Have I mentioned that censorship makes me cranky?

What a way to start the month. First, John Green’s LOOKING FOR ALASKA is under fire for being “pornographic”.

And now, some parents are going after SPEAK. The teacher involved has asked me not to name the school because she wants the process and policies of the district to unfold away from the glare of any spotlights. I respect that. I am allowed to say that it’s a middle school in suburban Detroit. For the record, this has also happened in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Washington, New York, Maine, and California. (As a result of the challenges, the book was embraced, not banned. Which does make an author feel good and a teacher feel even better.)

I sent her a note with teen sexual assault statistics and shared the feedback I’ve had from readers and their parents, who are grateful for a story that allows them to broach a difficult subject.

This teacher could use some professional support. If you teach SPEAK, can you please leave a note in the comments section for her? Tell her why you use the book. Tell her about your classroom experiences and your professional opinion about the place of the book in the curriculum. Or just give her a pat on the back. If you are a teen, tell her what the book meant to you.

Thank you very much and spread the word.

Now for something positive! Join the brilliant people at The Brown Bookshelf for 28 Days Later – an awesome, wonderful, joyful concept: a black history month celebration of children’s literature. They are highlighting an African-American author or illustrator every day this month. Today’s honoree is Rita Williams-Garcia, whom I met at NCTE back in November. If you’re looking for some great authors, start with this list.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is my editor Sharyn November with the lovely and talented Rita Williams-Garcia.

Our Team In Training effort is going strong. Between the two of us, BH and I have already raised $1755 of our goal of $5000. Yeah, that means we’re still standing here, in the snow, shivering, with our hands out. Please donate to the goose or donate to the gander. We’re raising $5000 and running a half marathon for the National Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Come on. Give a little!

(I ran 5 miles on Saturday and 4 miles yesterday. BH ran 5 miles both days. We didn’t have any trouble sleeping this weekend.)

Thank you to the Giants and Patriots for a great game last night!!! All hail the Giants defense – even though I wanted the other guy to win, you gotta respect the job they did.

And now the countdown to March Madness…

Along with the countdown to my deadline. scribblescribblescribble

47 Replies to “Have I mentioned that censorship makes me cranky?”

  1. I am so embarassed that I only live an hour away from those protesting John’s book. Good lord.

    As for SPEAK, it’s been out for years now and won a medal — people need to get over themselves. 🙂

    In other news, yay for running for the cause, Laurie! I entered my donation today and await the day that cancer is not as scary as it sounds. In the past couple years, I’ve had one friend’s lymphoma go into remission, another friend’s husband die from lieukemia, and another friend who is battling mutliple myloma (bone marrow cancer). Good luck with the training and your run!!!!

  2. In all the years people have been banning books it’s never actually kept a young reader from it. As you pointed out, it normally makes them more curious. Good for the readers!

    Laurie, thanks for shouting out The Brown Bookshelf. I’m so psyched that so many have embraced the concept.

  3. I’m not a teacher these days, and when I was, I taught university so I never had a chance to teach your book. However, I am a mother who’s very grateful for your book. SPEAK was the entry point to talking to my daughter about my being a rape survivor. It was a conversation I’d dreaded for years. How do you tell your baby that something awful happened without taking away that sense that her parent is strong enough to keep her safe–and smart enough not to get in a bad place? Knowing it wasn’t my fault (a lesson that’s never easy) was hard enough to get to. If my baby didn’t agree . . . Few people’s opinions truly matter to me in a way that could re-define me. Hers (and her brother’s) do.

    She read SPEAK–not b/c I told her too, but b/c we read together & b/c she saw me crying after I read it. Your book gave us the start of a conversation I had no clue how to start.

    *pause* I’ve told that to readers (in my blog and live), to my editors and other people, but it feels kinda nice to finally say it to you. I’ve been at events where you were and had no clue how to walk up & say thank you, but your post put me in a mood, so I’ll say it here: Thank you. What you wrote is what our teens deserve–good, true, powerful words. I would’ve been ridiculously grateful for it as a teen and am almost as thankful as a mom of a teen.

    Melissa Marr

  4. I’ve told you this before, but you can definitely share this information with the teacher in question– I loved Speak as a ninth grader, not because of the OMG!Rape parts, but because you deal with high school cliques, bullying, and exclusion in a way that is so relate-able and real. (I was pretty naive and didn’t catch on to what Andy East had *done* to Melinda until after I was done reading, and then I was just like, oh). I’m sure these kids have caught episodes of Law and Order: SVU and CSI that deal with sexual assault and rape in much more graphic, scary ways; and there are probably some sexually active kids in that middle school whether we want that to be true or not.

