SPEAK. You have a voice

Words are very powerful and this is the one time of year that people realize that, and fear it.

Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of management at Missouri State University, finds the book SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson "filthy and immoral." He calls is "soft pornography." You can read his article here.  The fact that Mr. Scroggins can see this as porn makes my stomach turn. These are his words: 
In high school English classes, children are required to read and view material that should be classified as soft pornography.
I daresay that teenagers get these things from 9 out of 10 movies and television shows on the air right now. But I digress, as that is a point for another day. He says this of the book:
This is a book about a very dysfunctional family. Schoolteachers are losers, adults are losers and the cheerleading squad scores more than the football team. They have sex on Saturday night and then are goddesses at church on Sunday morning. The cheer squad also gets their group-rate abortions at prom time. As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page. Actually, the book and movie both contain two rape scenes.
I'm sorry but sometimes, this is the opinion of teenagers. Some families are dysfunctional. Some teachers are viewed as losers (I had some) and yes, girls do have sex--and guys--and they go to church on Sunday like everyone else. There are stigmas on high school and sex and what is "normal." There always has been. (I mean, go watch Grease.) These things DO happen in real life and I daresay that's why Scroggins doesn't like it. But, that's not the point of me writing this post.

I read SPEAK in high school, when my drama teacher told all of us that we should read it. She even bought copies that we could read and kept them in her classroom. (She was a Christian as well, which Scroggins talks about in his article.) SPEAK is a book about a girl who is raped, and her struggles to move on. Her journey to find just how important her voice is.

We ALL have this struggle.

Sure, it's not always with rape, but there is something that we have that we can't always find the words to say. Maybe it is rape, or sex or drugs or goodness, even something as simple as under/over-eating or lying or jealousy. The list is numerous.

I think the point of a book like SPEAK is to give the courage to say those things. Whatever they are.

For Myra, who wrote this amazing post, it's her faith. For C.J., it's her story. These are only two examples. There are more that have opened up about this just today. In response. (And I highly doubt it was the response Scroggins expected.) There's a pretty exhaustive listing here. In addition, he's also called another YA book Twenty Boy Summer. The author of that Sarah Ockler, shares her opinion and also tells you how you can take a stand.

I'll say one of the things on my list: I was sexually abused when I was little. It's one of those taboo things that people don't talk about--and especially in my family. We don't talk about anything real. Even now. When I read SPEAK in high school, it affected me so much because I never, ever told anyone. No one. But it happened. I remember it from first to second grade and later, I as I grew up--until about fourth grade.  In corners, in nooks of the house, in the basement.  It was a long time, a big secret and a lot of pain. Now, they are vague memories but the pain and shame that accompanied them for so many years will always be fresh.

Middle school sucked for me. I was shell of a person. I tried to know something, to have something solid to hold on to, but I never really found it anywhere except books. Not friends. Certainly not family. There was nothing but me and my misery. Even when high school started and I became a Christian. I tried but there was always something missing. And I wanted it. Sometimes, I still wonder if I've found it. God is good to me and he's definitely been there--and is there--even when I'm not sure. He proves it through days like today.

Something C.J. wrote really resonates with me.
Maybe SPEAK isn't Dr. Scroggins' cup of tea. Maybe the idea of having his children read about a highly dysfunctional family is upsetting. Maybe the thought of having rape be a terrible reality in the life of the book's main character offends him. That's his right. But for every child who is blessed with a non-dysfunctional home and who hasn't been broken by something as awful as rape, there's another girl like me. A girl who can't find the words to describe how shattered she feels. Who doesn't even know if she has the right to feel shattered. Who's learned that bringing her secrets to the light results in more pain. That girl needs books like SPEAK to be on the shelves. She needs to know there are others out there like her. She needs to see someone else's path so she can have the language to start thinking about her own outcome.
This was me. The year after I read SPEAK I opened up. I definitely think it was part of the reason was because of this book. Not all of it, as my faith does play a role, but part. There is power in words.  To heal, to love, to grieve, to rejoice. There is power to spark something amazing and painful and full, which if you read either of the posts I linked you will see. The things he has said hurts my heart. Opinions are like noses I guess...but they still leave marks. I support SPEAK.  I always will.

If you've never read it,  buy a copy now. If you have, head on over to Anderson's post about this situation and show your support. If you are on twitter, tweet about it with the #SpeakLoudly hashtag. Promote this.

Words are powerful.

We can either let people like this keep them from being heard, keep us silent, or we can ban together and stand our ground. We can speak. We can shout. The more of us there are the louder will be.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this blog. Speak is such an important book and it would be a disgrace if it were removed from schools.


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