Sunday, September 19, 2010

I believe this with all my heart

I believe we can learn truth by reading fiction.

I believe it because people tell me it is their experience; I believe it because it is my experience.

Thus I think it is incredibly important that people who are learning how to live in the world get to read about people like themselves.

And very bad things can happen to people.

Let me be specific: I think it's incredibly important that books for teenagers about horrible subjects-rape, incest, school shootings, death- get published. And even more important that those books are available in libraries so kids can read them even if they can't afford to buy them, or don't want anyone to know they are reading them.

If I had my way, if YOU had your way, no kid would ever need to hear or see or know anything about rape, incest, school shootings, death. Not the kids we love. Not even the kids we don't.

But we live in the real world. A world we wish was different. But it's not. It is what it is.

The reason I'm talking about this today is there is a "controversery" about a book called SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. I put "controversy" in quotes because it feels like people are using this book to make political hay, rather than actually deal with the issues the book is about.

The book is about a young woman who keeps quiet about being raped.

I wish it could be shelved in the fantasy section, but more than half of all people who are raped never report the crime.

I think it is our duty to make sure books like this are written, published, and bought. Not called "pornography" and banned.

Banning books about what real people experience in their lives makes us co-conspirators in their shame.

The reason I'm talking about this today is I read a blog post by Myra McEntire about SPEAK. I have the deepest respect for what she says, and I agree with her. Read it.

Veronica Roth's post on this subject says what I think, but a whole lot better.

CJ Redwine's post on the subject will break your heart.

Truth is not pornography. I believe that with all my heart.

69 comments:

Patty Blount said...

The thought of banning books just makes me want to cry.

Ev said...

"Jesus wept."

Yes, you summed the horrible truth up very aptly.

I never understand people--but I particularly don't understand people who seek to silence those trying to SPEAK out about evil in the hopes of thwarting it. :(

steeleweed said...

People seek to ban book which make them think about things they'd rather not think about. It's not about protecting potential readers - it's about protecting the censors' own questionable and unstable minds.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Thank you so much for this eloquent post. We all need to stand up against this. I just posted, too.

Michelle Witte said...

Amen.

Which reminds me, I must put together some displays/events to educate my customers about Banned Books Week.

Harley May said...

Janet and everybody else,

I seriously suggest you read this post by author Cheryl Rainfield in this debate. Read it and you will be changed forever.

The fact that she is alive and writing about it is a testament to hope for everyone who has been sexually abused.

http://cherylrainfield.com/blog/index.php/2010/09/19/fight-back-against-ignorance-laurie-halse-andersons-speak-equated-with-porn/

lodjohnson said...

Personally I thought SPEAK was one of the best YA books I've ever read. It was real, honest and unpretentious. Those that scream about banning books just like to hear themselves scream.

It's a scary world we live in where pornography is readily available by googling one word, yet a group of morons can get a book banned because the subject matter offends them (does this sound ridiculous or what?)

Maybe this same group of morons should focus on cleaning up the internet for our children and let the schools and parents decide what kids can read.

Thank you - I pass my box on to the next.

Loretta Nyhan said...

Thank you. Just...thank you.

ilyakogan said...

I've read this YA supernatural thriller called "The Old Testament" and what a moral outrage that is!

In one horrific scene there this one old dude is about to sacrifice his first born son and only (no doubt drug induced) apparition stops him.

The book is full of polygamy, mass murder, drug use, rape, and even in one particularly graphic and disgusting chapter there are heavy hints at homosexual rape!

Then I've read the follow up called "The New Testament" and there is this other dude that cohorts with thieves and prostitutes and he gets like tortured and killed in graphic detail and there are men kissing there!

I mean, OMG! How could you possibly call yourself a Cristian and read this book and let children, and I repeat CHILDREN, read it?

I think this book should be banned from all places where a person under the age of twenty one could come across it. It should only be studied in controlled environments by the minds mature enough to understand its wickedness.

My fellow Christians - I call you to action - boycott this filth and its purveyors!

Anne R. Allen said...

