Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ban This! Author Bites - Ellen Hopkins

It's rough being the most banned author in 2010. Below Ellen talks about her status and to stuff it if you don't like it. Thanks for contributing, Ellen!

On The Brink of Another Banned Books Week

So, this year, approaching Banned Books Week, I find myself with a new distinction—the most challenged author in 2010. If you consider the seven novels I have on bookshelves (eight as of this week, but not in 2010), maybe that’s not so surprising. The ALA website lists the top reasons for book challenges. In this order: sexual content, unsuited to age group, offensive language, violence, homosexuality, occult, drugs. Okay, you will find some of these things in my books. But the bigger issue is, you will also find them in real life. I don’t write fairytales.

“Unsuited to age group” is such a subjective complaint, I won’t even comment on it, except to repeat what I’ve often said: When it comes to books, what’s “too much” for one person in any age group is absolutely necessary for another. IMHO, that category should be excised from the checklist. It’s meaningless. Let’s move on. As for “offensive” language, which words, exactly, and offensive to whom? The f-bomb doesn’t offend me, but terming all Muslims terrorists does. Again, way too subjective. Let’s move on.

Sexual content. Yep, it’s in my books because teens have sex, with or without love involved. They think about sex. They consider whether or not to have sex. They take sex, they give sex, sometimes too easily. Ditto drugs. They see them. They consider whether or not to do them, often pressured by peers or love interests. Abstinence-only education is a dismal failure. What works is open communication, often spearheaded by books that illustrate the downside of bad choices. But only if those books reflect reality, not some sanitized version of it. Lying by omission is still lying. Young people have highly active bullshit meters. (Offended? Tough.) If you lie to them once, they won’t believe you next time. Respect them enough to give them the truth, which can only influence their decisions positively.

I don’t get into the occult much. Violence, yes, in the form of physical or sexual abuse, which too many young people face. I want them to understand they have to speak up, sooner rather than later. I want to give them their voice. Homosexuality? Uh, yeah. Because there are gay people walking around in every school and every coffee shop and every church and every grocery store. They are part of our society, and our humanity. And they deserve to be represented in books as much as straight people do. Making them disappear out of books will not make them disappear. They are, and that’s that. Let’s move on.

If you find my books offensive, my question to you is—do you find real life offensive? Teens live in the real world. You can’t scrub that. And, no matter how many times you challenge me, you can’t scrub my books either. Perhaps the energy you expend trying to do that would be better spent trying to excise abuse and violence and bigotry from the very real world where your kids live.
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