Quick roundup of worthwhile reads

First, my post from Book Riot this week is up at the Huffington Post now, too. 

If you didn’t go over to the original post at Book Riot, I suggest doing so and spending some time in the comments. One of the original book banners I talked about in the piece has been making his case over and over again. And this morning, he suggests he needs to in order to save the children from people like myself (using my name as an example of who parents need to protect their kids from — it is weird, strange, bizarre or any other similar-word to see your name being connected to an idea like that). 

But despite the show he’s caused and still causing there, the ardent and impassioned responses from other people in the comments are great. 

My favorite, though, is this. From a 13-year-old:

Dear Dr. Swier, I read the book ‘Speak’ at age 10…possibly 11, I can’t really remember now. I’m thirteen now and have read countless books with much longer and detailed sex scenes than the 7 or 8 lines of “he hurts me he hurts me he zips up his jeans” in Speak. I like to think I make responsible decisions in my reading material as well as my (let’s be honest here, nonexistent) sex life. My reading material isn’t monitored by my parents or librarians; to be honest, most adults I know are pretty stoked that I read whatever I can get my hands on and think critically about each book.
Reading books with sex scenes has never felt “scandalous” to me, or “turned me on” at all. (“By golly, that was some good porn. Man, that girl got raped by someone she didn’t know and lived her life in a depressed haze for the next year, too paralyzed to tell anyone what had happened! I think I’ll go round up some of my teenage buddies now and see who’ll have sex with me!”) Some teenagers have sex sometimes. It’s a fact. We know it, I know it, and you know it. Sometimes it’s an issue, yes; I would like to argue that sometime’s it’s a non-issue as well, but that’s beside the point. Ignoring the fact of teenage sexuality doesn’t cause it to cease to exist. Instead, “squeaky-clean” YA lit and abstinence-only sex ed programs just create a bubble of ignorance around young adults. Trying to blind them to a true fact is ineffective; in fact, once they’re eventually (and inevitably) introduced to sex, undereducation may be their downfall as they are more prone to partake in risky behaviors without knowing the consequences. LIKE RAPE.
Dear Dr.Swier, it’s rather blatantly obvious that you haven’t actually READ “Speak”. The entire book is told through a fog of depression in the aftermath of the protagonist’s rape at a party. It’s clear that the event was utterly traumatic and life-altering and depression-inducing and AWFUL and just bad, bad, bad. If anything, I consider it an eye-opener to much of the YA population on the aftereffects of rape. I’ll say this for teenagers: there’s some stupid among us who don’t think about their actions, and those are the type of people who can/will mature into sexual predators. I really don’t think Ms. Anderson wrote Speak as a “don’t do this kids” book, but LET’S GIVE SPEAK A CHANCE TO KNOCK SOME SENSE INTO THE AFOREMENTIONED DUNDERHEADS, allright?
And in response to your “rape in the Bible” comment further down this thread: I’ve read the Holy Christian Bible cover-to-cover as well. I have to say it’s more graphic than anything in Speak. THE “SEX SCENE” IN SPEAK READS THUSLY:
“No.” No I did not like this. I was on the ground and he was on top of me. My lips mumble something about leaving, about a friend who needs me, about my parents worrying. I can hear myself — I’m mumbling like a deranged drunk. His lips lock on mine and I can’t say anything. I twist my head away. He is so heavy. There is a boulder on me. I open my mouth to breath, to scream, and his hand covers it. In my head, my voice is clear as a bell: “NO I DON’T WANT TO!” But I can’t spit it out. I’m trying to remember how we got on the ground and where the moon went and wham! shirt up, shorts down, and the ground smells wet and dark and NO! — I’m not really here, I’m definitely back at Rachel’s crimping my hair and gluing on fake nails, and he smells like beer and mean and he hurts me hurts me hurts me and gets up
and zips his jeans
and smiles.
I don’t know how you can call that graphic. It doesn’t use the word “penis” or “vagina” (ooh, scary, I know)–nor does it even use the word “sex”! (Or the dreaded f-bomb.) It’s to the point and intelligible without being overly descriptive or salacious. (Actually, it’s not salacious in the SLIGHTEST. Rape isn’t sexy! Rape isn’t a turn-on! Reading about rape doesn’t make me want to go rape/get raped/have sex!) By your arguments (anything ABOUT rape is PROMOTING rape) this entire comment has promoted rape, which is preposterous. In case you’re getting the wrong message here, let me disclose this: Rape is when someone partakes in sexual acts with someone else without that person’s consent. (That was about rape.) Rape is awful and shouldn’t happen, ever. (Also about rape. Promoting rape..?)

If that doesn’t give you shivers, I don’t know what will. What a well-spoken, incredibly-reasoned 13-year-old. If nothing else, that is a reminder why I do what it is I do and why I love doing it. 
I wanted to share a few other things, too. 

  • Tanita Davis wrote a wonderful post yesterday about Speaking and Not Speaking and how to tell big stories and little stories, if there’s such a thing as one or the other. 
This has been a strange week. But if I can make one suggested take away, aside from reading these posts and the comments and yes, sharing my article, it’s this: get these books into the hands of those readers who need them. If you haven’t read Speak or you haven’t read any of the other books listed in my post or in the post I’ve linked above about discussing topics like rape, please do
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  1. says

    I've been over to read the post and all the comments, and I just want to say that I appreciate everything you do. I appreciate that you let yourself get bullied by people like Swier so that you can get a good message out. You're a rock star!

  2. says

    I completely agree with Laura. I get so angry when I read about people wanting to ban books that i can't even form coherent sentences let alone contribute to the discussion and I am so grateful for people like you who do it so well! Thank you for standing up for the importance of reading and education and the rights of teenagers to read what they want and form their own opinions. That 13 year old you quoted is scarily awesome, I hope my son turns out that great in 12 years!

  3. says

    I've just started following this and I have to say that when I read the original post from Dr Swier (doctor??? dear me don't let him be in a position to give advice to young people!) I was stunned. I read Speak for the first time several years ago (as an adult) and was blown away by the story and the writing and the character and how powerful it was, and the rape scene that was quoted above was so – can I say "perfectly written"? Subtle yet clear, disturbing and frightening without being at all graphic. I don't understand where this man's argument that stories about rape promote it – it makes absolutely no sense at all.

    I was pleased at how many people came out in the comments of that original post with very calm, rational, well-written and thoughtful reactions against the argument, people who managed to not be thrown off by ridiculous rhetoric. It's clear that the people who read books like Speak are intelligent, thoughtful, feeling people. As the commenter you quoted above pointed out, reading about rape does not make you want to go out and have sex, of any kind. If I may be so to-the-point, personally it makes me squeeze my thighs together very tightly indeed. And thank whatever powers there may be that I do not live in a society that restricts or censors my ongoing, life-long education or my ability to SPEAK!

    Thank you for this, Kelly, and for the links.

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