Autumn, with the smell of book banning in the air

(Yes, I know this is a long post. With no pictures. It’s important. Please read through to the end. And then pass it on.)

While I was out of town last week, I received word of three attempts to remove two of my books from high school classrooms, TWISTED and SPEAK.

The challenge I have the least information on is apparently taking place at Downingtown West High School in Downingtown, PA. TWISTED is on the 9th grade summer reading list there. Some parents object to the book because of the description of sexual behavior in it. UPDATE: I just received a note saying the parents in Downingtown and the teacher were able to work through the issues. Yay for the good and reasonable people of Downingtown!

The second TWISTED challenge is taking place this week at Montgomery High School in Mt. Sterling, KY. A parent there feels the book is inappropriate.

Here is a quote from the draft of the letter I am sending to the Mt. Sterling superintendent:

"I suspect the roots of the parental concern about TWISTED are the scenes in which teenagers make stupid, dangerous, and occasionally horrifying decisions.

Why on earth would someone like me put things like that in a book?

Because readers who can experience those decisions – by reading about them – and appreciate the consequences of those actions – by seeing those consequences affect the lives of a book’s characters – are less likely to do the stupid, dangerous and occasionally horrifying things themselves.

Jesus knew this. He did not simply reiterate the Ten Commandments, or tell us to love one another and walk back into the desert. He told stories that made His listeners think. They make us think two thousand years later.

Storytelling is the traditional vehicle mankind uses to pass wisdom from one generation to the next. TWISTED contains a lot of bad decisions, hard consequences, and wisdom.

In an addendum to this letter, you will find a listing of the state and national awards TWISTED has received. They were all very flattering, but none of them mean nearly as much to me as the email I get from readers. Here are a few quotes from them.

“I just wanted to say thank you for writing this book. I have been considering killing myself for many years and now i am entering my junior year of high school and about 10 minutes ago finished this book. It has given me a new perspective on life and that death isn’t the easy way out. I can relate to Tyler in many ways… I greatly appreciate this book because now I know that there is hope in my life and that death is not the answer. And one more thing this is the only book I have been able to pick up and not put down from start to finish. I finished it in one day.”

“… I read "Twisted" today. I started around 4, and I couldn’t stop, I finished at 9:40. This book, was so eerily similar to my life, not completely, because I haven’t done any "Foul Deeds" (haha), and I don’t have the same "Bethany" situation, but my father is so much like Tyler’s, it sounded like he was based off him. He yells about grades constantly, to the point of making my house unhappy. I’ve considered suicide before and told no one, just buried it. I know this sounds strange, but I connected to this book in a very strange way. I can’t explain it, I just did. I’ve never sat down and read a book cover to cover, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop… But, I mean, this sounds silly, but I just want to thank you for writing that book. I feel different now, I know it may not make perfect sense, but this book changed part of me. So, thank you.”

 

"…Twisted really got to me. I’ve had 3 suicide attempts and the way you wrote the way he was feeling, and the hopelessness and complete unhappiness he had to deal with really hit home with me. You really nailed it… After finishing twisted I realized how much of a miracle life is, and how problems are only temporary. I could honestly bore you with a 3 page email explaining to you all I’ve learned and connected with from your writing. Basically I really appreciate and look up to you and your work."

 

 

Those emails, sir, are the reason I write hard, true, literary books for teenagers."

If you are looking to get a head start on observing Banned Books Week, feel free to write to the schools involoved with these challenges. PLEASE, I BEG YOU: be civilized and polite!! Our country is suffering an influenza of rudeness. Calling names and heaping scorn does not further discussions or change attitudes. It just builds the barricades higher.

If you have personal experience with TWISTED, as a reader, a parent, an educator, or a librarian, please share those experiences (in a positive, constructive way) with these people


MONTGOMERY HIGH SCHOOL, MT. STERLING, KY

Tammy Haydon
Review Committee chair
tammy.haydon@montgomery.kyschools.us

Dr. Daniel Freeman
Superintendent of Montgomery County Schools
daniel.freeman@montgomery.kyschool.us

Please also remember to send prayers and support to the teachers forced to deal with these challenges. Being a teacher is one of the most important, and one of the hardest jobs in the world. Having your professional integrity called out by an attempt to ban books in your classroom is a devastating attack. My heart goes out to all of the students, teachers, staff, and community members who are standing up to the attempts of a vocal minority to impose their will and their taste in literature upon an entire school.

