professornana (professornana) wrote,


If you read my blog post from yesterday, you know about all of the uproar caused by the attempt to censor some books. I wanted to back track a little today. This latest incident found its way into social networks and went viral. However, there are plenty of other incidents from the not-too-distant past. Jo Knowles' powerful JUMPING OFF SWINGS was the target of censors. Sherman Alexie's National Book Award winner, ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN was removed. Ellen Hopkins was uninvited to speak to teens at a conference in my backyard. There are so many more, unfortunately, too many to count.

Someone posed a question about whether or not this latest person who seeks to remove books deserves his right to speak freely. Of course, he does. His opinion and his right to share it is not to be denied. However, there is a difference between sharing an opinion and issuing an edict. Let me see if I can make this a trifle clearer.

There are books I personally find distasteful. I almost hesitate to mention them here, but I will for the sake of this example. I detest BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. I read it back when everyone (including Oprah) was swooning over it as a romance. Really? I saw it differently. It was, from my perspective, the story of a married woman who rationalizes having an affair. More examples? The LEFT BEHIND SERIES (I read a couple of the ones for adults and for kids) are awfully anti-Semitic in my opinion. I really do not like these books and am always happy to enter into a discussion about their merits with someone who is diametrically opposed. It's fun--an intellectually stimulating activity. I enjoy talking about award winners I thought were less than worthy, too.

BUT (and you did see a BUT coming, right?). Unlike the would be censors, there are some differences. First, I have actually read the books I dislike so much. I have read them from cover to cover, too. I did not rely on someone telling me which parts I should find offensive (see, for instance, I purchased copies of the books. I had some of the LEFT BEHIND books available in my classroom library for students to check out (I had a small but vocal group who loved, loved, loved these books). I did not try to impose my opinions on someone else.

As someone who believes in free expression, I sometimes have to defend the rights of people to express opinions in conflict with mine. There is a wonderful scene in "An American President" where Michael Douglas' character responds to a critic who harps that he is a card-carrying member of the ACLU by asking why the critic is not also a member. I could watch that scene over and over again. So, I defend the right of Dr. Scroggins to speak his mind. What I do not and never will defend is his right to impose his opinions on others.

One person nowadays seems to have the power to disinvite, unshelve, remove, mark out, eradicate. How did it get to this point? When did we cede this power? If one person can disinvite and unshelve and remove than perhaps each and every one of us can INVITE, SHELVE, REPLACE? My copies of Speak have shipped. I plan to ADD and REPLACE copies removed from classrooms. I plan to participate in the Speak book drop. I also plan to do the same with TWENTY BOY SUMMER, JUMPING OFF SWINGS, ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN and books by Ellen Hopkins and all those authors that others are trying to silence. If each one of us bought a banned book and dropped it or donated it, think of the change we could bring. (Do you hear music swelling in the background? I do)

I hope to speak loudly some more. It is, after all, something I do well...
Tags: censorship
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