  5. my god, fluorescent hair! (mine.)

    and in re super bowl: sometime last night, people started screaming in my neighborhood and setting off cherry bombs. it took me a little while to figure out why.

  6. Support Speak!

    Speak is not a book about rape. It’s a book about self-respect, standing up for yourself, and facing your fears! As an adult, I read this book around age 22. As a male teacher, it moved me. It also gave me incredible insight into the lives of my students and their struggles.

    Banning Speak would only help sex criminals continue to do what they do and encourage kids NOT to ask for help!!!!

  7. I stock Speak in my seventh-grade library and it is one of the top disappearers — books that get taken out and never returned. Kids connect to Melinda because she’s more real — more angry, more ambivalent, more at the same time clear-eyed and unfair, more everything — than the average teenaged protagonist. I think it’s an important text both because it’s beautifully written and because it underscores that most important reading lesson, that books can speak to own inner lives and the things we care about most. Anyone who gives you shit about it is missing the whole point of teaching kids to read.

  8. I did my student teaching last spring — oddly enough, in a middle school in suburban Detroit — and while I didn’t have an opportunity to teach Speak, I was able to talk about it with some of my students who had read it. The conversations we had were very powerful, and were more than just about the gravity of the topics addressed in the book. They were about books themselves, and reading.

    I keep Speak on my classroom bookshelf at the high school in which I now teach. I have had some very similar conversations about reading and how some of students are actually “enjoying books” because Speak showed them how engaging it could be. While other books may be able to convey the same message at times, I’m yet to find one that my students latch on to as much, or one that really excites them as much about reading.

    –Brian

  9. I am 18 years old, almost 19, in college. In 9th grade we were required to read the book and I was more than happy to reread it (for a third time). I’d read it for the first time when I was probably around 11 or so, and yes, it was shocking to read about these things at the age I was, but it brought realization that this could happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. The book was a help in finding out the facts of life, and as others have stated, many people connect with the character as well for whatever reason.
    Banning books is a terrible thing to do; children are being sheltered from the real life only because there could be a swear word here & there inside a great novel, or maybe there’s some drug use, or maybe even because there’s mention of something sexual. Rape obviously falls into this category, but if I were able to choose, I’d make it a requirement for everyone to read Speak. Not all books are going to contain fairy dust and unicorns. It’s impossible to shelter children for their entire lives from the real world.

    Keep up the good work, Laurie!

  10. Oh my gosh!! I read Looking For Alaska, and although I did find parts of it pornographic, it didn’t mask the fact that it was an amazing book.
    Although your book has been challenged countless times, I didn’t see why it was so terrible. Of course, talking/writing about rape isn’t something – say – I would want my little sister to be exposed to, but Compared to Looking For Alaska, Speak is a disney cartoon. I love both Speak and looking for Alaska, and I don’t want either of them banned, or branded with the title of ‘explicit’.
    Although there are times when I’m watching TV and I’ll pass a chanel that shows something I’d rather not be exposed to, like porn, I’ll get all upset and be like ‘what the hell? Stuff like this is why girls in my school and in the grades below are acting so raunchy!’ The reason I am upset about the TV, and not books like your’s is because you and other writers who write similar books, write to inform. TV does it to satisfy dirty people, or to get the ratings up.

  11. Oh, and P.S.: I have a parent calling to complain this week because I’m making her seventh grader read A Raisin in the Sun, which includes — along with true lyrical greatness and profound relevance and art and all that — a handful of cuss words. So there you have it.

  12. …Speak is somehow… pornographic?

    That’s ridiculous. There is basically NO sexual content in Speak. Even the rape itself isn’t sexual – nothing sexual is really described, just the narrator’s feelings, etc.

    ARGH!

    Looking For Alaska isn’t remotely pornographic, either.

    1. Yeah…

      I’m pretty sure most people who want to ban books don’t actually read. Then they might actually have to like think and stuff, heaven forbid.

  13. I was asked not to teach Speak because of the sexual content. I teach 8th grade. I think it’s important for these students to read this book, but alas I can only recommend it, not teach it.