In the Good News column, SPEAK has survived a book banning attempt in Temecula, CA. The complaining parent in Temecula said SPEAK was "smutty" and "pornographic." The LA Times newspaper did a great job covering the controversy; it published an article about the background of the challenge, and another one after the school board voted to keep the book in curriculum.

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the National Coalition against Censorship have joined forces to create the Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP). It is a brilliant, powerful, and much-appreciated collaboration. KRRP wrote to the Temecula Valley Unified School District to protest the attempt to ban SPEAK.

I love the KRRP letter.

I used to get really angry atthese things because I felt they were a personal attack on me. Then I grew up.

Now I get angry because book banning is bad for my country. It is an attack on the Constitution and about the core ideals of America. It is the tool of people who want to control and manipulate our children.


Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1953 that the “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”

What do you think? What are you doing to prevent book banning?

52 Replies to “Autumn, with the smell of book banning in the air”

  1. I’m so glad Speak was able to remain in schools, and I pray that the same will go for Twisted.
    I definitely don’t agree with book banning because, as you said so well, we’re able to learn from what we read. Whether or not we agree with a character’s decisions is beside the point.
    I’m a huge fan of your work, and I can honestly say it’s affected me a lot as a writer and as a human being. I’ve learned a lot by reading your books, and I hope that other young teens will have the opportunity to continue to do so.

  2. I so don’t believe in censoring books for teens especially ones that speak to the issues that our kids are facing on a daily basis. I read tons of books as a teen about realistic issues and it helped me to think about stuff that I didn’t feel I could speak with my parents about and probably helped me avoid some things because I had an understanding of the consequences of those actions. Those banning and challenging books should actually look at TV, movies, and other places that are actually “glamourizing” many of the things that good YA fiction is actually presenting in a gritty and real way. Speak out about that rather than books that are well written. Good luck with your letter to the Supt. I will be spending next week talking about challenged books with my students.

  3. Laurie! Ellen Hopkins was going to visit a middle school in Norman, Oklahoma today, but her visit was cancelled because a parent questioned the content of GLASS. There was a blurb on the front page of the Daily Oklahoman and the article was on the front page of “Local News”. How ironic that it happened this week.

  4. Hello.

    A couple of weeks ago I spoke to my friend about discussing my previous self-harm with her 14 year old son after he had asked about a scar. When voicing my concerns she replied – “Sometimes there are storms that shake the boat. Is it better to hide in the cabin, wrapped in blankets, or to put on a life-jacket and be told about nautical safety?”

    Teenagers are smart enough to deal with these these topics and they are also smart enough to not just blindly emulate the choices made by fictional characters. Books should not be banned, if they are then how are we supposed to begin to experience those things outside of ourselves.

    Regarding fighting the book banning, treated those who wish to ban books with respect and asking them to consider the damage banning it would do. Also encouraging kids like this http://boingboing.net/2009/05/24/kid-keeping-a-lendin.html who I think is an absolute hero.

    Scott

    1. “Sometimes there are storms that shake the boat. Is it better to hide in the cabin, wrapped in blankets, or to put on a life-jacket and be told about nautical safety?”

      That’s brilliant, and I’m sure you were able to speak to your friend’s son in a way that made him far more informed and compassionate about the subject than many of his classmates.

      About the boingboing post with the kid with a locker full of banned books, though, the replies to it are quite funny and worth checking out, but by posts #125, #144, and #147 it’s obvious that the story is just that – a story by a writer.

  5. I went to a rival high school about 20 minutes from DTW. I’m in awe that anyone would ban any of your books – the plots and characters are so well written that you could have been following around a real person. You don’t add frills and stupid things to your stories; they could have all really happened. are these people saying they think the lives of some people (maybe even their own students) aren’t good enough? this is ridiculous.

    1. Sorry, I know this is a totally inappropriate comment in this context– but I LURVE your YoBling icon.

      (And, of course, I agree with your comment to Laurie 1000%)

  6. I’m surprised that Twisted has made it into the classroom so soon. I thought there was some kind of unwritten rule that English books have to be stuffy and from a previous era. (Then again, Speak defied that too, didn’t it? I was so jealous when I found out as a senior that incoming freshman in my school were required to read that. I would’ve had that test freaking NAILED. Who else has read the required book over twenty times prior to the class?!)

