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Speaking Out for Speak

September 20, 2010

I’ve been meaning to read Laurie Halse Anderson’s young adult novel Speak, but now I really have to find a copy so that I can do a proper post. On Saturday, the Missouri News-Leader published an article by Missouri State University professor Wesley Scroggins that takes parts of Speak out of context, ignores the book’s tone and message, and calls it pornographic.

In high school English classes [in Republic Schools], children are required to read and view material that should be classified as soft pornography. One such book is called “Speak.”

It goes on:

They also watch the movie. This is a book about a very dysfunctional family. Schoolteachers are losers, adults are losers and the cheerleading squad scores more than the football team. They have sex on Saturday night and then are goddesses at church on Sunday morning. The cheer squad also gets their group-rate abortions at prom time. As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page. Actually, the book and movie both contain two rape scenes.

Disclaimer, again, that I haven’t read Speak. But based on Philip Nel’s post at Nine Kinds of Pie explaining some of the context around the rape scene, and on Scroggin’s phrasing in the above paragraph and his article as a whole, it’s clear that Scroggins is not only equating rape to pornography but is perpetuating the rape myth that the main character of Speak somehow invites, or expects, the rape, with her statement that “this is what high school is supposed to feel like,” which really was describing things she felt before the rape – things like feeling attractive and starting high school with a boyfriend – NOT being sexually assaulted.

Since the article came out, several blog posts and tweets (even a hashtag) have condemned Scroggins’ article and book-banning mentality. Here are just a couple gathered from my Google Reader:

Brooklyn Arden offers contact information for the newspaper and for the principal and superintendent of the Republic school to share your outrage respectful and well-argued thoughts. Write away!

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy asks an important question of book bloggers.

and lest you think people are making a big deal out of nothing, author Laurie Halse Anderson writes,

My fear is that good-hearted people in Scroggins’ community will read his piece and believe what he says. And then they will complain to the school board. And then the book will be pulled and then all those kids who might have found truth and support in the book will be denied that. In addition, all the kids who have healthy emotional lives but who hate reading, will miss the chance to enjoy a book that might change their opinion.

and tweets:

I’ve spoken to more than half a million students about SPEAK. In EVERY school, there was a kid who came up to me in tears. #speakloudly

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2010 7:43 pm

    I can honestly say that I don’t care what a book is about. Banning is, quite frankly, against the first amendment. When we start making exceptions we’re opening up to the possibilities of certain people deciding what others can read thereby limiting thoughts and conversation to what is “acceptable”. This is the second post I’ve read today about this and each time I’m angry.

    While it’s about a different subject matter altogether I did a post about a book written about the Petit murders that speaks for the same ideology. Censorship is bad.

    • September 21, 2010 3:48 pm

      Kimberly, I completely agree. Book banning and censorship are topics that both fascinate and enrage me, and this case makes me particularly angry because of its claim of pornography. It’s not just absurd, as in parents wanting to ban Where the Wild Things Are because Max is sent to bed without supper, but incredibly offensive and disturbing.

      Thanks for pointing out your post – I love your questions at the end.

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