On Book Banning Zealots & Ostriches

UPDATE: Thanks everyone for your ongoing support and awesomeness, especially on the #SpeakLoudly Twitter thread! Keep reading and keep speaking loudly against book banning!

Most of you know I’m getting pretty riled up about this whole censorship thing. There was the Ellen Hopkins un-invite from the Humble Texas book event. The Stockton, MO banning of Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN. Then the news that TWENTY BOY SUMMER was being challenged in a Missouri school library because one parent thought the title was “promiscuous.”

One parent’s challenge of TBS isn’t a big deal, really. But it speaks to the larger issues of censorship that I talked about last week, and that’s why I was so upset.

But then I got an update on the “minor” TBS situation, and it’s actually much worse than I thought.

Dr. Wesley Scroggins, a fundamentalist Christian and parent in Republic, MO, has issued a 29-page missive to the Republic school board calling for the removal of TBS, SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, and most shocking of all — Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK — a book about the date rape of a teen girl which Scroggins calls “soft pornography.” Not surprisingly, he’s also fighting to kill the sex ed curriculum, removing any pamphlets that discuss HIV or condoms and disallowing teachers to talk about reproduction and sex, stating that “…children at the middle school are being introduced to concepts such as homosexuality, oral sex, anal sex and specific instructions on how to use a condom and have sex.” Note that in Republic, kids (or their parents) can opt out of the sex ed curriculum, which is abstinence-based, but that’s not good enough for Scroggins. Apparently he doesn’t want anyone unmarried and under the age of 25 to know about “female parts.”

You all know how I feel about the head in the sand mentality, right? Because I’m sure us girls never even knew we had vaginas (yes, Dr. Scroggins, it’s called a vagina) until we took sex ed and learned “how to use a condom and have sex.”

*rolls eyes*

Sex and girl parts aside, he’s also got a problem with the school’s teaching of the Constitution and lots of history and science books that teach anything other than the strictest Christian interpretation of those subjects.

In his whackadoo-from-the-zoo article, “Filthy books demeaning to Republic education,” he says this about TWENTY BOY SUMMER:

This book glorifies drunken teen parties, where teen girls lose their clothes in games of strip beer pong. In this book, drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex. I confronted the school board with these issues at the June school board meeting. As far as I know, nothing has been done to address these issues to date. This is unacceptable, considering that most of the school board members and administrators claim to be Christian. How can Christian men and women expose children to such immorality? Parents, it is time you get involved!

I’m not going to spend a lot of time defending my book other than to say what those who’ve read it already know — despite its lighthearted title, TBS is not about parties and sex. It’s about two girls struggling in the aftermath of a major tragedy, with grieving parents and unfamiliar situations and secrets that threaten to kill their friendship. It’s a scary world for them, and my job as a writer is to tell their story honestly, without judgment. And I know I’ve done my job because I hear from teens who’ve experienced devastating loss, and they tell me how much the book meant to them or how they could relate to the characters more than they can relate to their own friends somtimes. One email like that is all I needed to know that I did what I set out to do.

But here’s the thing that really gets me about Scoggins’ comments: When he says, “Parents, it is time you get involved,” he’s not really asking parents to get involved in what might actually be a good discussion and healthy debate. Truly asking for parental involvement would mean encouraging parents to read the books in question, discuss issues and themes with their kids, and come to their own decisions about what’s best for their own families. Scroggins is just calling people out, bating them with accusations of being immoral or “unchristian,” looking for a few good upstanding parents to join his lynch mob.

(And another kick in the ass? According to comments on the article [still trying to find out the source and confirm -- anyone know?], his own children are home schooled. If that’s true, this guy is just stirring up shit for other people’s kids, all under the banner of his version of Jesus.)

So we’re back to the whole issue of what censorship teaches our kids, and it’s not something I’m willing to stand for.

If you’re riled up about this to, here’s how you can get involved:

- Retweet this post by clicking the retweet button to the right
- Blog about your thoughts and reaction
- Join the #SpeakLoudly thread on Twitter
- Voice your opinion on Scroggins’ original article here
- Write a letter to the editor of Springfield’s News-Leader
- Write to the administrators in the Republic school district

You can also check out Laurie Halse Anderson’s response to the nonsense here: This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography

And don’t forget to enter to win a Wesley Scroggins Filthy Books Prize Pack now through Friday, September 24!

