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Thursday, October 21, 2010

How I'm Speaking Loudly

Today I am cross-posting a column I recently wrote for my school newspaper. The topic of the column is Wesley Scroggin's attack on Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. You can read his entire article here. As a reviewer of young adult novels, I, like many others, took offense to this post.

Though I wasn't able to take part in Banned Books Week due to school and other conflicts, I felt that I needed to do something -- both for Banned Books Week and in response to Scroggins' article. The following column is my way of speaking out.

Let me know what you think!

   I have been to wild ragers. I have had abusive boyfriends. I have been stalked, kidnapped and tortured.
   Okay, maybe I haven’t. But they – the characters – have.
   I am an avid reader of the young adult genre. That section with the colorful covers and pale vampires that many love, others scoff at and as of late, some attack.
   On Sept. 18, Wesely Scroggins from Springfield, Mo. wrote an opinion in his local newspaper demeaning three of these books.
   These books contain “adult content.” They’re not light and fluffy as one may suspect, but heavy, gritty and – in Scroggins’ opinion – filthy.
   While I haven’t read all three of the books he attacked, I have read one: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.
   When I read Ockler’s book two summers ago, I was shocked by its depth.
   I may not have agreed with everything the main character did, but I saw its importance to the plot and to the character.
   Without it, the book would not have been half as powerful.
   Then last spring, I was able to meet Ockler while in New York and acquired an advanced copy of her upcoming novel, Fixing Delilah.
   This book was even more powerful than her debut. Ockler’s books delve past all the pretenses and get into the angst and turmoil of being a teenager.
   More importantly, they deal with death and what you’ll go through to find yourself.
   It shocks and sickens me to hear someone calling Twenty Boy Summer “soft porn.” I don’t understand how someone can take such a beautifully deep piece of work and see only filth.
   Actually, I can. Scroggins and others book banners see words like “sex” and “drugs,” and immediately disregard everything else.
   These people fixate on the less-savory threads of the story and miss the big picture, because surely, the mere mention of drugs will send kids off into a destructive spiral.
   Do they really think so little of us?
   I am a clich├ęd student – I get straight As, I take AP courses and I love English and the newspaper.
   I am also a proud reader of this supposed filth.
   I read about wild parties and drinking and all unholy things, but that doesn’t mean I do any of it.
   Books are meant to teach us and most importantly, better us.
   I don’t feel the need to get wasted because I’ve seen someone I love ruin her life while inebriated. And I don’t need to do drugs because I know what it can do to you and your relationships.
   I know all this because I read and because I learn from what I read. This is the power of books.
   Yet book banners don’t seem to understand that. Those evil words are just too powerful for teens’ eyes.
   Personally, I hope teenagers as a whole are smarter than that. High school students are intelligent enough to know that what they read isn’t always truth, that what’s important is the truth beneath it, the lesson they take away from it.
   Take away those books, and you take away those lessons.
   I’d like to see what happens then, Mr. Scroggins.


  1. Awesome letter! thanks for posting it :)
    And I agree 1000% with you

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. What a fabulous, heart-felt, well-reasoned letter. You make an excellent case for why these books are so important!

    Sorry to delete and repost, but there was a typo, and no edit button. :-)


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