[tweetmeme source=”sarahockler” only_single=false]As Banned Books Week draws to a close this weekend, I’m taking a step back. I’m taking a deep breath. I’m looking back on everything that’s happened since the Wesley Scroggins book challenge news broke, conveniently right before the start of BBW, and I’m saying two little words to everyone involved: thank you. If you’re reading banned books, tweeting about SpeakLoudly, making sure your schools and libraries support free choice, talking to your friends about the books you love, visiting this blog — even if it’s your first time here — you’re involved in the conversation, and YES, I’m talking to you. So I’ll say it again, just so we’re clear: thank you.
What a week. What an incredible, enlightening, exhausting, crazy, emotional, tough, amazing week — a week for which I’m more grateful than any words in the English dictionary can convey. Still, I’m a writer — I have to at least try to find the right ones, no? Here goes.
I don’t know what will happen in Republic — whether the books in question will remain on the shelves of the school library, in the curriculum, or on the recommended reading lists, or whether they’ll be yanked. But thanks to you, I do know that regardless of the outcome of this particular challenge, people came together, and wonderful things happened. News of the Republic challenge reached outlets all over the world, including news and print media across Missouri, the Guardian UK, the New York Times book blog, Huffington Post, Slate, Jezebel, and tons of other places online and in print. Hundreds of bloggers helped spread the word about banned books, participating in and hosting giveaways of Speak, Slaughterhouse Five, Twenty Boy Summer, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, and other recently challenged books. People wrote editorials and emails and letters to the school board. College students staged protests and public readings. And the most heartbreakingly wonderful thing of all — people shared their personal stories about how Speak and books like it touched their lives, even decades after their own horrifying experiences with rape and abuse left them silenced.
The universe works in mysterious ways. By trying to hide our books, Wesley Scroggins pushed them right out into the light and brought authors, bloggers, librarians, teachers, readers, parents, publishers, and everyone who loves literature together in support of free choice. (And check this out… just a few nights after the news broke and the SpeakLoudly campaign took off, I was waiting to board a red eye from Denver. Just as we approached the gate, the door next to us opened to deplane an arriving flight. I watched the passengers march by as I told my husband about Speak, and the universe suddenly smiled down on us… Laurie Halse Anderson passed by me in the crowd. I couldn’t be certain it was her, because come ON! So I boarded my flight without saying hello. The next morning, however, I confirmed with Laurie via Twitter that it was in fact her — she’d been en route to Denver for a conference, and her plane was three hours delayed, causing us for a brief moment to be in the same place at the same time.
Laurie and I live like 2000 miles apart. What are the chances, right?!
Then again, what are the chances that because someone despised my work, I made tons of new Twitter and blogger friends, all of us standing up to support challenged books and continuing to bond over favorite reads and other literary hot topics? Yes — hate, hypocrisy, and censorship can be extremely divisive, but they can also be great unifiers, bringing people together who may not have otherwise met. Good chances or not, that’s exactly what happened last week.
You were all a part of it, and now I’m sending a special shout-out to you and everyone who made such an incredible difference in my life this week.
To my friends and fellow authors of the 2009 Debutantes who took a unified stand against censorship mere moments after the Twenty Boy Summer challenge news broke with the Debs Speak Loudly contest, thanks for having my back. If we lived in the wild West, you’d totally be my posse. Only instead of gunfights, we’d organize literary slams and reading duels. And rather than those uncomfortable old corsets and chaps, we’d rock our work PJs and yoga pants (I’m sorry I just outed everyone, but that’s the truth of the life as a glamorous author)! By the way, the winners of Debs Speak Loudly have been announced, so if you entered the contest, be sure to check your email or LJ messages to see if you’ve won!
To my friends at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers who jumped in to support Debs Speak Loudly by donating even more copies of Twenty Boy Summer, thank you for your ongoing support, encouragement, and virtual hugs. Jen and Victoria, Anna and Frankie would definitely call you the cool Moms.
To Paul Hankins, who supported Twenty Boy Summer from the first whispers of a challenge and started the #SpeakLoudly campaign that quickly became an international movement, you are a rock star of a teacher. Together with David Macinnis Gill, Paul ensures that the hard work of supporting intellectual freedom and the right to speak loudly will continue long after the Republic challenge is resolved via SpeakLoudly.org. Go check it out!
To the teachers of Republic and other school districts who tirelessly work for intellectual freedom in and out of the classroom, you’re an inspiration to students and readers everywhere, and I thank you for your passion and dedication. You may not be able to speak loudly about what’s going on behind closed doors, but we know you’re fighting for us, and we are grateful.
To the parents and readers of Republic who emailed their support and formed banned book clubs and discussion groups, who are creating blogs and films and editorials about speaking loudly, who encourage reading and free choice in their homes, thank you for showing us that Wesley Scroggins doesn’t speak for you.
To the bloggers, readers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, authors, friends, and book lovers everywhere who support authors and books through your blogs, your jobs, your hobbies, your recommendations, your words, thank you. As long as you’re here taking a stand, reading books, sharing them with the world, censorship will never get a firm hold in our communities.
To Ellen Hopkins, Sherman Alexie, Lauren Myracle, Chris Crutcher, and contemporary young adult authors everywhere who continue to write the important, hard stories even in the face of bigotry, hypocrisy, name-calling, and censorship, thank you for refusing to be silenced.
To Wesley Scroggins, who brought us all together despite his best efforts to divide. Thanks for reminding us how important it is to take a stand for intellectual freedom.
And finally, a special message for Laurie Halse Anderson: Speak is and will always be an inspiration, a voice, a truth, a lifesaver. Thank you for Melinda’s story. Thank you for speaking loudly.
Group hug, everyone. Group hug.
Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. 🙂
Now, how about those Wesley Scroggins Filthy Books Prize Packs? Stay tuned for my next post to see who won!