Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Censoring Ellen Hopkins

Censorship rears it's ugly head again.  Ellen Hopkins, one of my fav. young adult writers has been disinvited to speak at a Teen Lit. Fest in Humble, Texas near Houston.

Now anyone whose ever read Hopkins knows that she writes some pretty gritty stuff.  She doesn't pull punches and she doesn't shy away from controversy.  What she does do is tell real stories about real issues that teens face, and she tells them with respect and honesty and integrity.  What about that can be bad for young people?

This is what I'd say to those who would ban authors like Ms. Hopkins who have important stories to tell...

1.  No one's forcing you to read or view or listen to anything.  Choose another story.  Choose to listen to a different author speak.
2.  You don't have the right to choose what authors others read or watch or listen to.
3.  Censuring merely draws more attention to the issue you want to pretend doesn't exist.

 I am always surprised at the frequency with which censorship issues come up, especially given this last point. For example, back when I was in high school, the school board was considering banning The Catcher in the Rye.  I never saw more kids reading that particular book before than during the height of the controversy!  Even kids who hated reading read that book, if only for what we thought of as the really good bits.

 More recently, when my kids were in elementary school, one family wanted to challenge a book my daughter's classroom teacher was reading, The Witches.  The family's child was invited to the library during those sessions to read books of their choice.  Such a simple solution!

I hope Ms. Hopkins keeps writing more fabulous books; books like Crank, Burned, and Cut; books that have made me laugh and cry and rage against pain...most importantly, books that have helped me to understand another human being.


suzie townsend said...

Great post! I love Ellen Hopkins' books, and I know so many teens who have been so affected - in the best way - by her words.

readingkidsbooks said...

She's a great writer and I think kids especially like her because she doesn't pull any punches. Her writing can be stark and horrific, but never gratuitous. I aspire to be as skilled a writer.