Thanks everyone for your support!

48 Responses to On Book Banning Zealots & Ostriches

  1. Pam says:

    Lovely article, I just ordered TBS.

    • Sarah Ockler says:

      Thank you, Pam. I hope you enjoy the book. Have you read SPEAK before? LHA is one of the reasons I write for teens.

      • Pam says:

        LHA is my number one favorite issue author. Speak has a special affinity to me, something I wasn’t able to blog about but I will support this book and really any challenged book to the ends of the earth. I went to my shelf. I have TBS! Reading it tonight.

      • -sry says:

        Sarah, I’d never even heard of SPEAK before reading this post by you! Given how many teenaged girls are date-raped and otherwise sexually assaulted or pressured into sexual situations by their peers (often other girls) it’s so important for teenaged girls to get actual TRUTH about it all. Any book that addresses the topic is definitely NOT pornography unless you get hawt at the idea of raping a girl. I guess this so-called Christian man gets into rape. Figures.

        G-d (*MY* G-d anyway) would be disgusted with this man using His Name to condemn a book that condemns rape. At least I assume SPEAK condemns it ;-) Now I shall have to go off to my county library and read a copy. Thanks!

      • Girl_from_Shangri-la says:

        I *love* SPEAK. This book is an inspiration to me, both as a ‘writer in the making’ and as a human being. I can’t believe anyone would want to keep this book out of schools! What is this man thinking?! I haven’t read TBS but I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for this post. People need to hear the other side of the story, which in this case, is just the plain truth.

  2. [...] Sarah Ockler (whose book Twenty Boy Summer was also challenged) [...]

  3. Amber says:

    It kills me that this is in my area and most of all that his kids don’t even attend the school he is targeting.

  4. Raven says:

    That guy really made me mad. It’s like he didn’t even pick up TBS or Speak. He just flipped through the pages, looking for something to criticize.

    I read Speak when I was in ninth grade, and I thought it was a powerful read, one that many rape victims could relate to. How a man, especially one who claims to be Christian could say such a thing, comparing rape to pornography, it just makes me sick.

    And then once he started talking about TBS, I knew he had lost his mind, because as you said, and as many people who have read the book will say, Twenty Boy Summer isn’t about sex or condoms or parties. It’s about two girls coping, and what is wrong with that?

    Nothing.

    *sighs* This guy seriously has problems with sex and the word vagina.

  5. I completely agree with you, Sarah. I’m sick to my stomach after reading what he said. I’ve blogged, joined Twitter and plan on writing a letter as well. Thanks for posting this and he knows nothing about TBS. It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.

  6. Michelle says:

    You pretty much said everything I was thinking. It’s obvious this person did not read Twenty Boy Summer or Speak. To refer to rape as soft core pornography is beyond disturbing. I don’t even know what to say to a terrible comment like that.

    Banning books has never made any sense to me. If you don’t want your kid reading something then that’s your decision but don’t force others to do so as well.

    Hiding things from teens never achieved anything. Taking sex-ed out of a school is one of the worst ideas ever. Teaching students how to use condoms is not a way of saying “go out and sleep with everyone in your path.”

    This kind of stuff infuriates me beyond belief. It’s children that are restricted and uneducated on particular topics that often find themselves in situations in life that could have been avoided.

  7. -sry says:

    I just reserved a copy of SPEAK and read the summary. WOW. How come there weren’t any books like *that* when *I* was a teenager?!! (in the 1970s) The best book I read in the 10-12 yo age range was SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER which was, actually, pretty awesome. It’s one of only 2 books I kept from my childhood, the other being a fairytale collection ;)

    I can’t wait to read SPEAK. Thanks so much for mentioning it, Sarah. My library system has something like 50 copies (yeah, can you believe it?) but a handful are tagged for storage and only 2 are checked in. I’m 4th in the request queue. I’ll have to wait a week or two but sounds like it’ll be well-worth it!

  8. [...] Sarah Ockler chimes in on her book being targeted as well. [...]

  9. Jeebus, Sarah, what a mess. I’m so sorry that some whackaloon with his head up his ass has nothing better to do with his time than stir up this kind of hornet’s nest.