This is scary because it is so profoundly stupid.

They want to ban Speak because rape is immoral. So do we then ban Toni Morrison's Beloved because slavery is immoral? To Kill a Mockingbird because racism is immoral. Or the Diary of Anne Frank because genocide is immoral?

Paula R said...

Thank you for what you wrote here, Janet! Reading SPEAK, helped me to speak about my abuse. If not for that book, I wouldn't have been able to find my voice. Hearing what that man said made me feel like that helpless little girl again. I know I am not, but I felt like my voice was stifled. Myra's blog was very well-done, and I commend her on speaking out for SPEAK!

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

This makes me crazy. SPEAK is a beautiful, honest, powerful book. When I taught it to 9th graders, they were in awe. This book needs to be read. By everyone.

KathySkaggsPoet said...

I want to say, one of your best posts ever, which sounds as if I mean the others aren't that good, but that isn't what I mean at all. This one is just that good. And, as Loretta Nynan said above, Thank you.

Veronica Roth said...

"Banning books about what real people experience in their lives makes us co-conspirators in their shame."

I think you said it perfectly.

Cathy in AK said...

Thank you, Janet, Myra, Laurie Halse Anderson, and everyone else who write and promote books that make us think and feel and, hopefully, act.

As a parent, it's my job to both protect my children and prepare them for the world. The real world. Without creating paranoid hermits, I have to make them realize bad stuff happens. They need to be able to deal with it, to speak out if they see or are involved in a situation.

As much as I try, my talking to them probably won't cover everything, and I may get tuned out sometimes just because I'm Mom. But if they have access to good books that address these issues, that reinforce the tools I give them to navigate this world, then I can relax some.

Banning or censoring books about terrible things won't make terrible things go away. It just ties the hands and gags the mouths of readers who need to find the strength to prevail against those things.

Zoe said...

I've seen the movie that is based on this book (I didn't know it was a book until I read this post), and it is incredible. Like the ladies your posts links to, I am a Christian and I don't believe in banning books either, *especially* books that convey such an important message. I don't know how the book is written, but the movie all takes place post-rape with a few flashbacks to the incident. The story is really about Melinda finding the courage to speak. It is only when she does so that she begins to heal from the horrific ordeal she suffered.

It amazes me that anybody cannot see this, but I am glad there are so many who do. Thank you for standing behind this book.

Myra McEntire said...

Thank you. Just, thank you, for being an example, for being bold, for being you.

ryan field said...

My mother is a therapist and has done volunteer work with rape victims at crisis centers. I've heard her mention SPEAK and how important she thought it was.

Illmantrim said...

http://madwomanintheforest.com/this-guy-thinks-speak-is-pornography/

Richard Gibson said...

Thank you.

Annette Lyon said...

Thank you for this--for your words as well as for letting us know about the situation. It was the first I'd heard of it--although not nearly the first I'd heard of Speak.

Eileen said...

I am concerned at the increase of people who feel if they dislike or disagree with something that it should be banned. I respect an individual's right to choose not to read something, I for one gave Sarah Palin's book a big pass, but to say it shouldn't exist is a frightening direction.

The concept of rape being pornography is offensive and he should be called on it.

wickedsweetskill said...

Thank You.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~Edmund Burke

Thank You.

Remilda Graystone said...

I just read CJ's post. Whoa. Thank you for sharing it, because I don't think I would've seen it otherwise. I completely agree with everything you've said, along with everything others have already said.

Thank you again.

Jemi Fraser said...

Totally agree.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Brava, lady. Brava.

sherry stanfa-stanley said...

Our only hope for fighting evil is confronting it, not ignoring it.

Thanks.

Julie said...

Every time people talk about banning books, it makes me twitchy and brings back memories of standing in the site of the famous Nazi book burning, where now, there is a glass window into the earth where empty shelves now live, with enough space for all the destroyed books.

I know banning is not burning, but fear of words can get terribly out of hand. And in the case of Speak, those words are necessary for all to many young people. Anything that bring light to the darkness of undeserved shame and desolation needs to exist and be available.

