Category Archives: censorship

Debs Speak Loudly

Bringing you around the web this week, a day early.

From the 2009 Debutantes website:

Banned Books Week has special significance for the Debs this year. Our own Sarah Ockler and her debut novel, TWENTY BOY SUMMER, are under challenge right now in Republic, MO, along with Kurt Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 and Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK.

In response to this, the 2009 Debs are giving away thirty-eight (38!) copies of Twenty Boy Summer. Visit the Debs site for more details, but the contest is open between now October 2, 2010.  Entries open to everyone worldwide. We’ll ship anywhere!

For more information on what’s going on, visit Sarah Ockler’s site and read her blog. Additionally, check out Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog as well. You can also read Sarah’s wonderful response to the challenge here.

Unfortunately, Mr. Vonnegut is no longer with us and cannot respond to the challenge, but one can imagine what he might have to say.

I’ve seen a few suggestions around the web that the authors in question and their supporters not speak loudly about this–that only gives the challenger in question too much attention, a national platform.

Just ignore him and he’ll go away.

Except sometimes, people like that won’t.  Sometimes, they convince other, reasonable people that there is a threat contained between two covers of a book.

The thing is, children may learn facts from history, but they learn empathy and truth from fiction. How and where do we want our young adults learning about the harsh realities of the world? From the safe confines of a book–where they have the time and opportunity to think about the situations presented and the moral and ethical implications.

Or should we simply shove them out the door unprepared? Let them learn it on the street, from peers who may be as ill-equipped as they are. All under the guise of keeping them safe.

How do we expect our children to make good ethical decisions when we’ve shielded them from ethical dilemmas? Why do we decry the “me-me-me generation” and then take away the very thing that teaches empathy? We complain that children don’t read, then snatch away the very books that engage them.

So sometimes you have to speak loudly to be heard above the din. Like Sarah Ockler. And Laurie Halse Anderson.

Speak loudly, because some would prefer you not speak at all.

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Filed under 2009 Debs, Books, censorship, Reading & Writing, Writing

Again with the banning

This disturbs me. I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked or surprised by people passing judgment on something they haven’t read for themselves and instead, taking the word of someone they don’t even know. Because it fits neatly with their worldview? This is the part I really don’t understand.

In short, the Hillsborough County School Board is considering removing/restricting Sarah Dessen’s book Just Listen from its shelves because of a passage that describes a sexual assault. The objection is the passage is graphic/repulsive.

I read this book a few months back. Sarah Dessen writes incredible YA fiction. I want to be Sarah Dessen when I grow up. The passage in question comes late in the novel. Everything builds to that point. It’s a flashback, and we’ve seen the damage that incident has done to the main character Annabel.

The passage is stark, and honest, graphic but not gratuitous. There’s nothing voyeuristic about it, nothing glamorized about it, nothing excused. It’s meant to be an uncomfortable scene. Take it away or gloss over it, and the story loses all credibility. Annabel needs to confront what happened to her. It’s part of the story and character arc.

Diana Peterfreund (who went to high school in Hillsborough) has a terrific post about this book and sexual assault/date rape statistics as they apply to teens.

I want to cover a few other aspects of the book that go beyond this admittedly important issue.

Spoiler Alert–if you want to read this book and don’t want know how Annabel resolves some of her issues, this cut is for you.

Continue reading

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Booking Through Thursday: Decorum

This week’s Booking Through Thursday:

Do you have “issues” with too much profanity or overly explicit (ahem) “romantic” scenes in books? Or do you take them in stride? Have issues like these ever caused you to close a book? Or do you go looking for more exactly like them? (grin) 

Well, I think we all know how I feel about swearing (scroll down for that answer). For me, it all has to do with the “higher good” of the story. Does it fit? Does it contribute? Is it crucial to the story?

What I don’t like is sex scenes added simply because the everything must be hot, Hot, HOT these days. But I’d feel the same way if these were car chase scenes, scenes taking place in a church, scenes where the heroine is communing with her bunny friends*. Whatever. Anything can be gratuitous.

