Book of the Month – SPEAK

1 Oct

Today marks the start of a new month – and in honour of Banned Books Week, this month’s Book of the Month is Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the #SpeakLoudly twitter movement, and the voices of many bloggers crying out in outrage over the accusation that SPEAK’s rape scenes equate to nothing more than soft porn – and that it should be banned from schools.

First off, the fact that this man sees a rape scene as titillating and exciting is disturbing. That he thinks that a story centered around a rape victim’s silence is somehow morally degrading is ridiculous. That he is using religion to back up his argument is weak. That he is a man wanting to silence the voice of a rape victim (fictional or not) is sadly ironic.

Banning books is not an answer, or a solution. It is an attempt at silencing those whose voices are deemed unworthy, or morally questionable, or too vulgar. The opinion of a few should not dictate the choice of many.

I read SPEAK ages ago – probably when I was 13 or 14. And it impacted me greatly. Melinda is a character I will always remember. This is a book that speaks out for rape victims when they can’t.

By this point, I’ve lost a lot of the anger I felt when I first heard about Scroggins’ call for banning. Now I feel a sick, heavy feeling; a painful weight in my chest. When I first heard about this, I raged; I spoke out over Twitter, on Facebook, in the office, in class; anyone and everyone heard about how incredibly upset I was.

I think I wanted to throw something when I first read his argument – that was how upset I was.

Now, I’m still angry – but more than that, I am disappointed. It is sad to me that people are so willing to keep themselves and their kids so ignorant. That some people think themselves so above everyone else.

So here are some statistics. Did you know that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in America have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime? Did you know that every 2 minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted? Did you know that 15% of all sexually assaulted victims are under the age of 12? Or that victims of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression? Or 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? They’re also 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

And did you know that sexual assault and rape are one of the most under reported crimes, with 60% still being left unreported?

Yeah. And this man thinks that kids shouldn’t be aware of rape, that it will somehow corrupt them or teach them too much. Oh, and while we’re at it, he thinks kids in Elementary school shouldn’t learn about reproduction.

Let’s just tell kids that babies come from storks.

Ignorance is not bliss. But it does lead to a lot of misunderstandings. People hate what they don’t understand. People ignore what they don’t understand. And we shouldn’t ignore the fact that sexual assault and rape happen, and that a lot of people choose not to speak about it.

The one good thing about this whole situation is that people have been coming together to show their support. To have seen people so passionate about SPEAK and many of the other banned and challenged books out there is inspiring. It gives me hope that one day we’ll be past all of that. That we’ll all be free to Speak Loudly. Kudos to everyone out there who speaks up for the freedom to choose what we (and our children) will read – and to everyone who stood up for a book like SPEAK.

So if you haven’t read this book yet, I highly suggest you pick it up.


Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

16 Responses to “Book of the Month – SPEAK”

  1. Angela October 1, 2010 at 5:20 AM #

    I love this post. It was so well-argued, and it has me completely convinced that banning books is wrong (Even though I`ve always believed that banning books is a bad thing in the first place.)

    I feel as if banning books violates one`s freedom of speech.

    • Vanessa October 1, 2010 at 11:23 PM #

      Thanks Angela.

      Banning books really does violate one’s freedom of speech!

  2. Theresa Milstein October 1, 2010 at 5:50 AM #

    Vanessa, this is an excellent post. The statistics are frightening, and show how critical it is to give teens a voice. Books do just that. Who has a right to take books away from them?

    Yesterday, I also wrote a post about Speak:

    • Vanessa October 1, 2010 at 11:24 PM #

      Thank you Theresa.

      I’m glad that you also wrote a post about Speak! I’ll be popping by to check it out.

  3. Sydney October 1, 2010 at 8:32 AM #

    I am so very glad that you posted this. Speak is one of my most favorite books ever. The idea that this moron of a man is campaigning to ban this book is, in my opinion, horrible. In the first place, I’m totally against banning books, but more importantly, this book actually has a meaningful and critical message. Also, the fact that he gets some sort of thrill from the rape scenes in Speak is just disgusting and degrading. This man is totally and completely wrong and out of line. I definitely understand your frustrations with this situation.

