Saturday, September 24, 2011

Banned Book Week

This week, the last week of September, is Banned Book Week, when discussion is provoked about books that have been banned, about the idea of banning books altogether. Now, while I understand some reasons for banning books, or more precisely for monitoring at what age and under what circumstances a book should be introduced to a child, most reasons for banning books are simply ludicrous - as the saying goes, it's either laugh or cry. Now that BBW has started, I came across a few pieces that really disturbed me.

One is about Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University, apparently published an opinion piece calling Speak "soft pornography." Apparently, I say, because when I clicked on the links from various sites citing this article, the paper in which the article was published claims no such page exists. I would assume it was taken down, and I'm not sure what I think about that.

But the point is - soft pornography? Are you kidding me? This is a book about a young girl struggling to come to terms with being raped. The term "pornography" is defined by the Merriam-Webster's dictionary as "the depiction of ... behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement." What on earth is "sexually exciting" about rape? 

Laurie responded to the piece on her blog. Read the comments as well - the way they're written, what they say, and who wrote them says so much about the skewed perception of Scroggins. In fact, I would go so far as to say he probably didn't even read the book. 

And ALA's list of banned books quotes a challenge to the book because it “glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex." Again, I'd have to question whether the challenger ever read the book. Because all the bad things that happen in the book are partly a result of excessive underage drinking, so no glorification there. And glorifying premarital sex? Even when it's not consensual? Give me a break.

Banning books like this is just so wrong. Read the poem in the 10th-anniversary edition, or listen to Laurie read it aloud on her blog post about Scroggins. The poem is made up mostly of bits and pieces of responses that teens wrote to Laurie after reading her book. The sheer volume of responses, the many different situations which kids felt the book related to, it all points to the fact that this is an important book for teens of today's world to be reading. 

The main point of the book - as proven by the responses - is not so much the rape (which, as I mentioned in my post about the book, is spoken about in detail only once throughout the whole book), but the victim's response - and that is really important because there are so many children and teens struggling with really big problems, being victimized in ways completely beyond their control, and the thoughts depicted in the book will resonate with them and give them hope and courage.

And does a book that accomplishes this so perfectly deserve to be banned? I think not.


  1. Sometimes I wonder whether the people who make the decisions about which books to ban (a horrible idea in and of itself) ever read the books themselves. I haven't read Speak myself yet but I have seen the movie and now look forward to reading the book.

    Also, I would like to present Reader's Dialogue The Versatile Blogger Award. Details are on my blog. Congratulations and thank you for such a wonderful blog!