Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another ugly case of attempted censorship.

I don't know how many of  you have seen this recent op-ed column by a man named Scroggins, but it's been posted on Twitter a lot recently. He claims that Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter-House Five, as well as Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (which I haven't read), are helping to ruin students' minds in his school system. He also claims that Speak is "soft-core porn," though I honestly can't even begin to venture which scenes would make it so.

For those of you who haven't read Speak yet, go do it now before reading the rest of this post, since there will be spoilers. Plus it's completely worth your time and not the evil piece of smut Scroggins would have you believe it is.

Speak: 10th Anniversary EditionSpeak is a testament to taking control over your own life and embracing the power within you to say "no" and to protect yourself. Melinda, the narrator, will not speak of the events before her freshman year of high school—her rape at a party, call to 911, and subsequent ostracization by all of her peers (as her call broke up the party and got many in trouble). She can't bring herself to tell anyone what happened, and as a result becomes a leper in her high school before she even gets there.

It is a powerful and empowering novel for young readers and should be read by everyone to discuss date rape and the right to say no. Not only will it show this to girls, it will provide an entry point for discussion of rape and what they might do to help combat the rape culture that is our society. The fact that Scroggins describes Melinda's rape and the events that led up to it as "soft-core porn" illustrates this—why else would he think a rape scene would be sexually stimulating?

I can't even tell you how angry I am about this, especially as it comes right before Banned Books Week later this month. I am also angry about his bashing of Slaughter-House Five, which one commenter rightly described as being about peace. But as a woman and a reader, especially one with great love for young adult literature, I am deeply upset by this ignorant condemnation of an important book in the young adult canon.

Look out for a review of Speak on here during Banned Books Week.

EDIT: I recently remembered I have a button that I got from ALA Midwinter that says "Speak Up about SPEAK." I plan on wearing it this week when I go out.


  1. I can't read your whole post because of the spoilers you mentioned (as I haven't read Speak yet), but I always hate it when people try to censor stuff!

    I have an award for you by the way:

  2. Can't wait to go pick up both those books! Thanks for the heads up on then. And I'm with you, that is a load of bull to want to ban them!

  3. THIS!!!

    Thank you Tahleen. I love that you mention how Speak is a discussion point for rape. I think that is why it is so absolutely important that Speak not ever be banned.

  4. Thank you for writing this post. Does that idiot really think that evil should be brushed under the carpet? What use is it to protect teenagers' minds by forbidding them from reading stories that deal with the bad stuff, if you can't protect them from experiencing it personally? I read many people's twitter and blog comments who have been in Melinda's situation and been helped to heal by reading the book. I can only assume that the idiot did not read the book itself. I hate to think what sort of person would read it and consider it in any way pornographic.

  5. Here's a side note: I just realized I got Melinda's name wrong in my original post; it's been fixed. Sorry, I read it about a year ago and was stupid and didn't double check! Thanks for reminding me, Katie.

  6. I'm french, I read that book 2 years ago it changed my life. I was 16 when I was in Melinda's situation.
    People should ALL read that book! This man is INSANE. I cried when I read him...
    Thanks you for supporting this book, it means so much to me and to so many people...

  7. Most definitely. SPEAK is a wonderful and extremely educational book. Scroggins makes me so angry.

    Thanks again for the button!
    Speak Up About Speak!

  8. I LOVE the button. Wish I had one...

    I'm compiling a collection of reviews for Banned Book Month. If you want, you can leave the link on my review page, and I'll include it in the list.

    Thanks for writing this!

  9. Thanks for posting this. We at The Line Campaign, support victims and survivors telling their stories, in their own voices, and taking back power through storytelling. Censoring stories does not make the crimes disappear. We support you.

  10. From his article, it doesn't even sound like he read these books at all, maybe skimmed them for the objectionable material he was looking for, took everything out of context and twisted it.

    That's the oldest trick in the book, and just shows the ignorance of the man and his supporters.

  11. I just left the following comment to Mr. Scroggins' (what a perfect name for him) piece. The only thing he succeeded in doing is verifying his bigotry and ignorance.

    "So hundreds of thousands of people can declare "Slaughterhouse Five" one of the greatest books ever written but one man with a minority opinion can get it removed from a school district's curriculum?

    I read "Speak" for the first time this year as a 39 year-old adult. Mr. Scroggins is so far off the mark about its content, themes and messages that it is impossible for me to believe he read the book. This book does the opposite of glorifying sex and villifying teachers.

    The safest way for teenagers to evaluate the world around them and the situations and emotions they encounter is through books. I'd much rather have my daughter learn about the consequences of date rape in a book than in real life. Do you think banning these books is going to prevent bad things from happening to our kids? No. But it will make them less prepared to recognize and respond to dangerous situations, make them less likely to talk about these issues or ask questions of adults. Parents - SPEAK up!"