    • Vanessa October 1, 2010 at 11:26 PM #

      Speak has always been a favourite book of mine, ever since I first read it.

      It’s good to see people standing up for Laurie Halse Anderson and SPEAK.

      Thanks Sydney!

  4. Amie Kaufman October 1, 2010 at 8:47 AM #

    Thanks for this, it’s a great post and an important one. I did work here in Australia on sexual assault law reform, when I was at law school. The statistics are frightening everywhere. Just as depressing are those that indicate that as many as 9 out of 10 victims who press charges aren’t sure they’d do it if they had their time again, given their experience with the system. We desperately need to do better.

    Watching the way our community has responded on this issue has been so heartening, and I know that more than one person will have been reading and watching who’ll have felt safer speaking out, having seen this support and heard the stories we’ve told.

    I hadn’t heard of SPEAK before. Now I’m going to read it. That’s what attempts at banning achieve.

    • Vanessa October 2, 2010 at 1:38 AM #

      Hey Amie!

      Yeah, I figure the statistics don’t get much better in other countries – in fact, I was worried about how some countries rape and sexual abuse statistics might be worse!

      I’m glad that you’re going to pick up SPEAK – and I hope it leaves as powerful an impression on you as it did me.

  5. Susan October 1, 2010 at 9:34 AM #

    This is a fantastic post. So many of those statistics on the RAINN website seem unreal to me – and yet I know they’re not. So scary.

    • Vanessa October 2, 2010 at 1:39 AM #

      I know, right? Those stats are frightening. But I think they can really give someone a better understanding.

  6. Julie Eshbaugh October 1, 2010 at 12:07 PM #

    Vanessa, thank you for such a well thought out and well presented argument. The fact that you backed up your position with such appalling statistics puts your argument in very clear perspective. It is far more dangerous to pretend that we are “protecting our children from the truth” than to face the reality that only the truth will protect them. Kudos on such an awesome post!

    • Vanessa October 2, 2010 at 1:40 AM #

      Thanks Julie!

      To be honest, I wasn’t trying to write an argument – I was just writing what I felt, and why I thought SPEAK was the perfect Book of the Month for October.

  7. Ellen October 1, 2010 at 12:38 PM #

    I read this book when I was thirteen, and I read it every year that I was in high school. It is, I feel, one of the important novels for teenagers of our time.

    I know that people have the right to complain about books, and they certainly have the right to tell their kids not to read one, but telling other people’s kids? Pathetic.

    Some people need to learn that they can’t decide what is right for the populace. Oscar Wilde said that there’s no such thing as a moral or immoral book, and he’s right. Books are what we make them, and if one sicko decides to make a book pornographic because of a rape scene, well then, that’s his loss.

    Excellent post! Just my two cents on the subject.

    • Vanessa October 2, 2010 at 1:43 AM #

      Exactly! Ellen, I love that you paraphrased Oscar Wilde’s quote – because I feel the exact same way. I couldn’t have worded it better myself!

  8. Jess October 1, 2010 at 3:05 PM #

    Yes! This, exactly. I wasn’t aware of some of the stats you posted.

    “Ignorance is not bliss. But it does lead to a lot of misunderstandings. People hate what they don’t understand. People ignore what they don’t understand.”

    It’s so upsetting to me that people just don’t care. Because at the backbone of what you said is fear. Fear that they may be wrong, that they may have to change. Ignorance precludes responsibility. Ignorance is *comfortable*.

    And it’s sad that people would rather be comfortable themselves than help others who are already lost and uncomfortable find acceptance.

    • Vanessa October 2, 2010 at 1:45 AM #

      Thanks Jess.

      And yes, ignorance is being comfortable. And it’s such a shame that so many people choose that.

      Thankfully, there are people like you who believe otherwise!

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