I wanted to write a post about SPEAK on Sunday when Twitter exploded with messages about a man named Wesley Scroggins and his wanting to ban SPEAK. (If you haven't heard about this, you can read about it here and check the hastag #SpeakLoudly on twitter). But I wanted to reread it before I wrote the post, since I read it more than a year ago.
The first thing I saw in my platinum edition of SPEAK is a letter from the fabulous author, Laurie Halse Anderson. I love the line about revisiting the “agonies of adolescence” because that is so true. I love young adult fiction, but was not a happy teen. School was torture because I was constantly picked on.
As I flipped to the next page, I got to the message Laurie Halse Anderson wrote in my book at ALA a few months ago. Can anyone guess what she wrote? “Speak up!”
This book really touched me… for a number of reasons. A number of my friends are rape survivors. One friend was attacked by a stranger who grabbed her as she walked down the street in broad daylight. Another girl who was attacked by a friend of hers. It happened a few times before she realized that she could say “no”. A third friend was attacked while she was too inebriated to fight back. And another friend, my best friend at the time, was raped by the guy she was seeing. And believe it or not, I have many other friends who have been in similar situations and one who was sexually abused for ten years by her father and uncle.
Perhaps you don’t know the statistics. According to RAINN 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men are attacked. Every 2 minutes a woman is raped in the US. 73% of women know their attackers and 60% of assaults are not reported to the police. And 44% of these women are under the age of 18. I think most of you would agree with me that those are scary statistics. We live in a free country… where it’s a high probability of being raped… The rates have risen from a few years back, and I hope it’s because more women are speaking up. And I hope every one of them understand that it is never anyone’s fault but the rapist.
Because this kind of thing happens to so many of us, it’s a very important topic to talk about, which is another reason SPEAK is an important book to read. I really identified with Melinda for a number of reasons. I think a lot of girls would. A lot of teens (and adults) feel alone. They feel they can’t talk about something that needs to be brought to light. Whether or not that something is rape.
My best friend was raped while we were in college. She reacted much like Melinda. She cut herself off from everyone. I didn’t hear from her for months. She didn’t tell her mom or anyone for a long time after. It makes me mad that someone could make her feel that way. She was always outgoing and open. Eventually, she found her voice and spoke up.
I was very pleased to see that SPEAK is being taught in high school. Even if you don’t like the story or the writing, the message needs to be heard. SPEAK tells women and girls that they are not alone. I believe Melinda can help girls find their voice and tell their stories. And for those who have not been sexually assaulted, it might help you understand a friend who has. Also, while Melinda may turn out to be a positive role model for girls, I think guys would definitely benefit from this book. I don’t know that men understand how hurtful and devastating this can be for women. It completely changes us, as anything that traumatic would.
On Sunday night I was telling a friend of mine (who is not in the YA book blog community) about this ridiculousness. She asked if Scroggins wanted to ban rape, too. It seems clear to me Mr. Scroggins didn't actually read the texts himself. It still baffles me that people are trying to ban books in 2010. Trying to stomp on our constitutional rights after all this time. And it baffles me even more that someone is trying to ban SPEAK by calling it “soft porn”. Along with SPEAK, Scroggins wanted to ban SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE and TWENTY BOY SUMMER. I ran out and bought TWENTY BOY SUMMER, since wanting to ban a book is as good as a recommendation. If it might be banned, it's probably worth reading. =P
So… speak up! And fight to keep books from being banned.