The Power Of Speaking Loudly

When I sat down on Sunday morning to write my blog post about the book banning  in Republic, MO, I had no idea what I started.

You – my readers – changed the world this week.

It started when Paul Hankins, an English teacher in Indiana, started a dedicated Twitter feed, #speakloudly, to spread the word about the banning.  The word spread quickly and it became one of the most Tweeted topics of the weekend.

EVERYONE spoke loudly. Thousands of people linked to my post and recommended it on Facebook and on their own blogs. One social media expert said that based on the Facebook recommendations alone, he estimated that 350,000 heard about the banning.

Then resyndicated by blog. Huffington post wrote about it. Twice. So did

As if all of that weren’t astounding enough, many readers posted their own stories about being silenced, about being sexually assaulted, about speaking up, about being a Christian tired of seeing other Christians invoking the Bible as justification for censorship, and about how Speak changed their lives.

The Reclusive Bibliophile has compiled a list of some of these posts. Want to feel better about the state of the world? Read a couple of them. There is even one for Spanish speakers. And Swedish.

If I said “thank you” every minute for the next hundred years of my life, it would not be enough gratitude for this outpouring of support and for your loud defense of the freedom to read, to think, and to speak up. I will hold that gratitude in my heart forever. And probably burst into tears whenever I meet one of you. (Please bring Kleenex if you’re coming to hear me speak on my next tour.)

(For the record, as all of this has been happening, I’ve been traveling for meetings and a bookseller trade show. Thank goodness for wireless connections!!)

Here is the latest from Republic, MO.

The local newspaper ran an article in which Scroggins, the book banner, claimed he never called the challenged books “pornography.” This, despite the fact that he clearly did in both his editorial and his original complaint to the school board.

The newspaper also ran my editorial, in which I set the record straight about Speak, and Sarah Ockler’s editorial, in which she defended her book, Twenty Boy Summer, and said some very smart things about the freedom to read. AND the editors of the newspaper ran a wonderful editorial encouraging their readers to use this kerfuffle as a teachable moment for their community. I am sending twenty copies of each of the challenged books to the libraries down there.

I feel bad that I have not been able to spend more time advocating for Twenty Boy Summer and Sarah Ockler. Sorry, Sarah!!! So let me do that now. Read Sarah’s blog and send her lots of love and huzzahs for defending our rights. And for writing great books. Sarah is running a contest on her blog. The winners get a Filthy Books Prize Pack, which includes copies of all three challenged books.

Kurt Vonnegut is not in a position to actively blog about this. But this essay will give you a sense of what he might say if he were with us today.

So it goes….

39 Replies to “The Power Of Speaking Loudly”

  1. I’ve been really proud to be a reader this week. The support and SPEAKING out has honored me that I’m a part of the same online community. So glad to see all the support!

  2. Laurie, you are a warrior and an advocate and a damn fine writer. Thank you for all you give to us: readers, librarians, teachers, humans. Love you!

  3. Behold the power of technology. But even better, behold the power of love. The love of reading. Thank you for being a voice that brought thousands of voices together. Thank you for sticking up for the voice of the author and books that have yet to be challenged/banned, past present and future. I hope this continues to circle the earth and encourages more of the masses to stand up for their rights and the rights of our children to read. Thank you Laurie!!!

  4. I’m with Jessie on the button. I would absolutely wear that (on my MWITF t-shirt 🙂 )!

    It makes a person a little gleeful to hear someone so wrong about something have to backpedal.

  5. The tidal wave of support over these last few days has definitely been inspiring.

    Thanks for the link to Kurt Vonnegut, and in return, thought you’d appreciate this excerpt from a guest column Stephen King wrote in in The Bangor Daily News. It’s from 1992, but just as true today.

    To the parents in these towns: There are people out there who are deciding what your kids can read, and they don’t care what you think because they are positive their ideas of what’s proper and what’s not are better, clearer than your own. Do you believe they are? Think carefully before you decide to accord the book-banners this right of cancellation, and remember that they don’t believe in democracy but rather in a kind of intellectual autocracy. If they are left to their own devices, a great deal of good literature may soon disappear from the shelves of school libraries simply because good books — books that make us think and feel – always generate controversy.

    To the other interested citizens of these towns: Please remember that book-banning is censorship, and that censorship in a free society is always a serious matter — even when it happens in a junior high, it is serious. A proposal to ban a book should always be given the gravest consideration. Book-banners, after all, insist that the entire community should see things their way, and only their way. When a book is banned, a whole set of thoughts is locked behind the assertion that there is only one valid set of values, one valid set of beliefs, one valid perception of the world. It’s a scary idea, especially in a society which has been built on the ideas of free choice and free thought.

    If there’s one American belief I hold above all others, it’s that those who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is “right” and what is “best” should be given no rest; that they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. No book, record, or film should be banned without a full airing of the issues. As a nation, we’ve been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn’t approve of them.

