For those of you that missed it, Humble Texas is at the center of a censorship controversy. A library event was planned with several well known, best selling young adult authors, including Ellen Hopkins, who’s books deal with some hard edged subjects like drug abuse, rape and teen prostitution.
Disclaimer: I write this post not having read any of her books but also stating that Crank, one of the books at the heart of the controversy, is on its way from Amazon.
A middle school librarian found out that Ms Hopkins was on the list of invitees and sent her objections to the superintendant who promptly disinvited Ms Hopkins. The fallout was dramatic across the blogosphere with some weighing in supporting Ms Hopkins and some supporting the school. Several authors dropped out in support of Hopkins.
Looking at the subject matter of Ms Hopkins books, I would argue that they are appropriate for some teens and not others. As a parent and as a prospective young adult author, I’m reading her book to find out what the deal is as well as whether or not I would be comfortable letting my kid read it (understanding that it will be many years down the road before that becomes appropriate subject matter for my daughters).
I applaud Ms Hopkins for writing her books because she is absolutely correct that pretending that drug abuse, sexual abuse, rape and teen prostitution are non issues only sends kids dealing with these issues into the dark. Shining a light on these matters is not done lightly.
Ms Hopkins candidly says on her website that her own daughter was addicted to meth and she wrote Crank as a way of exploring what might have driven her daughter to use. I can’t imagine anything more troubling to write, more heart wrenching to put on paper and I think the fact that she wrote this book is huge in a society where drug use is on the rise and everyone pretends that its not my kid.
That said, I also believe that the school district could have handled this better. They could have very easily had a group of authors that write young adult novels geared toward older kids. They easily could have told parents that she was coming and let the PARENTS make the decision about whether or not to let their kids buy her book. After all, it is not the school board’s job to raise my children, it is might and the fact that the superintendant took it upon himself to remove her from the program – supposedly without reading any of them – means that no real debate is going to occur about whether this author is causing harm or promoting discussion about one of our society’s shameful secrets.
It is my job as a parent to decide what is appropriate for my kid to read. There are nonfiction books in my house (on religion as an example) that I would not feel comfortable letting my daughters read when they’re 13 (the youngest target audience of ya readers) but wouldn’t have issue with once they’re older. Just because its young adult doesn’t necessarily mean its appropriate for all teens at all ages.
There is nothing wrong with telling a middle school age kid that Ms Hopkins book is probably not right for her. But telling all kids that and the school making the decision for me? No. We have to raise our kids to think for themselves and to make decisions without us. We are there to guide them in a world that would use them up and throw them away without a second glance. Pretending that there are no bad things out there does our kids a disservice and sends them out among the wolves unprepared.
I can’t say whether or not I would let my daughters read Ms Hopkins book when they’re older. I’ll let you know after I read Crank. I do, however, take another lesson from this whole debacle. As an author who is currently working on a book for teens, I realize that I have an obligation to deal honestly with the issues but also to tread carefully the lines between gratuitous sex or violence or drug use and confronting a very real problem. This book is geared toward other people’s children. I hope that their parents will read with their kids and discuss rather than censor.
Because censorship by government or any ruling body merely makes sheep of the masses and I think we have enough of that problem already.