A Different Take on Censorship

First off, I was blown away by all of the great responses to the 'goals' post.  You're a dedicated and driven bunch of folks, and I'm proud to be associated with all of you.  I was inspired by your motivations, and it gave me a much needed kick in the pants.  So for that I say ...

Now, let's get down to business.  I know that most of you are very active bloggers (both readers and authors) in the writing world, so you've undoubtedly been following the latest dustup in the free speech war.  September happens to be Banned Book Month in which we celebrate condemned literature, so great timing!  Right?   

Here are the details.  It seems some fella in Missouri decided to encourage parents, school, etc. to ban the YA book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I'll not go into great detail regarding his complaints, nor will I use the name of the person on this blog, chiefly for the reasons I'm about to discuss.


Wait a second, EJ.  Don't you mean it's a horrible thing?  Did you intend to say that it sets our culture back thousands of years, and it creates a repressive environment for artists?  Surely you meant to say that book banning is BAD, BAD, BAD!

NOPE.  I think it's tremendous news for the author, for readers, and for the lasting appeal of the book.  Notoriety and outrage are often two-sides of the same coin.  Infamy is sometimes the precursor to greatness.  L.H. Anderson couldn't pay for this kind of publicity.  

When the spotlight shines, people pay attention.  People who would otherwise not care will line up to see what the fuss is about.  Furthermore, if you've ever spent 10 minutes with a teenager, you know that the best way to get them to do something is to tell them not to.  

Let's take a look at some notable banned books.  The Bible.  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  The Da Vinci Code.  The Grapes of Wrath.  Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Catcher in the Rye.  Animal Farm. And many, many more.  


Here's the ironic part.  The outraged parties who fear the message of these books, those who are terrified of conflicting world views, and those who would go to any length to not have their POV challenged have no one to blame for the success of these books but themselves.     

The bottom line is this:  More people will read Speak because of what this yahoo said, not less.  

Now I'm not supporting the attitude behind censorship, and I'd encourage all of you to fight this kind of stuff, particularly at the local level and in your own homes.  However, I do hope that poorly informed, misguided, and outright ignorant people continue to throw a fit when they read something that scares them.  That's the only way to guaranty that these works will live on.  


NOTE FROM THE BLOGGIST:  Several of you have referenced this topic on your own blogs, and the responses I've read are wonderfully written.  I'd encourage you to put your link in the comments section of this post to continue to spread the word.  Plus, you can go to Laurie's website/blog and lend your support.   


  1. i love that dog pic, hey!

    and agreeing absolutely about banned books suddenly becoming more desirable to many many people :)

  2. I feel like that too.

    But I still think it might hurt an author's feelings.

  3. I think you have captured it perfectly. The more someone protests about a book/movie/song/video, the more others seek it out to see what the fuss is all about.

    I think banning books it wrong. I had a professor in college (I was an ed major) who talked about this very subject.

    I think it is up to the parents to police what their kids are reading/watching/listening to, not a stranger who doesn't know my kid.

  4. @ Nomes: Ain't he cute?

    @ Mary: You've nailed it - parents have to be invested enough in the lives of their children to study what they are reading and watching. If a parent decides it is inappropriate for their child to read that's probably where it should end.

  5. @ Claire: I agree that if it were my book, it might tick me off to have someone out-and-out attack it, but only if I was fairly certain the guy hadn't read it. (It does sound like the person in question skimmed and missed the entire point of the novel.) If he's read it, he's entitled to his opinion/interpretation. Here's a quote by rock & roller Alice Cooper that sums up my thoughts perfectly:

    "I appreciate an audience that reacts to the music, even if they jump on stage and try to beat us up, I think that's a fantastic reaction. I think that they're really hearing something then. "

    We write to elicit a reaction from the reader, be it happiness, outrage, etc. Speak has done that, and then some.

  6. Whenever the call for banning a book goes out, I think the publicity outweighs the criticism. Of course, that only works where a 1st Amendment doesn't allow the book to be destroyed.

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  8. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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