    Any form of censorship is a dangerous tightrope to walk. I’m not satisfied with the “everything is ok to say or nothing is” rule, because I think some people abuse it to say disgusting, cruel things while jauntily proclaiming their part in the free speech movement. And I know there will be novelists who abuse that too. I personally wouldn’t want to see Wintergirls on the required reading list for any high school. It was amazing (I recently lent it out to my best friend in the hopes that she can connect to one of her friends struggling with bulimia), but it was also bleak and probably the closest thing to horror that you’ve written so far. So where does that line get drawn? I think the issue is not with your books, but with the whole “slippery slope” argument that allowing a book with rape/suicidal kids will lead to more and more graphic things. But I don’t know, didn’t a whole group of grade-school kids murder their friend by rolling a huge rock onto his head in Lord of the Flies? Yeah. Good luck.

    1. I personally wouldn’t want to see Wintergirls on the required reading list for any high school. It was amazing (I recently lent it out to my best friend in the hopes that she can connect to one of her friends struggling with bulimia), but it was also bleak and probably the closest thing to horror that you’ve written so far.

      Was bleak really the only thing you got from Wintergirls? I find it amazing that a story of a girl so lost in her disease and so self-loathing can find hope at the end. Like Melinda in Speak helped me realize that I was strong enough to get through my struggles when I was a teen, I imagine that the heroine in Wintergirls could do the same for many teens, and not just those with eating disorders.

      I’m not sure if I would choose Wintergirls for required school reading, but I wouldn’t object if I saw it there, and it would absolutely be on my list of recommended school reading. Could Wintergirls lead to girls actually emulating the behavior in the book to further their EDs? Sure, and there have already been articles written about that danger. But those girls would have sought out that information elsewhere, and maybe by reading something like Wintergirls, they can find a way out.

      1. You can also find out how to make a bomb on the Internet, but I wouldn’t put a book on teenage domestic terrorists in the curriculum because sooner or later the students will Google search pipe bombs anyway. (This sounds extreme, I know, but you get my point don’t you?)

        We’re just gonna have to agree to disagree on this one.

  7. If there is a line for banning books in schools, I haven’t much of a clue where that line lies.

    Aside from To Kill A Mockingbird (also banned some places!) SPEAK is my all time favorite. 8th grade WAS the year I got really, really, depressed. The book was on the shelf in my 8th grade classroom, maybe 12 of them. We never read them as a class officially, but they were there to read all the same. It breaks my heart when this happens. For you, for all the kids like I was (and, am). Like those letters, some havent even read a whole book willingly before until yours came along. Now that I’m in college, I have to say that I relate to WINTERGIRLS. But it also horrified me so much, so wonderfully much, that I just want to eat healthfully. There are benefits and downfalls to every book and lesson, but I think it should be the choice of the reader to determine that. Flip through, read a page or five, read the back.

    As for what I do, I wear my Banned Book bracelet, send in my old high school paper or banned books to my local paper, and read.

  8. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts here, Laurie. This will be a great source to point people to now and in the future. My fingers are crossed for both of our books (and any other YA’s getting challenged) in Kentucky and everywhere else.

    Jo

  9. Laurie
    It’s a shame that a good bulk of your time this week will be spent on this instead of working on your next book. A book that will no doubt enlighten and entertain a majority of your fans (and no doubt anger a few parents)

    I imagine that this constant fight has always been going on.

    There were probably a few angry parents, back when the only form of entertainment was when the town gathered in front of a big campfire on weekends, who went up to the town elders demanding that one of the storytellers be banned from future campfires, because THEY didn’t like his or her story !
    Frank Zubek

  10. Quick Comment

    “…It is the tool of people who want to control and manipulate our children.”

    I disagree with your statement here, Laurie. People who ban books from schools are often well-intentioned people who sincerely want to protect children, not control them. They ban books out of fear, mostly. They need the education and reassurance that information like your letter can provide.

    1. Re: Quick Comment

      I think I can meet you halfway on this one. I have talked with and corresponded with many people trying to ban my books over the years. I have also dealt with hard-core coordinated efforts by conservative movements who comb through YA books and post the numbers of the pages where they found offensive words.

      I have found a number of folks who try to ban books are indeed well-intentioned people who love their children and are afraid of the world we live in. I completely sympathize with that position because I share it.

      Sadly, I have found that many of these folks have been manipulated by organizations who seek to use the real concern of these parents to further their own political agenda. The people who run these organizations scare me.

