Who could possibly think the YA novel Speak is pornography? Unfortunately, there's an answer to that question. He's a guy in Missouri, Wesley Scroggins. In an article called Filthy books demeaning to Republic education, he mischaracterizes Laurie Halse Anderson's classic YA novel Speak, the story of a young rape victim, and says it should be classified as soft pornography. Because it contains two rape scenes.
Is the suggestion here that the purpose of writing about rape is to entertain and excite? Because that's a pretty sick sentiment, Mr. Scroggins. In a world where the statistics on child sexual abuse are so shockingly high, does he really think the solution is not to utter a word about the problem in books? It's better if they don't read about someone who survived it, even if it's happening to these readers right now?
Such dangerous logic. But then, all censorship is dangerous. If you think a book is inappropriate (this ain't the one, let me tell you) don't read it. And draw age-appropriate boundaries for your own children. That's not censorship. But when you try to get the book banned so nobody can read it, that's a serious societal problem. Last I checked, there is still a First Amendment. I suggest we work hard to keep it.
I'm embedding here a fabulous poem by Laurie Halse Anderson, partly made up of reader reaction to her wonderful book. Please take a moment to listen--it's very moving. Then take another moment to add your voice. To speak up about Speak. There are some good suggestions for doing so on Laurie's Blog.
To read what I wrote about censorship before this horrifying article on Speak arose, check out my blog No Return to Censorship.
Thank you for standing up to censorship.
My letter to the editor of the News-Leader of Springfield, MO. I have no idea if it will be published. I expect they'll get quite a few:
I welcome Mr. Scroggins to try to get this book removed from school libraries--as soon as rape no longer exists in our society. Then young people will no longer need role models for rape survival. And they won't need to know they're not alone in what happened to them, and that it's not their fault. Until then, I question why Mr. Scroggins has so much energy to devote to making sure teens don't read about rape when he could be trying to help prevent them from experiencing it.
Catherine Ryan Hyde, Author of 16 novels including Pay It Forward and five books for Young Adults.