I’m probably the least likely candidate to post something about this as I haven’t had the chance to read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson yet. It has been on my to read list for a while, and because of this controversy I’m about to talk about, it will be moved near the top of my list.
Dr. Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University, wrote an article asking that the high schools in his area ban Speak because he believes this book is soft porn. Now, because I haven’t read Speak, I cannot say whether the images described in this book are soft porn or not. However, my gut feeling tells me they are not. Rape is a very sensitive subject, and I can understand why some people are hesitant to read about it. However, I also think that sometimes things need to be shown in their graphic nature (e.g. Schindler’s List) so that those who haven’t experienced what is being described can understand (even if it that understanding is infinitesimal compared to the understanding of someone who has experienced it).
Not only is Speak about the journey of a rape victim who learns to take her life back by dealing with her rape, it is also about that victim having a voice and learning to speak up about her attack. I have been sexually assaulted (you can read my story, but please be respectful to my family), and like me, anyone who has knows the only way to come off as conqueror is to speak up about their experience and not let the perpetrator go away unscathed. Victims should not feel that they are doing something wrong by speaking up about their attack, or by taking back the control that was ripped from them during their attack. Victims need to be able to talk about what happened to them so that they can heal from their experience. Victims need to know they aren’t the only ones who have experienced the heartache they’re feeling; they need to know they aren’t alone. And, if Speak does or can do that, then it’s worth reading.
There is a possibility when I read Speak that I will not like it. However, no matter what my opinion ends up being, I do not believe it, or any other book for that matter, should be banned. Yes, there are a lot of smutty and raunchy books out there that I will not read. However, I have no right to keep someone else from reading those books. Everyone needs to make their own decision as to what types of books they deem are worthy to be read.
In the case of children, I do believe that parents have the right to limit the books they want their own children to read. However, I don’t believe that any parent, professor, or government official has the right to decide what another person’s child should be allowed to read.
In my opinion, controversial topics are a chance for parents to teach their children, to help them understand the atrocities in this life, and most importantly, to more fully appreciate the beauty and love this life can offer. You cannot appreciate the good without knowing the bad, and you cannot always shelter your children against the atrocities of this world. Isn’t it better to arm your children with the skills and coping mechanisms needed to deal with these atrocities instead of hoping they’ll be able to figure it out on their own when they’re older or when they encounter them? I sure wish my parents would have taught me how to deal with my assault instead of always shying away from the bad things as if they didn’t exist. The last 18 years have been a very long, and ofttimes rocky, road to understanding, forgiveness, and healing. Banning books deprives parents and children of these opportunities to arm them with the knowledge they need to get through this life as unscathed as possible!
Even if you haven’t read Speak like me, speak up and support Laurie Halse Anderson and do not let her book be banned! Spread the word that banning books is wrong and banning Speak is harmful. Here are a few places to start:
- #SpeakLoudly on Twitter
- Listen – a poem about those helped by SPEAK
- CJ, silent no more
- Laurie Halse Anderson weighs in on the controversy
- Friend and author, Laurie London
- Author, Christian, Myra McEntire
- Veronica Roth, A (Christian) Take on Banning Speak
- Speak Loudly by Shannon Hale
- Natalie, a student from Missouri State University
(A special thank you to my friend Tawnya for compiling most of these links.)