Since it’s Banned Books week, I wanted to talk about Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It’s hard to know what to say, so many others have such eloquent reviews I’m not sure what I could add to the discussion.
I mentioned in my last post that the book was being challenged in Missouri. A man named Scroggins has referred to the book as “soft pornography.” I have to wonder if he even bothered to read the book. Often people who object to books do so without taking the time to read them.
Speak is about a young girl who is raped. Webster’s On-line dictionary defines pornography as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” Anyone, including Mr. Scroggins, who considers rape as a cause for sexual excitement, needs to re-examine their belief systems. Anderson did not write Speak to create sexual excitement. The book provides a voice for those who feel as though their voice was stripped from them. It handles a difficult subject with sensitivity and finesse. Would I recommend this book for my third grade students? No. But I would recommend it for high school students. Someone once said that we often don’t want young adults to read stories about the lives they lead. Life is not pleasant. Life is not a fairytale. Sometimes young adults need to read about reality in order to deal with it in their own lives.
And if you are wondering if this book has had a positive impact on teens you should check out this video of the author reading a poem she wrote based on the hundreds of letters she has received over the last ten years.
Don't take my word or Mr. Scroggins' word. Read the book. The subject matter may be mature, but the writing is wonderful.