Ever wonder how the mind of a book banner works?





Librarian Kelly Jensen wrote an excellent blog post at BOOKRIOT today, “What Are Grown-Ups Afraid Of In YA Books?” It is a great post and you should read it.

And now I will say something that I have never said before.

You should read the comments, too.

Dr. Richard Sweir, the guy who called SPEAK “child pornography” earlier this month, has been responding to most of the blog’s comments. His arguments are enlightening.

If you are honestly puzzled about how SPEAK could be called pornography, Sweir’s comments offer insight. Among other things, he said: “The book is about rape. By being about rape it promotes rape to our most vulnerable.”

One of my favorite exchanges –

Dr. Sweir: “The book is about the rape of a child. If you made a movie about the rape of a 13 year old would it be rated PG-13? It is all about rape, rape, rape and more rape.”

ernstludwig: “The answer to your question is yes, it would. The movie based on this book, also titled Speak, is rated PG-13.”

That is sort of amusing. Other exchanges are not.

The biggest lesson for me was that Richard Sweir comes perilously close to admitting that he hasn’t read the book. It seems that his information about the novel comes from the parents who want it removed from the school district. And while in his own writings, he calls bullying “peer pressure” that is healthy when it targets LGBT kids, any time a commenter calls him out for describing the book as porn, his response is to whine that people are bullying him.

If you are looking for material that can be a great discussion starter about censorship issues, you will love both the blog post and comments.

I salute the commenters who tried to get Sweir to cite his objections and move beyond muddy rhetoric.

What do you think?

5 Replies to “Ever wonder how the mind of a book banner works?”

  1. “The biggest lesson for me was that Richard Sweir comes perilously close to admitting that he hasn’t read the book.”

    I was wondering about that myself when I was reading through the comments this afternoon. Every time someone asked if he’d actually read it, he never answered that question directly.

  2. I commented on “Dr.” Sweir’s article and he replied. Neither of his replies actually addressed what I wrote. In response to my argument that the rape in the book is date rape and that the book could be used as a tool to help all people understand that silence does not equal consent this is what he had to say:

    “Again, like most you accept the how and ignore the why. Why is their [sic] date rape? Why do we now have more men raped by men than women raped by men in our military? What is the cause? Deal with that and you will solve the problem.”

    My take away? Apparently your book doesn’t deal with all of the issues in the world and that it should have. (/sarcasm) His comment, however, made me think that he has not read the book. I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by his reply, other than to highlight other areas of bigotry (does it really matter that more men than women are raped in the military or does it matter more that rape in general exists?).

    He also believes that the public school system is not the place for America’s youth to learn right from wrong. Where, then, are the majority of people going to learn how to become a responsible member of society?

    His logic is flawed. But then again, he’s probably not relying on logic.

  3. Laurie.
    Oh, my goodness. The fact that he actually IS STILL SPEAKING, when it’s clear that he’s in opposition to good sense… is kind of astounding.

    But, it’s like he feels as if he MUST. And so I guess… you do what you must…

  4. “Ever wonder how the mind of a book banner works?”

    Is it too harsh to say that a book banner simply doesn’t have a working mind? Or, at least, people like Dr. Richard Swier don’t seem to.

    Of course, there are certainly situations where certain books are inappropriate, and where removal of said titles is preferable. For example, Fifty Shades of Gray probably shouldn’t be included into an elementary school library.

    I do not understand why, out of all the books out there, Speak is being attacked. I read this book shortly after it first came out, and it was one of my favourite titles at that time. I would include this title in any teen/YA booklist, and I have recommended it to others.

    Perhaps Dr. Swier has come to his conclusions, in part, due to bits of information about the movie. Perhaps he sees the name “Kristen Stewart” and automatically thinks of Twilight. Then again, I’m not sure if he is against Twilight or knows much about it, so that probably isn’t the case. I would find it amusing if it came out that he liked that particular series as he attacks Speak.

    After reading some of the things that Dr. Swier has posted, I feel like my brain is about to implode from the unbelievable level of ignorance he is exuding. Is it possible to sustain irreparable brain damage simply from reading such things?

    He states, “The problem is not coping. It is prevention. Today one fifth of the rapes are perpetrated by minors. That is since 2000. Speak came out in 1999.” This confuses me. What does the date of publication have to with that supposed statistic? Is he seriously implying that, once the book was printed, the number of rapes committed by numbers suddenly soared, and that this increase is evidence that the first caused the second? The sheer ignorance in such statements really makes my head hurt.

    I could write an entire essay on Dr. Wier’s ignorance, with a long reference list of scholarly works to support my arguments, but I do not want to give him even more attention. I also don’t want to have to immerse myself in such irritating nonsense any longer than is necessary.

  5. The literary world needs more issue-oriented novels, serious works that educate and entertain, evoke laughter and tears, encourage self-reflection and instill hope.  Contrary to Richard Sweir's rhetoric, authors with a conscience empower the voices of children by grappling with the harsh realities of life with sensitivity and compassion.  Inspired by Speak I have drawn upon my experiences in working with children in crisis, as a Cornell University Professor and as an attorney for children in custody, juvenile delinquency, and child abuse and neglect matters, in writing my first novel, Living on the Borderline: The Memoirs of Thomas, Age Seven.  The thick description and nuanced context of the novel renders it particularly well-suited for humanizing borderline personality disorder and its impact upon the borderline's family, as long as themes such as incest, suicide and child abuse are confronted with dignity.

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.