In November of last year, to mark the 10th anniversary of SPEAK, Penguin set up a recording "studio" outside of the ALAN workshop and asked for volunteers to Speak Up for Speak. We got the cool button (see above) for participation/ Who knew how perfect this little button would be in recent days? I wore mine on campus Monday and Tuesday. Today, I wore it to my presentation about new books for the librarians in Alief ISD (a place Laurie has visited to speak to their after school reading program). I began by talking to the librarians about the outpouring of cries against censorship and asked them to please make these books that have been recent targets (20 Boy SUmmer, Speak, Slaughterhouse Five, Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Jumping Off Swings) part of their Banned Books display.
This weekend I teach my third section of YA lit for this semester. Last week I began by talking about the challenge (and removal) of the Sherman Alexie book. This week, I can add the events of the past week or so. I spend the last hour of class talking about the difference between selection and censorship, a distinction that eludes censors. We talk about setting aside our personal opinions and selecting books that will serve the kids and the community and the curriculum. Bottom line with books for me: is there a reader who will benefit from this book?
We have all read the incredibly moving personal stories from so many this last week, especially about books like SPEAK, books that saved the lives of people who had been raped, abused, etc. I have been moved to tears time and again. Books do save lives, I know that. Books saved me during many difficult times. They continue to sustain me now and give me comfort that I am not alone, that someone else survives and so can I. Books move me to laughter and tears (sometimes in the same book, too); I rail against the injustices a character suffers. I want to draw a chracter closer and offer comfort. I want to throw a party and invite other characters to come and chat leisurely.
A life without books would be a poor one indeed. A life without challenging books whose content makes me THINK would indeed be an empty life. Every book I read changes me in some incremental and perhaps even unnoticeable way. Books make me more empathetic (I hope) and show me that there is a world out there I do not know and may never know save from the pages of a book.
I read the GN bio of Anne Frank recently and I was back in the annex attic with Anne and Peter and their families. I shuddered when the fateful time came and everyone was dragged away to the camps. I marveled at the courage of those who aided Anne and her family. Some would censor these books asserting that the Holocaust never happened. This is censorship in another of its guises: rewriting history or twisting facts to suit one's beliefs (as Dr. Scroggins did in his plot synopsis of 20 Boy Summer, for instance. I did a quick reread of the book since I wondered if I had forgotten something filthy).
In a few weeks I speak in Humble ISD, the district that disinvited Ellen Hopkins. I plan to wear my Speak Up for Speak button and to include the books that have come under attack recently in my presentation there. I will continue to #speakloudly. I have been a champion of YA books for many years. I do not intend to quit now. Please raise your voice with mine. And buy some more banned books to give to teens and parents and teachers and librarians.