Speak Loudly: Banned Books Week

SpeakLaurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak has recently been the focus of a new attack by Wesley Scroggins, associate professor of management at Missouri State University. He describes the novel as “soft pornography” and apparently levied a formal challenge against this book in addition to Slaughterhouse Five, which he also deems inappropriate because of its language and its description of Jesus, and Twenty Boy Summer. He also has complaints about Republic School District’s (Missouri) sex education program, teaching of evolution, and teaching of American government and history. School Library Journal interviewed Halse Anderson about this latest attempt to ban her work.

I think parents have every right to decide with their children what is appropriate for their own children to read. Note I think the child has a voice and should have some stake. My nine-year-old became interested in the Salem witch trials after we visited Salem this year, so we checked out library books, and she learned more about them. And the facts in that case are not pretty, nor are they easy even for adults to understand, much less children. Man’s inhumanity to man is tough. But I will not shield my child from it because it exists. Not to allow her to learn about difficult subjects is to shackle her education. She can be a part of a better future because she will have learned about the mistakes of history. She will, I hope, recognize a witch hunt when she sees one. Like I do.

Parents like Scroggins are dangerous because they seek to promote an agenda with their challenges—their own. They have decided that the way they parent and their choices are the best and are more beneficial for your children than the choices you would make. They would seek to educate your own children in they way they think they should be educated. They seek to take away your right to make choices with your child.

I wish Speak had been around for me when I was in the ninth grade. It was something I needed. It’s something many girls—and boys—need. I was pleased that my own daughter read it for her English class in ninth grade. I was glad that she could learn about the trauma of rape in a book, that it happened, and that boys you liked and trusted did it—not just strangers—instead of experiencing it firsthand.

Paul Hankins has rallied around Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel with a Twitter-based campaign called #SpeakLoudly. He has also started a Speak Loudly website. We all also need to rally around Slaughterhouse Five and Twenty Boy Summer. Do not let anyone tell you what you and your children can read. Speak up! Speak loudly! Let your voice be heard this week, during Banned Books Week.

Check out these links for more on what you can do during Banned Books Week:

Feel free to share additional resources in the comments. I can add them to the list.

6 thoughts on “Speak Loudly: Banned Books Week”

  1. I appreciate your point on agendas. It reminds me of a post I once read that outlined a school policy for parents to follow if they wanted to censor or ban a book.

    Unfortunately, I've lost it.

    However, one point was that a parents could begin the process for one book at a time. The onus was clearly on the parent to justify censorship.


    1. I think it should be! That sounds very similar to the way our courts work—the burden of proof of guilt falls on the prosecution. Defendants are presumed innocent. I feel that most of the people who seek to ban have an agenda, and once I dug deeper and read the article in the same paper that printed the op-ed, it became clear to me what that agenda is. In fact, the article states his younger children are homeschooled. I assume, but the article doesn't make this clear, that his older children have graduated and went to public school. Therefore, the issue of what is going on in public schools is not even an issue that touches his children.

  2. 'Speak' soft porn? Seriously? Wow… I have most of Anderson's books in my class library with the exception of 'Fever 1792' and 'Prom Night'. If he's mad about Speak, wait until he reads 'Unwind'. He'll really have a hissy fit then. If 'Speak' glorified date rape he might, might have a leg to stand on.

  3. Dana, what a good point you make. In colleges we rearely have issues concerning book banning. However, as more high school students (through dual enrollment) take college-level courses, college English teachers may face angry parents who object to their 16 or 17-year old children reading books that they (the parents) find objectionable.

    1. I haven't had issues personally, but I hope you get a chance to read about the harrowing experience that Risha Mullins had that I linked to in a more recent blog post. Wow.

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