Monday, September 20

Speak, and Speak Loudly

I have to keep this short today (rarely an easy thing for me) as I have miles to go editing the novel. Let’s see if I can find ‘short’ in my vocabulary.

First, there will be a post on this article from the SBS in Australia on Wednesday or Thursday. It makes me fume in barely-expressible ways and I’m hoping that more stories on the report mentioned will surface before then so I can, perhaps, gain a little more perspective.

Tomorrow is World Alzheimer’s Day, so I’ll be busy elsewhere. If you get through your blog reading list of stuff, feel free to revisit my post on the subject. Better yet, if you blog and the subject resonates, join the cause and add your voice.

Today though… well, today I’m going to jump on Twitter's #SpeakLoudly bandwagon in light of this week’s controversy regarding Laurie Halse Anderson's YA book Speak, the story of a girl who is raped and must deal with the excruciating aftermath of that event. It’s an important story and, by all accounts, superbly written. When I have a budget for book buying again (there are aspects of poor artist life that I don’t like), it will be one of the very first books on my ‘to buy’ list.

Speak and Ms. Anderson are big literary news this week because Wesley Scroggins, a Business Management Professor in Missouri, has taken it upon himself to mount a campaign to ban the book from high school libraries because he considers it pornographic. Apparently Vonnegut's Slaughter House Five is also unworthy and dangerous. If you’re a fan of Sugar at The Rumpus (and you really, really should be), then you’ll know what I mean when I say that it sounds like Ms. Anderson writes like a motherfucker. This, in turn, seems to offend Mr. Scoggin’s delicate sensibilities.

Rather than see past his own overgrown social myopathy to the simple truth that the real is very often not pretty, and that writing about stuff that isn’t pretty is important, nay, vital to helping people (especially our youth) see the world for what it is, warts and all, Mr. Scoggins thinks that we should protect young people from said truth by banning anything he considers dangerous from the libraries of the world. As if ignorance ever solved anything.

We, of course, know better. We know that the ostrich method of dealing with tough stuff is bullshit. And we hopefully also know that fiction – real, hard, ugly and transforming fiction – can be an agent of expressing truth that is as or more piercing and disarming than any real news story can be.

That’s one of the many things I love about fiction: It can take us to places, put us in situations that we will (hopefully) never have to actually deal with in the really-real world, but that we still need to acknowledge and own. Fiction, good fiction, is an agent of empathy; perhaps one of it’s most powerful ones, and we live in a world that needs more empathy, not less; more knowledge, not ignorance; more truth, not a fucking cowardly commitment to denial and lies.

The response to the proposed ban has been heartwarming and heart breaking at the same time. #SpeakLoudly is trending nicely on Twitter and the lit blogosphere is rallying. For proof of that, check out Ms. Anderson's comments, Pimp My Novel, [Bloggers [[heart]] Books], Lisa and Laura Write, and C.J. Redwine's poignant post at The Last Word, just for a few quick examples.

Book banning just boggles my mind a bit, especially when the reasons are so spurious and the topic is so important. I find myself wondering how those of us who are proponents of banning can live lives so full of fear that ignorance seems like a better choice than reality. I don't get that kind of denial. It just seems pathetically selfish.

And yes, I'm being judgmental, and I'm okay with that right now. I'll feel remorse later. Maybe.

There’s a long way to go yet before we get to rest, so follow the links and join the cause, please. You can get a little ribbon for your Twitter and FB icons at Twibbon if you search for SpeakLoudly, join Laurie's FB page here , follow the Tweets here and here, and you can Tweet your ass off using the #SpeakLoudly hash tag. And buy Speak at a local independent bookstore too.

Okay, my novel beckons, and she's a jealous mistress...