    Your books, Laurie’s books, Ellen’s books, and so very many other books are so important to have available for our kids. Every time I think of someone trying to keep a book out of my son’s or daughter’s hands, I start frothing at the mouth. That kind of presumption speaks of an overprivileged (and completely undeserved) air of entitlement.

  10. [...] = 'sarahockler'; The outpouring of support from the book loving community over the Wesley Scroggins Crazytrain Manifesto has been amazing, especially through the #SpeakLoudly Twitter campaign. As a gesture of thanks to [...]

  11. Amber Hunter says:

    Slaughterhouse Five banned?! That’s one of my favorite books. What’s wrong with these people?

  12. [...] Laurie Halse Anderson’s initial blog post. Censorship by Sarah Ockler, Twenty Boy Summer. Sarah Ockler’s post on the subject. A post on SPEAK by Cheryl Rainfield, author of Scars. Speaking Out by C. J. [...]

  13. Pam Bachorz says:

    Imagine if people took the time to read books that their kids want to read… and thoughtfully discussed them with their kids afterwards. Imagine how different our world could be.

    I’m sorry you have to go through this, Sarah. Know you have a legion of love and support behind you.

  14. Doni M says:

    One should be made to read a book before banning it, OR burning it! Ignorance and intolerance seem to be grappling with Reality. Please. Read. Books.

  15. readligion says:

    Censorship is nasty cycle. Don’t get caught in it. We can’t change things if we don’t #SpeakLoudly. Keeping great books from kids only hurts them. It keeps them from learning to think for themselves and make their own decisions. Books like Speak can help a lot of people if we let them. Read my take on this situation at my blog: http://readligion.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/speakloudly-about-censorship/

  16. Jen says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am one of the many
    who found her voice because of SPEAK and I was appalled by the recent events. I haven’t read TWENTY BOY SUMMER, but I just ordered it from Amazon and am looking forward to it!

  17. [...] Fast forward to 2010 where there is a concerted effort to ban and limit free speech in America.  Books, always a soft target in the war against words have taken their share of hits lately. Read here for all the latest and saddest book banning and attempted banning news, including her own book in this wonderful blog by author Sarah Ockler: http://sarahockler.com/2010/09/19/on-book-banning-zealots-ostriches/ [...]

  18. Sarah, you know this librarian supports you and I’m fighting for these books! This is crazy and I want you to know that there is a big support for the books in Missouri right now!

  19. [...] and the story itself. Recently, her book was challenged in a hateful way. Read about it, and Sarah’s eloquent thoughts on censorship here. Enter to win a copy of her book at my xillion prizes giveaway. And you can also win a [...]

  20. Katie says:

    Scroggins and the like want to protect vulnerable people but it is better to do so by educating them than shielding them. After all, that is what school is for! It disturbs me that he is more upset by the though of children finding out about the darker side to life through books, than first-hand. Then, when it’s too late, where does banning books lead to but ignorance, shame and fear?

  21. [...] To learn more about the #SpeakLoudly movement that’s growing in response to Dr. Scroggins’ crusade to remove these three books from school libraries and revise history, tune in on Twitter or visit Sarah Ockler’s website. [...]

  22. [...] Here Ms. Ockler explains a bit more about the situation (who the challenge/opinion piece writer is, why this is a bigger deal than just the removal of one or two books from a school district’s library, and how you can get involved if you want to do something more).  Apparently this is the same area where another school board recently removed Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. [...]

  23. Gina C. says:

    He’s just another example of the type of person who just buries his head in the sand and pretends this stuff doesn’t happen. It makes far more sense to read a book like this and discuss it openly with your children. This will help them to feel comfortable about talking to you about sensitive subject matters and opens the doors to a healthy bond.

  24. It’s unbelievable what some people will do to try and lecture others about what is a “good” and “bad” book. Writers use the freedom of expression to discuss, inform, teach, share and reach out to people. How could he possibly have an issue with Speak, which is an incredibly important book for young adults to understand the horrors of rape and peer pressure? Censorship is too often a mindless, fear mongering monster that attacks books without actual thought or reason behind and stifles free thought. Banning books doesn’t help solve the social problems we face nor does it correct them. We need brave authors who are not afraid to tell it like it is.Writing about sensitive or controversial issues is not the same thing as exploiting them. Rape=pornography, really? Really?

