mary_j_59 (mary_j_59) wrote,

Thoughts on "Speak"

It is all over the internet, by now, that a man called Wesley Scroggins wants to limit access to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. That's a book that I've recommended, that kids have loved, and that has been on our high school reading list - and rightly so.

Mr. Scroggins apparently thinks it is pornographic to tell the story of a young girl who is assaulted at a party, and how she copes with the aftermath. Nonsense. Does Mr. Scroggin think things like this don't happen to children of 13 or 14? Does he think the girls who are attacked are to blame?

I was lucky. Nothing terrible happened to me; not really. When I was that age, standing reading in the high school library, a small group of boys stood sniggering together and looking at me. Then one of them loped over, grabbed me, and planted a wet, messy kiss on me. I was shocked, so shocked I couldn't move for a moment. I didn't even know his name! Backed up by my sister, I went to the assistant principal, who taught us Latin, and told him what had happened. Bless him, Mr. S was furious, but not at us. He asked us to go straight to the library and point out to him the boy who had done it, and then he demanded that the boy go to his office. Mr. S. wanted to make it clear - to that boy and to us - that what the kid had done actually was assault, and completely unacceptable. And he was right. It was. Who knows, though, whether the boy learned anything? He seemed genuinely abashed, and he apologized, but I wonder about the friends who pushed him into it. None of them ever apologized for anything.

But, as I said, I was lucky. The assault was pretty minor, and I went to an adult who validated my feelings and backed me up. Far too many girls - and boys - are not so fortunate. Far too many are utterly isolated by the traumas they suffer. For these children, as well as more fortunate children like the child I was, books like Speak are essential, and perhaps even life-saving. That someone wants to ban this book as pornography is an outrage. Yes, Speak is a challenging book. That's the point. It is meant to be. It should be read, and read with care, and discussed. It shouldn't be banned.
Tags: books, current events, literature

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