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So you all are privy to the hoopla in Norman OK last week. If you’re not, check out my last blog, and here’s a short recap. I was supposed to do a school visit at Whittier Middle School. A parent went in complaining about content in CRANK and GLASS. GLASS was pulled off the shelves for review. I understand that there is necessarily a review process if a parent complains about “age-inappropriate content.” However, the parent went on to say she didn’t want me to do my school visit because, and I quote, “I don’t want ANY children to see Ellen Hopkins speak.”

The school superintendent decided I couldn’t speak at any school in his district, so I instead did a talk at the Hillsdale Baptist College (great irony, huh?). Some 150 kids, parents, teachers and librarians showed up. But not one member of the book review committee, or the superintendent, or the worried parent bothered to come listen to my message, which is basically, “the choices you make as young adults will affect you for the rest of your life.”

Now, that might have been that, but a local news anchor, Kelly Ogle, decided to get his fifteen SECONDS of fame by doing an on-air editorial. He admitted he didn’t bother to read GLASS, but by scanning the book (and BTW, a station intern likely did that… I’m guessing even scanning would have been too much effort), he found 17 f-words and…. oh, oh…. sex. He misquoted the book, saying Kristina talks about having sex with truckers. Uh, no. That was actually Robyn, her friend, who worked at a house of prostitution to support her own habit. And (not that it makes any difference to him, since he doesn’t care WHY I wrote those books), it was to illustrate the very low places addiction can take you. (BTW, that was a real person, in a real situation, and her words were real.) CRANK and GLASS are meant to show, in a very real way, the places addiction can take you. Because I hope to turn people away from choosing to use [choices].

At the end of his op-ed segment, Ogle rather gleefully stated that now the books are off the shelves [really? thought there was a review process? minds made up before it or what?] in the middle school, he was going after the high school. Censorship continues to be alive in Norman OK, and now it’s on TV, in the form of a small market newscaster, hoping to make a bigger name by confronting … uh, me.  Beyond Mr. Ogle, as we move into Banned Books Week, safelibraries.com and the much more visible Wall Street Journal claimed this week that there is no such thing as banned books, because they’re available SOMEWHERE. Excuse me? If a book is pulled off a library shelf, it is banned from that library. The WSJ guy also claims “censorship” only applies to government censoring. The definition I found is “the suppression or attempted suppression of something regarded as objectionable.”

No censorship in this country? Because a vocal minority found President Obama objectionable, he was recently banned from classrooms. And because one person found Ellen Hopkins objectionable, she was recently banned from classrooms. [Great company I’m in, thank you very much!] Semantics can’t change that. Books ARE banned in America, and people, big and small, are censored every day.

Some content in GLASS may be too much for some 13-year olds. But let’s face it. They hear the f-word and worse in school every day. Not to mention on TV, music, video games, Internet, etc. Truth is, many middle school-aged kids are already doing drugs, or thinking about it. Some have already had consensual sex, been raped or sexually abused. Others have self-injured, experienced eating disorders or considered suicide. If my books can help even one of them, they BELONG on bookshelves in every library.

So now I’m asking for your help. Over the years, thousands of you have messaged me, telling me why my books have been important for you. That is why they belong on bookshelves. What I’m asking is for you to send the same messages to some people. Please be respectful. If you use bad language, your opinion will be dismissed by the very people we’re trying to make understand.  You don’t have to sign your name, but if my books have touched you, please send the reasons why to:

 

kelly.ogle@news9.net 

 

jsiano@norman.k12.ok.us

karinlibrarian@gmail.com

sunihali@comcast.net

 (The last two are friends. I don’t want the other two to be able to claim they never heard from you. Susan and Karin, you might be swamped, but please put all the messages into a file.)

 Thank you, everyone. If we don’t keep fighting the good fight, censors will win, and they will use semantics to do it if they can. 


Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
jessicaburkhart
Sep. 28th, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
Fantastic post, Ellen. Will definitely send an e-mail.
lindajsingleton
Sep. 28th, 2009 12:50 am (UTC)
Bravo, Ellen. You're my hero. I really admire your attitude and determination. When I was in Romance Writers, it was very frustrating for writers when clueless newscasters would pull a few sexy lines from a romance and mock the story, never reading the whole book and just going for sensational language.

I hope your story reaches the desk of a responsible newscaster who is against irresponsible and uneducated censorship.
virtualpaperdol
Sep. 28th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)
As a teacher and avid book nerd, it saddens me that someone wants to ban a book without ever reading it! I teach middle and high school and your books are so popular that I have a waiting list in my classroom. And kids are begging me to buy your books that I haven't bought yet.

