protects them. Truth gives them power. I have heard from thousands and thousands of readers who feel that this book saved their lives. It gave them permission to speak up about a terrible thing that happened to them. This book gave them hope.

That's why it is taught all over America. Some districts feel it is appropriate for 12th graders. Others teach it in seventh grade. It is taught by priests in Catholic boys' schools and by college professors preparing teachers to connect with their future students.

If you use Scroggins' technique of cherry-picking lines from books, you can falsely accuse any story of just about anything you want. That is a destructive and shameful practice.

Some of these and other great links regarding Banned Book Week can be found at the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management blog.
Now, instead of just reiterating stuff that I think is important and just plain cool, how about an original thought?
Along this same theme, the laudible folks at have documented more than 1,000 books that have been banned or challenged at U.S. schools and libraries since it was first launched in 1982. To illustrate the geographic distribution of these book bans and challenges, they’ve created a Google Map documenting the location of books that have been impacted over the last three years:

Here comes my original thought. Judging by this map, there appears to be three states who did not report an attempt to ban or challenge a book: Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah--my own Utah. Why do suppose that is? Are we really that much against censorship? Do we really embrace the idea that values and mores are taught by parents and we should talk about important issues with our kids and thus make our own decisions rather than foist them upon others? Or are we oblivious to the whole thing?

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