Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Censorship Sucks

So, here’s the thing - I know I’ve said most, if not all, of this before. But it apparently bears repeating. People don’t have to love every boo, want to read every book, or even want their kids to read every book. Where censorship becomes an issue is when you make that decision for a whole group. I learned about sex when I was four. It did not make me try to run out and have any. I can’t pinpoint when I learned about drugs, but I can tell you that I was lucky enough to go to a great school that offered not only comprehensive sex ed, but drug education that was more than these are all the things you shouldn’t do. (It also talked about the different effects of different drugs, and the side effects.)
And I love books. I learned about all sorts of fascinating things from books, sparked great discussion with my parents and friends based on scenarios I read about, and got to think about what I would do if I were the character. Intriguingly, the Our Whole Lives sex ed course, uses similar scenario based role playing to help students (of all ages, they have junior high, high school, young adult and adult versions) think about how to handle conversations and choices. So I think reading about such things is great, and again, I promise teens know about sex and drugs (and rock and roll).
Ellen Hopkins, author of such books, was invited to the Teen Lit Fest that is being held in Texas in January. (I’ve heard good things about past festivals.) Anyway a teacher saw this and went to some parents who then went the the superintendent who uninvited her. Apparently, his response to one librarian in the district who wanted Hopkins there indicated that he hadn’t actually read the books in question but felt that the librarian he had spoken with had provided reasonable explanation. Here’s what annoys me about this (you know, other than the censorship). I recall, back in the day, a politician quoting the opening lines* of “Trainspotting” saying that this is what is wrong with today’s movies. The thing is, if you’ve actually seen the movie you know that that is the setup for the main character’s arc. He starts off a heroine addict with, well, no ambition and then, stuff happens and he changes. So, that quote lets you know where he starts. And the movie does a nice job of illustrating why you might not wish to be like these guys. But sure, if someone just read you that opening quote, you might not think there was anything good about the movie. And you’d be missing the point.
But, back to Hopkins the other reason (again, other than the censorship) it bugs is because wouldn’t it be really useful for, oh I don’t know, a discussion to occur at the Teen Lit Festival about how authors make choices about their books and about how teens actually feel about reading such things? And, sadly, the real losers are the teens who are now losing opportunities to meet with authors.

*”Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?”

H/T to Smart Bitches for the link.
Also, Melisa De La Cruz has a post about her reaction here. And Tera Lynn Childs has her eloquent response here.