    I hope people are more empowered to read these books because of Mr. Scroggin’s uninformed editorial. I’m truly inspired by your good attitude and resolve to continue promoting the banned books and fighting back against censorship, especially using social media to get the word out. #SpeakLoudly is brilliant!

  25. [...] = 'sarahockler'; After sharing many of my thoughts on the Wesley Scroggins wingnuttery here and here, I have a few things to say today in defense of Laurie Halse Anderson’s [...]

  26. Charlie says:

    whilst I reaaaaaally dislike this kind of zealot – why give him any attention – the danger is that you could risk giving him a national platform from which to spout his twisted hate.. These people will never change their minds or bow to any pressure – they just up the ante and end up like the Westboro Baptist Church and waving placards on street corners, telling grieving parents that their sons died in Iraq as punishment for homosexuality..

  27. I am woefully late to the party, but I just wanted to say that I’m with you, Sarah. You are kicking some serious idiot-ass. It’s fantastic.
    XOXOX

  28. You know, I just read Twenty Boy Summer last week, and I absolutely loved it. I had put it off for a while because I thought the title sounded loose, I suppose, but once I read what it was about, I knew I had to read it. Here was my review…http://tinyurl.com/2cpvsk8

    Mr. Scroggins used a platform of religion to propagate what he believed the correct morals and values are that should be taught in schools, and I absolutely loathe that he did. I don’t believe in banning books or censorship. The only good thing I believe came of this was the fact that so many more people are interested in these titles now, and I believe the opposite of what he had hoped for happened :)

  29. Lisa Roe says:

    Good for you, Sarah! I get super riled up over censorship issues as well. Which is why I’m co-hosting a Banned Books Event here in Milwaukee during Banned Books Week. I shared your link via our FB page: http://www.facebook.com/bannedmke#%21/bannedmke and Tweeted, too!

    In all the work I’ve done for our event, I’ve found that many of the challenged books for last year happened right here in my home state of Wisconsin. That terrifies me.

  30. Hannah says:

    You GO GIRL!

    Love, Hannah

  31. [...] Ocker, whose Twenty Boy Summer is also among the challenged books, also has blogged about the situation, had her own opinion piece printed, and created a video (watch below) in which [...]

  32. [...] read Ms. Anderson’s posts on the situation, and Ms. Ockler’s.  (Also, check out the Filthy Books Prize Pack giveaway Sarah Ockler is holding.  Go forth and [...]

  33. Hellion says:

    TBS and SPEAK sound like amazing books. I can’t wait to read them. I want to THANK Mr. Scroggins for bringing them to my attention or I might have missed out on some really great stories. *off to the bookstore*

  34. [...] Saundra Mitchell @ Eve’s Fan Garden Karen Rivers Sarah Ockler: I Speak Loudly for Speak Sarah Ockler: On Book Banning Zealots and Ostriches Author Laura Manivong @ Page Turners Cheryl Rainfield: Fight Against Ignorance Myra McEntire: Speak [...]

  35. [...] titles. From Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK being deemed pornographic, to Sarah Ockler’s TWENTY BOY SUMMER and Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, there’s no doubt [...]

  36. [...] Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler is another book in danger of being banned by the same school [...]

  37. [...] Sarah Ockler responded to the challenge: “I’d encourage parents to read it first and decide if it’s right for their children.”  Read more of Ockler’s thoughts on censorship here. [...]

  38. [...] as the original blog article by Laurie Halse Anderson is here at her website. Sarah Ockler has a great article with links in the comments as [...]

  39. [...] Sarah Ockler: On Book Banning Zealots and Ostriches [...]

  40. [...] that I wasn’t even all that interested in reading Twenty Boy Summer?! I won it at around this time, then it just kind of lurked on my shelf, taunting me with its potentially depressing story-line. [...]

  41. Hi Sarah, my name is Tara and I’ve been interested in the issue of book banning and challenging for a while now. I read Twenty Boy Summer and loved it. This question may seem a little redundant because you write about how riled up you are, but how does it feel to have someone challenge something that you put so much effort and time into?
    Why can’t people accept literature for what it is? And just not read it if they don’t like it or approve of it….

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