Literary Censorship: On a Soapbox

23 Sep

This post has been brewing in me for a while. I didn’t want to write it angry, because then I tend to yell and come across as this crazy person who stands on her soapbox and shouts to force others to listen – anyway. So I waited until I was calmer, until I could get my point across clearly and without too much finger-pointing.

I should start by saying that this post isn’t about Ellen Hopkins at all, though it was the censorship of her books that spurred this post.

Ellen is a great advocate for YA literature that is a little left-of-centre, a little out-of-the-box, and since that’s where my literary interest lies, I have great respect for her as an author. I will admit that her books aren’t for everyone: they deal with very sensitive issues, and I get why some people are offended by them, why they don’t want their children to read these novels, why they think these books shouldn’t be available for just anyone on the shelves – I get it.

But this post isn’t about Ellen or her books (which, for the record, I adore). It’s about the censorship.

I’m going to use an analogy here. I’m going to use Vampire Diaries because, quite frankly, I’m obsessed with the show, and want any excuse to talk about it. Here in Australia, Vampire Diaries occupies an 8:30pm time slot. Back when I was a young teen, I was in bed by then. Most teens these days, however, are not, so they can access shows like Vampire Diaries (and other perhaps more risque shows that are on in a similar time slot), with sex and violence and issues that the younger end of the YA scale shouldn’t necessarily be subjected to. Yet we let our children watch shows with sex and violence and adult-type issues and we don’t really bat an eyelid about it.

Enter the controversial YA novel. It has sex. It has violence. It has issues that we perhaps don’t want our young teens to read about – drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse – the list is endless. They’ve seen all this stuff with their own eyes in movies and on television shows. It looks real. They’re accustomed to it. Yet reading a novel with all this stuff they’ve already been exposed to in it is suddenly not acceptable.

We don’t want our kids to read books that explore the darker side of teen life; of life in general.

We don’t want our kids to be able to hire these books from a library.

We want to ban these books in case someone else’s child reads them and corrupts our children.

If you don’t want your child to read certain things, that’s fine – I understand. We’re all different and we’re all raising our children differently. I don’t hold you not wanting your child to read Ellen’s books – or books of a similar nature – against you. I really don’t. But don’t stop everyone else’s child from reading these “controversial” books just because you’ve decided your child can’t. That’s all I’m saying.

I know I’m probably not making my point very eloquently – forgive me. But I hope, in all of that rambling mess, you were able to see where I was coming from. Because it isn’t about Ellen’s books at all. It’s about the double-standard in the industry, and the cruel message that we’re sending to our authors: that’s it’s not okay to write these types of books, to write from the heart. That it’s not okay to write something that doesn’t have a happy ending or teaches teens that the world can be a dark place.

That it’s not okay to put a piece of our soul on a page – unless it’s a socially-accepted piece of our soul.


6 Responses to “Literary Censorship: On a Soapbox”

  1. John Wiswell 23/09/2010 at 8:08 pm #

    This post is a little drawn out and repetitive for a simple theme: don’t ban books. That seems moral enough to me. Here in the US several classics of our national literature were once banned in most of the country’s schools and libraries. Yet where I grew up banning books was always dismissed as a sign of narrowmindedness that we’d never allow.

    • thewritingant 23/09/2010 at 8:18 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, John. 🙂 I remember back when I was in high school the war on banning Harry Potter books was in its infancy. I didn’t understand what the fuss was about then & I still don’t now. Sorry about the long-winded post – I tend to rant and rave a little longer than usual when I get really passionate about a topic. xx a

  2. Kelly McLean 23/09/2010 at 10:39 pm #

    I have just added this post to your name on

    Read Ambers’ new blog on censorship and the Young Adult novel. Wow, one passionate pice of writing! You Go Girl! And guess what??? I agree : )

    Kel 🙂

    • thewritingant 24/09/2010 at 7:42 am #

      Thanks, Kel! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for adding it to your blog. xx a

  3. Andrew Girle 29/09/2010 at 7:43 pm #

    Considering that books with truly dangerous ideas such as “Mein Kampf” and other social-political poison can be readily purchased or borrowed from public libraries, banning books that make young adults look at the world around them and think can only be counter-productive.

    Keep ranting!

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