Monday, September 21, 2009

Author Bites - Mari Mancusi on Where it all Ends

A big thanks to Mari Mancusi for giving her time for my little banned books cause here. Like I said in a previous post, Mari was the one that told me about Ellen Hopkins's issue in Oklahoma. That post was made late last week if you want to take a look at it. But before you do be sure to read what Mari has to say about boon banning, book burning and talking to your children.

One of my favorite YA authors these days is the incredibly talented Ellen Hopkins. She writes powerful stories, all set in verse, dealing with heavy issues like drugs and addiction. Her first two books were actually based on her daughter’s real life issue with meth. And these aren’t nursery rhymes either – they’re not sugar-coated. They’re brutal and real and important.

But Ellen recently blogged that an author visit she planned in Oklahoma was called off because a parent found her books and called the principal, saying they were inappropriate for students. The books were removed from the school library and Ellen’s visit was cancelled.

This makes me furious. Not only as an author, but also as an advocate for teens. Ellen’s books don’t glamorize drug use – if anything they’re a cautionary tale. But her books often get judged by their covers.

I don’t like to blame the parents; they’re doing what they can to raise good, moral kids in a world of mixed media messages. Where scandal begets fame begets a great big paycheck and a reality TV show. They want to protect their kids and shield them from the horrors of the world as long as they can. They want them to enjoy their childhood before they have to grow up and face life’s tough realities. And that’s good and noble and totally the role they should take. But censorship of books is the way to go about it.

Because the question becomes, where does it end? Whose moral code do we use to judge what’s appropriate and what’s not? Do we ban books containing drug use? If so – only the ones that glamorize it or do we include the ones where there’s a life lesson as well? What about books containing sex? Or eating disorders? Or how about vampires—they’re a kind like demons, right?—the God-fearing may not like those. And oh—while we’re at it, maybe we should ban books where kids talk back to their teachers or disobey their parents or cheat on their tests at school. After all, don’t want them to get the wrong idea…

If we start the burning, we’ll end up with no books at all.

A better solution, in my opinion, is to get involved in your child’s reading choices. Read the books before they do. Become informed about the content and talk to your kids after they finish the book. Because let’s be real here. Whether or not your kid reads a book about drugs, they’re going to be offered drugs at some point. Whether or not your kid reads a book about sex, they’re going to be propositioned for sex. And the books, in my opinion, offer an opportunity to open channels of communication.

A book with sex could spark a discussion about safe sex. A book about drugs turn into an opening to talk about whether they’ve been offered any at school. Instead of trying to stick your kids’ head in the sand, educate them, inform them, and help them learn to make smart life decisions.

As for Ellen, she can’t go speak at that Oklahoma school. But she’s helped thousands of others across the country over the past few years through her books. And they write her letters, thanking her, telling her they’ve struggled too. And that her books have given them hope that they, too, can have their own happy ending.

Just imagine if those books had never existed. Just Imagine if they’d been burned?


Wendy said...

It honestly just boggles my mind that people in this day and age are still so closed-minded and judgmental, especially when it comes to books.

I just don't get it.

Wonderful guest blog, Mary! :)

Ellen Hopkins said...

What's disturbing is that one parent has the power to say, "I don't want ANY kids to see her speak" (and that is EXACTLY what happened) and that's enough. Sorry, uh what? No one person should have that kind of power.

Donna said...

Instead of talking about the problem objectively, the superintendent just didn't want to deal with it period. So instead of coming to a reasonable solution, he comes to an unreasonable one because he didn't want to hear this one woman bitch. Now how many people are going to miss out on something great because of it?

It just feeds the woman's ego that she thinks she has the power to do something like this and further emasculates the superintendent because it shows he's a pushover.

Good luck at your reading tonight, Ellen! Maybe you'll run into that woman! She's probably enraged that you were able to circumvent her censorship plans.

Rhiannon Hart said...

What a fiasco! The parent has the right to keep their own child from hearing a talk, but everyone else too?? What rot.

EGuevara said...

Do you think the morons who ban books realize they're giving authors the ultimate publicity. DUH! what do you think teenagers and adults alike want...what we CAN'T HAVE! ugh, censorship blows!

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