Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Book Week, and guest blogging

First off, I did a guest blog post over at Thanks so much to Suzette Saxton for giving me the opportunity!

I'm sure most of you have heard of the Speak/Slaughterhouse-Five/Twenty Boy Summer controversy. In honor of Banned Book Week, I've decided to share some thoughts on censorship.

First off, one of my favorite book series, His Dark Materials, made the top ten list of most challenged books in the past decade. It's not particularly surprising. His Dark Materials has content that could be considered anti-Christian, and many parents do not want their children exposed to literature which challenged their beliefs. Religious censorship in particular bothers me. If a person is sure of their faith, why would they object to reading books from all different points of view? For instance, I'm not Christian, but I still enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia. Why should kids not read from a wide variety of perspectives? After examining many religious angles, they will be more equipped to choose their own set of beliefs rather than having an adult choose for them.

While I understand parents censoring what young children read, it is beyond me why an adult would want to stop teenagers from reading literature with mature content. As a teen I feel my intelligence has been insulted. Do people think we don't know about rape and sex and drugs? The book Speak is often challenged for the rape scene, which is, in my opinion, poignant and sparse in terms of graphic description. Rape happens. It's important teenagers know about sexual violence, because having the right information is the only way to prevent it/seek help once it occurs. Shielding kids will only hurt them in the long run.

As writers and non-writers alike, I urge everyone to speak out against censorship. Other people should not be able to dictate what we can and can't read. To wrap up my little rant, here is a link to a poem by Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, composed entirely of snippets from letters she's received: Speak Up About Speak.



  1. Thanks for your guest post, Kate. It was fabulous and so much fun to work with you. =)

  2. Great post on QueryTracker! Every word was true. And it stinks to be old. Just kidding, I'm not old.

    I agree with you about banned books. I'm a mother, so I do feel a bit protective about what my daughter reads, but not about religion or even issues. When my children are older I will let them read about rape and sex and drugs and abuse and Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, etc. I hope books will be a springboard for conversation with my kids on topics we might otherwise have a difficult time discussing.

    To me, the definition of good literature is if it shows honest choices and the honest consequences of those choices. I could go on, but maybe I'll just blog about it. Thanks for the idea.

  3. Hahaha thanks Liesl! And everything you said is so true. My parents are very open-minded people, and they've never tried to force their religion or beliefs on me. Instead we have discussions about it and try to look at situations from different angles. In my opinion, kids need to learn to think for themselves, not just emulate what other people do/believe.

  4. My Grade 9 class read SPEAK for novel study and I have to say it was one of the best novel study books I've ever read (you know those books they choose are often times BORING). My mother read it too and we both agreed that it was very provoking.

    His Dark Materials are probably one of my all-time favourite series. As a kid I read them for the adventure. Not until now did I realize how many things Pullman actually talks about. I agree with you. As young people, we need to know more and be challenged. Only after that will we know what's really true in the world and make good decisions.

    I'm pretty Catholic myself but when I heard people saying "wicked" things about Harry Potter I laughed! Even if you're the most devout religious person there is a line between fiction and real life and sheesh, we're just reading FICTION here!

    I loved your post on QueryTracker! It's a great inspiration for me. If you have any tips as for getting "credentials" because I have basically none please message me! I don't have much real life writing friends so I'm turning to the net haha. I'm 16 years old and trying to churn out a novel - been hacking away at the dream since I was 9 but nothing's really gone major yet :(

  5. A very important and touchy subject, Kate. Kudos for bringing it up. I generally read the kind of stuff that I like to write, which is not always absent of violence or rape by any means, but its the senseless kind that I don't like to read. If it has a purpose to the story or setting, that's that. Am I going to dictate what others should read? Of course not. That's their business. So long as the literature isn't encouraging people to hurt others in real life, I have no problem.