  14. Just want to offer my words of support to the teacher. At the risk of sounding way gushy…I used SPEAK or referred to it in my work with teens, and am truly grateful that such a beautifully-written book provided a path for real, respectful discussions of so many realities of adolescent life.

  15. I re-posted about this over on my lj, and just wanted to show my support here. Speak is a fantastic book, one I recommend over and over, one that I feel should be required reading come 9th grade. If only these ‘censors’ could put themselves in Melinda’s place (not literally, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone), maybe they’d realize just how important her story is, for everyone.

  16. Just wanted to say that i absolutely loved SPEAK. I read it for the first time last year, in seventh grade. My English teacher wanted to read it with us, but didn’t want parents complaining, so we didn’t. But, yeah, i just wanted to say that i absolutely loved SPEAK.
    As for the Super Bowl… go Giants!

  17. I’m a middle school teacher, too, so I know how much the kids we teach need books like SPEAK and other brave YA titles to help them navigate through these years.

    Here’s the thing about middle school students. Middle school is a big, scary bridge — a bunch of them, actually. And middle school kids cross those bridges at all different times and all different speeds. They don’t just line up and hop to the other side together, or grade by grade. I’ve known 8th graders who still bring cupcakes with pink frosting to school on their birthdays. I’ve known 7th graders who are having sex. It’s our job as teachers to provide literature that meets ALL of their needs, no matter what side of the bridge they happen to be standing on at any given moment.

    SPEAK is a book that I make available to students in my classroom library and one that I offer up as a literature circles selection. It’s wildly popular with girls who are drawn to Melinda’s story and empowered by her voice. It’s important. And so are teachers who fight to keep it in schools, available to the kids who need it. Know that as you fight this battle in Michigan, you’re not alone — not by a long shot. And know that teachers and kids all over the country are empowered by your voice, too.

  18. I came over from Melissa Marr’s journal…
    I’m a midwife and I also teach sex and reproductive education in my kids’ co-op school.
    I just wanted to let you know that Speak will still be part of my sex education program for boys and girls no matter what critics say. So far I’ve only had two parents even question the choice, but once they’d read the book for themselves they understood.

    As for me on a personal level, thank you for Speak. I read it for the first time ten years after surviving rape myself, and while it was hard, it rings true.

  19. I’m not a teacher, but I am a student. I’m seventeen now, but I first read SPEAK when I was 12 or 13, in the 7th grade. I fell in love with it from page one. At that time, I knew absolutely nothing about sexual harassment, sex, love, or anything like that. But I knew what it was like to be an outcast. The book really helped me learn to interact with people and share my feelings more with my friends. Sometimes, I learned, it’s just better to speak. Though the book was a bit too edgy for a few of my friends, many of us loved and embraced it. I can’t count the number of times I sat at our lunch table reading the funny lists that Melinda made.

    Actually, while I was in 7th grade, I was asked by the special education/reading comprehension instructor to give a few book reports to her classes who had little interest in reading. Those kids had no problem relating to Melinda’s tale, and it inspired a few of them to pick up a book and read. Many of them also went on to read Catalyst and Fever 1793, both also excellent books that I’ve read and loved.

    So if people are fighting the book, feel free to share my story. I support Speak fully, and I intend to buy a copy for my young niece whenever she’s a bit older.

  20. Speak was the first young adult novel I really experimented with, and it opened a whole new world of novels to me. The topics were intense and controversial, ranging from rape to drug abuse to abuse in general. I think these books really teach teens how hard life can be, and there is always someone who can relate to the main character in any novel. I think many girls can relate to Melinda, and in a way feel emotions through her because she resembles many teens so closely. Not all teenagers understand Melinda, or why she cannot find the courage or strength, or even interest, to speak. She has lost all hope and all confidence, spiraling herself into a world of depression. I was there once, I think a lot of teens were, have been, and still are, and it really helps to know that other people go through it and to have someone to understand it so well, even if it is a fictitious person in a novel. If parents and administrators believe teens are too young to deal with these issues, they may not understand all of the students they would be applying this rule to. It is like Melinda, her parents had no idea something so tragic had happened to their own daughter because Melinda felt like she had no one to turn to. This book as well as many other controversial and often-censored books can open up doors for teens to come forth and discuss and possibly overcome their issues, and it can help teens feel like they are not completely alone.

