Monday, September 20, 2010

Banned Book Week!

Yay for banned books! Banned book lists are the best place to find good stuff to read. If it weren't for the nutjobs out there trying to make sure we didn't get to read anything, you know, fun- or even worse, challenging- I would never have read Harry Potter. So cheers, guys! Thank you for highlighting the greatest books out there. Saves me lots of time.

I'm going with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is way off the beaten path for me since I avoid books with major downer topics like the plague. Sorry, lovers of issue and important books, but I get plenty of drama in my real life. I want my book life to be a predominately happy place. Hence, YA Fantasy.

I'm making an exception for a couple of reasons. After the internet kerfuffle over the Op-Ed piece by the idiot in Missouri I grew curious. Looked up the book, read the excerpt. I feel for this girl. I was this girl but with a different issue. I remember being the one in the cafeteria that everyone assumed must be contagious if pariah was a communicable disease.

I'm also reeeeaaal tired of blame the victim/cover it up. A rape survivor is entitled to do whatever she (or he) needs to in order to cope. Even if that is keeping it private. We shouldn't force or shame people into telling their stories. But we sure as hell shouldn't shame them into keeping quiet, either. For the quiet victims out there, the ones who are too scared or too private to talk to an IRL human about their experience, there has got to be a venue. A place. Nothing is safer than a book. It won't tell anyone your secrets even though it pours its own out. Books like this one are a lifeline.

People like the man who believes recounting an attack is equivalent to soft porn are a perfect example of why we need books like this. Can you imagine being the daughter of someone who thinks like this? You would be terrified of telling your family what happened to you. Speaking of it makes you dirty (dirtier?). You can't tell the truth because then everyone will know you are damaged. Your stock will go down. Who will want to marry you?

Where would you turn for understanding? Solace? Recovery?

So I'm going to read this book. I imagine my kids will, too, eventually. I'm good with that. I'd like them to be sympathetic, have some way to understand or relate to anyone they meet who may have experienced this. And God forbid they have personal experience with it, but if they do, I want them to feel not so isolated. I want them to know their parents don't think they are dirty or at fault. I want them to trust that I won't see them as less than they are because someone else did something very wrong.

We can't ban rape victims. Banning their stories, their truth, doesn't make the criminal part of this saga not happen. It returns the power to the aggressor again and again. Enduring a rape does not make you dirty. It makes you a survivor. Telling the truth does not make you pornographic. It makes you brave.


Since posting I done hauled myself to the libary and read this book. Holy crap. Phenomenal. It is hugely funny despite the immense weight of the issues Melinda is dealing with and a very redemptive ending. It is also artistically damn near perfect. So, so, so glad this book got some book banner's dander up enough to catch my attention. I tore through it.


  1. I posted on this yesterday as well. So glad you read the book! I'm like you--I tend to read happy books (mostly romance) not the downer ones, but I find YA issue books usually are the exception because in order to appeal to teens they usually have enough of the lighter elements (like humor)to help with the weight of the topic. Speak is amazing. Another good one that really got me was 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

  2. Tkx, Roni! Yeah, I was surprised by how much I loved this book. I have a knee-jerk reaction against issue books, which I know isn't fair, but it is hard to hit the balance between after school special cautionary tale and authentic. I hate being preached to and I've been burned more than once with the important book of the day.

    She knocked the cover off the ball with this one, though. I think because she did such a good job telling the story without judgement, just the facts as seen through Melinda's PoV. And the voice was pitch perfect. This read like a very good story that happened to have a major issue in it, not an issue disguised as a story.

  3. Wonderful post. You've made a follower out of me.