Turning A Light On Book Banning

Book banning happens in secret. The saga of Revolutionary Voices in New Jersey is one example.

Risha Mullins is an English teacher. Her heartbreaking saga of the emotional, personal, and professional consequences of book banning is recounted at her blog, For the Love of YA

Comments sometimes heard about book banning include “the author is lucky because book sales go up!”  or “this gets more people reading the book so it is a good thing!” Mullins provides an emotional, detailed account of the hell that professionals endure during such challenges. Rarely do we hear from the librarians and teachers who have to live with the challenges and the consequences, which — depending on the school or library they work for — can include being personally and professionally targeted, attacked, bullied. It’s something that happens behind closed doors; something that, as employees, they may be unable to legally or ethically talk about.

Mullins bravely opens that door in Censorship at its Finest: Remembering.

Some people may wonder why #speakloudly has gotten so much attention, so much passion, when challenging books is hardly new.

My personal opinion is that, as Mullins’s account shows, book banners have been successful at labeling young adult books as “soft pornography,” using that as a lead pipe to attack. “You’re giving our children PORN,” and everyone says, “how terrible,” and the book goes away. Wesley Scroggins made a tactical error in using Speak as his example of filthy pornography, because it created the opportunity for people to turn that attack back on the person making it. “You think rape is porn? What’s wrong with you?!”

Wesley Scroggins also went public. When I first read his editorial, I wondered, what is wrong with this paper that they gave Scroggins a soap box? (And to get a clear picture of what Scroggins wants done in public schools, read his full 29 page complaint dated June 2010.)  Having read Mullins’s account, I have a new theory. I think the paper did this to turn the spotlight on what was going on. And turn the spotlight it did!

One final thing. CommonSenseMedia continues to use its “established child development principles” to let parents know that Speak is only appropriate for ages 17 and over, and that rape is categorized as sex.

Edited to add: Sarah Ockler takes on the Authors Make Money From Book Banning Myth.

For the Love of YA

Risha Mullins is a “self-proclaimed critic of Young Adult literature, a National Board Certified English teacher, an AP Language and Composition teacher, and an aspiring author.” You may know her name from some of my posts from last year (What do you think and UPDATE: YA in the classroom). And now Risha is blogging!

She’s at For the Love of YA, offering author interviews and reviews. She recently interviewed David Macinnis Gill; my favorite part is Gill discussing  Soul Enchilada and censorship: “Soul Enchilada faced censorship before it was published. When ARCs went out, I started getting emails from librarians who enjoyed it but knew they couldn’t order for their conservation communities (the book is far more popular in the West, while southern libraries seem not to stock it). I also received some testy emails from older readers who complained that my bored, corporate devil wasn’t evil enough. Also, there were many letters criticizing me for writing in the voice of a minority teen, since I;m a middle-aged white guy. That disappoints me because one of the themes of Soul was to judge people for who they are, not for what they look like. Honestly, I’ve been through so many censorship cases as an advocate for teens and teachers that I’m looking forward to a true book banning, rather than the self-censorship we’ve seen so far.”

Mullins on Soul Enchilada: ” In addition to the engaging plot, Gill gives his readership a unique protagonist (Hispanic and African-American) with attitude and spunk, the rich smells and tastes of a Hispanic subculture of El Paso, and some insight into a celebration—Dia de los Muertos—that is often misunderstood or underrepresented by American culture. Even if the plot didn’t keep us guessing and reading, the inclusion of this amazing culture would have done the trick.”

My review of Soul Enchilada.