Today, we are delighted to feature another exclusive guest blog for Banned Books Week, this time from acclaimed author Ellen Hopkins — who recently found herself and her own books at the center of some censorship-related issues. An extra special thank you to Ellen for taking time out of her hectic schedule to guest blog for us.
“A Framework for Empowerment” by Ellen Hopkins
Would be censors have been very busy the last few weeks. It kind of got jumpstarted by my dis-invitation from the Humble Texas Teen Lit Fest, something I’m sure you’ve heard about by now. If not, you can read my blogs about it here: http://ellenhopkins.livejournal.com. In the wake of that ugliness and the ensuing publicity, I have been called names like “disgusting,” “money-hungry,” “fame-seeking,” and “sick.” The words hurt, of course. But what really hurts is the fact that none of those poo-flingers have even read my books. Reason for being upset by my books: language and sexual situations. Books’ message: the choices you make as a teen can and will affect who you are as an adult, so make them carefully.
Now things move to Missouri, where in recent days the Board of Education for the Stockton MO School District voted 7-0 to remove Sherman Alexie’s brilliant The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from all school library shelves. This, despite uproar from actual educators who want the book to remain in their libraries. Reason for the pull: language and sexual situations. Book’s message: you can rise above difficulty and become someone truly special.
On the heels of that, a professor in Springfield MO writes an article calling for the removal of “dirty books” from library shelves. In question: Kurt Vonnegut’s classic satire Slaughterhouse Five, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (which he dared equate to “soft porn”) and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer. Reason for the challenge: language and sexual situations. Oh, and in the case of Sarah’s book, he didn’t like the title, which connoted something sexual. (Not that he read the book to find out the title had nothing to do with what he thought it did. Idiot.) Speak’s message: you must speak out when someone hurts you.
Language and sexual situations. A real-to-life framework so our readers know we’re not b.s.ing them when we tell them to make careful choices, lift themselves out of difficulty or speak up to let someone know they have been damaged in some profound way. Messages that will empower our youth to become wise, strong, courageous adults.
And maybe, just maybe, if those people who are so offended by a word would actually read that word in context, they would understand the empowerment young readers can gain from these pages. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what they’re afraid of.