  21. The first time I read Speak, I was a freshman in college. I really wish I had read it as a freshmen in highschool. Maybe then I would have said something. Silence is poison.

  22. as a YA librarian, I would not hesitate to give this book out to one of “my kids.” It is on the 9th grade school reading list here and it is entirely appropriate for that age group. Why any parent wouldn’t want their child to read it is beyond me. Speak tells the story in such a complete, informative way that it should be required reading in every high school. It gives the reader hope and the knowledge that they are not alone.

    good luck! it’s such a shame that some people are so small minded as to challenge such a wonderful novel.

  23. speak in the classroom

    I’ve had Speak on my shelf [8th grade language arts teacher] for a number of years, selectively suggesting it to students who I thought would enjoy it and could handle it. I always mentioned the rape issue in the book and asked or suggested parental permission. Last year, my teaching partner and I included it as one of 8-10 choices of books under a “survival” themed unit. It’s always among the most requested novels. I have students complete a request form where each selects his/her top three choices including a persuasive paragraph advocating for the top choice. I’ve been surprised about how many request the book based on a shared similar experience to Melinda each hoping to find understanding or insight into his/her own situation. I do have parents sign a permission slip…

  24. My eighth grade English teacher let me borrow her copy to read. I’m fairly certain it was because I was bored with all the books we had to read (except for Hamlet, of course). I loved it, but it didn’t really help me. After 9th grade, I read and reread it constantly because I knew exactly how Melinda was feeling. I’m actually currently supposed to be writing a paper on how it has affected my life (I’m procrastinating, it’s due tomorrow >_>).

    It is ridiculous to even consider this book as inappropriate in any way. People make me angry, sometimes

  25. Censorship

    I just finished reading SPEAK as a college student. I am so glad I took a chance and bought the book. As a future educator, it will be something that I keep on my bookshelf in my classroom. It is a powerful book about many issues our teenagers fact today. It is truly a gift to young adult fiction.

    On a more personal note, the book spoke to me in many different ways. As someone who has survived an experience of rape in middle school, it was a tremendous comfort to me as I continue to cope with issues that stem from that experience. If I would have had the opportunity to read SPEAK in high school or middle school, it would have been tremendously helpful to know that the rape was not my fault.

    Thank you Laurie… your writing talent is a blessing to many.

    To the teacher facing censorship, thank you for being an innovative educator. It’s inspiring.

  26. FIGHT THE POWER!

    People who don’t want a book like this read are the same people who fight to keep others trapped and confused. I loved this book. It’s funny, when I was an older teen I didn’t read many YA books, I skipped over them. But I wouldn’t have skipped over SPEAK. I really enjoyed the witty and sad character Melinda. I wasn’t raped, ever, but I was a social outcast. I didn’t belong to any clique until high school. I read in one of your interviews how a traumatic event can make a child stop talking. My dad comments on how I not only didn’t talk much after my parents divorce but I stopped all physical expression period. No laughing, crying, smiling. Nothing.

    So of course I loved this book and the characters (loved the art teacher) and it can’t be stopped. SPEAK brings to light topics that most don’t want to address but in one way or another isolation, assault, deep sadness, and social awkwardness has affected everyone. So, to the teacher being ridiculed for teaching this book, thank you for being brave and righteous enough to teach this subject in school.

  27. I taught ninth grade English last year and was resistant to reading Speak because it was new to me. I was used to the “classic” novels and didn’t understand why most of them are really not appropriate for adolescent readers. I have since been working toward my Masters in Secondary Ed and have been exposed to many different ideas and philosophies. After reading several adolescent novels I understand now why it is important for students to read about things they can relate to and why I hated reading so much in high school.
    I didn’t care about some adults thoughts during the Civil War or how some man turned into a cockroach, not at 15. There’s no way I could appreciate the literary elements of Shakespeare when he wrote about things that I could never relate to (although I love some of his stories now). If I’d had a book like Speak put in front of me, I may have enjoyed literature at an earlier age. Some of us may have felt a little more understood growing up had we been exposed to characters more like us.
    I knew a Melinda, she couldn’t talk about what happened because she didn’t know if anyone would believe her. She ostrecized herself from her clique and became a different person. Some people knew a version of what happened and said she asked for it, she wanted it or she wouldn’t have been in that position. The guy’s girlfriend threatened her daily. The friends of his that were there half believed her but told her to see it as she had just done her country a favor (he had just joined the military)and not to take it any farther than that because his family depended on him. No one really cared to hear her so she shut up and took it. I think had she had something to relate to, someone, even if it were a character she’d have handled everything differently- not been in that place or at least not blamed herself.
    I think students should be given the chance to read about themselves for this reason. Things like sex, rape, cussing, murder and drugs happen to students daily in the real world… why shelter them from it at school? Why not teach them how to live and overcome?