  6. Laurie,
    Speak changed my life. It taught me that the things that happen to you don’t have to define who you become, and the value of standing of for yourself and your self-worth. Speak helped enable me to be fearless and to truly #speakloudly!
    And on censorship, my parents never told me what to read growing up and I think my life worked out for the better because of it. Today, at 24, my reading interests are all over the map, I’d rather be told I’m smart than pretty, and my boyfriend “teases” me for using “big words”. I’d define that as an epic win! I would hate for someone else to not feel the complete happiness I feel from novels just because someone else doesn’t like the subject matter.

  7. I think many of us have drawn comfort in the togetherness we experienced in reflecting on these events and in moving forward with #SpeakLoudly. I found, for instance, that my paperback copies (3!) of Speak never made it back to my library. (My hardcover is not allowed to leave. Is. MINE.) The censors will never defeat a book that readers love so much they don’t give it back. So off to the bookstore for more! I’m handing them out like candy for the next month.

  8. You are WONDERFUL. I think this week has been such an eye-opener to so many people about the problem inherent in book banning. I know I’ve been talking to everyone I can about it, and my dorm is going to start a Banned Book Club that will be open to the whole campus. We’re starting with Speak.
    THANK YOU for being awesome.

  9. Your editorial is wonderful, and your readers have spoken out! I am proud of you and us, and so glad I am a fan and a follower. See you when you come to river’s end, tissues in my hand!

  10. I just re-read Speak – the tension that builds, the truth of the emotions – I want all that to be available to any of my middle school students.

    I wish it could have been available to the young woman in a local high school whose family was hounded out of town for accusing her rapist (a popular football player). I wish it could have been available to a young woman whose art teacher singled her out as “special” – until he found another victim. I wish it had been available to me.

  11. Thank you for having the courage to speak up about this issue. I live in Ontario Canada and we have had people trying to ban books that have valuable messages for young people. Issues like rape need to be discussed and understood. We do our kids a disservice if we do not discuss the difficult topics that are part of our lives. These difficult topics can be discussed in sensitive ways to help our kids understand the issues. Literature provides the opportunity to do this. Thank you fornhaving the courage to speak out.

  12. I can’t believe all of this involved my town. I wrote on facebook today, that my town is famous…but not for something good. But, I am glad we got the word out, and the whole online community banded together about this. I am going to try to keep track of what happens with the school. I am in PTO, and I hope us parents will stay informed of this. The Superintendent replied to my email, only to say thanks for my letter. They said they weren’t going to make any final decisions until later in the year. But I believe Slaughterhouse Five is still pulled, and Twenty Boy Summer still on review. Thanks so much for blogging about this, and making it known we will not sit quietly and let this happen.

  13. When you are the “beloved husband” you have a responsibility to thank the people that support your wife. However, when your wife is an author, you as a carpenter are reluctant to write anything, especially on a blog. It would be a whole lot easier ( and safer) to build a house, than try to express ones gratitude with words with my skill set.
    Thank you so much for the support of my wife and her work as well as Sarah Ockler and of course Kurt Vonnegut. Because of all of you who have taken the time and effort to support these authors, you have given a greater voice to speak out against censorship.

  14. You know what’s great, too? Finding new books and authors! This censorship brouhaha introduced me to your wife’s work, as well as Sarah Ockler’s. Isn’t it a beautiful irony when books get challenged/banned/restricted, and then people like me find out about it and read those selfsame books? And then we post about what we’re reading and tell a friend? And suddenly, the roar of the Big Bad Banners gets silenced by the sound of people discussing wonderful reads!

  15. Mindy, what a beautiful post.

    I just wanted to say that I’ll be sure to bring Kleenex because I’m planning on attending one of your book store visits that will be in the area. I’m beyond excited to hear you speak and to hopefully meet you.

    Coincidentally (or perhaps, not), this past week my daughter mentioned that a friend of hers was reading Speak and could she too. “Of course,” I answered my 14-year-old daughter. Then we had a wonderful discussion about your book, about how much I admire you as a writer, and about what happened this week. She begged to come with me to the book store 🙂

    btw – I wrote a short post on defense of Speak on my blog earlier this week.

  16. Laurie, I want to say thank you. I had not come across SPEAK before the #SpeakLoudly campaign on Twitter. In 1999 I was being both a writer and a mum-to-small-kids, but mostly a mum, so I wasn’t reading a great deal of YA then. It is a wonderful book in so many ways–to wish to ban is as the unspeakable Scroggins does is what I would call loony (being a Brit). I think it was Melinda’s silence (what my father called ‘dumb insolence’) which unlocked something very powerful for me. It has taken me over 40 years to have the courage to write this post and talk about my own experience publicly. If you’d like to read it, it’s at Like you, I am humbled by the reactions I have had, and the private emails and messages I have received. Your book was the one which finally gave me the guts to stand up and Speak Loud. Thank you again. Lucy Coats

  17. I’ve just found you through the Sisters in Scribe blog. I’m so glad that so many people are SPEAKing loudly, and that you are helping them to do so. It will be a week, tomorrow, since I was raped. I am trying to keep SPEAKing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.