Thanks for sharing this issue with us.

Stephanie Barr said...

The notion that rape is pornography, i.e. sexually titillating, says more about the would-be banner than the book. Clearly, they miss why rape is so heinous a crime. It is violence, not romance.

Even today, reporting rape is a humiliating experience where the victim is on trial, even children, where friends and family can still hold the victim at least partly responsible.

Every step taken to bring this crime to light, to highlighting how horrific it is, to upporting victims brings us closer to making rape an unacceptable relic of a brutal past. It's a long hard road.

M. M. Justus said...

You'd have made a terrific librarian, Janet. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Speaking as a former librarian myself...

Christi Goddard said...

Thank you so much Janet for sharing the links and the information. CJ's gave me the courage to share my own story. We need books like SPEAK, and those with courage to speak up.

Ann Best said...

I'll never forget the book Lucky by Alice Sebold. I like it much better than her famous work of fiction, The Lovely Bones. It's a keeper on my bookcase.

Rape does happen, and this young woman spoke up bravely and brilliantly in court. She was incredible.
Ann

Richmond Writer said...

This is why I keep coming back to your blog even though there are times when I disagree with what you do or say. Those moments when you validate my view point make it worth the ones when you don't. The positive outweighs the negative. Thank you.

Joanna said...

I totally agree, J.
Thank you for posting about it.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Thank you. I know how much courage it took for my daughters to speak up and then they were ignored for five years by people who should have known better. Even when we shout we can still go unheard. I agree with everything you've said. Thanks for being you.

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Amen! Thank you for this post!

Tiger said...

I love you so much right now.

Yamile said...

I had already read Myra's post today, but thank you from the bottom of my heart for the link to CJ's. So powerful, I'm still in tears. The things people do in the name of righteousness and religion never cease to shock me. What's next? Banning the Bible because of a few instances of incest, among other things like brother killing brother, killing God, and stoning people to death?

Kristin Laughtin said...

Thank you. As a librarian-in-training, I'm becoming sadly accustomed to calls to ban books, and it makes me sad every time. I fully agree SPEAK should not be banned. If it could speak to one unfortunate girl who's been raped, help her report what's happened to her, help her seek justice, even just give her peace of mind that she's not alone in her ordeal...isn't that worth it?

Nancy said...

There is something horribly ironic in the censoring of a book that is about speaking out. Worse than that, it sends a message to rape victims that they actually should remain silent--that by sharing their pain with the world, they sully it somehow. Pain and suffering won't go away if we pretend they don't exist. Evil doesn't spread because we talk about it. Teens will only learn how to handle the ugly side of life if we keep the lines of communication open, and that includes letting them read books like Speak.

Eileen Schuh: said...

I, too, am passionately opposed to censorship and write novels involving sensitive subjects. I choose my words and scenes carefully. I do not want to re-victimize victims. I do not want people masturbating while reading my rape scenes, I do not want paedophiles seeking out my novels. In a way, I self-censor. Just as I don't post my beloved naked grandbaby pix on facebook (even though most people would view them as tenderly as I do), or pose nude for PlayBoy (although I find the human body beautiful).
It's been my humnle experience over the past half-century or so, that talking about evil secrets-- putting words to them, removes their power and ensures their quick destruction.
Eileen Schuh, Author
"Schrodinger's Cat"
http://www.eileenschuh.com

Jill Thomas said...

"Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes." - Montag, FAHRENHEIT 451

Ebony McKenna. said...

I hadn't heard of this book until I read your post.

So now I've ordered it and can't wait to read it.

The subject matter is not something I would usually choose to read, but it looks like a powerful, moving book - and the kind of book that might help loads of young women in a similar situation.

Yeah, ban a book that could provide a ray of light for women in the worst despair. Makes no sense.

christine tripp said...

Stephanie Barr, YES! That is exactly what I would have said (though not nearly as well!)
It's about Violence/Power, not sex (not even Pornographic sex)

Coincidentally, this talk of banning a book that speaks to rape, comes in the same week as the Canadian news story of Gang rape by a group of teens at a rave in BC. The photo's of the gang rape were and still are appearing on facebook etc.

