SPEAKing Loudly!

I always wonder how personal I should get on my blog. Mostly, the answer is: not very. I find it easier to keep everyone at arm’s length, never to reveal too much or be too opinionated on any topic.

But this is different. Now we’re talking about censorship, something that every writer should have an opinion about.

Recently, in the Springfield News-Leader, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of management at Missouri State University, wrote an opinion piece classifying Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK as “soft pornography” because of two rape scenes in the book.

Umm, what??? Since when is rape considered pornographic? Pornography by definition is: “The depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.”

Hold on a second while I repeat that last part: “…to cause sexual excitement.” (And, yeah, I got that straight from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.)

Let me just say, and this is where it gets uncomfortable for me because I do tend to keep my personal life private, but as someone who was molested repeatedly as a child, calling rape (or anything rape-related) “pornographic” is over-the-top offensive. And insinuating that Laurie Halse Anderson had any intention of stimulating anyone’s sexual appetite is not only insulting, it is repugnant!

I want to add that there are other books currently being targeted as well. Sarah Ockler’s TWENTY BOY SUMMER is being challenged in a Missouri school library because one parent thought the title was “promiscuous”; there was the Ellen Hopkins un-invite from the Humble Texas book event; and in Stockton, Missouri Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN has been banned.

We’re talking about books here, BOOKS! These are ideas, thoughts, an absolutely essential tool of freedom. Books are the way we can experience and grow and learn…even if the topics they touch on are not always the easy ones. As a parent, my thought is that if you don’t want your children reading about something specific (like rape), then be responsible and get involved in their choices. But please, please don’t tell my kids what they should—or more importantly, shouldn’t—be reading. That’s dangerous ground to navigate.

There are so many people who make these arguments much more eloquently than I do, and you should totally read their posts here (Sarah Ockler on banned books), here (The Rejectionist, defending SPEAK), here (CJ Redwine on why books like SPEAK are important to girls who have survived rape), and here (Myra McEntire giving a Christian take on the subject).

But here's what it really boils down to: I don't want someone else shoving their beliefs down my kids’ throats. And, in return, I won’t shove mine down theirs.


Diane said…
All I can say is people are crazy! You know the saying that some people are not happy unless others are not happy too ... and I think this is all too crazy! I totally agree with your words here. Keep up the great posts!
Nick e Mô said…
I live in brazil and when i read this i couldn't believe! I totally agree with every single word that you wrote. Laurie did a great job writing such a beautiful book! That guy is such a looser!
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Little Ms J said…
It is so sad to me that this lives on today. I hope that parents and other educators are smart enough to realize how desperate and destructive this kind of labeling is...

Kristi Helvig said…
I'm in awe of all the brave authors who have shared their own history in response to this incident. Ignorance is such a dangerous thing--even more so when it's wielded by supposedly educated people like this man. Thank you for speaking up.
CJ Gosling said…
Hmm... :) So much to think about. I'm definitely against banning books, but I wonder about maybe a rating system... just to clarify to parents and readers what might be inside. I just say this because I had a pretty high reading level as a kid, and a definitely was exposed to some stuff far before I was ready for it.
Anonymous said…
Just wanted to say thanks for writing about this, Kim! I still can't believe how many people have stepped up to take a stand. It's amazing. Scroggins didn't plan on this for sure. :-)

-Sarah Ockler, Author of Scroggins favorite book about beer pong, Twenty Boy Summer ;-)
Diane - I do think you're right, some people just need to be the complainers of the world. Me, I'm a to-each-his-own kind of gal.

Nick e Mo - I'm curious, do you face this kind of religious zealotry in Brazil? It seems like it must be everywhere. Thanks for your support, though :)

LMJ - Sadly, I think some people forget that it is just *his opinion* when they read his brand-o-crap.

And on a completely unrelated note, I had so much fun meeting you last week!!!

Kristi - It's hard to stay quiet when there are idiots like him who are willing to shout from the rooftops. But thanks!

And, oh, Sarah O! What can I say??? Except that everyone should run out and buy their own copies of TWENTY BOY SUMMER, SPEAK, AN ABSOLUTE TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN, anthing by Ellen Hopkins, or SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE. Banned books? I say Buy Books!!!!!!!!
Amen, Kim!

Got myself another copy of Speak the other day, and checked out one of 5 copies of Twenty Boy Summer from our local library! I am fully celebrating my freedom to read!
Diane J. said…
Well said, Kim! Seriously, if the guy is getting pleasure (he chose the words "soft pornography" so it makes me wonder) from the book he needs to see a therapist, not try to ban the book.
lkmadigan said…
Brave and beautiful post, Kim.

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