  28. Response to the book Speak

    Ms. Anderson:

    I first want to say that I enjoyed reading Speak, it was an eye opener. I enjoyed reading the book so much that I now having my teenage niece reading it. This book allowed me to read about issues that adolescents are face with each day. Issues like rape, and teen drinking were things that I didn’t encounter. Teens are face with so many pressures today from drinking, drugs, sex, to wearing the right clothes. That I view this book as a must read for all teens.

    Elementary Teacher
    Nyree Williams

  29. Speak

    I find it interesting that as a society, we don’t want to expose our children to certain things such as rape, violence, abuse (drug, alcohol, etc); therefore, we don’t talk about it and don’t want it to be discussed or read in class. We just send them on to school, ill-prepared to face the challenges that young adults face today, and hope that by the time we must purchase their cap and gowns for graduation that they’ve become well-rounded, learned, and productive citizens of society who’ve lived a happy storybook life. At some point we must wake up and realize that the best protection sometimes come in the form of knowledge and preventive strategies, and not from helping our young adults dig a nice shallow-deep hole to bury their heads in until they’ve graduated. I think Speak was a very good book and so was the movie…I watched it several times. Yes, the flashbacks of the rape scenes were more visual in the movie;however, they were no more graphic than the soap opera scenes the students sneak home to watch.

  30. Censorship makes me sad

    I’m just writing in because I am a huge fan of your novel, Speak. I love it so much I’m actually trying to incorporate it into an undergraduate thesis on contemporary fiction. As a 20-year-old girl and as a future English teacher I feel this book needs to be taught! Sexual abuse needs to be something “we” (society) discusses. Your book provides an arena for that discussion to take place. The idea really hit home when I overheard that two girls that attend my school were sexually abused in their own homes and that they didn’t know who to go to. Thankfully, they contacted a professor as my school. I strongly feel that books can provide awareness and a healthy environment for public discourse.

    This book touched my heart. I hope it touches my future student’s. To the teacher who is having the censorship issue… please continue the fight!

  31. Our school librarian (K-8 public magnet school in a large urban district) shared a story with me about Speak. She said that a middle school girl came in and asked her if she could get the book for the library. This was a girl who typically was not interested in reading. The librarian looked up the book, bought it, processsed it, and handed it to the girl. The next day a huge group of the girl’s friends were gathered around her. She was reading aloud to them and they were rapt with attention. The librarian let the administration know about the book and its contents (our administration is wonderfully supportive) just in case any parents took issue with it. None have. The book is still in our library and it has been well-loved.

    Personally, I read the book when it first came out. My final year of high school was much like Melinda’s. I wish this book had been available to me then. Maybe I could have said something. I always recommend the title to middle school girls AND boys.

  32. I’m spreading the word

    I have added three new posts this morning:

    http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/2008/03/lets-censor-censors.html

    http://bannedbookschallenge.blogspot.com/2008/03/more-books-for-our-lists.html

    http://bannedbookschallenge.blogspot.com/2008/03/speak-by-laurie-halse-anderson.html

    I hope they are all properly cross-referenced, but at least they are posted. Thanks for last night’s wonderful stories. I may get a chance today or tomorrow to write more about your presentation, maybe on my writing blog:

    http://wordsfromawordsmith.blogspot.com/

    I’ll let you know if I do. I hope making the transition from daffodils in Chattanooga to snow in New York won’t be too rough on you.

    :^D

    ~~~ Bonnie

  33. SPEAK in the classroom…

    I’m a graduate student at UALR, taking an adolescent literature course. Speak is part of the required reading, but I heard of Speak long before I took this class. My best friend recently graduated from a teacher education program and specializes in teaching literature. As part of her field experience, she taught Speak to six classes of 8th graders and 9th grade pre-AP students. The response was phenomenal. She loved the book, and in turn, she loved teaching it. The students were really able to idenify with the characters and she was able to use many different projects to get them involved with the text. After I read the book, I realized that the possibilities for using Speak in the classroom are positively endless. The book can be used as a spring board to get students thinking about the roles they play and the ways they judge one another. That is the main reason I enjoyed this text so much and the reason I plan to teach it myself.

