The Compulsive Reader: Speak LOUDLY!

Monday, September 20, 2010


I see so, so, so many terrible cases of censorship as a book blogger. It's almost always the same story: a disgruntled parent complains to a librarian or school official, a book gets pulled without the proper (or any) consideration, people get riled up, authors are hurt, sometimes a librarian gets fired, and readers and authors spearhead a campaign to do right by readers and get the book reinstated. Sometimes, it works. Most times it doesn't. The ignorant and the narrow-minded win.

It gets disheartening. Almost so much that I don't feel motivated to blog about it. The stupid voice in the back of my head goes, "It's not worth it."

But, it is. SPEAK LOUDLY.

Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak has recently come under fire by a professor at Missouri State University, Wesley Scroggins, wrote a piece called "Filthy books demeaning to Republic education". My problem is not with his religious views, or his opinion that the YA books in question are filthy. We're all entitled to our own opinions. My MAJOR, MAJOR, MAJOR issue with his statement that books like Speak are classified as "soft pornography" because Anderson's book contains "two rape scenes".

Honestly, you have to wonder about the sense of someone who considers rape soft pornography. I can't find the words to express how horrifying I find it that someone would view rape as something "designed to stimulate sexual excitement" (direct quote from the definition of pornography).

And to apply such labels to Speak, of all books...Speak does not condone sex or encourage it. It's not pornography or anything of the sort. I read it when I was in eighth grade, and for a while, it eluded me. I couldn't understand why Melinda was the way she was. As a less mature reader and more innocent of the subject, I was stunned by the book and its ending. Not because of the sex, or the rape in it, but by Melinda's resilience and the raw power of the message. It helped me mature, and it in no way damaged me. If I had moved on to high school, ignorant of that story, there is a chance that I too could have been taken advantage of--despite my parochial school education and my family's (and my) strong Christian faith.

Speak isn't a pretty book. It's not entirely happy. But it sheds a light on an important issue that needs to be addressed, especially to teen girls as they grow up and head into a world that isn't as innocent as they may be. For some, this may be a hard book to grasp. That's why it is so imperative that parents get involved with what their kids read and use books like Speak as a learning tool.

To Wesley Scroggins: you are entitled to your personal opinion, and you can raise your kids any way that you see fit. You can network with other like-minded parents and people. You can write articles about your views. But be careful with your words. Don't call a book pornographic because it talks about rape. Don't impose your views on people who may not share them. Don't deprive teens of a monumentally important book by attempting to ban or remove it--this book has the power to save teens from the pain that Melinda experiences. Don't take that away from them.

ETA: I would like to know what books Mr. Scroggins deigns appropriate and fitting for the education of teenagers. Because according to his standards, over half of the required reading I was assigned in high school contained rape and sex and therefore (according to him) would be pornographic. I'm talking Jane Smiley, John Steinbeck, J.M. Coetzee, Toni Morrison, and much, much, much more... And this coming from a high school situated in an area that is predominantly Republican!


La Coccinelle said...

I've been hearing rumours that his own children are home-schooled. If that's the case, how dare he try to dictate the reading choices of others! How does it affect him and his family?

The more I read about this man, the more he sounds like a power-hungry control freak who just likes to stir up trouble.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

It's true: If Speak is pornographic, than so are many of the books I teach. Classics. Romeo and Juliet for instance. Two teens fall in love/lust, marry, consummate their union, the boy murders someone, and then they commit double suicide.

Downright appalling...Thanks for your post!

Natalie said...

Great post! It's so nice to see everyone coming together on this!

If you don't mind, I'm going to link up your post in my cumulative listing of "Bloggers Speak Out" post tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Rape and violence are considered pornographic for a small section of people. It's true. But using that in connection to a book that speaks against rape is just plain stupid. I think he is just looking for some publicity.

Felicity Grace Terry said...

Hello I saw a link to your site on Read All Over. I also have a post about this on my blog which gives you the chance to get hold of a copy of this book thanks to one of my blogger buddies.

Stephanie said...

Reading his article infuriated me. I love this book as a young adult. I don't think these books are about "glorifying" anything or "pornography." The book is about dealing with real life issues that we have to live through. It is to teach kids that bad things can and do happen and we all find our way to deal with them. It also discusses things that really do happen in school.

Even if you don't read about these things they are happening in schools and it is better to educate the kids on how to handle these situations then leave them unsure and scared of what is happening. Bad things happen like it or not, but better to teach them how to get through it and how their decisions will impact their lives then putting on the rose colored glasses he appears to have on right now.

Stephanie said...

I wholeheartedly agree that young people need to learn the world is not as innocent as they are. Well said. And I agree with Mrs. DeRaps. If Romeo and Juliet were published today, folks would be all over schools to remove it (obsessive love, gratuitous violence ...)

Kim said...

I can hardly find the words to describe my annoyance with this man's small mindedness and arrogance.

Really glad that you brought this article and issue up.

Anonymous said...

i totally agree. the fact the people STILL continue to try to band books is just.. backwards! honestly, it's like we're not even in the 21st century.

as for banning your children from reading this, that kind of parenting discipline rarely, if ever, works. it just makes them resent you and want to rebel.

and if we were to go by that man's standards, that would mean no more shakespeare, no more wilde, no more steinbeck. the guy's crazy.