Speak loudly and carry a banned bookSeptember 19, 2010
i’m on vacation right now and i hadn’t planned on blogging while i was away (i wrote my book review on the plane and was planning on being done.) However, circumstances have presented themselves that make it so i don’t have any choice right now.
i’ll say right now that this is going to be one of the most difficult things i’ve written because there is no step back from it like i can sometimes have with my poetry. This is just me raw and exposed talking to you.
i’m in the house i grew up in- i spent eighteen years here at least. And there were times that were amazing and wonderful and there were times that were awful. i no longer have a bedroom here so i stay in the area referred to as “the downstairs.” It’s not a basement but it’s not really anything else either. When i stay here i tend to stay awake reading or watching movies until my body collapses into sleep because if i don’t my mind will race with memories and flashbacks of one particular day in the very same spot.
When i was fourteen this is the spot where i was raped. A few feet away is the spot i unconsciously walked to and curled into a ball on the floor until i got into a shower so scalding it left marks on my skin.
It was over a year before i even attempted to tell anyone what happened (it didn’t go well. they didn’t believe me.) In that year a lot happened. i shut down on one level and learned to put on a mask of “okay-ness” on another. i started cutting again. And i became completely blind to anyone around me who may have been able to offer help. As more time went on i became so good at acting okay that no one ever thought to ask if i actually was. i cut every day. i went to school and i started only speaking in class when i was forced to. i was crumbling inside. i was still writing but i couldn’t get that day out. i could feel everything about that afternoon inside me no matter what i did. There were times i thought i had worked up the courage to say something and i would open my mouth and my throat would burn, my tongue would swell and my skin would break out in hives. i tried to send messages telepathically to a few people because i could feel the wall growing higher and thicker and while i felt protected by it i also felt trapped by it.
i thought when i went to college i might be able to push it aside. i couldn’t. i was more able to deal with everyday life because i didn’t see him everyday in the halls but it was still there. i made an incredible group of friends my first year of school. We used to drive down to a Borders bookstore on Thursday nights to study or just spend time together reading or talking and just being away from campus. On these trips we usually split up and each looked around at whatever section interested us most then get back together and share any treasures we had discovered. On one of these trips i wandered to the YA section like i usually did and saw a book that had cover art that looked interesting. i picked it up and flipped it over to read the back. The book was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. i bought it and when we got back to school i stayed up until i had finished it. i read it a few more times in the next couple of weeks. i finally felt like someone had gotten around my wall and i wasn’t alone back there. For the first time in i don’t know how long i didn’t cut everyday.
There was something about that book that felt like superpowers to me. To the rest of the world i’m not sure what it looked like. But i started talking to people. Not about that afternoon but about not fake things. i started admitting to my anxiousness with crowds of people and asking for help- i was surprised (though i shouldn’t have been) to see my friends step up and make sure i was okay in those situations without making me feel like i was being babysat. My sophomore year came and for the first time since i was fifteen, i told someone about Speak and about what had happened and she believed me. And she didn’t treat me like i was broken but she understood that maybe i wasn’t so okay either.
The next year i got a new therapist- there were a lot of breakthroughs as far as my treatment but i still had trouble talking. A lot of my therapy at that point was me sitting silently in an overstuffed chair thinking about what i wanted to say and breaking out in hives at the thought of actually saying it. But i went back every week because it was safe. i wanted so badly to say, “i was raped.” Wanted help to get it out of my head but i couldn’t form the words. They were stuck. i brought in Speak and gave it to my therapist. My copy is dog-eared and torn and dirty and underlined and downright loved. She didn’t know what the book was about but she knew that something in it must mean something to me as she took it. She read it and all of the sudden i had two people who knew what had happened and still cared about me. My strength was growing.
i wrote a poem about it. Then i wrote journals about it. i was finally purging my system of the toxicity of that one afternoon. Since then i have written more about it. To this day i have a hard time talking outright about it and most people don’t know that chapter of my life. This is my journey of a million miles and i’ve only taken a few steps of it. But don’t worry your little moose-let heads. i’m okay- i’m good. i know how to take care of myself and ask for help now. i know that what happened wasn’t my fault and that i should have spoken up sooner but it’s okay that i didn’t. i know the limits i have before things get bad.
The thing is- i don’t know when or if any of this would have happened if i hadn’t found Speak that night at the bookstore.
Now, this story didn’t come out of nowhere, i promise. i tell you this story because there is a professor of management at Missouri State University named Wesley Scroggins who has gone on a rant about books that shouldn’t be allowed in schools. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is one of them.
Why? Well he calls it soft pornography.
The thought of him saying that makes me nauseous, makes me angry, makes me want to cry, and makes me want to write this blog post so that maybe one other person will pick up Speak and find the safety and strength i did.
Rape is not pornography. A teen girl being raped a her struggles to get through it have absolutely nothing to do with pornography. The idea that it is is absolutely disgusting.
Here is the article from Mr. Scroggins:
Here is Laurie Halse Anderson’s response:
Please take a second and write to the school district or the school principal. Don’t let this man’s words be taken as truth. If you don’t have a copy of Speak please consider buying one.
i wish i was able to better compose my thoughts at this moment but you’ll have to make do with this.
Thank you Laurie Halse Anderson, without you i wouldn’t be writing this.
ETA: i didn’t edit this before i wrote it. i apologize for mistakes and ramble-y-ness. i’ve written about my feelings on censorship and book banning before. i could say it all again but this time it was closer to home and wanted to just talk about why this book in particular is too too too important to be banned.