As I write this post I am absolutely vibrating. No, I didn’t change my batteries, I’m pissed. I recently came across a link on Twitter that caught my attention. Then that link led me to this article. So what’s all the hoopla about? It started when someone stood up for a book called Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This guy is trying to get Speak and other books banned from schools. He’s already succeeded in having Slaughterhouse 5 removed from at least one school shelf and a book called Twenty Boy Summer is under review (at the time of this post). I’ve already written an article for my page on Examiner.com about the banning of books but this is different. Here, on The Edge, we can be a little more…us.
Here’s my issue…okay I have a ton of them. Get ready. The idea of banning a book fills me with fury, nausea, and it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Not only because I’m a writer, I’ve always despised the belief that teens cannot think for themselves. Among the many things this man lists as ‘wrong’ in these books is the profanity. Has he ever heard a group of 12 year olds when they think no one is around? My god, they know more curse words than I do and let me tell you, I thought I’d learned all of them.
He also condemns including sex in YA novels, even the mention of it from what I gathered after reading his article. Again, has he ever heard a group of teens and preteens? And again, they know about things that I have never heard of, and believe me I thought I’d heard it all. Why would we deny them books that depict sex for what it is? Why would we deny them the reality of what life is? He wants YA books to reflect the teachings of the bible and what the bible teaches. Excuse me sir, but have you ever read the bible? You want sex, violence, rape, and degradation? Holy shit, take a look at your book, man. Slavery, murder, the horrible treatment of women…need I go on? I’d quote but really, I prefer not. I don’t need to.
Let me just say here, that I do not write YA, although I’m sorely tempted. If the content of these books leaves him so irate, I can’t wait to get my babies out in the world. People like him will wet their pants. I’ll happily supply the diapers and the cheese to go with their whine.
I’ve never read Speak, but you know what? I’m going to buy it and read it and both of my daughters will read it when they are in the YA audience age level. It is an important book. I’ve read several reviews, comments and personal stories all of which applaud this book and how it changed their lives. That, to me, says it should be on school shelves and teenage girls AND boys should read it. Why? Rape is a serious issue and if Speak makes them feel less alone, if it makes them SPEAK up, then I don’t care if that means my child reads about sex or knows that people say fuck, shit or asshole.
And Slaughterhouse 5? Come on. Kurt Vonnegut wrote a book that makes the reader think. We don’t want our teens to think? Guess what? It’s been ages since I read that book but I’m buying it as well. Guess who else is reading it? Yep. My kids are smart, rational, imaginative and empathetic people and they will take away what is important from both of these books and what’s important is the message.
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler has received some interesting reviews and if this Scroggins character had actually read beyond the sex and profanity, he’d have realized that this book is about loss and grief, not sex. Yes, I’m picking up this book as well.
Why am I doing this? To show my support and to speak up and say that no, I will not allow some bible touting ignorant so-and-so to tell me what my kids can read. I will make that choice and I trust my school board and those in the publishing industry who also have kids (gasp! Yes they are human too) to put books on those shelves that my child will enjoy and learn from. To show the reality of life and to teach them that empathy, individuality and love are good things; why the hell not? I want them to learn this and I welcome something that opens the door on discussions about these things.
What really sent me through the roof with Scroggin’s article was his position on sex education and using God and the bible as his grounds for being the judge of what is right or wrong for my kids. Take away sex education? Are you fucking nuts? Do we just pretend that it doesn’t happen? Forbid them to do it? Do we pretend that life is all sunshine and roses and as long as you follow “God’s” word nothing bad will happen to you? Um, has he been hiding under a rock the past decade or so? Is he aware of the mess that is religion these days? There are bad people everywhere, there are bad choices made every day, there are people swearing, murdering, raping, and having consensual sex at a young age. Do we turn our head and pretend that if we don’t allow them to read the truth about it, that they won’t be curious? They won’t make those bad choices or say those bad words? Please. Let’s lie to ourselves some more, shall we.
His comments on sex education confirmed my belief he has no clue what he is talking about. His use of the bible as his justification for banning books is just stupid. I’m sorry, but I’ve had quite enough of this abuse of what could be a really good thing in order to deny people their rights. Faith is a good thing, and for some it is a life saver. But the misuse of authority and the way that people like this claim that they are only speaking as Christians and repeating what the bible teaches as sin and all of that nauseating bullshit is what makes me glad I am not part of any organized religion. I belong to the church of me. The church of me says live and let live and believes that people should have both free will and a voice.
Banning books is not about religion or the bible. It’s about power and control. Let’s be clear about that. They are not speaking on behalf of the majority.
Let’s speak up in defence of free speech, in condemnation of censorship and in the belief that our children at some point can think for themselves and need to do so. I urge everyone, especially those of you who have preteens to pick up all three of these books and to read them. When you feel your kids are ready, pass them along. Just because the school boards don’t have enough balls to defend their decision to keep these books on school shelves and would prefer to quietly remove them rather than rock the boat, doesn’t mean that our children will be deprived of great literature.
Remember Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye and other great literary classics were also banned as immoral, pornographic, and/or obscene at one time. One day you might write something that makes “them” uncomfortable and you’ll be the one who is censored. How will it feel? As writers I think we have a duty to support these authors.
Banned Books Week is coming up beginning on September 25, 2010. That’s this Friday everyone. Are you going to sit back and stay silent or will you speak up?