You may not be aware of it, but Banned Books Week is coming up, from September 25th to October 2nd. It’s sponsored by, among other organizations, the American Library Association. It was created in protest against those who want books banned because the tomes don’t fit their personal beliefs or religious or political agenda.
Today I ran across an example of another author whose book is under threat of banning prompted by the activities of a right-wing religious organization. Laurie Halse Anderson is the author of Speak, a book about a high school girl who gets raped. The girl stays silent about it (hence the irony of the title), and there are all sorts of negative consequences. When she finally speaks up, it’s a real victory, not just for her, but for her whole school.
This book has helped many young women truly Speak about being raped, and how this crime affected them. And these young women are not a rare occurrence either. As an adult, learning more about my circle of female friends, I discovered that the majority of them had either been raped or sexually abused. I, who had not been, was in a decided minority, and remain in a minority among the women I know now. Almost none of these women came from “bad homes,” and absolutely none of them “asked for it” or got a sexual thrill out of being attacked and abused in that way.
Anderson writes about this issue, and the title of her blog entry sums everything up: This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography. That’s right, the person who wants Speak banned considers it “soft core pornography” because there are two rape scenes in the book. This says vastly more about the contents of his mind than the contents of the book. He clearly believes that rape is sexually exciting; after all, that’s what pornography IS. He doesn’t “get” that this is a crime issue, and something that affects huge numbers of women in his society. No — he finds sexual excitement in the idea of rape, and that’s why he wants this book, which has been so helpful to so many young women, removed from the shelves.
This particular instance accentuates how important it is not to give in to the narrow minds that want books they have a problem with denied to everyone else.
So. What are you going to read during Banned Books Week, that these small, crabbed little minds would prefer you didn’t? If I can find Speak, I’ll try to read that. Otherwise, I think I’ll grab something from the top ten challenged books of 2009, or perhaps pick one from this Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2010 map.
Got any other ideas for reading, for Banned Books Week?