I have gone over this in my head trying to figure out what is wrong and what is right, when it comes to censorship? I feel torn because this is America and the freedom I stand for - The Constitutional Rights - comes into play here. On one hand, I disagree with the fact that an author who writes for the YA audience, can write anything he or she pleases. Just as my header says, "Speak the truth to your audience to the best of your ability" ~ sort of an author code of conduct. But at my teens' expense? On the other hand, the freedom we have leaves this open for any person to write anything he/she chooses. I would not want to lose that freedom, that right. So, where does that leave me?
I was scanning through the Internet and came upon an article by Allena Tapia with WOW! an ezine promoting the communication between woman writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers and readers. (http://www.wow-womenonwriting.
According to the American Library Association (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson has been challenged multiple times since it's 1999 publication. Cited reasons include language, sexual situations, and inappropriateness to age group. Indeed, these are common reasons for challenges; of the challenges recorded by the ALA (for all books) in 2008, the most cited reason was the contents were "sexually explicit."
Speak is the story of Melinda's first year in high school and ends with the realization that she was raped by an older student shortly before the year began. The book culminates from another aggressive attack by the same boy later in the school year. Although, generally mild compared to other available titles, Speaks challenger's focused on the sexual violence, in addition to other plot pieces such as Melinda's' self-cutting. However, the ALA doesn't record any challenges since 2007.
A freshman at Waverly High School in Lansing Michigan, noted that she had never heard of the uproar over Speak and that the book was generally presented in a positive light by teachers, community members and other students when her class had read it. Apparently, the book has come a long way since it's heyday in the news - In addition to several other challenges the ALA recorded, the author's own blog details the beginnings of a movement to ban the book in suburban Detroit along with similar instances in seven other states.
Allena Tapia goes on to talk about how books are usually perceived differently in small, conservative, rural communities. That those communities will have a different outlook than that of an urban community or suburb. She goes on saying basically the more the book is challenged the more teens will want to read them. She quotes a mother of a young teen who's last name Commarato, saying this...
"If I tried to keep something from her, she would probably work even harder to find a way to see it, read it, or listen to it regardless. My actions make her notice these things. I'm pretty open to all kinds of things and letting her see different points of view and knowing that the world isn't so happy-go-lucky all the time. If nothing else it might make her come to me with questions."
I personally find it strange to allow your teens to read material about certain adult topics just so that they can learn about the world and how it works. Some teens, depending on their personality might not even ask questions about what they are reading. I have two of those. They will just ponder and ponder on things until they figure it out themselves. I have to constantly talk to them about what's going on in that head of theirs. On the other hand I have three others that tell me everything they are thinking. Quite opposite ends of the spectrum.
The article goes on to say...
Research finds that many community members, parents, authors and school boards think just as the mother that was quoted earlier thinks - but not all. Parents Against Bad Books In School - (*** VERY, VERY explicit information on certain books in school. By clicking on this link you will need to be at least 18 yrs of age!) doesn't publish value judgments against books on it's website (other than those implied by the groups name); but the group does list the most graphic portions of over fifty novels out of context and without comment or reference to the storyline that carried them. the organization Common Sense Media - grades books on an age based system (it gave Speak a rating of "iffy" for ages thirteen to sixteen), but insist that it "Believes in media sanity, not censorship."
I guess I'm the weirdo, the mother who wants some kind of rating toward books. Even if the PABBIS organization has quoted the books out of context, the content is way, way overboard for the designated age group. I DO NOT think banning of books or true censorship is the answer. I would just like some kind of rating on the front cover and then the author can be as "TRUE" to his/her audience to the best of their ability! Then we can decide for ourselves (parents) how far we want our teens to go in the world of reading. Reading books are the ONLY form of media that is not age restricted. There are no requirements for author's to abide by. Movie producers and game creators even musician's and their producers have some kind of censorship. Bleeping words out of songs so they can be played on the radio is perfectly fine, right?
So the article continues,
AlA's Office of Intellectual Freedom states, "We defend the right of each person of each family to choose their reading materials in accordance to their own interests and values, without having other individuals and others' families dictate those choices to them."
"Families have a right to say: 'In this family, we don't read those kinds of books;' But the ALA protects the First Amendment rights of all users. Even today, books are removed [from circulation, reading lists, etc.] and books are still censored despite the existence of First Amendment rights, despite the tradition of free expression and free speech that we enjoy in America." ~ Caldwell Stone ALA
The ALA's main vehicle for awareness is the annual Banned Books Week, scheduled for September 25 to October 2, 2010. This has been observed since 1982.
I'm Looking forward to reviewing some of these banned books and reviewing them during that week. So check back for that!
The article resumes with talking about how authors are fighting back about censorship and that their voices need to be heard. A very strong, loud and independent author by the name of Chris Chrutcher details his often ongoing challenges about his material and he does it with gusto...
"I have two responses really. The first one is just an adolescent response, and I feel proud because I have made someone think or gotten some emotional response. The second is that I am sorry people are afraid of talking about things. I don't necessarily think that things I have to say are all that important, and I don't expect everyone to agree with me. OBVIOUSLY. But when people (parents) can't sit and talk with folks (teens) about what their afraid of, that's sad." ~ Chris Chrutcher author of Whale Talk
Now what Chrutcher says makes complete sense to me. But, as I stated in a previous post - how much is too much? Adult information? Again, what if they don't ask questions?
On Chrutcher's web page it talks a little about Whale Talk (geared toward an audience of 12 and up) over 140 profane words including the use of the "F" word 17 times. There is sexual content, drug use, suicide, violence and reference to smoking. Apparently, this author is famous for his explicit writing and yet this book is a required read in some schools.
So, would you allow your child at age 12 watch a movie with that much profanity and adult situations? Listen to a song or play a game with that amount of inappropriate content? Why would a book be any different? It's like watching Popeye on t.v. with your child and they throw in Pulp Fiction, right in the middle of the cartoon. Doesn't make sense to me, toatally not age appropriate.
And lastly, the article concludes with another quote from the teen mother, Commarato...
"When books are challenged, we find that they become more popular because people want to know what's in this book that makes it so bad that someone wants to remove it from the library. Some authors joke that they wish they would be challenged because it would raise the visibility of their book, get their book on the radar. One of the ironies of censorship is that when you try and keep people from reading a certain book, it makes them determined to figure out what great secret you are keeping from them."
Author Ellen Hopkins, school visits were cancelled and her books Crank and Glass were pulled off the shelves in Norman, Oklahoma. Ellen concurs with the idea that banned books just pique readers interest more. She is quoted saying ...
Alice's Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was banned in China in 1931 for the portrayal of anthropomorphizing animals acting on the same levels as humans. Diary of Anne Frank was banned in Lebanon for portraying Jews, Israel or Zionism favorably. The Grapes of Wrath was banned in many places of the U.S. mostly California when it was partially set, it was banned because it made the resident's of this region look bad.
These are good examples of why books should NOT be banned. I, for one, believe that the authors and their publicist should be held accountable if they are going to write for a specific age group. I also would not want people deciding for me and my family what books we should or should not read. For all we know, one day it could come down to the Bible.
"Speak the truth to your audience to the best of your ability." I understand that you, the author, have this right - as you very well should have - but, I implore you to have some integrity in what you write and think about the age group your aiming toward. Desire to help us raise the future of this Country in a positive way.
Personally, I want to see ratings on all books for all to see. No bans. No burning. A small request, so that we can do our job as parents.
Amy ~ Aaronswoman
Parental Book Reviews.