Speak out for SPEAK

| Monday, September 20, 2010
Today's Tune: Silence

If you've already read a dozen or so entries speaking out against that dude who wants Laurie Halse Anderson's award-winning novel SPEAK banned, then you're about to read another one.

So, some guy (who happens to be a university professor and a speaker for Reclaiming Missouri for Christ) wants parents to "get involved" in keeping their children from "soft pornography" like SPEAK and other novels. He misconstrues SPEAK as a novel about promiscuous sex and, quote, "... the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like." He does touch on the fact that the main character is then raped, but overall he gives the impression that this novel is a book about sex.

Read Ms. Anderson's response post here.

Now, as has been echoed across the internet, I don't want to turn this into a "GRRRR HORRIBLE CHRISTIANS TRYING TO BAN BOOKS BLAH BLAH IGNORANCE BLAH BLAH." Because this guy is not reflective of Christians. He's reflective of head-in-the-sand ignorance and misinterpreting works of fiction, and that has little to do with his religion.

Because SPEAK is not about promiscuous sex. In fact, I'd argue that it's not really about sex at all. It's about a young rape survivor learning to deal with what happened to her and finding her voice again. It is such a painful, beautiful, moving novel. It turns the stone over on a subject that is rarely talked about in the open, and it has helped so many people, young and old alike, to find their own voices.

And to consider that this book, this amazing book, could be denied to youths who may benefit from it because some parents believed it's a dirty sex book? That kills me and makes me angry. It makes me an angry zombie, is what it does.

Rape is not sex. It's assault. It's abuse. That's why they call it "sexual assault/abuse." Sex is merely the tool a rapist uses in order to abuse and assault. Soft pornography? SOFT PORNOGRAPHY?! If you're a highly disturbed individual, I guess.

Ignorance is not the same thing as innocence. I wish people could understand that. You can't keep the world of sex, peer pressure, drugs, and violence from children by not telling them about it. And if you don't want your child to read what you consider to be a "trashy" novel, that's fine. They're your kids, and until they're 18, they're under your rules. But you do not get to deny public access to literature that strengthens and empowers teenagers because you somehow equated rape to porn.

I cannot fathom the person that could read SPEAK and think it would somehow be the novel that sullies the minds of "innocents" with "filthy" sex. I really can't. We are already so lax when it comes to talking about sexual violence with our youth.

I'm not saying that we have to frighten young men and women with graphic descriptions of rape. But it's such an important topic to breach. We can't continue to pretend that rape is something that only happens to "bad" girls. That's damaging, and it's bullshit. Please excuse my cursing.

If you think this is as ridiculous and heartbreaking as I do, please speak out on your own blog. You can also join the Twitter conversation by including the hashtag #SpeakLoudly in your Tweets.


{ Wendy Ramer } at: September 20, 2010 at 9:08 AM said...

I know this topic is dear to you (as I remember post you wrote much earlier this year), and although I'm not familiar with SPEAK, I'm sure it's a story worth telling. I will check it out for my daughter when her time comes. She's 9 now, and I'm honestly not sure what age would be appropriate. 12? 13? What do you think? I'd respect your opinion on this matter.

{ aspiring_x } at: September 20, 2010 at 9:09 AM said...

everyone is talking about this today...
and that's a really good thing.

and thank you for saying that it is not christians trying to ban the book, but one man.

seriously, rape= porn? that is so so wrong. as is silencing the voices of sexual assault survivors.

great post.

{ j.leigh.bailey } at: September 20, 2010 at 9:41 AM said...

Very well said. I'm opposed to banning books in general, but the reasons for banning this--and the mindset it perpetuates--is infuriating. Thank you for eloquently and emphatically addressing this.

{ Theresa Milstein } at: September 20, 2010 at 9:49 AM said...

This book has been out for so long. It surprises me people are still banning it, but it shouldn't surprise me. I'm sure most of the banners didn't read it. It's easy to pull a few quotes from other banners and spread the hysteria.

Book are tools for people (and in this case, teens) to cope. It's a shame more people don't understand that.

{ Steph Sinkhorn } at: September 20, 2010 at 9:55 AM said...

Wendy - Speak is am emotionally difficult novel to read, but it's not exceptionally graphic (in my opinion). It does contain swearing, alcohol/drug references, and (obviously) sexual references. I think a mature 12-13 year old could handle it, and a 14+ year old surely could. The MC is assaulted just before her freshman year of high school. I highly recommend reading it yourself so you have an idea of the contents. Plus, it's a great book.

aspiring_x - It is wrong - and gross. It drives me batty when people deliberately misinterpret a novel to spin it as something it isn't.

j.leigh - Thanks for reading :) Censorship sucks all around.

{ Steph Sinkhorn } at: September 20, 2010 at 9:58 AM said...

Theresa - It always amazes me that people still try to ban books at all, really. I hope someday it's no longer an issue.

{ Matthew Rush } at: September 20, 2010 at 10:25 AM said...

Ridiculous (not your post, which is well said).

Banning books doesn't work. Regardless of what this book is about (it happens to be a poignant and important topic), which doesn't even matter, there is no point to banning books. Even if there were a book out there that deserved to be banned (there isn't), it would only make it reach more people if we did ban it. Reading is a human right as far as I'm concerned.

{ Old Kitty } at: September 20, 2010 at 10:59 AM said...

What scares me most is how one person's crusade based on fear and loathing can so easily snowball into something else more sinister. I hope that common sense and decency and humanity and intelligence and will prevail.

Speak up for Speak!

Take care

{ Emily White } at: September 21, 2010 at 5:53 AM said...

Well said indeed, madam. Well said indeed.

{ Miss Michael } at: September 21, 2010 at 6:43 PM said...

Well put! I admire your ability to actually form an argument on this because when I think of banning books I just feel so angry that I can only manage swear words and grunts.

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