In honor of the last day of Banned Books Week, I’m re-posting this blog by fellow writer Ellen Hopkins. Maybe by this time next year, Beautiful will be on the list of books that gets folks’ panties in a bunch because of its “controversial” content. I would be honored. I would be proud to be grouped with YA authors like Ellen who dare to explore difficult subject matter in an honest and thoughtful way. No one benefits when we pretend painful stories don’t exist. And no teen I’ve ever known responds to “I told you so” as a valid reason to not do something. I don’t know about you, but I need to trust someone before I can take their opinions seriously, and I certainly cannot trust someone I know is withholding information and not telling the truth.
Would you trust someone who refuses to talk openly with you?
Would you follow the rules of someone who won’t let you read a book because they think you can’t handle the content?
I didn’t think so.
by Ellen Hopkins (Oct. 2nd, 2009)
OMG, here we go again. After the Norman OK blowup last week, it seems the superintendent of schools in Moore OK (where, coincidentally, I spoke at Hillsdale Baptist College instead of the Norman schools) preemptively pulled all my books from all her schools “as a precaution.” A precaution for what? Information? Maybe even the kind of information that might prevent kids from choosing self-destructive behaviors?
I’ve been over and over the reasons why my books are important for kids from all walks of life to have available. Read my other blogs if you haven’t seen those reasons yet. It’s not just me, either. In the last few weeks, book challenges, “precautionary removals” and author visit cancelations have increased exponentially. I have one question. What are people so afraid of? We hear words like “indoctrination.” Seriously? Do our readers not have brains that can process information, allowing them to reach their own conclusions? “Age-inappropriate.” Because every person of a certain age is exactly the same? “Advancing the gay agenda.” Agenda? Like asking for the same rights as heterosexuals? “Supernatural references.” For Pete’s sake. They’re fantasy, not handbooks.
As I see it, a very vocal minority has been empowered by uber-conservative pundits who claim not only the path to the next election, but also to God. Apparently, God has been so offended by the f-word or sex in books that he has directed their censorship. Uh… I don’t think so. Not that it’s anyone’s business, but I am an active member of my Lutheran church. And I happen to believe that the Creator directed my own path toward writing books that matter. And I happen to think God would be offended by those who claim to represent Him while advancing their own selfish goals.
It would be easy enough to buckle beneath the will of the few. I mean, it’s just so tiresome to keep pushing back. But here’s the deal. Some of these same people have accused President Obama (IMHO, a fine man doing the best he can with the cards dealt him) of being a fascist. Truth is, fascism flourished under Mussolini and Hitler because they crafted propaganda machines that spread disinformation to keep people living in fear. (Sound familiar, Mr. Limbaugh?) Books were burned. Truth withheld. People didn’t fight back because it was too tiresome. Or they were too afraid.
Books are not the enemy. Information keeps kids from doing drugs or getting pregnant or throwing up to get thin. Words are not the enemy. The Creator has more important things to worry about than hearing the F-word. ( Probably seriously concerned about guns going into bars to uh . . . protect. . . drunk patrons.) The vocal minority are not the only people who speak for God, and who are they to claim they are? We, the majority, cannot allow the minority to yell louder than we do. We are not afraid. And we have to keep letting them know that.
I just got a peek at the Booklist review of Beautiful, and it says this: “there’s no doubt that Reed’s debut will enthrall as many teens as it will repel adults.”
Excellent! Happy Banned Books Week indeed!