...it probably isn't doing its job." — John Berry
Today, September 25th 2010, marks day one of Banned Books Week to be celebrated through October 2nd 2010, which is sponsored by the American Library Association, American Booksellers Association and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores, and endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
It is perhaps most timely that it is this week, because not but a week ago the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was attacked as "material that should be classified as soft pornography" in a ridiculous op-ed piece by Wesley Scroggins. He also claims that Speak is one of several "filthy books demeaning to Republic [School District] education" and that all the adults in the book, including teachers, are "losers." Not only is he wrong, but I highly doubt that Mr. Scroggins actually read the entire book. Because if he indeed had read Speak he would be well aware that Melinda's art teacher, Mr. Freedman, and his art class are pivotal in her journey AND critical to the plotline!
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Speak (April 1, 2001)
(product details via amazon.com)Review: Speak is about a 14 year old girl named Melinda Sordino who is unable to express exactly what trauma has happened to her, when she attended a party just before her first year of high school began. Now in a haze, she attends classes and goes through the motions of her life feeling completely powerless. Her former best friends reject her, her parents are too busy with work to listen to her, another teacher is hard on her for refusing to speak, and ALL the while her rapist (who is a fellow student) continues to intimidate her. The book is about finding your voice again in the face of trauma and fear. It's about learning to trust yourself and not give up, even when you feel like you are completely alone in something so terrible as rape.
And this is exactly why books like Speak, books that discuss serious topics and themes like rape, dangers of drugs abuse, violence etc, are so important to get into the hands of people in general but especially teens. Young Adult literature focuses on issues critical to that age group and is a source of more than just reading for fun. So many teens write letters, email, and contact the authors of YA books just to tell them how their particular book "saved [their] life". In fact over the past 3 years when I've worked the reference desk at my public library, I've had 2 separate occasions when a teen wanted to know if I could find the address for an author so they could "write them a real letter". I didn't pry but it was plain that it was because the author and their books meant a lot to them. Isn't that just as important for our high school-ers' educations? Isn't that connection worth the extra effort to discuss books with our teens even if it's uncomfortable? Don't they deserve a voice and the freedom to read about issues relevant to their lives? I believe so. And if you do too, then please SPEAK.
For more information and how to help support Speak & intellectual freedom, you can go here to see Laurie Halse Anderson's post on the issue.
“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.” ~John F. Kennedy, 35th US President