    Now, for the censorship issue… I think that many parents do not want to believe that their precious little boys and girls know about complex issues, much less are able to begin formulating their own thoughts and opinions about these issues. Students aren’t stupid; they know what’s up. And I believe it is a wise move for a teacher to let students know that other people know what is going on outside the classroom. Parents who do not want to recognize that their children are indeed facing very real issues everytime they step onto school property. Literature like Speak helps students understand themselves, the roles they play, and the damage that prejudice/judgment causes. If they can read about characters who face similar situations, they can begin to understand how they could react in their very real situation. For these reasons, I absolutely advocate teaching Speak and other books like it in public schools.

  34. Speak

    Speak gives support. There are people, teenagers, who have gone through this, suffered, and are too scared to do anything. Books like Speak are there to help THEM, and to make others aware of this. Many people walk by others who seem silent or shaken, and are oblivious to these things around them and oblivious to what might have happened in other peoples past.
    Reading books like this fill minds with knowledge that will might make a person a better person in the future, or help them to jump over those difficult obstacles in life.
    It alarms me how parents are trying to hide this from their children. You cannot hide the truth, and if you try to, it only makes it harder for you to go on.
    I think Speak should stay on shelves of libraries. This book has inspired me to be a better person, and to reach out to those who are in need. And I know this book will, if it hasn’t already, reach out to those as well.
    -an eighth grade oregonian

  35. Speak in College

    I am a junior at a university on Long Island, and my education class -called Youth Literacy- read this book. It was so great that I read it in one sitting! Parent’s will always try to protect their children, but clearly I agree with the aforementioned statements about teaching Speak in high schools. I think that while parent’s try to protect their children, reading should never be something that we limit. A lot of times reading about a ‘sensitive’ subject that a parent may not feel comfortable about would educate their children without a forced or awkward conversation. I just want to emphasize that when the blogger two posts above me said that students “know whats up”, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been out of high school for 3years and I feel closer to that age group that many people do who advocate against teaching Speak in schools. Sexuality and violence against women is a huge part of the American culture and ignoring it doesn’t make it any less real. The porn industry is huge and the majority of it belittles and degrades women- some argue but it is typically not about female empowerment. The sexual nature is typically displayed by men for male use. Children in my district are sexually active by the summer after 6th grade, they’re 12. I’m not stating that all children are like this but a lot are. Education can’t come soon enough in my opinion and if we can do it through literature all the better. At an earlier age we must discuss not only proper sexual conduct (the consequences of actions) but everyday problems and the all too common horrors like Speak that proceed from intimate relationships. As a future high school teacher I plan to focus time on discussing the fluidity of identity and sexuality, because society will be better off the earlier children learn what they see (in Movies, TV, News and Porn) is not what should be idealized, romanticized or expected.

  36. …its time for a change…

    As a college student re-reading SPEAK I think that it is so important, (especially because of the maturity level of a lot of young teens nowadays), that a book like SPEAK be incorporated and embraced in the adolescent English curriculum. Reading about Melinda can serve as a warning to so many teens out there, and can really have a huge impact on their lives. By trying to ban a book like this from schools, deeming it as “too much” for the students, would be the same as turning a blind eye; because whether we want to believe it or not, this is the reality for so many teens out there today. Sometimes reading a book that really hits home can suddenly spark one’s interest in reading all together!
    So I think no matter how you look at it, the benefits of using this book in the classroom will highly out way any of the opponent’s arguments. We have to put the students first, and in this case, this book can literally serve as a lifesaver to some…

  37. SPEAK was an assigned book in my college education class called Youth Literacies. To be honest, at first glance and reading through the first few pages I assumed this book would be the stereotypical laments of “nobody likes me, everybody hates me guess I’ll go eat worms” but it wasn’t at all. Granted that if I was aware early on that the protagonist was raped it would have set a clearer perspective; however, I do think that there was something to be gained from not revealing that information until later. Melinda was just an average child, according to the information at hand. Her experiences and thoughts, which were transferred quite well in terms of sentence structure and train of thought, gave the reader a lifeline with the book. We could relate to some, if not all of her experiences socially. The work has two distinct purposes, or rather two that became prominent in my mind. The first was a tale to encourage victims of violent acts, not just rape but all acts of abuse and violence, to SPEAK or the situation does not improve, i.e. the analogy of Melinda and the suffragette movement project. Secondly this book SPEAKs to all outcasts. The work is able to transcend any boundaries of gender or ethnicity. We can relate to Melinda and are able to draw wisdom from her experiences, which we can then apply in our own lives. Censoring a book simply because it raises the uncomfortable questions is absurd. Life is full of hard questions, tough choices and obscene events. Sticking our children’s heads in the sand does only on thing: it makes them a target.

