Speaking Out about Speak and, Yes, that Pesky First Amendment

Many authors have done posts about this YA book as a result of the controversy surrounding it.  While I do think it’s important that people learn to converse about rape and incest, to work toward taking away the shame a victim experiences in it, the issue of book banning does not require the support of such an ideology.  It requires a discussion of the principles involved when someone cries fowl over a piece of text and henceforth wants to obliterate its message and existence.  We’re talking about the worst kind of silence there is:  *I* don’t like something therefor *you* can not have the opportunity to decide for yourself if you will/won’t.

This is not to negate how very necessary conversations of rape are, but to note that as long as people are willing to look at the subject of a work as a reason to support banning there will be encouragement for all kinds of silence.  One never knows what will next pop up, for some it’s about murder, others the trigger might be witchcraft, and still more it might be about a historical event, and none of them matter.  So long as we keep a narrow focus on the why we’re not looking at the bigger, badder and far more dangerous aspect.  That to control what gets printed is to control what gets read and in many instances what gets thought.  I don’t need to read Speak to make the stance that banning is wholly inappropriate; to assert that even suggesting such a thing is not only morally repugnant, but a sign of a great need to control others; a person who suggests such a thing is very small indeed for even considering this to be a viable response to that which they find to be repugnant.

I have placed this book on hold at my library and will endeavor to read and review it in the coming weeks.  Please stay tuned for thoughts on the book and the subject itself as, let’s face it, it seems as though both are worthy of conversation.


13 responses to “Speaking Out about Speak and, Yes, that Pesky First Amendment

  • Linton

    1984 was an absolutely horrible place in which to live, Diva. We can’t allow these nincompoops to take us their. There are a great many books I chose not to read and doubt their value but would never support anyone wanting to ban its publication. If you don’t like it? Don’t read it! Thank you. Leader, for bringing this very important subject to our attention.

  • laurelrainsnow

    Yes, trying to control what others read (or think) is all about the worst offense of all….the abuse of power.

    All in the name of trying to “protect” those readers out there who obviously need protection. Yeah, right!

    Those who think they know “best” will always be with us, unfortunately. We have to do our best to speak out (interesting pun, don’t you think?), and to rail against those who try to tell us what to read or think.

  • Hart

    Kimberly, you’re spot on. I haven’t read Speak, but at my daughter’s high school, it was required reading for Freshmen–very possibly (knowing the high school, though honestly, it may be all Freshmen in Ann Arbor who read it–still consistent with where I live) to engage in BOTH the dialog about the content, AND the dialog about banned books.

    I happen to think bad things happen, and the easiest way to cope with them is to have a dialog about the things WRITTEN about them so… if they come up, if they are encountered in real life–they have been CONSIDERED.

    That aside though, your point of ‘having it available doesn’t force anyone to read it, but how dare you make it UNavailable so no one else has that choice?’ is the very best argument. The people who want to ban books–ANY BOOKS, are people afraid of others having access to information. They are not trusting people to THINK, which to me, indicates they themselves are afraid of thinking.

  • Anne

    Kimberly, re-reading my post in light of your own, I realize I did miss the bigger picture. It’s a given in my mind that banning books violates First Amendment rights and is wrong – but some readers may need reminders or explanations, and you’re right that our feelings toward book banning and censorship shouldn’t be based on the book’s subject. I just find Sroggins’ argument against Speak doubly reprehensible because it involves both the issue of book censorship *and* the issue of equating rape to pornography and perpetuating rape myths.

  • RD

    I’ve followed many of the articles posted about the minister that suggested Speak mirrored pornagraphic material by its graphic portrayal of the rape of a young woman. Loomis you are right, the question isn’t about the content of the banned book list, but the fact that there IS a list. Who are we to determine what is appropriate for anyone at anytime. Why do we have to have a debate about the right to say what we want, how we want.

    As a parent, I understand tghe man’s concern. If he wants to keep his children ignorant, he should have a choice, an alternate book should be offered if Speak is on a required reading list. As a reader and a teacher, it is my responsibility to provide different perspectives on subject matter so others can determine what is worthwhile and what is not, both in literature and in their day to day. To not have the option of suggesting books containing withchcraft, rape, racism, narcissism, bigotry, misogony, or profanity, what would be left? Little Golden Books? 🙂

  • e6n1

    When will (so-called) moral guardians learn that banning certain books only gives these books free publicity?

    Thanks for commenting on my blog!

  • Bookjourney

    Wonderful post. I am currently reading Speak and plan to have my thoughts up on it on Tuesday.

  • mywordlyobsessions

    “*I* don’t like something therefor *you* can not have the opportunity to decide for yourself if you will/won’t.”

    God I hate that mentality! But people like these only serve to make the books in question even more popular; so they are in essence working against themselves. In this day and age young people are exposed to inappropriate material thruogh all media outlets, so they sholdn’t give that crap about certain books being not suitable.

    Issues like infanticide, rape, incest etc should be openly discussed within reason and what form to study these hard issues than through books? As long as there are teachers or parents at hand ready to go through what is happening, then I see no problems. Excellent post Kimberly! I didn’t know about ‘Speak’. I have to see if I can reserve a copy of it at my library. I read ‘The Color Purple’, ‘Push’ and ‘Beloved’ this year. This one would be a great follow-up.

  • Carol Kilgore

    I commented on SPEAK last week or the week before on VR Barkowski’s blog. I’m totally with you. Looking forward to your review. I hope everyone reads a banned book this week.

  • Helen Ginger

    There are books and movies that are too scary for me, but I wouldn’t scream that they should be banned. And I certainly wouldn’t burn a book because I disagree with its contents.

  • thypolarlife

    Having three children in school, I am constantly being updated with books that are no longer allowed as reading material. I am just floored that a lot of the books that I grew up reading and even some of the newer books are being banned for the most of ridiculous reasons. I learned a lot as a kid from the books that I read. Most of them taught some sort of lesson and the ones that didn’t gave me knowledge I would have not had otherwise. Its really a shame what is being done to our literary system. Personally I have chosen to discuss controversial subjects in my blog. If you don’t want to read it, don’t visit my blog. that doesn’t mean you have the right to tell others they can’t.

    Thank you for posting.

  • Joanne

    The good that seems to come from this whole issue is that it does shine a light on the debated books, bringing even more attention and readers not only to the book, but to the discussions the books’ themes inspire.

  • Book Review: Speak « The Perpetual Writer

    […] by a very ignorant man in Republic, Missouri to get this away from the children.  There was another post I wrote that only somewhat referenced this one, really it was another treatise for the first amendment, in […]

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