Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Silencing the Voiceless

So yesterday, I stumbled upon this article about the banning of Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK and I have not been able to stop thinking about it since. I'm going to put aside the ridiculousness of considering a book about rape to be "child pornography" for the time being and instead just talk about book banning.

We all joke that we should be so lucky to have our books banned because it will increase our sales. Kids love to read that which they aren't supposed to, right? And while that may be true, the reality is that book banning sucks. It sucks for authors, but more importantly it sucks for readers. Because no matter what banned books might do in bringing up issues of freedom of speech, etc., the truth is that banning books keep people from reading books that they may desperately need.

And now I'll talk about banning books that address difficult issues. I think why it hurts me on such a visceral level that SPEAK continues to be banned is because I know so many people who needed that book. Similarly, I know so many people who didn't realize they needed it and it turned out to be life-changing for them.

The fact of the matter is that for teens, disclosing rape is often difficult and more often than not, they do not first disclose to parents, teachers, social workers, authorities, etc. They disclose to their friends. Did you hear that? They disclose to their friends. So now, we have completely untrained teenagers being the first people to hear when a rape happens. And that is a turning point for them and for the survivors. Because what these friends say MATTERS. If friends victim blame or slut shame or ask questions like, "What were you doing with that guy? How come you drank so much? Why did you wear that? How come you stayed out so late?" then the survivor will absorb that information and that may be the thing that stops them from ever talking about it again.

Which, let me tell you if it hasn't become abundantly clear with recent media, this silence will eat them alive. So the irony of Laurie's SPEAK being silenced is so sad and sickening. Because of course the theme of the book is about talking. Which we must do, whether it makes us uncomfortable or not.

The article stated that the blogger felt that boys were made to feel uncomfortable reading passages out loud. I don't even really know what to say about this. I'm not super interested in people's comfort levels when it comes to rape and open discussions. I am drawn to things that help open minds and hearts, help teach people, help people respond appropriately to hard topics. SPEAK does this. 13 REASONS WHY does this. THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN does this. These books have all been banned. A lot.

Teens are first responders to a multitude of issues that their friends face. If we give them no tools, no resources, if we refuse to engage in discussions that might make them uncomfortable, we perpetuate silence. We make rape victims who already have been disempowered feel as if they have no voice.

I cannot condone this. Ever. SPEAK. SPEAK. SPEAK.


Carrie Mesrobian said...

I want you to shout this through a bullhorn. I want to wheatpaste it on telephone poles. I want to skywrite it and crop-dust it and knock people on the head with it until it sinks in. Talking and reading about rape cannot hurt you.

Matthew MacNish said...

First of all, child porn is illegal because it has victims. Characters in books cannot be victims, and therefore books cannot be child porn.


That said, I can't believe this is still an issue. I got kind of mad about it back when I used to blog:


Matthew MacNish said...

And ... back after reading the linked post. I actually think that teacher is brilliant. Having boys read aloud from a book like Speak, however uncomfortable it might make them, is an excellent way to engage them in the fight against rape, if you ask me.

It's a good, important fight, why not recruit strong young men to help us fight it?

Stephanie said...

That article was so messed up, and after reading LHA's blog post about the guy who wrote it and what a Tea Party douchebag he is, I got even more pissed. I'm hoping this is merely a matter of an extremist individual who believes utter nonsense. There will always be people like that, but I get most worried when the system validates the beliefs of people like this. The school still gets to decide if the book will be banned. Hopefully they do the right thing.

Jolene Perry said...

FANtastic post.
This is something I get all insane worked up over.
Next month I'm getting together w/ a librarian friend of mine who works at one of the local high schools, and I've started compiling a long list of questions for her...

Nyrae Dawn said...

As always you say what needs to be said in such a passionate, heartfelt, logical, honest way. Great post. Thanks for sharing it.

Ali Cross said...

I've been thinking about you, your platform in your writing and blogging, and my OWN voice, a LOT. Then I saw Nyrae's tweet about this post.

I am almost 45 years old, and I have tears in my eyes reading the truth in this post. Because I told NO ONE. Okay, that's not true. I told my mother (who claimed it was my fault) and then I told my aunt (who believed me and honored me, letting me live with her a while)--but after I told my mother, and heard the blame pinned on me, I believed that, internalized it, and never told anyone else.

That was freakin' forty years ago. I can't even imagine how my life might have been different, how my burden might have been made lighter, if I understood that I should, and COULD, SPEAK.

It's not about being comfortable. It's about truth and respect and freedom.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Glad you're discussing this issue. Banning books that tackle difficult topics for anyone including teens in troubling.