Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speaking Loudly for SPEAK + Giveaway

Bad things happen everyday. Hiding books that deal with the tough issues won't make the problems go away; it just gives those who have experienced them one less place to go to feel like they're less alone. Books allow us a safe place to see people who survived the unspeakable.

If you're a writer and you've been online today, you've probably seen the outrage over Professor Wesley Scroggins' opinion piece in his Springield, Missouri newspaper about the "soft porn" high school students are exposed to in their English classrooms. He gave Laurie Halse Anderson's National Book Award-winning novel SPEAK as an example. 

In case you're unfamiliar with the book, here's a description from the jacket:

"Speak up for yourself - we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows that this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In this powerful novel, an utterly believeable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

I won't ask how familiar our readers are with pornography, soft or otherwise, but I hope we'd all agree that rape isn't porn. I find it disturbing that Dr. Scroggins thinks it is.

On one hand it would be nice if everyone ignored Dr. Scroggins so he'd quietly go away without an audience, but then what? No one says anything, and any book he doesn't like will quietly go away too, removed from the library shelves--like Slaughterhouse Five--to avoid any unpleasantness. I don't want Dr. Scroggins deciding what goes in my library or anyone else's. The thought of bare shelves saddens me.

I'm going to venture a guess that Dr. Scroggins hasn't read the books he objects to so vehemently. Maybe he heard about them from someone else, or at best he flipped through them to find sentences he could hold up as offensive. It's hard to imagine how he thinks we're protecting high school students by removing this book. If students don't read about a girl who was assaulted at a party, I suppose that will prevent it from ever happening to them.

People have been posting about this all day, more eloquently than I ever could, so I knew that much of my post here would include "Here are some awesome people and what they said." Laurie Halse Anderson wrote her own response on her website. It's so inspiring to see the support for her in blog posts and the flood of responses on Twitter (tagged #SpeakLoudly) from writers and readers.  

Most inspiring of all, though, are the writers who wrote about their own abusive pasts, their own trauma, and said "This book helped me" or "I wish I had this book when I was a teen." I can't imagine how hard it was for them to write about their experiences, and I'm amazed they've found the strength to do it. Here are just a couple of them:

Author Cheryl Rainfield, who has survived things I can't even bear to think about.

Author C.J. Redwine, who says, "I'm a Christian too, and a rape survivor, and I want SPEAK on the shelves."

I think the most powerful message was from the student who commented on Dr. Scroggins' post to say, "As a middle school girl, I was raped by a family member. I feel strongly that I might have made an actual suicide attempt if it hadn't been for a teacher who saw me where other teachers just let me fade into the background. She was the one who gave me Speak. There were no other books about being a rape victim allowed for girls my age, and Speak (in tandem with my wonderful, wonderful teacher) allowed me to understand it wasn't my fault, I could be okay. Since then, I have participated in many groups, and have found out that my story, sadly, isn't uncommon. There are far too many girls out there like me to take away one of the few books out there that speaks directly to us, tells us it will be okay, tells us that we have the right to fight for ourselves. This book isn't pornographic; it is a rallying cry for abused, raped girls who don't what to do or how to live. I thank God for Laurie Halse Anderson, that she helped me and that her book stands to help so many others."

Laurie Halse Anderson has heard from thousands of kids like her about how SPEAK has impacted them. Here's her poem about those letters:

That's who we should be listening to. 
Want to win one of the books from Wesley Scroggins' article? Leave a comment and I'll pick a winner next Sunday. Winner gets a choice of Speak, Twenty Boy Summer, or Slaughterhouse Five.

Also visit Sarah Ockler's blog (author of Twenty Boy Summer) for a chance to win all three books, plus chocolate! 


  1. Thanks for your fabulous post! It's so, so awesome to see everyone speaking out about this topic. Thanks for speaking out, and thanks for the giveaway!

  2. Great post! I love the idea of the giveaways! Promote promote promote! Speak! :)

  3. Amaaaazing giveaway. Win evil books!! *Squees* This whole thing initially filled me with rage, but the response in the blogosphere today has been incredible. Books like these are so, SO important.

    Thumbs up, Lynne!

  4. Thanks for the comments so far! I agree, the overwhelming response is amazing!

  5. Thanks for this round up of all these amazing posts!

  6. Thanks for hosting the giveaway, Lynne, and for all the support! :-)

    Sarah Ockler
    Author of Twenty Boy Summer

  7. Great post. Thank you for the giveaway as well.

    Staying silent is not an option, and taking away, or trying to take away, a book that can help so, so many people is just...I still don't have words for my feelings on the subject.

    But the posts and SpeakLoudly tag on twitter than have brought out so many powerful stories is incredable.

  8. Troubled by the fact that a man would view rape as porn. Please enter me for the giveaway.

    Thank you!

  9. It seems like real porn, hard and soft, seems to be ignored while books that actually offer help to those in need seem to be scapegoats...picked apart and often without a full reading.

