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?

Really? Again? SPEAK labelled pornography



Oh, for heavens sakes.

A guy named Richard Swier in Florida thinks that SPEAK is “child pornography.”

I wish I were making that up.

SPEAK is cautionary tale about the emotional aftermath of rape. It tackles bullying, depression, rape, sexual harassment, and family dysfunction. It teaches children that when bad things happen, they need to speak up, even when it’s hard. It has given hope to tens of thousands of readers since 1999. It is a standard in curriculum across the country.

Swier’s quest would be laughable except that there are a couple of uninformed people who think that he knows what he’s talking about. Since he has picked apart my work, let me return the favor.

In this “article” (and I use that term loosely), Dick tries the fan the flames of horror. 

(Note to people who want to burn my book but can’t be bothered to read it in order to track down the swear words. Swier has done your job for you, complete with page references. Great job, Dick!)

Dick is a Tea Party activist. He has a lot of fascinating opinions. Writing for the Tea Party Nation in 2011, he said “The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) population in America is headed for extinction and with it our economy, well-being and survival as a uniquely America culture.”

Dick says the bullying of LGBT kids is not bullying, “It is peer pressure and is healthy. There are many bad behaviors such as smoking, under age drinking and drug abuse that are behaviors that cannot be condoned. Homosexuality falls into this category. Homosexuality is simply bad behavior that youth see as such and rightly pressure their peers to stop it.”

He also thinks that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the White House.

A round of applause, please, for the review committee at Laurel Nokomis School in Sarasota County, Florida, who, according to their policy, reviewed the book and decided to keep it.

The challenge now moves to the district level.



Simply Saturday

The weather has cooled down nicely up here. Our wood for the winter arrives on Monday and its a darn good thing; we’re going to need fires in the woodstove to take the chill out of the air very soon.

Banned Books Week is almost upon us. What will you be doing to recognize it this year?

 Bookmans, an independent bookstore with six locations in Arizona, created this video for the 2012 Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out.

I have not heard any banning attempts on any of my books so far this school year. Have the censors moved on to other targets? Even though Speak was restored to the shelves of the high school in Liberty, MO, Slaughterhouse-Five was not.

In other news, Kristen Stewart named Speak as one of the three books that changed her life.

This PSA aired after the first showing of Kristen in the Speak movie. The hotline had never gotten such a tremendous response. Blew. Up. The. Phones.

Someone sent me a link to a recent interview in which she said that the response to both the movie and the PSA helped her see the impact that film can have in people’s lives. The embed code for the video is screwed up, but you should be able to see it on The Hollywood Reporter site. She talks about Speak starting at about the 3:40 mark. She was so, so young when she made the movie, but her talent was undeniable. It’s been fun to watch her develop as an actress. (Though when the press hounds her, I get really defensive and want to start yelling at people!)

Along with writing like crazy, I’m getting ready for my trip to Arizona at the end of the month, where I’ll be speaking at the Arizona English Teacher’s Association Conference.

I’m also trying to pull together the Common Core Standards that can be met by using Chains and Forge in the English or Social Studies classroom. Do any of you have any experience with this?

That’s all for now. Time to dig out a sweatshirt and get ready for a bonfire tonight.

Republic, MO superintendant resigns

Vernon Minor, Superintendant of Republic, MO school district, has resigned, three months after the school board voted not to extend his contract.

This is the district that banned Speak, Slaughterhouse Five, and Twenty Boy Summer after a local man, Wesley Scroggins, complained about the books. In addition to book banning, Minor faced a number of other challenges during his tenure in Republic.

Speak was later put back in the classroom, I believe. (Can anyone with first-hand knowledge confirm this for me?) The other two books are in a “secure” spot in the library. Here is my original blog post written when the books were first challenged.

What do I think about this latest turn of events?

I think that the people who live in that school district have probably spent a lot of time discussing the controversies. I suspect that the school board members have heard from many of their fellow citizens. I hope that this change in administration will help the district move forward. I hope that teachers and librarians will be able to do their jobs without fear. That students will be able to read freely, and think, and discuss any and all topics, even the ones that can frighten and challenge adults.

Details about the resignation

What do you think?