....and there are some that are worried about a book?

"Protect" our children? No, educate our children, via books such as this one!!! I only wish some of these parents/adults could be educated as well.

Avery Aames said...

I hadn't heard of the book nor of the ban, but I believe that silence is not golden. Too many times, bad people get away with bad things because others are afraid to speak up. We have voices. We must speak!

~Avery

Rebecca T. Little said...

Most of my sentiments have already been expressed here, beautifully. As the mother of an 11 y.o. daughter, knowing what is out there is terrifying, but the thought of my daughter not having access to knowledge is worse. Banning books is wrong. Even the ones that make you want to retch into the nearest porcelain fixture. If we don't have a record of society's mistakes, we're doomed to repeat them.

Rebecca
http://rebeccatlittle.blogspot.com

Sara said...

Author Shannon Hale also had a post about this.

http://oinks.squeetus.com/2010/09/speak-loudly.html

Spesh

glasseye said...

This is why people like me - and the character in this book - chose not to speak. Two years before I was raped it happened to a girl across the street, who was pulled off the sidewalk on her way to school. Her experience was public and brutal and taught me that silence was preferable to the ongoing hell she endured.

But my silence was a living thing that consumed me. It drove me from my high school and what waited there and turned me into the dropout I am today. The consequences of his choice and mine live on. I am a shadow of what I could have been.

I feel nothing in response to the judgment of this book. Nothing at all. The nothing is something in itself, I suppose.

Polly said...

Thank you, Janet. Any book that will help people understand and speak up is so useful. I want a better world for the two kids I'm raising, and stories like this are what we need.

Alaina said...

When I was in 8th grade, all the girls in my grade were put into a class to talk about abuse, mainly sexual. They did an anonymous survey to see how many of us had been touched or abused in some way sexually. 80% of the group had been. It was insane.

In the story I wrote, though fictional, I included a violent rape, something that actually happened to a close friend. It changed her and affected her entire life. The youth especially need to know about these things because it is the youth that seem to experience this abuse most often. These things must be read about, not banned.

JS said...

Thank you.

Making the books go away will not make the rape go away.

Tawna Fenske said...

Amen. That's really all I can add at this point, but it should be said at least a dozen times in response to this post.

Tawna

Taymalin said...

Hear hear!

Steve Stubbs said...

Superagent Reid said: "I believe we can learn truth by reading fiction."

I never thought about that. It does remind me of my favorite quote from Stephen King, though: "Fiction is lies ... and more lies." That is from DANSE MACABRE. Of course his genre is not exactly reality-based unless you believe in vampires, werewolves, and et al. The singular mark of his genius is that when I was reading SALEM'S LOT, for about 300 pages I DID believe in vampires. It felt foolish when I finally read the last page, took a deep breath, and set the book down. But he did have me believing for awhile there, yes siree.

How very sad that some monsters do not require a suspension of disbelief. They are real and live in the house next door. Or - God help us - sometimes in our own house.

Of course I live alone, so there are no monsters here. Only one dude here and he is a saint. I know him well.

Laurel said...

I saw this post over the weekend and again referenced by The Rejectionist so I checked "Speak" out from the library today. On my way to pick up my first grader. I finished it before supper was cleaned up.

The claim that this book is soft porn could only be made by someone who hasn't read it. There is not even a whiff of explicit sex and nearly all physical contact is repugnant through this character's PoV. Furthermore, this book is not about rape, or sex, or any other thing that paves the road to hell. It is about isolation, the fragile time of 13-14-15 when you are surrounded by peers and yet have no peers. Melinda's trauma could have been anything but the reaction of her classmates, family, and teachers is an epic fail.

Her struggle to find her own voice is so powerful I found myself fighting the noises in my throat, wanting to scream for her, yell at the people who don't hear her silence.

In a long and storied personal tradition, someone else's quest to ban a book has succeeded in adding it to my "Holy crap you have to read this" pile.