      Some people who request to have books removed from schools do so for exactly the reason you cite – they are afraid. I have never argued with anyone’s right and responsibility as a parent to oversee the kind of material their children are exposed to. I applaud parents who care enough about their children to stay on top of things.

      But they lose me when they try to dictate what books should be read by other people’s children. Do they get to decide which math problems my child can do? Which wars to focus on in Social Studies? What about the science curriculum?

      Public education in American communities is steered by professional educators with oversight by local politicians. Public education has a mandate to reach out to all students, from all kinds of families and diverse backgrounds, needs, and abilities. If one parent in a school district, or a small group of parents is allowed to drive curriculum, that mandate is violated.

      Thanks for posting your disagreement. I completely agree with you that what is needed – for all of us, including me – is more education and discussion.

      1. Re: Quick Comment

        Thanks, anonymous, for bringing that up – I, too, thought it was the one off-key note of Laurie’s post. And thanks, Laurie, for explaining your position above with such depth, balance, and understanding of the issues involved. There’s definitely a difference between the parent who doesn’t want their child exposed to subjects they feel their children aren’t ready for, and those whose aim is to make public schools follow their own religious or political agenda.

  11. A parent in our district in Phoenix tried to have “Bless Me Ultima” banned last year because it used Spanish curse words. Guess they don’t realize their teen probably sees, hears, and says worse things on a daily basis.

    I proudly offer all of your books in my classroom as extracurricular reading. Do my kids take advantage of it?– no, not generally. We’re raising a generation of plugged in and totally tuned out kids (at least at the high school where I teach) but they’re available for any kid who wants them. I recommend your books to anyone having trouble adjusting, especially the freshmen.

    Keep fihting the good fight, Laurie. And keep writing. “Speak” is powerful and “Wintergirls” is stunning beyond belief. Of all of your books, these are the ones that most resonate with me and I’ll continue to re-read them with enjoyment.

  12. Thank you for this post! And for your hugely important story-telling.

    I sent the following email to the KY contacts (I only sign off with “Dr.” when I’m writing to people I’m mad at):

    Dear Ms. Haydon and Mr. Freeman,

    With teen depression and suicide a huge societal problem, how can we keep books like Twisted out of the hands of teenagers who might be helped out of their isolation by reading such a book?

    Has your life ever been changed by reading a book?

    Laurie Halse Anderson is writing life-changing books for teenagers.

    You are living in a dream world if you think denying books with real world problems in them are going to help students avoid those real world problems. It’s quite the opposite. You deny them tools that would help them find healing.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Florence Gardner
    Greenville, SC

    This was my favorite paragraph out of the KRRP letter and should be repeated at every opportunity:

    “The task of selecting school materials properly belongs to professional librarians and educators. Parents may be equipped to make choices for their own children, but, no matter how well-intentioned, they simply are not equipped to make decisions for others. Without questioning the sincerity of the parent who objects to the book, her views are not shared by all, and she has no right to impose those views on others or to demand that the curriculum reflect her personal preferences. Furthermore, the practical effect of acceding to any request to restrict access to materials will be to invite others to demand changes to reflect their beliefs and to leave school officials vulnerable to multiple, possibly conflicting, demands.”

  13. Laurie, I will be reading from Twisted in OCPL’s Banned Books Readathon as a show of support for you and all other YA writers who are battling school districts and parents who are so caught up in their narrow-minded “morality” that they cannot recognize the enormous value of your books to teens and adults alike. Keep fighting the good fight!

  14. I’ve always been a fan of the argument John Green set forth in one of the vlogbrothers videos after there was a push to ban his book from a school due to its containing “pornography” (which is, of course, as ridiculous as saying that there is smut in Speak):
    “Hank, it doesn’t take a deeply critical understanding of literature to understand that Looking For Alaska is arguing against vapid physical interactions, not for them. Now, Hank, some people are going to say that kids don’t have the critical sophistication when they’re reading to understand that, and I have a message for those people:
    Shut up and stop condescending to teenagers. Do you seriously think that teenagers aren’t able to think critically? When they read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, do they head out to the pig farms to kill all the pigs because they’re about to become communist autocrats? When they read Huck Finn, do they think Huck should turn Jim in because the demented conscience of the community says so?”