  38. Support for Teaching Speak

    I am not a teacher, nor am I a student teacher; I am a student studying to BECOME a teacher and this semester part of my curriculum is to read “Speak.” I had only ever seen the movie adaptation previously, and while I thought the movie was very well done, the book is simply extraordinary.

    “Speak” is the story of a young girl dealing with the aftermath of her rape in the only way she knows how. Going into the novel I knew that it was about a young girl who had been raped by a fellow student. What I didn’t know was that it’s a magnificent and rather accurate portrayal of high school mentalities, social structure, and teacher-student relations (even if most of the above are never truly admitted to). “Speak” is the story of a young girl dealing with the loss of her friends, her complete and utter social alienation, her first year of high school, and her predominantly useless and ambivalent educators in the best way she can.

    As a former freshman social outcast I believe that “Speak” is an incredibly accurate portrayal of not only the goings-on of a High School, but also of the inner thought-process of a high schooler and her thoughts about everything around her. As a future teacher I believe that this should be mandatory reading for every educator (meaning everyone who currently works in a school) and everyone planning on doing so in the future.

    As for the censorship and the banning of this book, I think it is simply ridiculous. I agree with HEATHERBIRD when she said that are much more graphic images, stories, and descriptions on Law & Order: SVU than there are in this book. The nightly news has more descriptive and disturbing stories than the descriptions in this book. Yes, “Speak” revolves around a rape, but it describes the facts, the results, and the emotions involved in it. How can any self-respecting educator, parent, or school-board member censor a book that is all about finding a voice to express your emotions? How can anyone dare to suggest that such a book be banned when “Speak” is all about the struggle to find one’s composure and inner strength in the face of tragedy? How can anyone claim to want to help their children or their students when all they are really doing is silencing the voices of the weak?

    THAT is not what teaching is about and that is not what parenting is about. It’s about loving and nurturing the child before you; it’s about caring and helping, and above all, LISTENING.

    I can’t tell you how I teach the book, because I don’t teach yet. But hopefully, I’ve told you how I read it.

    Good luck.

  39. Speak in the classroom

    I also had to read your book for a class in Graduate School. I was incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I wont lie that I’m the type that is usually skeptical about reading Young Adult books, but I have never read anything that truly captured the problems that are present in adolescents today. From topics as terrible as rape, to just being a outcast in a scary world. It’s hard for students to realize that they aren’t always alone, and this book does a great job at reaching out to those students. Since reading this book (also in one day I might add), I have already recommended it to quite a few people. As for banning this, or any, book in the school system, these are all topics students will learn about, whether its in school or outside of it, and having a book such as Speak to help explain some of the tougher issues they could be faced with is fantastic. I can honestly say this is one of the better stories I have read in a long time. I also had to read your book for a class in Graduate School. I was incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I wont lie that I’m the type that is usually skeptical about reading Young Adult books, but I have never read anything that truly captured the problems that are present in adolescents today. From topics as terrible as rape, to just being a outcast in a scary world. It’s hard for students to realize that they aren’t always alone, and this book does a great job at reaching out to those students. Since reading this book (also in one day I might add), I have already recommended it to quite a few people. As for banning this, or any, book in the school system, these are all topics students will learn about, whether its in school or outside of it, and having a book such as Speak to help explain some of the tougher issues they could be faced with is fantastic. I can honestly say this is one of the better stories I have read in a long time.