  12. Thanks for posting this! I love "Speak". I think that, when used in the classroom, it helps youngsters start discussing serious matters and understand them better. Plus, this Scroggins person is way off the mark regarding this book's depiction of teen sex. I can't believe anyone who claims himself a protector and defender of young kids' morality and such, would try to ban a book that actually serves that very purpose! Speak alerts people of what's going on out there in High Schools! It helps kids keep an eye open for those things! It might help people who have experienced them open up and stand up for themselves! What the heck is this man talking about? He must be insane to depict Speak the way he does in that article. Shame on him.

  13. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate all of your support and thank you for commenting. I am so glad that my words are appreciated, and that I'm being heard.

  14. Glad you posted this. I just saw at my local library branch that copies of Speak are featured heavily at the front (examples of good YA books) so I'm happy to see that people do appreciate it. I also just read Speak again this weekend--I'm doing a book talk on it for one of my classes tomorrow (I'm a library sci student).

  15. Sadako, that's great! I didn't know you were studying library science too. I'm happy that people aren't letting this one guy stop SPEAK from being read, appreciated and enjoyed.

  16. I love this book, this book has changed my life and just the thought that somebody is going to read that review and believe that it is true is just terrible. Somebody's life could be changed by reading that book like it did to me. Now a lot of kids that desperately need to read that book will read the review and say "heck with it". I couldn't believe my eyes when he put the words "pornography" and "Speak" in the same review.

  17. I was in a class when this book was read to every student every day for about thirty minutes when I was anywhere from 5th grade to 8th grade. I can't remember which, but I do know which teacher it was. Anyone that remembers what you were like at this age time frame, you know how embarrassed and silly you were when sex was spoken of. That didn't happen with this book. I knew very little of rape and this story taught me so much, inspired me, and was overall just a really great book. If I hadn't been introduced to this book when I was, who knew what could have happened to me. I never would have found out about rape until something bad happened to me or someone close to me. I was glad, then and now, to learn about it when I did, even though I was young. Taking things like this out of the school system is ridiculous. I won't get on my soap box, like I would love to, but people some people are just idiots and saying that this book is "pornography" is absolutely insane. If you are going to argue something, learn about the subject first. This infuriates me to no end.

  18. I am a high school English teacher in Alabama and have taught Speak for four years. The book is anything but pornographic: first of all, the book touches on the real-life problem of rape, and does it in a tasteful, nondescriptive way. I have had a large percentage of non-reading students to read this book and get so much out it. The reason? Students can relate to Melinda, the ninth grade narrator. Not only does she suffer a traumatic rape and over come it, but she also overcomes the experience of being bullied and hated during the span of a school year. In the student body at my school, I can guarantee that there are a number of students who have suffered some sort of abuse, whether it be rape, physical, or verbal. The book Speak is not only a comfort to those students, but it also teaches that one can deal with problems, move on, and live again. I hope that the ignorance of one, who has probably not even read the book, will not prevent others from experiencing this well-written, touching novel.

  19. I just want to say I wrote my title of my blog review "Speak Up About Speak" before I even knew it was a phrase. I read your post after I wrote my own review. I got the link for Laurie's post. SPEAK must be read by everyone. It should be mandatory reading in middle or high school. Here is my own review:

    Thank you for supporting such an important topic.

  20. I’m a high school teacher in Germany and we’ve read SPEAK in our English class.
    I totally disagree with Mr Scroggins who considers the novel “filthy and immoral”. To my mind, the novel deals with the topic ‘rape’ in the most decent way possible.
    In my opinion, the novel gets across a great message: You might suffer serious setbacks and crises in your life, but you should never give up. It might take you some time to find a way out, but still, there is a way for you to go on and you will find it.
    On top of that, the novel points out ways of dealing with personal crises. For Melinda, it’s art that helps her come to terms with what happened.
    What is more, SPEAK offers a good possibility to talk about date rape and strategies how to prevent rape. Isn’t this what school should be all about - preparing young people for life?
    To sum this up, I’m glad that there are novels like SPEAK and that we can work with them to prepare our students for life.

  21. I´m a student in a german school and I think that the book should be read in school, because you learn, how to protect yourself of getting raped. And of course you learn that you have to speak about your problems (f.e. with your parents or friends.) And the book is good for outcasts, becausethey learn how they have to be, that they get friends. So students learn from the faults from Melinda.
    The only point against reading the book in class is that the situation of Melinda is to hard for some person.

  22. Hello I'm a Student from a German School and I have read the book at School.

    I think that you shouldn't read that book at School, because what Melinda makes in this Situation was really wrong. She doesn't talk about her Problem and that's why she hasn't friends or something like that in this time.
    Maybe you have a children in the class who was raped too an then the book isn't really good. When Melinda explains how she was raped you have Pictures in your head and that's for some people/children to hard. Maybe it's good when children read the book, but I think that it's for really Young people a Little bit to hard, but some People can learn from the mistakes which Mwlinda makes.


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