    I just have to say thank you for writing books with darker, weightier subjects. When I was younger, I appreciated those books a lot more than the ones that were “safe” for me to read. It felt like the author was trusting me with something important, and when kids get that feeling they tend to listen to the message more intently, let it stick. They don’t go out and copy the characters’ behaviors, because they have seen the consequences. They learn from the lives of others, albeit that those others are fictional constructs.

    I read banned books. I discuss banned books. And, because I have younger cousins who look up to me as a role model, I recommend books, banned or not, that I think have something important to say. If they want to read the book and have difficulties getting it, I try to make sure that they have access to a copy.

  15. Laurie, I think it’s wonderful that you make the effort to reach out to the communities who attempt to ban your books and make a case for them to remain in schools and libraries. I live in a fairly liberal area that doesn’t seem to experience ban attempts often, if at all, so it’s always been a kind of bizarre idea to me, but I think it’s so important that books like yours, about real, tough situations for teens, stay available to teens. I work in a bookstore and recommend your books whenever possible, and I often refer to Speak as “the book that helped me survive high school”. At a time in my life when I felt utterly alone and helpless, I was able to find solace and comfort in Melinda’s story, and that made all the difference to me.

  16. Book Banning

    I am so glad Speak survived the banning! It is my favorite book of all time (which is saying something because I have a lot of favorite books) and it would have sincerely sucked if high school students were deprived of it.

    I hope Twisted survives!

  17. Restricting what kids read is showing your distrust of them

    Thank you for writing this, Laurie. When people try to ban books, it makes it hard not only for authors, but also for librarians and teachers and other people who try to help kids find books that will speak to them. I agree with the person who made the comment that probably most people do it out of some well-intentioned, though misguided effort to protect kids. I have never been one for censoring anything for my own kids–ever since my oldest was little and we always skipped the page in Babar when Babar’s mother gets killed. That bit us in the you know what when a babysitter read that page to him, and he was devastated. Not so much by the mother’s death, but by the fact that we had “banned” that page from him. He couldn’t trust us because we had not trusted him. And he was about three years old! All kids–from little ones to teenagers are perfectly capable of reading books and filtering out what they don’t want to read and of dealing with what disturbs them. In fact, it is much easier with a book than with a TV show or movie–visuals can be much more harmful. And yet look at all that is on TV. O.K. sorry, my comment is getting almost as long as your post!
    One more thing (always!): I am glad you asked people to be polite. I think the most important thing for people on opposing sides of an issue, whether it be this one, or science and religion, or abortion, is to REALLY LISTEN to what other people have to say. In fact, that’s what we teach kids when we let them read whatever they want.

  18. Banned Books in the Air

    Laurie,

    Guess you and I were thinking along the same lines. This is a piece I did for School Library Journal’s Extra Helpings TODAY. I didn’t reach out to you for the piece because I knew you were on vacay last week. I asked the news editor to add a link to your blog post.
    Good seeing you at the Brooklyn Book Festival

    http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6698028.html?&rid=#reg_visitor_id%23&source=title

    Rocco Staino
    Contributing Editor
    School Library Journal

  19. Censorship

    As a member of the Standing Committee Against Censorship of the National Council of Teachers of English, I want all readers to know that NCTE is poised to help when attacked. Go to http://www.ncte.org and search “censorship,” intellectual freedom” and “rationales for challenged books” for a plethora of information.

    Joan Kaywell

  20. I just replaced our paperback copy of “Speak” with a new hardcover. We now have three copies of “Speak” at my library, none are on the shelf right now.

    In the past two years, the copy I have replaced has been checked out twenty-nine times and renewed seven. The cover is literally falling off. Pages are held precariously together by tape. The pages are yellowed where fingers have held them.

    A teen saw it on my desk and already claimed it before it went to our book sale. She said that the book changed her life. That it allowed her to finally speak…and to heal.

    What would her life be like if someone’s parent had challenged the book and sought to remove it from my library’s shelf?

    (I’m sad that I don’t have a “Twisted” story to share along with this one. I know that story exists in my library. I suspect that I will hear that teen’s story in time.)

  21. I’m sending my support, Laurie. I hope all readers will continue to experience life through your books. The only “inappropriate” word/act I see in all of this is “censorship”.

  22. Firstly, thank you for giving me an idea for my senior seminar semester long research project. It will be interesting to study the history and ramifications of banning books.

