Subversive Reading! Awesome!

It’s Banned Books Week! Wooohooo! Because I do like the fact that we take a week to discuss banned and challenged books, here goes me. I thought I’d pick a few frequently banned or challenged books that I haven’t read before and see what the horror is all about. Results to come in a Subway Literature post next week.

My first stop was to the American Library Association’s Banned and Challenged Books resource pages. There’s a great little section where you can see the most-challenged books by year as reported to the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom. There’s also a page listing banned and challenged classics. From these pages I picked The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier), firstly because I like Cormier but I’ve never read The Chocolate War, and secondly, because this book, first published in 1974, was one of the most-challenged books seven of the last nine years.

The second and third books I picked were Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson) and Twenty Boy Summer (Sarah Ockler). This is why.

Last week I wrote a post over at the Enchanted Inkpot called Not Recommended for Younger Readers. I wasn’t really talking about banned books, just the frequent disparity between much of what’s written for kids and what many adults think kids should actually be writing and/or thinking about.

Last week, somebody else wrote a blog post, too. If you’re involved in the kidlit social media world, you’ve already read Wesley Scroggins’ post in the Springfield, Missouri News-Leader calling for the removal of (among other books and topics) Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer from the curriculum of Republic schools on the grounds that they are “filthy” and “should be classified as soft-core pornography.” I’ve read (and loved) Slaughterhouse-Five, but it was his comments about Speak that really incensed me–but that was more because I already knew what it was about than because I’d, you know, read it. I decided if I really wanted to rant, I’d better read the books first so that I could comment in an informed fashion. If you haven’t already read the post, just go read it. I don’t have time to dignify the comments of a man who calls a book encouraging teen rape victims to speak up as filthy, or phrases his article in such a way to allow the reader to conclude that he just might be referring to this same book as qualifying as soft-core porn. I’d rather just read the books and tell you about them, not as a rebuttal to Mr. Scroggins, but as (hopefully) objective and thoughtful reviews.

Okay, I tried to end the post there and I can’t do it. Mr. Scroggins, I am disgusted. I almost care less that you seem to think you should be able to decide what every child in your district reads (although I really, really hate that) than the fact that you would dare to suggest that a book encouraging rape victims to find their voices and seek help is in any way filthy or pornographic. Frankly, I find that horrifying on many levels, but let’s just start with this: rape victims do not need to be told that their experiences are filthy or pornographic. They do not need to be told that people should not be hearing or talking or thinking about them. And whether it was your intention or not, regardless of what your op ed piece says about the state of education or the books in the curriculum, it also says books and discussion of rape are filthy and pornographic. Way to go, Mr. Scroggins. There are uncounted thousands of people out there, suffering in silence, who need to believe what they’ve experienced isn’t their fault and doesn’t make them dirty or less of a human. They need to believe that they won’t be judged if they come forward and get the help that they need. And you just told them to shut up.

I get that open debate is the natural antidote to censorship, but I’m going to say this anyway, because I want to:

How about this. You shut up.

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