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not your decision

August 19, 2010

Okay my little moose-lets, we have a problem.  A big one.

Censorship.

Dunh dunh dunh. . . even the word itself makes me a little nauseous.  Now, i’ve always felt extremely strongly about this subject and i wish i could say i was bringing it up because everyone should think about it every now and again and fight it any time they can BUT that isn’t the case.

The case is:  Ellen Hopkins (@EllenHopkinsYA on twitter http://ellenhopkins.livejournal.com, author of Crank, Glass, Identical, etc.) was invited to Humble, TX for the Humble TeenLitFest in January 2011.  And then she wasn’t.  Yeah, they un-invited her.  Why?  Because a handful of parents and one librarian (psst Librarian, you’re supposed to be on our side for these things) decided she was inappropriate or some craziness and went to the school board and the Superintendent uninvited her without so much as reading one of her books.

Okay, let’s back up. . .a small fraction of people decide they don’t like something so they get someone who doesn’t even know anything about it to say, “Huh huh, that sounds good to me” and all of the sudden a large fraction of people can’t do or see or hear or read that something.  Right. . .because that makes so much sense.

Here’s the thing, i completely agree that not all books are appropriate for all readers.  But that is a decision for the reader by themselves or with a parent or guardian or mentor or whomever to make.  That is not one parents decision to make for an entire classroom.  That is not one librarian’s decision to make for an entire school.  And that is not one superintendent’s decision to make for an entire suburb (of Houston.)

The awesome thing (sort of) is that as of now, four other authors have withdrawn from the Humble TeenLitFest in support.  (Pete Hautman author of godless – which is a pretty awesome book by the way, Melissa De La Cruz author of the Blue Bloods series, Tera  Lynn Childs author of Oh My Gods, and Matt de la Pena author of We Were Here)

i have read most of Ellen Hopkins books and i’ve read godless. i’m familiar with both Melissa De La Cruz and Tera Lynn Childs.  i looked up a few reviews of Matt de la Pena in order to write this.  Here’s where i get confused when it comes to censorship. . .it’s the part that sort of shows how ridiculous it is.

Ellen Hopkins is apparently inappropriate because of her content: drugs, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, suicide, etc. etc.

But apparently the content of the other’s books was more than okay: atheism, breaking and entering, magic, the greek gods (we all know they weren’t always terribly appropriate,) escaping and running from juvenile dentention, vampires.

So why is one of these worse than another?  Don’t get me wrong i’m not saying i think they should have uninvited all of them but do you see how you can’t decide one is inappropriate without deciding that all of them are?

Another thing, have you read Ellen Hopkins?  Her books are a pretty clear picture of why NOT to use drugs, why teen pregnancy is NOT a fun thing. . .get the picture?  They also talk about things a lot of people, even people who work with teenagers are scared to talk about- but don’t you see? That’s exactly why we need them.  i worked with teenagers for awhile.  i loved it but there were times i turned to a book or a song or a movie in order to get a point across that i wasn’t sure how to do myself.  Those things opened up the door to discussions and a level of trust and understanding between us.  They still saw me as an authority figure but they also saw me as one they could talk to if they needed to or wanted to.  They had more respect for me because i was willing to admit i didn’t know everything, that it was hard for me to talk about certain things in one way so i tried different ways, that i tried at all.  i had teachers who did the same for me and i am forever indebted to them because of it.  We have the ability to use these books as tools and instead people are trying to use them as fire-starters so to speak.

Now some people are trying to say that Ellen Hopkins is using this to make money.  One person compared her to Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter.  Get a life people.  Censorship is never okay- it goes both ways.  i, personally, am completely appalled and nauseated by both Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter but i would never stop anyone from reading their books.

This topic should be outdated and laughable but it is so alive and well.  Go to http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm and read about what books are frequently challenged and how you can celebrate (if that is the right word) Banned Books Week.

i feel like there is so much more to say and my emotions are getting the best of my words right now- this all makes me want to scream and cry and pound my fists.  Instead i turn to you and encourage you to do the right thing when it comes to censorship.

Thoughts?

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