*This isn’t a euphemism for anything (that I know of), but I’m thinking it should be.

Today’s Banned Author

Banned in Oklahoma: Maureen Johnson

Since it’s still Banned Books Week, I’m highlighting another author, another one not on the top 100 list, but a case that is both current and very interesting.

I’m not going to say a lot about it here because you can read Maureen’s entire series about her book being challenged in the tagged posts here on her web site/blog. If you want to start from the top, so to speak, you have to scroll to the bottom. However, her last post gives a good overview of what happened and the current situation. It’s a blow by blow book challenge/banning in real time.

From Maureen’s blog:

One of the more bizarre aspects of all of this is the secrecy in which this action was conducted. Without the actions of the librarian, no one would have known this happened. Book banning often happens in small meetings, out of sight. If you’re going to do something like this, I think you have the responsibly of making it public. It’s amazing what happens when you just add public knowledge to the equation.  

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Filed under Books, censorship, Memes

Banned Books Week: I swear!

Every time I turn around lately, someone is talking about swearing. Not gearing up to do it (although I’d find that highly entertaining), but rather, letting everyone know it shouldn’t be done. Or if it must be, only from the villain’s point of view, or the possibly the hero’s, but only under duress.

This post over at Smart Bitches–which sums up a letter that appeared in RWR–has already made the Internet rounds. Now, I have no issue with people who don’t like books with swearing. I don’t like books with serial killers. Uh, that doesn’t mean people should stop writing them. I choose to be an informed consumer. I’d rather not contemplate others making choices for me–for my own good, of course. /sarcasm mode off

Not surprisingly, many of the books on the most banned list are children/middle grade/young adult books. In fact, one of Andrew’s favorite books is on the list (more on that later–we’re trying to work up a mommy/son review).

I ran smack into the can’t swear in YA “rule” most recently in the children’s book writing class I took. Thankfully, the instructor put an end to that myth. The swearing “rule” comes up a lot on contest judging loops in the guise of how much is too much, or can you swear in YA, in a romance, and so on.

Generally when this happens, someone quotes their sainted great grandfather who maintained that swearing is the sign of small minds and if you, a writer, can’t come up with an alternative, you’re a hack. Or worse.

It’s hard to argue with someone’s sainted great grandfather, but I’ll give it a go.

Likewise, in YA contests, it’s someone’s fifteen-year-old who maintains (to his/her mother’s face–cuz you know, he/she would never lie) that teens think books with swearing are really just adults trying too hard and they never really read/take seriously books with swearing. (So, apparently, Chris Crutcher and Holly Black–so not selling these days.)

Then everyone jumps on the bandwagon of how wonderful it is kids these days don’t swear/don’t read books with swearing. No one bothers to check their bullshit detector. Or bother to read in the genre itself.

This doesn’t mean I think you should sprinkle in “swears” (as Andrew calls them) like jimmies on ice cream. The right word at the right time. And sometimes that word is a swear.

My favorite quote on swearing comes from Tim O’Brien:

If you don’t care for obscenity, you don’t care for the truth; if you don’t care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty.

Today’s banned author

YA author Deb Caletti’s book The Queen of Everything has been banned in a Texas school. (And honestly, is it wrong for me to aspire to that? Charity, now banned in Texas!) She has a wonderful essay on censorship called Sex, Swearng, and Banned Books that I encourage you to read in full.

For now, I’ll leave you with the following quote from Deb’s essay, because I couldn’t, in a million years, say it better than she does:

Books are information, ideas, and they are open doors. They provide empathy at hours you would never call a friend or family member, and they broaden our own ability to be compassionate human beings through shared “experience.” Censorship limits information, tell you what to think, closes doors. It is judgmental, always, limits our ability to be compassionate by teaching righteousness.

Nothing I could write would be as shocking and offensive as censorship itself. Censorship is a hand against your mouth, your hands tied behind your back, a blindfold over your eyes. It’s oppression and control, and were it not done by people in suit jackets, it would be called an act of violence.

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Filed under Books, censorship, Reading & Writing