Keep writing, Ellen. I'll support you and continue having them available to whomever wants to read them.
karinlibrarian
Sep. 28th, 2009 01:16 am (UTC)
Just to be clear. The book Glass is still on the shelves at school. It will be until the review process is complete. Crank of course is on the shelf. No complaint has been lodged against it.
britt_nee1432
Sep. 28th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)
It enrages me to read this. It really does. Your books have meant a lot to me and a lot of my friends. They are honest and real. It's not a book filled with lies and fairy tale endings. I love that and those who don't are afriad to hear the truth about what really goes on in our youth. Your books should be a blessing for teens and adults alike. You have lessons in each book and I don't see why they don't see that.

Your post is flowing on Twitter now. I've posted it and so have other people. We're behind you 100%.

-Brittany

P.S. I'm sending e-mails now!
alybee930
Sep. 28th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
Ellen - Well said...you have my support and I will be sending out an email as well.

- Aly
talshannon
Sep. 28th, 2009 07:10 am (UTC)
The following conversation occurred because of your blog (on the internet, so this is not a private conversation I'm relaying). I want to preface this by saying my friend is a really nice guy, but a new parent, and your words seemed to have touched a nerve for him.

Me: (shares link w/everyone)

Friend: My 2 cents on that last one from Ellen. I wouldn't want MY kids (even in middle school) reading that book from how she described it. She's calling censorship. I'm saying "Good for the parents for actually taking an interest in what their kids read".

Ne: Understand your feelings. I NEEDED a bk like that as a tween & there was no such bk to read so I suffered w/out it. My bro = drugs. A bk about a teen struggling w/drugs, [written by] a mom who knew that stuff first-hand, would have been a BIG help understanding him.

Friend: I get that.But you can tell a great story about drug abuse without 17 counts of F-word and showing prostitution.Not for 10 yr olds.

Friend: You can tell a story just like that. Not worry about censorship. And be proud. But if you want it in the hands of middle schoolers you take out the bad language and sex. It's that simple. Know what's appropriate. I hate it when people cry censorship for that.

Me: My bro was on drugs but my parents were more worried about our not using the f-word. The only f-word in my life was PARENTAL FAILURE.

Me: I would rather have read a book with the f-word that helped me understand my bro's addiction than be f-word free. My bro mattered more.

Friend: So you're saying it was impossible for you to have learned of your brothers addiction without sex, violence, and profanity?

Me: My bro's addiction WAS sex, violence, & profanity. LIFE is sex, violence, & profanity. And life happened to my bro while he was a kid, f-word & all. I care about my bro way more than I care about not using/hearing fword.

Me: The violence, the sex, the profanity in his life was a part of who he was, part of his addiction, part of understanding him. I wanted to understand him more than I wanted to live a censored life.

Me: In the end, I & my parents had to see every part of my brother to care about him, understand him, help him, a teen whose life got f'd. I was 13 then, my younger bros 11, 7, 5, 3. We were all affected. Each of those ages needed to be talked to about some bad stuff. But we didn't GET talked to, b/c my folks were too afraid to broach the taboo subjects, so we had to cope alone. I would have preferred f-words to silence. B/c f-words don't matter. Love does.

Me: I'd love to time-jump back to my 15/14/13 yr old bro & say, "I don't care how you dress or what words you use. I care about your pain."

/end
ellenhopkins
Sep. 28th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you for responding. I so appreciate your insightful comments back to your friend. What he didn't get is that the book is not intended for 10 year olds. Ten is fifth grade, BTW. Most middle schools are 7-8 (sometimes 6 or 9 at the ends). If I don't write honestly, my readers will call me on it. Oh, how silly of me to dare use the words she actually used. And her friend DID RESORT TO PROSTITUTION to support her habit. I'm not scrubbing the truth to make parents happy. If they don't want THEIR children reading the book, fine. But NO ONE PERSON or even a small percentage of them should be allowed to speak for everyone. I despise FOX News, and their hateful misinformation. But I believe they have the right to spew it.
talshannon
Sep. 28th, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
I was surprised that he didn't seem to get that you did not promote ten-year-olds reading the book; you made it quite clear that even at thirteen, there would be kids who couldn't process the content.

His kids are only six, so he may not know the ages for different grades yet. Or his town may combine elementary and middle grades. Either way, it felt like he didn't read your blog very closely.

