Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Censorship and YA

Today, I found this blog post when Ellen tweeted about it. As I read it, and a few other posts, I became more and more appalled. For those that don't know, Ellen Hopkins was scheduled to attend the Humble TeenLitFest in 2011 but was UNINVITED when "several" (five? six?) parents and ONE librarian decided to raise a fuss. Without ever having read any of Ellen's books, the superintendent decided to UNINVITE her. Without reading one of her books. Because ONE librarian and "several" parents decided her books were "inappropriate" for ALL the teens attending the festival.

Anyway see the problem here? 1.) You don't just UNINVITE someone to something like that and 2.) Why is the superintendent going on the opinion of ONE librarian?

It's absolutely, positively absurd. CRAZY. Because you know what?

NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT TO READ. NO ONE. My parents don't even tell me what I'm allowed to read yet ONE person whom most of the teens have probably never even met has the right to decide what ALL of them are allowed to read?

Ellen's books can be hard to read, I'll admit. They are not necessarily for the younger readers. But they are by no means "bad" books. They're REAL. They cover topics TEENS DEAL WITH EVERYDAY. They do NOT encourage teens to do anything bad. If anything, they shine the light and show teens WHY certain decisions are bad. (Example - Crank. Every day, we hear "drugs are bad, stay away from drugs" and maybe that will sink in for some of us and be enough but Crank? Crank shows exactly WHY not to do drugs, the repercussions of doing drugs, the good and the bad, and everything in between. It's the reality teens need to read.)

But, as I said, maybe some teens aren't ready to read about that yet. I understand and respect that, as I'm sure Ellen and everyone else does. But here's the thing - it's up to the parent and the teen to decide that. It's NOT up ONE random STRANGER to make that decision for EVERYONE.

Okay, okay, you get my point. But you don't live in Houston so why should you care? Well, I don't live in Houston either. This particular event isn't affecting me at all. I won't be there whether or not Ellen is.

This is only the beginning of the fight though. These things happen every day, all over. Books are being pulled from libraries for being written by gay teens, parents are causing a fuss all over about various books for various reasons. Teens are being deprived the chance to read books that could potentially change their lives because one or two or three adults decide books are not "appropriate" for ANYONE. It needs to stop, now. And the only way that's going to happen is if we, as the readers, the teens, the authors, and everyone else, step up, spread the word, and take a stand. THAT's why it matters to me.

Teens are not as stupid as parents seem to think. We have eyes, we have ears. We see the world as it is. Taking books away from us is not "protecting" us. If anything, it's doing the opposite. If you don't think a book is appropriate for YOUR teen, don't let them read it. But you don't know what I'M capable of comprehending and understanding, you don't know what I'M going through, you don't know what books are going to affect ME. So stop trying to take them away!

Tera Lynn Childs, Melissa de la Cruz, and Pete Hautman have taken a stand. Ellen Hopkins most definitely has. Now it's up to us.


Ellen Hopkins said...

You are one hundred percent correct! Only you (or maybe you with a parent) should decide what's appropriate for you to read. Censors try to choose for everyone. And that can't be allowed.

Anonymous said...

PREACH. Too true. Tooooo true.

Christine Norris said...

I find that bizarre that a librarian would have the problem. As librarians, it's pretty much pounded into our heads from day one that libraries are island where freedom of choice and expression are protected. You don't represent the material itself, but the collection as a whole. YOU aren't the boss of the libary, just the caretaker.

That said, school libraries operate a LITTLE differently than public ones, since schools are expected to act in loco parentis (in place of parents) when the child is at school. BUT in a High School setting I don't understand this librarians attitude. While it's her job to select books for the collection, she cannot discriminate based on her personal feelings about any subject matter. She must remain objective. You cannot NOT choose a book because you belive it will cause controversy. Such an idea runs completely counter to everything libraries stand for (see, I pay attention in class!).

Then again (and not to be judgemental, just an observation) this is Texas we're talking about here.

Harmony said...

Christine - I don't understand it either. I think it was actually a middle school librarian and while I think some middle schoolers may be too young for Ellen's books, I feel like different action should have been done. If she REALLY felt the need to do something, she could've discussed it with the teens or the parents.

Deciding that not even the older teens should have the opportunity is wrong on so many levels.

Gaby G said...

I think this is so stupid! Parents should be proud that their sons are reading instead of doing other stuff! (like drinking, taking drugs)

Nobody has the right to tell you what to read..! Every book teaches you something.

Jenn said...

Jo Godwin is credited with saying "A truly great library has something to offend everyone," but it seems lately people aren't interested in great libraries.

I like your suggestion Harmony that the librarian could have discussed it with students and parents. School librarians are also teachers and she definitely missed a golden opportunity.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I agree with this times a million. Teens are way smarter than we give them credit for. And honestly, anyone who thinks teens have never heard swears before, or think teens don't know about drugs needs to pull their heads out of the sand.