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.