Monday, September 20, 2010

Banned Books Week: Speak

So Dawn Embers just wrote of this fucked up article by a fucked up guy who has no fucking idea what he's talking about.

Have a punching bag nearby. You'll need it. Especially if you've read the books (I've only read Speak and I want to strangle this man)

That said, there is some humor to be had in this grown man's word choice. "Female parts."


(btw: "female parts" = her butt. yeah)

You know what pisses me off about this? The irony. This is a book about a young girl who was raped at a party and doesn't feel she has any power, even to tell her parents or her best friend about it. She has been rendered silent from her trauma.

Things that have happened to far too many young girls. (one is far too many)

I had a lesser thing happen to me that rendered me silent--which is what pissed me off about my friend's reaction to the book. She was pissed because the girl wouldn't speak. WHY DIDN'T SHE DO ANYTHING?

I swear, it makes me seethe.

These are the people who want to ban books like this. "Keep her quiet!" they say.

To make it worse (and I don't glory in pointing this out, but hell) this is a man telling her to keep quiet.

I've read Speak and nothing this man says about the storyline rings quite the same. I'll admit a certain inability to retain information when I read--but seriously. I'm looking. This shit ain't there. Not like he says it is.

He's also mad because the kids think the adults are losers. Uhm, does he remember being a teenager?

Also, it's not that graphic. It is shocking but in a way that it ought to be shocking. If it weren't shocking, something would be seriously, seriously wrong.

And besides, these stories need to be told.

I've read the book and you can bet your ass not only will my daughter read this book but so will my boys.


At the end of the book is a printed interview with the author, Laurie Halse Anderson. One of the questions is this:

Have any readers ever asked questions that shocked you?

Her answer:

I have gotten one question repeatedly from young men. These are guys who liked the book, but they are honestly confused. They ask me why Melinda was so upset about being raped.

The fuck?

She adds:

The first dozen times I heard this, I was horrified. But I heard it over and over again. I realized that many young men are not being taught the impact that sexual assault has on a woman. They are inundated by sexual imagery in the media, and often come to the (incorrect) conclusion that having sex is not a big deal. This, no doubt, is why the numbers of sexual assaults is so high.

I am also shocked by adults who feel that rape is an inappropriate topic to discuss with teenagers. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18 and 46 percent of those victims are between the ages of 12-15. It makes adults uncomfortable to acknowledge this, but our inability to speak clearly and openly about sexual issues endangers our children. It is immoral not to discuss this with them.

I can't speak to Mrs. Anderson's conclusions necessarily, but that last paragraph grabs me by the throat. Especially coming from a church that tells its young women that (A) if they are raped it's probably their fault for dressing immodestly or otherwise "asking for it" and (B) they should rather die fighting for their "virtue" than be raped.

My boys will also read it because, as I neglected to add, this shit happens to them, too, and our macho-man society isn't exactly kind to them, either.

Yes, this is an important book. The tone is expertly geared to average young adults. It took me back to high school. The main character is a good kid. Awkward, normal teenage girl.

So they try to ban it.

Ignore it and it'll stop.

If you haven't read this book, please do. Don't be turned off by the YA classification. It's important, especially if you have kids. It's important if you deal with kids.

It's just a good book. And it needs to be supported. Buy it for a friend. A niece. A nephew. Someone. You can get it used for about two dollars, plus S&H.

Don't allow fucktards like this guy to ban it, to silence the 46% of girls aged 12-15 (the age of the main character is this book) and pretend shit like this doesn't happen.

Because, obvs, abstinence-only solves everything.


  1. >Especially coming from a church that tells its young women that (A) if they are raped it's probably their fault for dressing immodestly or otherwise "asking for it" and (B) they should rather die fighting for their "virtue" than be raped.

    As a male raised in the Mormon church, I would also add (C) rape isn't really any worse than normal sex. The worst part is losing your "virtue," not the assault. I don't think that was explicitly taught, but rape was never treated as any worse than losing virginity any other way.

    Now that I think of it, there were a lot of "don't be in a situation where you might 'lose control'" kinds of lessons.

    I believe that Mormon church screws up both men and women through these lessons, but the women take the brunt of the problems because they don't have church-recognized power.

