Thursday, September 30, 2010

Speak Up

“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

The Lorax

Flowers for Algernon

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl

Blubber, A Light in the Attic

Where the Sidewalk Ends

The Giver

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."

—Oscar Wilde

If you want to read other participants in writing reviews for Banned Book Week from Tahereh's Blog :

1.Grab a Pen

2.The Rejectionist

3.Claire Dawn

4.Jessica Denoire

5.Pimp My Novel

6.Mia Hayson

7.Book Dreaming

8.Writing Investigated

9.Natalie Nuttall

10. Merit Badger

11. Writer's Flow

12. this little life of mine

13. Matthew Rush

14. Tea and Biscuits

15. The Horned Doe

16. tracy edward wymer

17. The Girdle of Melian

18. Chazley Dotson

19. Erastes

20. Heady Stories Continuing

21. Write On: Words on Craft

22. YA Muses

23. Confessions From Suite 500

24. Claudie A.

25. Literary Jules

26. Roni Loren (Fiction Groupie)

27. J. Leigh Bailey

28. Shallee McArthur

29. Speak Up

30. Heather McCorkle

31. YA Audiobook Addict

32. One Finger Typing

33. No Rest For The Lazy

34. Joann Swanson

35. Killer Chicks

36. erica and christy

37. Renae Mercado (The Siren's Song)

38. Liz Writes

39. Bethany Yeager @ Ink Splattered

40. Nowhere Fast

41. Life in Retrospect blog

42. Mesmerix @ Scribbler to Scribe

43. Taffy's Writings

44. Still Growing

45. Vicarious Reader

46. Nicola Marsh

47. Three Dead Moths in my mail box . . .

48. NerdGirlTalking

49. Marieke's Musings

50. Dancing With Dragons is Hard on Your Shoes

51. . . . and we're blogging

52. The Sithlord

53. Writers' Ally

54. Cursings and Musings

55. Jessica: Cover to Cover

56. Dominique


  1. Beautifully said girl! Here's to banned books and free thinking, powerful words and loud voices against abuse.

  2. Yeah Theresa! I'm with ya on this. We must speak up and stick together. These books are real and true just because one person disagrees doesn't mean we shouldn't get the chance to make that opinion for ourselves.
    It's morning and my words jumble--sorry.

  3. THAT list is so notorious even the BBC news had a feature on it - specifically the vitriol meted out by certain people to the authors of some of the books on the list - comments that are so obnoxious I can't believe they could even be listened to. Anyway!!!

    Yay for you for speaking out!! Take care

  4. I had my say on this topic last week and I agree with everything in you're post *two thumbs up*

    I'm always amazed when I see Lorax and Where the Sidewalk Ends on the list (amongst others) b/c I read those with my son regularly!

  5. Another two thumbs up here, Theresa! I'm definitely with you on this one. I agree, we should all stick and stand together! :)

  6. You said this so well. I don't agree with banning books at all. It is devastating to the author, and it can be devastating to the reader who could really use those words but can't because it's been banned.

    P.S. I have something for you at my blog today (Thursday). :)

  7. Great post with lots to think about. So much of the issue seems to come down to freedom, to choose, to read, to make up our own minds.

  8. As someone who has just written a book that's a great candidate for banning, I thank you for your post. And I love the Oscar Wilde quote you

  9. @ Tabitha, you're post was beautifully said. We can't hide abuse or it spreads. Look what happened within the Catholic Church.

    @ Christine, you were perfectly coherent!

    My friend's preschool banned Curious George because the monkey smokes a pipe. Ludicrous.

    @ Old Kitty, the problem is that most people don't know that there are book banned at their school or library. They just go away or never get bought. I know my children's school librarian has decided she doesn't like the message of an eighteen-year-old getting married so she won't buy the Twilight series. But it's not banned from the school.

    @ Christina, I credit The Lorax with my concern about the environment. How can it be too political?

    @ Len, thank you. We writers are a supporting bunch.

  10. @ Jessica, thanks for the nice words and thanks for passing your award on to me.

    @ Joanne, I wish we could give people more credit for making their own decisions. I have no right to impose my reading standards on anyone else.

    @ Judy, you are brave for writing about such a controversial topic. Again, you're reflecting life - not creating it.

  11. Beautifully stated and brave, Theresa! I love the letter that you sent to that newspaper and found your whole post very moving and thought provoking. It's scary that people think they have the right to deny others from reading a book because they it offends their personal beliefs or sensibilities. I was very surprised by the list of banned books. Thank you for writing this.

  12. Well argued Theresa.

    I am not a fan of book bans--parents should make that call.

    Do you think with some book bans it can actually be a good thing for an author? Perhaps, it creates a forbidden interest in a work that generates publicity and appeal to readers. Just curious...