Francis said...

The best in all this is if this asshat had not written this article, I very much doubt SPEAK would have been given this much attention.

By trying to eradicate this book from the school curriculum and pushing his political agenda, the whole article totally backfired.

He, himself only, lay down all the road for this book to become a bestseller. He did far better than any marketing campaigns could have done. We should thank Dr. Scroggins for his idiocy, for he helped the book more than anyone could have done.

Also, The Rejectionist's entry on this matter is hilarous. Check it out after you went through Ms. Reid's links!

LaylaF said...

Janet,

Thank you for that eloquent post.

Dawn Simon said...

My daughter recommended SPEAK to me after she'd borrowed it from her Language Arts teacher's book collection. What a great book! We can learn from fiction. I agree.

Cynthia Wilson said...

I've read this book. I don't see how it could possibly be called porn. After I read it I gave it to my 14 year old daughter to read.

Trying to get books out of libraries irks me because I don't think some other parent should choose what my child should and shouldn't read. A better solution to concerns such as this is to have open communication and a relationship built on trust with your child.

TJ Bennett said...

I loved SPEAK, and recommended it to my then 12-y/o boys to read for a class project in 7th grade. We talked a lot about the behavior of the boy in the story, what rape was, how it made a girl feel, what sex felt like when it was hurtful...the book created a great teachable moment at an important time in a young man's life. Most of the kids in their school have read it.

I also allowed it as one of the choices of reading material for my freshman comp class at the local college when I was an adjunct instructor there. Several students decided to write about it, and one of them even revealed her own experience as the topic of her paper, an experience she hadn't ever spoken about before, had never named "rape" until she read this book. She said it was cathartic and for the first time, she was able to talk about it and seek help.

The book is a seminal piece of literature that will be around long after the censors have their hay day, like Anne Frank's Diary. Sadly, there have always been people who can't tell the difference between pornography and art, and that will never change.

Fanfreakingtastic Flower said...

Man, that guy. Just so not bright. I mean, independent of the stupidity of his ideas, his sentence structure, word choice, and overall composition mark him as a dim light indeed. I actually feel badly about saying that, but it's true. How did he get a columnist gig in the first place? Probably for the same reason Glenn Beck has a tv show. Sigh. Everyone to the Million Moderate March on Oct. 30th!

Lily Cate said...

It seems to be so hard for some adults to understand that childhood is not this shrink wrapped fantasy that is supposed to be spent totally isolated and cut off from reality. It is a time to learn. About everything. About yourself and the world around you, the good AND the bad.

Kate Douglas said...

I do wish, when I was young, there had been books like SPEAK. Maybe then I would not have felt the need to bury what happened to me for so many years.

Even now, I am amazed by the number of women I meet who have a history of rape or sexual abuse--women who never felt they could tell the truth about their horrible experience because they felt it had only happened to them.

Jessie said...

I don't agree with banning books. And I don't agree with people trying censor others.

Jessie Mac
www.jessiemac.com

Justin Holley said...

Respect...to SPEAK, you Janet, and to anyone that has had to deal with these issues. By dragging these issues kicking and screaming from the shadows, we all, victims or no, get some of our power back from the darkness.

And that's why I write horror...

Stephanie Faris said...

We were just talking about this at work and the men were so insensitive to the issue. "Not all rapes are actual rapes," they were saying. "Sometimes women lie." They didn't even get the "no means no" concept. It was very eye-opening to the fact that there are still people out there who don't have a single clue as to what these women go through.

Matthew Rush said...

Banning books is ridiculous. It doesn't work. You may as well try to ban knowledge.

Well said. Thanks for this Ms. Reid.

Amy Cochran said...

If one is going to ban a book for reasons of rape, incest, murder, then please apply the same rules to all books. Ban the Bible.

Antiquated thinking only leads to iniquity.

_*rachel*_ said...

I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning reading it and cried when I finished.

Thank you for this post. I'm going to find my own copy, recommend it, and share it.