  2. Speak is completely an important book and one I recommend to anyone who asks about it. I will be displaying it and reading from it next week at my library's banned books read-out.

    Anderson's books are always coming under fire. Speak's inappropriate because it discusses rape and treats teenage girls as real people; Wintergirls is inappropriate because it discusses suicide and eating disorders and mental health and treats teenage girls as real people. Inappropriate in this country almost always translates to "things I don't want to think about" and "people I don't think are real people". Ignorance is never bliss, but so many people love to wallow in it, because if you don't look at something or think about it or hear about it, you can pretend it isn't real.

  3. Great post, and I'm so glad you're blogging about banned books week. Censorship is a serious threat to our society, and you're right, the guy has no fucking idea what he's talking about.

  4. Thanks guys <3

    I should add, also, that girls aren't the only victims of sexual assault--boys are, too. And not to minimize the effects on girls, but I can only imagine what it must do to a boy given our society.

    So important.

    Also, just about to add a video of Mrs. Anderson's recital of her Speak poem. Go watch.

  5. @ Lisa - you're quite right!

    But seriously, why was she so upset over being raped?! Holy crap! That answer made me want to cry.

    And teaching young men or women that rape is their fault should be a crime: accessory to rape.

  6. You persuaded me. I'm buying the book.

    I also have to add that reading this post and the comments gave me yet another post-Mormon epiphany: In Mormonism, God has a claim to our bodies because they are a gift from him. We We keep ourselves "clean" for God. We don't own our bodies, God does. That is why it is better for a woman to die than to lose her virtue.

    Thus, if a woman is raped, she isn't the victim. God is. How fucked up is that (/rhetorical question alert\). That insane belief makes the violation even more demeaning. Am I making any sense at all?

  7. Carla: yesyesyesyes, i agree completely. and the church--many churches--are SO guilty of accessory in that way. it makes me *sick*

    and y'know how a lot of religious folk say that bad things happen for good reasons? that god is trying to teach that person something, or provide an opportunity, etc etc? yeah. bullshit. it struck me as i was driving home from an appointment today that a god who would put a girl (or a boy) through such an EVIL thing "to teach them something" is evil in and of itself.

    I mean, almighty god can't come up with something less inhumane to teach a person a lesson? can't be a bit more creative? a bit more almighty? and if it's to teach the rapist a lesson, the collateral damage--i mean SHIT. there's no excuse for that.

    CD: First, yay! Tell me when you've read it, ok? I want to hear your reaction. It's a small book and a fast read. So good.

    As to yr other point, I hadn't thought of it that way before. Yeah, I've had people come to my last blog and tell me that they will not "desecrate" their bodies because Christ paid for their bodies (it doesn't belong to them), so, yes. I do believe you may be onto something.

  8. I read "Speak" when I was a teenager and I still own and read my copy to this day. I recommend it to many many people -- I'll actually recommend it to anyone and everyone. It is a poignant, wonderful novel.

    I honestly can't say enough about the book. I refuse to read what that idiot said about the book because I honestly can't deal with my blood boiling at this moment and I know what he would say would cause me to erupt into a screaming rage.

    I don't know how I ever joined Mormonism at 17, but I know it was because of the influences from my youth that allowed me to escape so easily. Influences like "Speak", and Tamora Pierce's feminist characters, and probably heaps of other books I've read.

    After leaving Mormonism, "Speak" spoke to me even more than it did to a teenager who was still dealing with being molested when she was six. I re-read the book every single year.

  9. I come from a country that is dogmatic about its religious beliefs, so I can relate to this. It is shocking to the mind how many people think this way.

    I am Fickle Cattle.

  10. A close relative was date raped at BYU. terrible stuff. changed her for good. the guy played on the football team. never talked to her about it, didn't feel right to do so.

    another good read: "Unprotected" originally published anonymously by a UCLA psychologist because she feared losing her job. she later revealed her name in connection with her book. but it would be extremely interesting to hear your reaction to the book. every mother with daughters should read it!

  11. just looked it up. sorry, she was actually a psychiatrist (M.D.'s). Really, read it.