Say NO to Censorship!

Did you know that it's "Banned Books Week"?

When I was in high school, the censorship craze was in full swing. During my junior year, my English teacher assigned a book report and gave us a lengthy list of books from which to choose. When I saw "The Catcher in the Rye" on the list, I immediately decided that was the book I would read. I chose it solely because it was one of the titles being bandied about as "inappropriate" for students. Thought it's been a few years and, admittedly, there are many things I don't remember about it, I do remember thinking that Holden Caufield was just a high school kid, like me and the kids I knew. His language and his actions didn't shock or offend me. He was a teenager. And... big shocker here... teenagers sometimes misbehave and cuss. Holden was a teenager with baggage struggling to find his way. Sure, his drinking and cavorting around New York City wasn't all that smart... but kids don't always make smart decisions. And besides, it's fiction, right?

So... in honor of banned books week I wanted to highlight a book that has recently received some attention when an associate professor of management at Missouri State University characterized it as "filthy, immoral", and even went so far as to call it "soft pornography", because of two rape scenes. The book is "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson... a book I've talked about here on my blog before. It's a young adult novel about a young girl who has been through a horrific trauma, and starts her freshman year of high school as a complete outcast, afraid to speak to anyone... parents, teachers, friends... about what really happened to her. It's about her journey out of that darkness. It's about her finding the courage to speak. It's a tremendous book. I read it. My twelve year old son read it. It was a good lesson for him... girls are not objects... you never know what someone is going through... look beyond what's on the surface. It is anything but filthy, immoral, and pornographic.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't pornography created and intended to cause sexual excitement? I have to wonder about anyone who'd consider the rape of a teenage girl sexually exciting. My best guess is that this fellow never read the book, but rather thumbed through it and found what he thought to be incriminating and twisted it to suit his purpose.

In the video below, Laurie Halse Anderson talks about the reader response to her book and the many, many kids who wrote to her saying this book helped them find the courage to finally talk about the things they were going through. Take a look... it really is a tremendous book.

Censorship sucks. Period.


  1. Interesting subject. I think cencorship is as personal and subjective as the books themselves. My Mom used to sample the books I read as a kid. I asked her why and she said she was making sure what I was reading was appropriate. She never censored me and I remember feeling protected, not constricted. It was more that she cared and took an interest and not blanket censorship. (Course, like I said, she never stopped me.)

    I agree that people need to read what they think they want to censor - and who is someone to censor it out of schools? I think the parents should do that. Well, I think parents should be doing a lot more stuff than they are but that's a whole other subject...

    Great post! Lots to think about.

  2. I agree that parents should sample what their kids read. But, in my mind, that's not censorship... that's good parenting... just like what your mom did for you. When I was in high school, librarians... both public and school... were going so far as to use permanent marker to "black out" the body parts of naked sculptures in art books! Can you imagine taking a sharpie to Michelangelo's David??? None of the crazy censorship made it's way into y little school or the small town I lived in - my teachers left all those books, like "The Catcher in the Rye" on our lists of things we could choose from! But I remember there being LOTS in the news about censorship and the debate was huge. I was just a teenager then, but I remember thinking how crazy it was that public libraries wouldn't want to have Salinger and Vonnegut on there shelves!

    The fellow who said those things about "Speak" is so far out in the universe I don't even know how to describe him or his words. Crazy to call a young adult novel about a teenage girl climbing out of the depths of despair after being raped "soft porn".

  3. Blacking out art photos? I've never heard of that!

    Yeah, I agree with you that the guy who talked about 'Speak' probably did NOT read it. (I haven't, by the way.) It's awful to read about those things but it happens and those are the kinds of books that can literally save someone's life. I choose fun books and mystery books and adventure and humorous books but just as much as those are needed, so are the harsh-reality books. I like my fiction to be far away from real life so I can get lost in it and escape from life. But if I ever needed a book that delved into a horrific experience and know I wasn't alone and find solace and advice - who is this guy (for example) to decide I can't have access to it?

    Good for him that he hasn't needed that type of...comfort but he shouldn't judge for those who do.

    Well, I'm probably generalizing and judging him right now but I'm just making a point!

    Books of all kinds are needed - that's why we have such a humongous wide range. It should stay that way. Let me choose what to read or what to skip.

    I mean, come on - there are so many reviews out there, what with awesome Blogs and stuff, I know what I'll like or what doesn't fit my taste before I ever touch the book!