  10. I'm troubled that people believe that books with "real life" issues such as rape or teen pregnancy would be taboo to speak about. No pun intended. Please enter me for the giveaway!

  11. Incredible poem - Great post.
    It is hard to believe that this book would be under such ridiculous condemnation...and yet it is as real as the abuse that goes on everyday while people ignore and remain silent against that.

  12. Thanks so much for the comments, everyone! And thank you Sarah Ockler for stopping by the blog-- very cool!

    I know, the "soft porn" mention was disturbing, when we're talking about great literature that tackles some of the toughest real-life problems.

    Oh, if you're commenting anonymously because you don't have a blog, leave an email address if you want to enter the contest so I'll be able to contact you if you're a book winner!

  13. I totally agree with what everyone has been saying about this. Thanks for the giveaway!
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

  14. Loved the poem. Posted on Facebook

  15. You're welcome, Amanda, happy to do it to get those great books out there!

    Yes, isn't that poem fabulous, M? Thanks for passing it along to share with other people. Looks like your blogger profile is private, so leave a new message with an email address if you'd like to enter the book giveaway so I can contact you if you win.

  16. Oh I've been wanting to read Slaughterhouse Five for the longest time.

    Ah, this article business tsk tsk

  17. I would love to win these books! I just recently read Speak, and I am shocked and horrified at the suggestion that it is soft pornography. What a grotesque description of that beautiful, poignant novel. I hope that people do not listen to the lies made against Speak and read it for themselves.

  18. I loved Speak and was really shocked by all this.

    Count me in if this is international please.


  19. I speak loudly for Speak too. Count me in. (And awesome round-up post as well.)

  20. I'm so glad people are speaking out. Bloggers are doing a great job of getting the message about banned books across and I couldn't be happier. Thanks for the giveaway!

    ekta.p7 [at] gmail [dot] com

  21. I didn't even realize that Twenty-Boy Summer was being targeted for banning!

  22. I love how the blogoverse has all risen up to support the opposition towards book banning! It's really very inspiring, indeed. :)

    cc932005 at hotmail dot com

  23. I would love to have these books. The only good thing about banned books, is that I have found the minute I tell someone it is a banned book, they feel compelled to read it. It seems to have the opposite of the intended effect, thankfully.

  24. Speak is one of the best books out there! (I haven't yet read the other two).

    Banning books is ridiculous, and I'm so impressed with how the blogosphere has responded to the comments about Speak :)

    arallison at gmail dot com

  25. Great post. It's so nice to see everyone come together over this.

    jpetroroy at gmail dot com

  26. Thanks for doing this. I love to hear the book community ROAR!

  27. That was such a beautiful poem. Like I've said countless of times (my friend and I are discussing about banned books) we are free to choose what we want read, no one can dictate us what we should and should not. Books like Speak is out there to get the truth and reality out to everyone, it shouldn't be banned at all. Speak loudly everyone!

    amaterasureads AT gmail DOT com

  28. Thank you for your effort in supporting the Speak Loudly campaign. I really think that Speak is a great book that should never ever be banned.

  29. Wow, thanks for the continuing comments, everyone!

    Update-- we'll pick a new winner for every ten people who comment.

  30. I had occasion to talk with someone on another difficult topic (loss of a child in pregnancy) and I will never forget what they said: "It's like you belong to the biggest club in the world, but you don't know who any of the other members are because nobody talks about it."

    Books can help and books can heal, and best of all, they tell us we're not alone, no matter what's happened to us. Silence is not only lonely, it can be deadly.

  31. I love that quote from your friend, Lydia-- my sister went through that twice and says the same thing, that it would be a lot better if people felt more comfortable talking about it with one another.

  32. This poem gave me goosebumps and brought a tear to me eye. Yes SPEAK does happen, every day to some teenager, some child, some person somewhere.
    It happened to my best friend...when we were young teens...
    Books like SPEAK must not, can not and should not be silenced.
    They give hope to the ones who have no power.
    Thank you for sharing this post.

  33. Great post!
    I had an English teacher in 8th grade who celebrated banned books week. We were required to read at least one, and that memory has stuck with me ever since.
    I've read Speak and Slaughter House Five and I love them. Speak really struck a chord with me. It gave me the courage to open up about what happened to me, which I don't think I would have done had I not read it. Speak freed my soul.

  34. Everyone has a right to know and to speak about all these bad things. Personally I (in the future) would feel safer if I knew that my chilren are familiar with things like violance. And I would be glad if they read about this - because they need to know that these things exist, how to avoid them and how to know if something bad is happening around them.

  35. i'm glad that so many people have come to support laurie...and i think that professor needs some sense knocked into his head!

    makes me want to read speak even more....

    k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

  36. Thanks for the chance!

    simplystacieblog at gmail dot com

  37. Great giveaway!

  38. This is such a fabulous post, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Every time I think about the issue with Scroggins, my blood boils. No joke.

