A reminder: September 26th – October 1st is National Banned Books Week. If you live in a school district where those with closed minds are attempting (or have succeeded) to ban books, please take the time to write your newspaper editor or your school board members or your school administrators and speak up against such ignorance and injustice. The latest victim of attempted book banning is Laurie Hals Anderson’s Young Adult novel Speak. She offers details of the idiot behind the attempt to ban the book at her blog, along with links to write on the book’s behalf in Missouri where it is under attack.
I spent twenty years of my life teaching writing and literature at the university level. I can't tell you the number of students I encountered in my career who talked about having read Speak as teenagers and having it become the book that motivated them to want to write. Moreover, many students spoke passionately about how Speak touched their lives and encouraged them to share their voice, to speak out against injustice, and in one case, gave a student who had suffered a similar fate the courage to face her past and speak out against violence.
I have read only a handful of YA books. I read Speak because of these students I mention. I found it eloquent, smart, and respectful of its subject, its characters, and its readers. I remember reading the book in one sitting and feeling I had known some of the people who populate its pages. As the father of three daughters, it is one of the books that I suggested each of them read when they reached their own teenage years.
It is exactly the sort of book that should make all of us speak loudly against ignorance and simple-mindedness, two qualities shared by those who suggest we ban books. To ban books is to ban ideas. It is an affront to freedom and we should speak out against those who try and disperse injustice.