  40. I am a member of the same class that the person above me is in. I read Speak when I was in high school (it wasn’t assigned to me, it was just leisurely reading) and I loved it because it wasn’t an unrealistic depiction of teenage life like most YA fiction is. When I was assigned Speak for this particular class, I re-read it from the perspective of a future teacher. I can only think of the positive outcomes a book like this can create. It speaks (no pun intended) volumes about so many important issues that teenagers go through. To be completely honest, I don’t even see why anyone would consider banning Speak. Just because there is the touchy subject of rape, there are no unnecessarily graphic depictions and there is certainly nothing more violent or inappropriate than anything that occurs in Macbeth or The Crucible. When I do become a teacher, if I have any say in what I get to teach, I would absolutely choose Speak as part of my curriculum.
    I hope that by now the issue in Detroit is solved!
    -Rebecca Weinberg
    Adelphi University
    Garden City, NY

  41. A Queen’s Girls Persepective. . . .

    There are different events in my life in which I wish I would have had someone to turn to who I knew experienced or a book to read which let me know that I wasn’t alone. I personally have never experienced rape or sexual assault, but I know that in every woman’s circle of friends there is someone who falls into this category. Sex is part of life and it is part of our culture. I understand everyone has their own preferences and their wishes in regards to when they would like their children exposed and to what extent but – we cannot deny that these things happen. Parent’s cannot protect their children forever and I feel like they wouldn’t need to protect them so much if they allowed their children to explore life and interact with others as opposed to staying segregated in their own little bubble. I live in Queens – one of the most diverse parts of New York. I was ALWAYS encouraged and exposed to many different types of life experiences and people and I feel it helped me to become the person I am today. I went to an all girls catholic school in Queens which was VERY conservative and shockingly enough Speak was part of our English curriculum. Reading this blog, I stop and think to myself why? And then I get a headache because none of it makes sense. This book serves as a wake up call and could be very useful in educating young women about various dangers out there. One of my peer’s commented in their blog post the following: “By trying to ban a book like this from schools, deeming it as “too much” for the students, would be the same as turning a blind eye; because whether we want to believe it or not, this is the reality for so many teens out there today.” (I couldn’t agree more!) Adults – and that includes parents and school administrators – need to wake up and realize we aren’t living in 1950 anymore. Times have drastically changed and no matter which way you cut it, IT IS SO VERY IMPORTAINT to educate our young women and provide them with the tools necessary to live a life which is beneficial and prosperous. I myself have a very big mouth, I voice my opinion at all times no matter what, and I know that as I enter into the teaching field I will need to learn to curb that – but I personally cry inside at the thought of censorship. It is my hope that schools who have banned the book Speak have students who are determined enough and intelligent enough to read it on their own.

  42. A Queens Girls Perspective. . .

    There are different events in my life in which I wish I would have had someone to turn to who I knew experienced or a book to read which let me know that I wasn’t alone. I personally have never experienced rape or sexual assault, but I know that in every woman’s circle of friends there is someone who falls into this category. Sex is part of life and it is part of our culture. I understand everyone has their own preferences and their wishes in regards to when they would like their children exposed and to what extent but – we cannot deny that these things happen. Parent’s cannot protect their children forever and I feel like they wouldn’t need to protect them so much if they allowed their children to explore life and interact with others as opposed to staying segregated in their own little bubble. I live in Queens – one of the most diverse parts of New York. I was ALWAYS encouraged and exposed to many different types of life experiences and people and I feel it helped me to become the person I am today. I went to an all girls catholic school in Queens which was VERY conservative and shockingly enough Speak was part of our English curriculum. Reading this blog, I stop and think to myself why? And then I get a headache because none of it makes sense. This book serves as a wake up call and could be very useful in educating young women about various dangers out there. One of my peer’s commented in their blog post the following: “By trying to ban a book like this from schools, deeming it as “too much” for the students, would be the same as turning a blind eye; because whether we want to believe it or not, this is the reality for so many teens out there today.” (I couldn’t agree more!) Adults – and that includes parents and school administrators – need to wake up and realize we aren’t living in 1950 anymore. Times have drastically changed and no matter which way you cut it, IT IS SO VERY IMPORTAINT to educate our young women and provide them with the tools necessary to live a life which is beneficial and prosperous. I myself have a very big mouth, I voice my opinion at all times no matter what, and I know that as I enter into the teaching field I will need to learn to curb that – but I personally cry inside at the thought of censorship. It is my hope that schools who have banned the book Speak have students who are determined enough and intelligent enough to read it on their own.

  43. Speak

    The book was fantastic. It opens people’s eyes to reality. This isn’t something that someone made up just to create a good story to tell, this actually happens everywhere. I loved the book and everything in it. Im only 15 years old and it did a lot of good for me.

    I cant wait to read more of your books.

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