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Banned Books Week is on the Horizon

September 21, 2010

In advance of Banned Books Week, which starts officially on Saturday, enormously popular (and National Book Award finalist) young adult author Laurie Halse Anderson is currently battling to keep her book Speak from being banned in a Missouri school district. The outrage began when a professor submitted an op-ed piece to the Springfield News-Leader that categorized Speak, which many students read every year, as equivalent to “soft-pornography.” He also attacked Slaughterhouse Five (which has since been removed from circulation) by Kurt Vonnegut  and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (which is under review)  for sexual content and profane language.

Speak,  for which Ms. Anderson has received overwhelming feedback from her readers, usually along the lines of ‘this book saved my life’, tells the story of a teenage girl who is raped and stops talking, finding her way to recovery through her art classes at school. To equivocate her experience with pornography in any way is deeply disturbing, but perhaps even more so is the thought that many young people may be denied the opportunity to read this book when it has given so many the courage to speak up about the very real experiences they’ve had with rape and abuse.

Ms. Anderson lists the ways in which readers can advocate for Speak on her blog and links to the offending op-ed piece: http://madwomanintheforest.com/this-guy-thinks-speak-is-pornography/

There is also a Twitter campaign underway using the hashtag #speakloudly to discuss this battle and advocate for support.

Start celebrating Banned Books Week early this year by reading or recommending  a book you love that has been challenged in the past. In addition, check out the Rationales for Challenged Books kits available in the Curriculum Materials Center right here at KU:

Rationales for Challenged Books, Volumes One and Two, prepared by the NCTE with IRA: CD kits that “contain rationales used to support the retention of commonly challenged books that teachers and librarians can use as starting points for creating their own rationales.”

Click on the image to the right to go to the ALA Banned and Challenged Books page. For more information about Banned Books Week, go to: http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm

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