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!