Monday, September 28, 2009

Speaking Out

Today's Banned Books Week post honors those authors/bloggers who are discussing the ways in which censorship affects their work. In a couple of days we'll hear directly from an author about her first encounter with school challenge to her book.

Ellen Hopkins - Crank took the book world by storm in 2004. Loosely based on her own daughter's addiction to meth and written fully in verse, Crank is beautiful, brutal, and deeply moving.

Ellen has gone on to write five more books, all of which deal with very difficult issues that affect teens. I had the good fortune of meeting Ellen at the San Francisco Writers' Conference last February and she is not only an amazing creative force, she is a kind and empathetic human being. She cares deeply about the lives of teens and has experienced first hand the hardships they face.

And Ellen is facing book challenges because of the risks she's taking in her writing.

Laurie Halse Anderson - Speak, Laurie's first novel and a National Book Award finalist, explores the trauma of rape in the life of an isolated teenage girl. Wintergirls sheds light on the darkness of teenage eating disorders. Because of their content, Laurie's books are also challenged.
Ellen and Laurie are two writers whose work I deeply admire, and their stories are representative of many, many more brave authors whose craft touches many lives and serves as a healing balm for readers who've dealt with the issues these writers examine. An argument made in challenges is frequently that parents should be the ones to address these issues rather than allowing difficult subject material to float freely on public library shelves.

In a perfect world that argument might fly, but many teens are without parents who are willing or able to discuss these topic. And many teens who've faced trauma might not know how to broach such subjects with adults - there may be no adults they trust in their lives. Ellen and Laurie, like other authors who deal with this material, offer safe spaces for teens to ponder and discuss the hardships they and their peers face in this world, their realities that are too frequently painful and frightening.

Thanks to Ellen, Laurie and others for your courage and craft!

I'd also like to give a shout out to fellow writer/blogger Tricia O'Brien at Talespinning who is doing an amazing Banned Books Week series of posts. Today - A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, one of my all time favorite books!


  1. I say props to Laurie and Ellen for writing about these things! And props to all the other authors out there who write about the issues. And UBER props to the ones whose books get challenged and who just keep on writing, anyway.

    My goal for the week is to read three books that are banned in my district. Starting with Stranger in a Strange Land. Booyah!

    Great post. :)

  2. Ooooo, thanks for the shout out.
    I think you are so right about the importance of books that deal with the really tough issues. Anyone who thinks teens don't face these things, even if only watching friends or acquaintances in trouble, is choosing to be blind. Abuse, suicide, addiction have been around forever and teens need all the help they can get learning to cope.

  3. Jenna - great goal!!

    Tricia - I'm loving your posts :) And it's so true about difficult issues teens face and the need for sources of help.