Friday, August 20, 2010

Censorship Contempt

Friday, August 20, 2010
Once again, censorship reared its ugly head this week. This time it is directed at an author and her books. Ellen Hopkins, author of many popular YA books dealing with controversial yet realistic teen issues, was invited to be a part of the Humble Teen Lit Fest this year along with several other authors. Then thanks to the work of a middle school librarian, a few parents and the superintendent of the Humble Independent School District, Ellen was "uninvited". Since then, the Teen Lit Fest has lost several other authors, who have pulled out in protest and solidarity over what can only be described as blatant censorship.

So here is my two cents: first and foremost, censorship in any form is indefensible. As an educator, I am disappointed at the actions of the librarian who set this censorship monster loose.  I am also aghast that a superintendent, without ever reading one of Hopkins books, caved in to the demands of a small group of small-minded parents. I would have hoped that he would have acknowledged their rights to keep their children home from the event instead of acting on their demands and ruining the chance for the majority of his students to meet and hear Ellen speak.

While I support all the author’s who have spoken out against Hopkin’s “univite”, I am sad that so many of the Humble students, who are the real losers here, will be unable to meet and interact with their favorite authors. Those authors who are still attending will hopefully use this event to strongly voice their opinion of the insidious nature of censorship in any and all forms. I also hope that the educators in the Humble Independent School District will find a teachable moment to discuss why censorship is so contemptuous.

I strongly urge you to read the various posts by checking out a collection of links on Book Shelves of Doom.


Lori said...

Great post, Jan! Living in the bible belt all my life, this is something that I have to deal with all the time.
I recently ran into my 9th grade English teacher and I was talking with her about reading, reviewing, and blogging. We were discussing books and I brought up Ellen Hopkins, saying something like it should be required reading for teens, it would be a great anti-drug. She said there's no way I could use that in my classroom. Parents would have a fit. She said that she can't even use books like Twilight because parents would be upset!
This kind of uncalled for censorship makes me sick. And like you said it's the kid's who pay when parents and school board's are keeping real books with real issues away from them.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

Wow. I am flabbergasted that a librarian would cause such a horribly obvious case of censorship.

I know that Ms. Hopkins's books are controversial and even painfully hard to read at times. I know this because I've read all but two of her books. And, I keep them on my free reading shelves in my classroom. I choose to buy her books and offer them to my students because they are real, they are well-written, and they convey great messages about drug use, sex, religion, mental illness, homosexuality, body issues, etcetera...without telling the reader what to think. Problems that characters face are not easily solved and are often not resolved even as the book is ending. This is real. Teens need access to books that deal with reality. And these books do.

And, I have one wonderful parent who orders all of Hopkins's books as they come out for her daughter. Why? Because this student was an absolute non-reader before I handed her a copy of Crank. And the mother dropped out of high school without functional literacy skills. So, this family knows the value of reading.

This is a little scattered. Sorry.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Thank you for pointing this out! I am not familiar with this author, but now I definitely want to be. Cencorship is a breach of the freedom of creativity. Hey, if you don't want to read something, just don't. Don't act all holier-than-thou and pick on authors just because you can't handle something. Geez... Sometimes, I really wonder at this world. It feels like we're 200 years back when people burned "bad" books. I believe the librarian owes the author an apology, I really do.

sarahem said...

"While I support all the author’s who have spoken out against Hopkin’s “univite”, I am sad that so many of the Humble students, who are the real losers here, will be unable to meet and interact with their favorite authors."


Staci said...

I have weighed in on several fronts in regards to this Jan. I'm a middle school librarian and even though Hopkins' titles are not on my shelves( too mature for age group 10-13), I've talked about her books with more mature 8th graders than I can count. Her books, her words are important to these young people and she should be heard. I am appalled that a librarian started this????!!!! I treasure my right to read what I want and I would lose my job first before I rolled over for what is happening there in Humble Country.

Mardel said...

One of my pet peeves of life is other people trying to affect the reading and viewing materials of others. I just feel like ranting and raving when I hear about stuff like this.

My mother (who grew up in a very religious, central american family) never ever censored our reading - and neither did my dad (separate households). My sister and I were able to read anything we wanted. I did the same with my own kids - allowed them whatever they want to read.

One thing I resent is having to be careful of what I enter into our library.

I wish people would just mind their own business and their own children's reading. Leave others alone!

Melissa said...

You took the words right out of my mouth...very well-said, Jan. It's horrid that such censorship exists :(

chelleyreads said...

How horribly unfair! I wish people could just mind their own business, most especially about what children read because kids know better than what they think.

Thanks for the post Jan!


Lily Child said...

Great post Jan! I really couldn't have said it any better myself! I really wish people who support censorship thought about it this way: Can we censor life? There are things we all go that aren't easy or pretty. Is it possible to just censor those issues and situations right out of our life? No. So why would we censor them out of books? As a reader, I want to be able to identify, relate and empathize with the characters. If everything is all sunshine and rainbows, how would I be able to do that?

It's really sad. I also agree, that the teens and readers are the ones who are going to be missing out! :(

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