Today, as part of Banned Book Week, I am pleased to welcome Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz to Eating YA Books.These lovely ladies graciously consented to join the rest of the blogosphere to add their voices and Speak Out against book banning.
TRUTH IN FICTION
Earlier this summer, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was challenged—a challenge is a request for banning a book—because it contained "much offensive material, including two rape scenes, drunken teenage parties, and teenage pre‐marital sex." As we talked about the challenge, we were reminded of a book that was challenged when we were kids—Ordinary People by Judith Guest. That time, the challenge called the book "obscene" and "depressing."
Ordinary People is about a family--a mother, father, and son--trying to come to grips with the accidental death of the oldest child. Filled with guilt over having survived the accident when his brother didn't, the main character, a boy named Conrad, has attempted suicide. The novel delves into the many different ways that people deal with--or try to hide from--their grief. For anyone who has lost a family member, it's a book that examines the important, painful, and long-lasting aspects of a situation that can be difficult to discuss in real life. Imagine another teen, a real one, in Conrad's situation. He's alone with his grief, his parents too wrapped up with their own grief to help him. Imagine how much better he feels when he reads a book like Ordinary People and sees that there are others out there who understand at least some of his emotions. Seeing Conrad gain the strength and courage to go on with his life might inspire this real teen to move forward in his own.
Imagine a real teen, maybe the girl who sits next to you in English, has gone through something similar to what Melinda experienced in Speak, a rape she didn't tell anyone about, instead spiraling down into a world of depression and silence. Imagine that after reading the book this girl was inspired to tell the truth about what happened to her-- perhaps to a trusted teacher such as Melinda's Mr. Freeman--and take back control of her life.
Literature speaks to the entire spectrum of the human experience, not only to the parts that you yourself have lived through. A book may depict people doing, saying, and thinking things that you don't understand, agree with, or approve of. Maybe that guy who works in the pizza place you go to read a book and it led him to stop smoking, or to call his estranged mother, or to ask for help with his learning disability...the possibilities are endless. The point is, novels speak to different people in different ways. The opinion of one person--or one group of people--should not prevent everyone else from reading and learning from a book.
Books like Speak and Ordinary People are powerful because they tell the truth. Some teenagers are raped. Some teenagers do attempt suicide. Is this depressing? Yes. But it's real. Some teenagers drink, use R-rated language, and have sex. Is this obscene or offensive? Depends on your point of view. But obscene or not, offensive or not, it's real. It's true.
This isn't to say that books that tell the truth can stop teen suicide or rape, or any other of life's tragedies. Teens who experience devastating loss and abuse and pain need more help than can be found in the pages of a story. But if the first step to solving a problem is admitting that there is a problem, then censorship is a step back.
Thank you Laura and Melinda for stopping by and joining us for Banned Book Week.
Don't forget to check out and enter my review and giveaway of Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz's newly released book Crave, which end 9/28.
Also enter my Bloggers Speak Out Giveaway to win your choice of Speak, Slaughterhouse Five, or Twenty Boy Summer, three banned books.