>Porn? Really?

>If you were on Twitter at all yesterday, you probably saw the outrage directed at the nattering nabob in Missouri who characterized Laura Halse Anderson’s Speak as “soft pornography” and called for the book to be banished from local schools.  In an essay called “The Discovery of Like-Minded Souls” in A Family of Readers, I made my case for the book’s value:

While the success of Speak inspired a flurry of teen novels about elective muteness, those rather missed what made Anderson’s book so magnetic. Speak is about a girl on her own with a terrifying secret. She is silent but watchful and smarter than just about everyone else in the story. You can see how this might be appealing, Silent and watchful and feeling smarter is part of what being a reader is all about. And Speak spoke to undedicated readers as well: the voice is smart and ironic but the style is crisp and immediate, and the fact that we don’t know for quite a while exactly why Melinda isn’t talking gives the book suspense.

It’s worth repeating that Speak and other “problem novels” aren’t meant to be read as problem-solvers: in real life, a girl in Melinda’s situation doesn’t need a book; she needs help. Books help, yes, reading helps, but it’s not a case of connecting the dots. If you were a girl in Melinda’s situation, the last thing you might want is a book that comes that close. But if you’re a girl who feels different, misunderstood, maybe isolated (that is, if you feel like a reader), then this book could speak to you.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. >I read the comments in the local paper that seem to run heavily against the nattering nabob. And yet . . . Slaughterhouse Five has already been removed from the curriculum.

    In the Ellen Hopkins uproar, it seemed that Hopkins was seen by many people as the wounded party. She was the one censored. But the wounded party are the readers, aren't they? The ones who needed a book and have less access to it now.

    ferwas

  2. >…This is unacceptable, considering that most of the school board members and administrators claim to be Christian. How can Christian men and women expose children to such immorality? Parents, it is time you get involved!

    And not exposing children, of any faith, or lack thereof, to these things then protects them from harm, I suppose?

    Oh, my giddy aunt…

  3. >Speaking up for Missouri, at least we have a bunch of good high schoolers who are standing up for this book, as well as Part-Time Indian. But as for the other froot loops, well, you cuss 'em out all day but at the end of the day, they just tell you you're going to hell in a handbasket and they aren't and therefore, they're right and you're not.

    This is obviously why I write for teens — you can actually talk to these guys.

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