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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Censorship

If you were away from the blog/Twittersphere yesterday, you may have missed the talk of censorship going on when Ellen Hopkins was uninvited to the Teen Lit Festival. Other authors soon began withdrawing from the festival in response to the censorship.

From Ellen Hopkin's blog:

Once again, censorship opens its nasty mouth and takes a bite out of me. This time in Humble Texas, a suburb of Houston. Let me say first thing that I did two high school visits there a couple of years ago, and they went very well. The librarians were totally supportive and, in fact, took me to the amazing Houston Rodeo afterward. So when they asked me to take part in the Teen Lit Fest they help organize, I said sure. The event is scheduled for the last weekend in January, 2011. But I won’t be there after all.

Apparently, a middle school librarian saw my name on the roster and decided my presence would somehow negatively affect her students. I’m not sure how that is possible. Maybe she thinks I sweat “edgy and dark.” (Are those things catching?) Anyway, she went to a couple of parents with her concerns. I’m guessing she knew the exact ones who would raise a stink, and they did. They went to the school board, and the superintendent, Guy Sconzo, decided to uninvite me. (He says I was never invited, but I was!)

You know, I’m kind of getting used to this, and I had just about decided not to make a big deal about it. But then another Texas librarian, who is a great supporter, e-mailed Mr. Sconzo. His reply was arrogant and condescending and really made me mad, on two fronts. First, he admitted he “relied on his head librarian’s research” in regard to my books or me or both. Meaning he never bothered to read them himself. (Censors rarely do!) Never bothered to contact me with his concerns. Didn’t listen to the other librarians who lobbied heavily to keep me on the speaker roster, or ask other teen book festival organizers about their experiences with me.

Then Mr. Sconzo went on to say that there are so many authors they could never have them all at their Teen Lit Fests. Like I’m just another author. (Oh, except one that apparently gets under people’s skin.) I am not just another author. I’m an author who is a voice for a generation that faces real problems every day. An author who tries to dissect those problems, look for reasons, suggest solutions, show outcomes to choices through characters who walk off the page. I’m an author who cares about her readership in a very real way. I am thoughtful, respectful of my readers, and not afraid to tell the truth.

That is what censors fear. The truth. Mr. Sconzo doesn’t “want to jeopardize any possible negative reaction [sic] with what has been to date completely positive for literally all concerned.” (I always wonder about school administrators who can’t write a sentence correctly.) The truth may not always be pretty, but it is positive. What's negative is hiding truth in a dark closet, pretending it doesn't exist. And worse, manipulating people with lies.
More on Houston by Ellen Hopkins

Pete Hautman's views on the festival and censorship

Librarified's account

My two cents as a teenage reader:

Censorship is not okay. If you don't want your kid to read a book or listen to an author speak, that's fine. That's up to you. (You may also want to cancel the cable and home school them because the "worst" book is not worse than reality.) But it is not okay for you to tell other people that they can't read a book or listen to someone speak. That is up to them to decide. I wouldn't tell you that you can't watch CNN or buy a double cheeseburger or read Eat, Pray, Love.

There is always one person that feels the need to ruin something for everyone else. That is not how this should work. If Ellen Hopkin's presence at an event bothers you, don't go. But don't ruin it for everyone that was looking forward to seeing her there.

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