Stand Up and SPEAK Loudly

I had planned for a different blog post today, but after hearing about what's going on in Missouri regarding Laurie Halse Anderson's novel Speak, I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of people standing up in support of the book.

If you haven't heard what's going on, a professor (!) at Missouri State University wrote an article calling SPEAK soft porn because of two rape scenes and warning parents that it shouldn't be in schools.

Now, I get that our first instinct with kids is to stick our head in the sand and pretend that nothing ugly touches them, but unfortunately, that's not reality. I counseled middle schoolers as a social worker and I can tell you, some of those kids had been through things than I can't even imagine surviving--rape, incest, abuse. I've talked to twelve and thirteen-year olds who were contemplating suicide.

Some kids are faced with heavy, soul-crushing stuff and sometimes they have people to talk to and support around them, but many times they don't.  Or they're scared to tell anyone what's happened to them and how they're feeling. Books like SPEAK offer those kids (and all the others who may feel isolated and alone for any number of other reasons) an outlet. A place where they can explore how someone else handled trauma--with a message of hope that if you reach out, you can make it through. And maybe, just maybe, they might decide to reach out for help too.

So, I can't even tell you how angry it makes me to think someone is trying to take that opportunity away on some unfounded excuse of protecting our kids from the big bad mention of sex. First of all--rape is an act of violence and if this guy found the rape scenes titillating (i.e. porn) then he's got bigger issues.

And second of all, I hate that he's tossing this out as a call to parents. Isn't the definition of good parenting being engaged in your child's life? Yes, SPEAK is a book with heavy issues, but parents don't need to shield their teen from that--they need to be willing to read it too and have an open dialogue with their teen. Maybe that was just the opportunity your child needed to feel comfortable talking to you about something that's bothering them in their life.

So, if you agree that this book shouldn't be banned, you can show your support through a number of ways. (Laurie list suggestions on her website.) And if you want to follow the discussion, there is the Twitter tag #SpeakLoudly

So have you read this book? What are your thoughts on banning this type of novel in schools? If you have an opinion differently from me, feel free to express it in the comments--we're all friends here. :)

**Today's Theme Song**
"I'll Stand By You" - The Pretenders
(player in sidebar, take a listen)