    I connected with Speak so profoundly that I took the entire issue completely personally. How dare he want to ban a book that can help a teenager who is struggling through the same things? I'd rather want my children to know about these topics, than try to shield them from it. What if they chose to become reclusive within themselves, to be afraid to speak up for what's happened to them? The idea that this book is soft porn is abhorrent.

    Ugh, blood boiling again.


  39. No need to enter me in the contest but count me in as a supporter of SPEAK, Anderson, and the importance of open dialogue on every issue - and the importance of books that address difficult issues. Great post. Thanks.

  40. I wonder if Wesley Scroggins been reading all the blog posts that are against him.

    Would love to read one the books.


  41. I love how many blogs are taking part in this! These book should definitely NOT be banned.

  42. Slaughterhouse Five is already on my book wishlist, so I'd like to win it:)

    spamscape [at] gmail [dot] com

  43. Please count me in.

    I would like to read Twenty Boy Summer.

    cindyc725 at gmail dot com

  44. Sadly, I live in Springfield, MO, and I am shocked that there are so many narrow minded people where I live. I am a firm believer in parents being able to make choices for their children, but not on other people makeing choices for my children. I am a firm supporter of the "Speak Loudly" campaign, and have been telling everyone I know about it. I hope that our community learns something from this.

  45. People aren't mad at the fact that he expresses his opinion, it's the fact that he compares rape, fictional or real world, to PORN. Yes, ladies and gents, you heard me correctly.
    I can't believe it either.

  46. It’s banned books week and authors, publishers, and readers are speaking out! Controversial topics are a part of everyday life. To think that drinking, sex, rape, and other questionable subjects in books would get a book banned is appalling. These books aren’t “teaching” young adults to act how the characters in the book do; they are telling a story. If all books are removed with this kind of subject matter from the shelves at schools, children and young adults will miss out on opportunities to know truths about life, and possibly never discover the love to read. Imagine all the valuable lessons learned of the complicated understandings of things like drinking, rape, drugs, and sex. Students will be presented with these issues in life and as a society we should not hide this from them. Instead of speaking out against these books we should address the issues at hand.

    Wesley Scroggins, the author of the article that started the Speak Loudly revolution, wants to take society back a few decades to when topics like sex were so vulgar and improper that young adults didn’t know how to protect themselves from pregnancy or even unwanted sex. Maybe if we don’t talk about it we won’t have to deal with it, right? Banning books? Refusing to teach about reality? Let’s go back to just a few decades ago when over a million American women were told they had no choice but to give up their children when they became pregnant. Condoms? Close your ears! Birth control? Stay abstinent. The consequences of refusing to teach young adults about these topics has brought forward a generation of millions of women with such shocking stories you’d think it had happened in another country.

    How many people stayed silent when raped because they didn’t know better? Imagine never knowing the difference and having to live with the emotions brought on by such a ghastly act. These forms of censorship are harmful to society.

    American’s should not be supporting the ban on books based on controversial subjects. Instead, society should speak up and speak out about it. Teach children and young adults about safe-guarding themselves when they come across such issues. Why degrade the constitution by trying to take away the First Amendment? Censorship can be harmful when directed toward something just because it is unconventional or unpopular.

    Join the revolution and Speak Loudly.

  47. Thanks so much, everyone, for participating and for all the great comments!

    Not counting my own replies, we still had close to 40 comments here, so I went ahead and picked 4 winners!

    Winners of the giveaway are TV & Book Addict, Jpetroroy, Kai, and MaddieM. I'll contact you all about your selection and to get your addresses, or feel free to email me at Lynne01[at}gmail. com.


  48. Woo wee! I don't even know which book I would want most if I were lucky enough to win! Please count me in. Thank you!

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  49. Hi nfmgirl, thanks for visiting the blog--but our contest ended yesterday! But there are still tons of bloggers giving away books; check out the post that's linked below for the master list. Many of the contests are going on through next week.

  50. Great giveaway and thank you for taking part in banned book week! thank you for the chance!
    I have tweeted about this alot hope more people speak out!

  51. This comment has been removed by the author.

  52. Thanks, latishajean and Dwayne-- you'll see a couple of comments up that I already drew names for our contest that ended Sunday, but see our more recent post for a master list of contests going on. Some will be going on through next week at least:

  53. Unfortunately Scoggins is probably just after publicity and by opposing him we are giving him what he wants.

    Its a real Catch 22 !


    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  54. That's true, Carol, it's unfortunate that Scoggins has gotten a lot of attention, but the books and authors have too, so it's worth it!

  55. The idea of banned books, especially in this country, is so ridiculous and unfortunate..


  56. Some of the books that are being banned are really great novels. People who have read the novels would protest but to discourage people who haven't read them is really disappointing. Thanks for speaking out and the giveaway!