“You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.”
- Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak
It’s Banned Books Week from September 25 – October 2, 2010.
Tahereh is hosting reviews of banned books today. I signed up, but I hope she doesn’t mind if I do things a little differently. Instead of reviewing a banned book, I’m reviewing the banning of a particular book.
Last week, I noticed writers were changing their profile pictures to read “Speak Out” and several bloggers wrote posts about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, which is about a girl finding the courage to speak out after being raped. The book has won awards. The book is being banned in Missouri. The book is being called pornography.
Here’s one of the best posts about it by Crystal Cook.
And here’s what the author, Laurie Halse Anderson had to say about the controversy surrounding her book.
This was my letter to the editor of “News Leader”, where the book was called pornography (I know it could be more eloquent, but I wrote it in haste.):
My letter is about Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak being slandered and banned. Authors of YA books like Speak don't write books to sensationalize sex. They are written because they reflect what's going on in teens' lives and help them cope. Taking a few scenes out of context and using buzzwords to incite fear is not good journalism.
Everyone knows the best books are always banned. The small-minded can't grasp the greatness of what the books are accomplishing. The funny thing is, the teens get it.
If you want to add your opinion, here’s the link to News Leader Letters to the Editor .
AND for every 25 comments on Lisa and Laura's blog , one copy of Speak will be donated to a library. Please comment.
If you want to know whom Speak is for, read this powerful piece by Tabitha Bird . It's called This is Why I Write. She brought tears to my eyes and gave me chills. The book would’ve been perfect for someone like her, had it been written when she needed it most. How many other teens are out there that need Speak now?
HERE is a LIST of children’s books on Amazon that have been banned one time or another:
A few favorites of mine on the list:
Harry Potter Books 1-7
Flowers for Algernon
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
Blubber, A Light in the Attic
Where the Sidewalk Ends
A Wrinkle in Time is also on the list, which I just finished reading with my children. It’s odd because there are so many positive references to God and prayer, but I know the part that got to the naysayers. One of the characters mentions people who have fought against evil over time, and Jesus was lumped in with great thinkers like Copernicus and Gandhi.
Worse than the list itself are the seemingly silly reasons for the bans.
But banning books isn’t silly. It’s devastating for the author. Some make the argument that it sells books. That may be true. But when I think about how much love and parts of myself I put into each piece I write, digging into the deepest experiences and emotions, I would be devastated to have someone want to stop people from reading my books. A rejection is one thing, but at least someone is weighing the merits of my work. With banning, those people are trying to prevent people from reading it at all, and coming to their own conclusions.
Stories are supposed to help readers understand or even be allowed to escape their world. The books that push the envelope in some way, make people think, tackle a difficult subject, are usually the ones on the list. So in some ways, it’s a compliment.
And if you writers think, “That’s not me. I’d never write anything to upset anyone,” read the list of reasons why those books were banned. Some rationales are so odd; it probably didn’t occur to many of the authors that their content could offend anyone… until their books were banned.
As for me, this week, I’m standing by banned books.
“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame."
If you want to read other participants in writing reviews for Banned Book Week from Tahereh's Blog :
10. Merit Badger
11. Writer's Flow
13. Matthew Rush
14. Tea and Biscuits
15. The Horned Doe
18. Chazley Dotson
22. YA Muses
24. Claudie A.
25. Literary Jules
27. J. Leigh Bailey
28. Shallee McArthur
29. Speak Up
30. Heather McCorkle
34. Joann Swanson
35. Killer Chicks
38. Liz Writes
40. Nowhere Fast
43. Taffy's Writings
44. Still Growing
45. Vicarious Reader
46. Nicola Marsh
52. The Sithlord
53. Writers' Ally