Monday, September 20, 2010

Speak Up and Speak Loudly

Ironic that censorship is in the news just before Banned Books Week begins. A few weeks ago, Ellen Hopkins was "uninvited" to speak at the Humble, TX, teen book festival (which has since been cancelled, presumably because a number of authors scheduled to speak withdrew to support Ellen). And now this.

Dr. Wesley Scroggins, a fundamentalist Christian and parent in Republic, MO, recently published an editorial denouncing three popular YA books: Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter-House Five (partly because it contains "so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame"), Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer (which "glorifies drunken teen parties, where teen girls lose their clothes in games of strip beer pong"), and, most shocking of all, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, partly because of two rape scenes. Scroggins likens the rape scenes to "soft pornography." You can read Scroggins editorial here.

I'm angered by these challenges, but truly incensed because people are actually listening to what this man has to say. Everyone has the right to read what they want to. Just because YOU don't like it doesn't mean it's bad, or that NO ONE should read it. It's freedom to read, people!

I enjoyed Twenty Boy Summer so much that I actually emailed Sarah Ockler to praise the book. This novel is about so much more than "drunken teens." It's a story of love and a story of grief, and who has the "right" to own it. There are some deep messages in TBS, one that I'm not sure Scroggins would pick up on, even if he were able to get past the drinking.

But there's a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, I suppose. For we all know that when books are challenged or reviewed, word gets out, and so many more people choose to read these books for themselves, in order to form their own opinions. The one thing I actually tolerate about censorship is that oftentimes brings these books right into the limelight.

Librarians, authors, and readers are just a few of the people demanding to be heard. This issue is quickly making its way around the YA-blogosphere. Here are just a few of the blogs I've read on the subject:

Laurie Halse Anderson's blog
Sarah Ockler's blog
Tahleen Reads
YA Love

What can you do?
Finally, READ! Now is perfect time to start reading some banned and challenged books. Take a look at the list of the American Library Association's Top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2009. And don't stop there--once you're done reading, SHARE what you've read! Post your thoughts on Facebook, tweet about it, add it to your blog.
Enjoy your reading!

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