    Secondly, a good number of the students will go on to college where there is no banning of books. They will be exposed to more explicit books than what had previously been banned in high school. By being exposed to books with challenging material prepares them for college.

    Thirdly, Books can be so many things, simply an entertainment that brings enjoyment, but most importantly they can act as mirrors of society and self. Sometimes what we see in the mirror isn’t pretty but it is better to face that, to come to terms with it, to understand that. And as your letters from readers so eloquently point out seeing these reflections can help them heal.

    (I found it interesting that one of the board members of Temecula school board thought it could be painful for victims of rape to read Speak. But I have observed from various discussion boards and letters you have shared Speak has helped open a dialogue, allowed victims understand their own reactions, and in some cases been a solace.)

  23. I think that banning a book is very dis-respectful. Like you posted, people feel different when they read your books! Speak is a amazing book & I am glad it did not get banned, we are currently reading Speak in school (I have read it three times) and we all think the book is very great, no book should be banned because they mean something to someone. -Ashtin F.

  24. I finished reading Twisted approximately two minutes ago. It is without a doubt the bravest piece of young adult fiction I have ever read.

    I read Speak when I was in junior high, and it changed the way I felt about fiction for teenagers, as it did for many of its readers. Now I’m older and no longer in the target age range for the books, but it is clear that Twisted is an important book in the genre, perhaps a vital one, just like Speak is.

    Anyone who would want to ban books like Speak or Twisted in order to protect their children obviously does not know enough about them, the way that they think, or their experiences. I am going to make sure that my younger sister reads both of the books (along with your others, which I love just as well). One day, I want my children to read them as well. If my junior high school (or high school) had assigned your books as required reading instead of the ones they did, I’m certain they would have had a lot more interested and engaged students.

  25. Pornographic and smutty?? Have they even read it? I think the second best part of Speak is how you handled the rape (the best is Melinda’s sense of humor).

    Speak is one of my favorite books. Thank you for writing it.

  26. Laurie,
    Your passion against book banning and censorship inspired me to write my research report on these topics last year. I would walk away from my research everyday angered by the articles I had read. Now, the posters advertising Banned Books Week in my high school’s media center make me smile.
    On an unrelated note, the letters from readers of TWISTED brought me back to your panel at the International Reading Association Conference in May. I heard your voice in my head as I was reading them. Thank you for unintentionally bringing back this wonderful memory.
    Bridgette
    Sister of the Book Shirt

  27. Banned Books

    How do you prevent book banning? You talk, read, listen, argue, and remain a passionate truth-teller in the face of ignorance because you KNOW that what you have to say is important and that many teens have only your words as an outlet for the horrors (both every day and catastrophic) that they unfortunately experience on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

    And, you writewritewrite because teacher like me need books like yours if I’m ever to do my job in reaching out to disengaged youth!

  28. I am happy to hear Speak is staying in schools. I read a lot of books during my high school career but Speak was the only one which had such a strong impact on me. I didn’t read it in my English class but I was recommended to by a teacher. I think it really helped me with my own life and things going on at the time. I hope it stays on the list forever. It’s truly an amazing book with such a strong message in it. So good luck with all of this, and I hope people can open their eyes and understand that even though Speak and Twisted aren’t sugar coated, happy go lucky books, they are the ones that may have a huge impact on teenagers and they can relate to the stories.

  29. I love the Supreme Court Justice quote.

    Last year the Canadian “Freedom to Read” website listed bannings down through the ages. One of the most ludicrous had to be the County of London when it banned the Peter Rabbit books, saying that the books “only depicted middle-class rabbits.” I still laugh over that one. But really? Book-banning is never truly funny. I write about it every year in my library column during “Freedom to Read” week. I think I’ll bookmark this post and refer back to it in January when it’s time to write another column.

  30. I went to Montgomery County High School. I wish I could say this surprised me, when honestly I’m just surprised that book got into the school in the first place. I had Mrs. Haydon back when she taught AP Lit, and I sent her an e-mail. I’m in the process of sending a rather different e-mail to Dr. Freeman. I think, and I’m not sure on this, but I think that you will have Mrs. Haydon’s support, and I know you will have the support of several influential teachers there, because I’ve talked to them about this already. Good luck, I’m doing all I can (and at this point, it might well include trucking a bunch of friends home from college and setting up a protest)

  31. I remember when my sister read Speak (for her own leisure) in middle school, how much it effected her and her perception of things. We had a small incident because the teacher/principal hadn’t felt it was appropriate reading material and that was a fight I didn’t enjoy too much (partly because, at the time, I hadn’t read Speak myself, so I was fighting with half an arsenal so to speak).