    Also, thanks for the Rondo-t-shirt reference--funny.

  13. Wonderful post. That quote from Oscar Wilde really says it perfectly.

  14. Thank you for posting this and for the inclusion of the links. The banning of the book Speak was ridiculous (along with many, many others). The bond of readers and writers, however, is amazing. So many wonderful posts to read today - and so many wonderful books to put on our TBR pile.

  15. @ Kathleen, I find it funny that people often pay little attention to what shows and movies children are watching and what video games they're playing.

    @ Slamdunk, for kids, banning a book (especially for sexual content) will make it a sure hit. But Judy Blume, when she had Forever banned said something like she wouldn't wish it on her worst enemy. I couldn't find that quote, but here's another one by her:

    “One of my concerns is that writers will begin to feel the censor on their backs, and we won't get their very best. Instead their fear, or the fear imposed by the publisher, will limit them. When I lock myself up to write, I cannot allow myself to think about the censor, or the reviewer, or anyone but my characters and their story.”

    @ Missed Periods, Oscar Wilde has a perfect quote for everything.

    @ Erica and Christy, I wonder how many people who ban books actually read the books? I'm sure those who want to ban Speak have not actually read it.

  16. I will definitely be writing a letter about Speak. I read Speak for the first time last year. I am a survivor who never spoke about my incident until years and years later. When I read the book, I couldn't help but think, "I really wish this book had found it's way to me when I was 13". I don't know how different things would have been for me in those years, but I'll fight tooth and nail to keep it accessible for girls who may need it. Thanks for this post. I put your link in my blogpost yesterday. I'll snag this link list for tomorrow's post as well.

  17. While SPEAK was not my all time favorite book and the movie was terrible, I cannot understand why they are banning this book. I know a lot of girls who read this during the same time I had to in 9th grade and the book was not promoting sex. It was showing what poor decisions can lead to, and for a lot of teens I think it was a wake up call to reality.

    SPEAK was the real deal, whether we want to admit it or not.

    That list is insane! Great post, though.
    author of the Magicians series

  18. @ Lovy, I'm so glad you'll be writing a letter about Speak. I'm sorry you suffered abuse. Even if a teen doesn't speak up as a result of the book, at least she knows she's not alone. Just that knowledge goes a long way.

    Thank you for linking my blog. I appreciate what you wrote on your post.

    @ LReneeS, what many teens are actually experiencing and witnessing makes many adults uncomfortable. By pretending Speak is influencing them instead of reflecting society, it's easier than having conversations with our teenagers.

  19. Here I go and take a few accidental days off the blog and I realize I've missed Banned Books Week *walks away bummed* I'm so glad you all banned together though to support!

    I just finished Speak and it was truly an inspirational and strong novel. I find it offensive that teachers and parents, and others in general are wanting to ban books that have a place in this world.

    Is it because they're afraid of questions?

  20. Wonderful post. And very powerfully said. I haven't had a chance to get around to the other posts, but will definitely be doing that tomorrow.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

  21. I love it: "The small-minded can't grasp the greatness of what the books are accomplishing. The funny thing is, the teens get it."

    Many banned books are my favorites. They shaped me as a reader, writer, and human being.

  22. @ Jen, you caught the end of it, so you didn't miss it altogether.

    I think some people are afraid of questions. If a book challenges their preconceived notions of is against their values, they think it's their duty to save the rest of us.

    @ Julie, thanks for visiting. I didn't get to most of the other posts either, but I'll try today too.

    @ Medeia Sharif, many banned books shaped me as a reader, writer, and human being. Well said!

  23. Could you collect an Award from my site.

  24. I like your letter - short and to the point!
    Anne Frank? Who's banning Anne Frank?
    They just planted a sapling from the oak tree that she used to look at, here in Montreal at the Holocaust Memorial Centre.

  25. I love it when people try to ban books and fly in the face of our constitution. They do exactly the opposite of what they intend and suddenly those "dirty" books sell like crazy. Yeah! We need more banners so we can sell more books and so we can once again learn to cherish that first amendment.

  26. Great post! Thanks, especially, for putting in about the SPEAK library donations. I commented and put a post about it on my blog too.

  27. @ Rayna, thank you for the award.

    @ Deniz, I found this info:

    "Various reasons have been used to justify banning Anne Frank's acclaimed diary. In one 1983 incident, four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for its removal because it was a 'real downer.'"

    @ Cleemckenzie, some people want freedom of speech and religion and so on, when it comes to their freedom of speech and religion and so on.

  28. Beautiful post. I have fought a few battles to keep certain books in the school where I used to teach. Thanks for all the links!!!

  29. "A downer"?!? Good grief! Is all I can say :-)

  30. @ Paulgreci, it's great to hear that you battled to keep books. Hope you find the links useful.

