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October 11, 2010 / schulerbooks

Stand Up for Speak — Laurie Halse Anderson Challenged

This is probably old news to anyone passionate about fighting censorship or up on the latest literary news, but since my blog hiatus caused me to miss Banned Books Week in September, I’m going to point it out here anyways.

Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the most critically respected young adult authors of our day, largely because her books focus on serious issues that many authors shy away from as too controversial. (As a side note, she’s also a beautiful human being – I was lucky enough to meet her at a publisher convention and she immediately hugged me as if we’d been friends for years.)

Recently, her novel Speak (its awards include: American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults; American Library Association Quick Picks for Young Adults; Michael L. Printz Award – Honor; National Book Awards – Finalist; Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library; Golden Kite Award for Fiction; Booklist Editors’ Choice; Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Award and others), has risen up again in national dialogue about censorship.

She examined the situation herself in her blog. Check it out – she lists a number of ways to express your support for the book and for the freedom to read!

This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography

By laurie | Published: September 19, 2010

Remember last September, when the book banners crawled out of their pits of nastiness to try to remove YA literature from classrooms and libraries?

It is September again, my friends.

Wesley Scroggins is an associate professor of management at Missouri State University. He was also a speaker at Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, a recent seminar whose purpose was to “To educate our pastors, legislators, educators, students, and all citizens as to the truth about America’s Christian Heritage and the role of fundamental, Biblical Christianity in the establishment and function of our legal, legislative, and educational system, and to work towards the successful reestablishment of these values in our society.”

(Note: I love Jesus. My dad is a United Methodist minister. I point out Scroggins’ affiliation with this group so readers can understand his larger agenda.)

Wesley wrote an opinion piece in the News-Leader of Springfield, MO, in which he characterized SPEAK as filthy and immoral. Then he called it “soft pornography” because of two rape scenes.

The fact that he sees rape as sexually exciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying. It gets worse, if that’s possible, when he goes on to completely mischaracterize the book.

Some people say that I shouldn’t make a big deal about this. That I am giving him more attention than he deserves. But this guy lives about an hour and half from the school district that banned Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN this month.

My fear is that good-hearted people in Scroggins’ community will read his piece and believe what he says. And then they will complain to the school board. And then the book will be pulled and then all those kids who might have found truth and support in the book will be denied that. In addition, all the kids who have healthy emotional lives but who hate reading, will miss the chance to enjoy a book that might change their opinion.

All because some wingnut grabbed the opinion page of his newspaper, bellowed his lies, and no one challenged him.

I have already received incredible support on Facebook and in my inbox. Paul Hankins, an English teacher from Indiana, has started a Twitterfeed –  #SpeakLoudly  – where people can tweet their opinions. And my hero, Judy Blume, wrote to say she is bringing this nonsense to the attention of the National Council Against Censorship.

(I must confess – receiving a message from Judy Blume made me shriek a little. I am such a fangrrl of hers.)

I love the support from the blogosphere, but am concerned that the people in Scroggins’ community who might be swayed by his nonsense are not reading those blogs or following Twitter feeds on the topic. So I am writing to the school district superintendent and to the newspaper. But I know (because I’ve been here before) that my comments will likely be greeted with skepticism because I have a vested interest in the process.

I need your help.

Please share your experiences with SPEAK; your own response to the book, or the way you’ve seen it work in a school setting. Tahleen has already posted her thoughts on her blog. You can do the same. Please share links to your blog in Comments.

But then, please speak up to the people who can make a real difference in Republic, MO.

You can submit a letter to the editor of the News-Leader.

You can write to the superintendent of the Republic School District, Dr. Vern Minor, or to the high school principal, Daren Harris.

You can comment directly to Scroggins’ opinion piece.

Here I am reading “Listen” the poem I wrote based on reader response to SPEAK.


One Comment

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  1. RevBuchanan / Oct 26 2010 3:17 pm

    As a United Methodist pastor, and the mother of a ninth grade daughter, I fully support the book and the movie. The book was required reading in her class at school and the movie was shown to our Sr. High Youth Group at church. I think the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, would be pleased that we are teaching young people to speak out against violence.

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