    I’m posting a link to this on my Banned Books Week Links post!

  32. I’m so thankful for Speak. In 7th grade I WAS Melinda. It was before Speak was even written, and I only read it for the first time this January (so definitely not as a teenager), but the book was life-changing for me. After all these years, for the first time I read what was virtually someone else’s description of 13-year-old me. 2008-2009 were full of painful coincidences in my life, and how they reminded me of the past was really hard mentally and emotionally. Speak was what grounded me.

    And if someone finds Speak’s description of rape (or ANY description of rape, especially when it so clearly takes the trauma into account) pornographic (= sexual and arousing), then something is wrong with that person, not with the description.

  33. THANK YOU, LAURIE!

    Shoot I just finished Chains and have a few books out, but I must NOW read Twisted, so I can participate. It’s scary how people would withold books and discussions with their children (actually with EVERYONE’S children). Books literally saved my life as a kid, whether it were vicarious lives in far away, far-timed places, or just the knowledge to get out of my own hell-hole dug soul. Do they actually think that by not thinking or talking about these things, their children will be “safe”?

  34. And there’s the other kind of book banning, not buying it in the first place. Almost half of librarians surveyed by SLJ said that LGBT content would make them NOT buy a YA book for their collection.

  35. Book Banning

    Laurie,
    I am so sorry you are having to defend the value of your books. Your writing is exceptional. In the past few months I’ve read almost everything you have written. I found a MG at the library that I haven’t read yet. Your voice truly connects with teens. My 13 years old class had Twisted and Speak on their English reading list. I look forward to your next book to be published. I hope that my YA turns out half as good as yours.

  36. banned book week

    Today, I pulled a LOT of books off my bookshelves at school that have been challenged or banned at other schools. I didn’t pull them because I don’t want kids to read them. I pulled them so I could take them to morning assembly and highlight the fact that our school celebrates intellectual freedom. Speak, Higher Power of Lucky, Harry Potter, Looking for Alaska, Twisted, Twilight, The Golden Compass. WHOA. These are DANGEROUS books…I applaud your efforts to fight the good fight and to write what kids want, and often NEED to read.

  37. Hometown

    I am actually a graduate of Montgomery County High School. I go to college out of state now and I was devestated that my hometown would consider banning books. Even though I have not read any of the books being considered for the ban, I want you to know that I and my classmates are trying to fight this ban as much as we can. We are all very successful students and a product of the Montgomery County educational system, the system that did not monitor the materials students could read. Hopefully, we will be successful in our plight to prevent these books from being banned. We are being very respectful and appealing to the idea that banning books ignores the basic right of students to read any book that they choose to read.

  38. Awesome revision tip thank you!!! And Skype visits are just so cool and amazing on principle! That is so neat that you are finding ways to reach out! <3

  39. best wishes

    I hate that this is an issue at all and I certainly hope that everything works out for the best. I only recently read Speak for an Adolescent Literature class and I wish it had been around when I was in high school. Thank you for reminding me what that age can feel like.

  40. Speak – Ban it – No way!

    I recently read Speak because it is required reading in a teaching class I am taking. Being an avid reader, I am almost embarrassed to say that I had never heard of the book prior to this. I enjoyed the book from the moment I started reading it. I appreciate how the story is told from the “true perspective” of a teenage girl. I deem this to be true because throughout the book, I find myself thinking, “well all you had to do was say this or do that” and problem solved. Then I remind myself that I am delving into the mind of a teenage girl who has gone through a traumatic experience which causes me to appreciate the honesty in the book.

    I have an almost 13-year-old daughter and I find that talking to her sometimes is like talking to an alien. Her thought process sometimes seems so far reaching to me and vastly different than it was just a year ago. I am definitely passing this book on to her, since she still loves to read (thank God!). I was surprised to read that parents would actually want to ban a book like this in this age of teenage rebellion, peer pressure, technology, etc. where it is so important that our children are well informed about choices and consequences and how to deal with them effectively.

    Children are exposed to so much when they are out of the reach of their parents (suggestive music and lyrics, peer pressure, other children who are products of poor upbringing, etc.) that it seems a constructive literary tool that can “speak” directly to the teenage mind would be encouraged.

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