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.