    @ Deniz, it's hard to find the humor angle when teaching about The Holocaust.

  31. Well said. Banning any kind of book is just ridiculous, especially one that deals with teen rape, a very serious, very real issue. Pretending that something does not exist does not erase it. "Sensationalizing" my butt. >:/ That's just an excuse for wimpiness.

  32. No, no humour, but that's hardly reason to ban a book! :-)

  33. @ Amanda, I agree, the books they choose to ban aren't sensationalizing. They're usually some of my favorite books because they've made me think.

    @ Deniz, it happened in 1983 in Alabama, which means if I'd lived in Alabama instead of New York, I would have been a thirteen-year-old teen who didn't have access to the book. On the upside, no downers for me.

  34. Well done!

    Let's ban the banners. ;)

    Have a delightful weekend, Theresa.

  35. I don't think Oscar Wilde could have said it any better. That's exactly why societies are fearful of certain books.

  36. @ Lola, I like giving those banned books some advertising to thwart the banners.

    You have a wonderful weekend.

    @ NiaRaie, Oscar Wilde always has the best quotes. And he was publicly censored for his lifestyle, which contributed to his early death.

  37. Great post Theresa. I'm glad I discovered your blog! Thanks for posting the link to my banned books week post.

  38. Wonderful post, Theresa! You letter was super. You really made me think about how the author feels when the word "banned" comes before their book. Before your post I was mostly thinking about my rights, as a reader, being violated...but as an author it would be devistatingly painful. Nice job!

  39. Thanks for speaking up, Teresa. There's a seriously sick mentality out there that scares me. I'm fed up with in-your-face nuts telling me what I can and can't do.

    When you get a chance, I've a little something for you at my place.

  40. I haven't read SPEAK, but I've loved the support the book (and author) have received, and I'm planning to buy the book to show my support and just because I NEED to read it. Thanks for your post!

  41. @ Jan, no problem. Thanks for finding my blog.

    @ Sharon, even if the banning means more sales, I'm sure the pressure the author feels and having their words misunderstood is awful.

    @ Kittie, my philosophy is live and let live. And parents can be more involved with what their kids are doing, reading, and watching, and make informed decisions.

    Kathrunleighaz, I'm impressed with how much support Speak has received from readers and nonreaders.

    @ Nicola, thank you!

    I'll head over to your blog.

  42. Completely agree. I think these books need to be available. I've taught too many kids who have suffered too many kinds of abuses. Reading a book like this gives them a way to deal with what they've suffered. No one should try to take that away from them.

    The lists of banned books & threatened books blow my mind - I've got dozens of these books in my classroom. :)

  43. Thanks for speaking out! (Pun intended, I guess?) I loved the book "Speak" and loved many other banned books, and it disgusts me when I see that people can be so close-minded and not appreciate the raw truth that comes from such controversial books.

    Hope you've had a great weekend, Theresa!

  44. Hey Theresa, thanks for posting this. It's amazing what small minded people will call trash, huh? I read Tabitha's post and, when I have a moment, I'm going to send her an email. I agree that books that speak out are sorely needed. It's incredible the list you posted....I've read most of them and can't see what's supposed to be so bad about them. Copying the button and gonna paste it when I get back home!

  45. Awesome post! It really got me thinking.

    I can't imagine being an author and having my book banned. It must feel horrible.

    Thank you for including me in your links!

  46. @ Jemi well written. Nobody has a right to deny teens books that will help them deal with abuse.

    I bet most teachers have many banned books in their classroom because it's hard to believe so many great books have been banned at a particular time in a particular place.

    @ Shelley, pun intended! You're right, many books show truths that make people uncomfortable.

    @ The Words Crafter, I'm sure Tabitha will appreciate the e-mail.

    The list blew my mind too. Some were banned for such trivial reasons.

    @ Jessica, as an author, I'd feel awful too.

    Happy to link your post!

  47. Wow, you have a lot of comments on this! I need to get a copy of Speak. It sounds like an amazing book.

    I'll go leave a comment now!

  48. @ Aubrie, I'm so glad you're leaving a comment. Glad to have you back blogging.

  49. I just read "Speak" and it was brilliant. It really is great books that people fear.

  50. @ Lisa, I like the way you put it - it's great books people fear.

  51. Great post! I love how you pointed out in your letter that book banners are missing the context--so true.

  52. @ Rebecca, thanks for the comment. I bet every book has something offensive to someone. Is it really a reason to ban, especially there for a reason?

  53. Well said! I couldn't agree more :)

    Also, thank you for your comment on my blog! I needed an excuse - spreading the banned books love -s so I'm giving away a copy of Annie when I reach 30 followers :)

  54. @ Marieke, thanks for visiting. Good luck reaching 30 followers. You're almost there!