-AudryT
jbknowles
Sep. 28th, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
Great post, Ellen! Stay strong!!

Jo
lostboysvamps
Sep. 28th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
I will definitely post about this on my blog. People claiming this isn't censorship and books aren't being banned for just ignorant. God forbid people actually parent their children instead of relying on everyone else to do it for them. Librarians and authors are not babysitters. It's not their job to parent children. It's their job to provide the public with books. If you don't like it, don't read them. It's that simple. But apparently it isn't.

Donna at Bites
http://litbites.blogspot.com
zommbie1
Sep. 28th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
I've never read your books but as a high school teacher to be, I will be reading them myself and then I will have my students read them.

riggimortis
Sep. 28th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
too many people think truth is something to hide from!
In my lifetime I have seen many books banned, criticized, and condemned because they were not sticky sweet, unrealistic and about as interesting as instant vanilla pudding.
Why? To the ignorant any thinking out of the box is a threat.
A great deal of people cannot accept that children think. That they need to know about the bad as well as the good in the world to make wise choices.
Someone tore into my Daughter's ( Holly Black) Spiderwick books because the Troll's ate cats, the parents were getting divorced and the children did not always mind their mother. Gee, YA think the woman was looking for TOTAL fantasy??? She felt no one should read the books because of these facts! I suspect she is much like the parent complaining about your books.

HEy, If a kid can't handle more adult matter, that is a reason to spend the time to see what your child is reading, not a reason for the books removal! All YA readers are not immature!
I hope word of this gets around and a huge ruckus is raised in your favor and against the closed minds in this world.
talshannon
Sep. 28th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
Re: too many people think truth is something to hide from!
I don't get around to reading much middle grade fiction, but you just made me want to read Spiderwick! Children who don't always mind their mothers - imagine that! ;-) Though it may be the idea of trolls eating cats that catches my interest the most... (I've obvioulsy been living with dogs for too long.)
aposiopetic
Sep. 29th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)
Why Mr. Muncy misses the point
This small paragraph below is where I feel Mr. Muncy completely misses the point of Banned Books Week in his WSJ op-ed piece.

What inflames the ALA, in other words, are attempts by parents to guide their children's education. One of the "frequently asked questions" on the ALA's Web site is: "Can't parents tell the librarian what material they don't think children should have?" The Manifesto's answer is clearly "no."

1) The ALA, and almost everyone I have seen who argues for the freedom of information and ideas, consistently states (though I will paraphrase) that it is always up to parents to guide their children's education. Limiting children's access to information is (and should be!) the parents' role.

2) The ALA (and again, most everyone on this side of the "debate") gets inflamed when individuals try to guide other children's education by restricting what they can read. What's good for my child is not what's good for yours.

3) The Manifesto's answer, the librarian's answer, and the First Amendment's answer to the question "Can't I make a public institution restrict others' rights to ideas (in the form of books) because I don't like those ideas?" will always be a resounding NO. I rephrased the question here to more accurately reflect what I feel these parents and individuals are doing, whether they are aware of it or not. The question as posed by Muncy above is misleading. The point of Banned Books Week is not and never was to stifle discourse and dissent over materials in a library; in fact, it is the very opposite!

It is precisely this lack of awareness about the real issues of censorship and book challenges that Banned Books Week is all about.

Your poem, your books, and sharing your experiences have contributed greatly to increasing awareness. I commend you!
jess_jordan
Oct. 2nd, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
This saddens me in ways I cannot describe. Banned not only from one angry parent's home, but from an entire district! To hell with the First Amendment, I suppose.

I'm an attorney in Florida handling dependency cases (where DCF steps in because of allegations of abuse, abandonment, or neglect upon children). Today, I met with my youngest client. She's 16 and has a newborn, which DCF removed from her care. Up until last month, she lived on marijuana and meth; her mom even shot her up with it.

I asked her if she liked to read. She said, "Not really. A little. It depends. Why?" I told her about Crank. She said she thought she'd heard about it before, and it sounded like something she'd like to read, because "ya know ... something's actually happening, and it's not all fake and boring." I told her it was in our library--stocked with the adult books, but at least still there.

Censors, be damned.
samlynn889
May. 2nd, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
wow.
Hello, I am a 17 year old student and am completely outraged by this ban! My english class right now is doing a study on banned books. We have to chose a banned book,read it, and decide for ourselves whether or not it should be banned. I decided to read Crank and i loved ever single page of it. It was honest and raw. If your going to tell a story about addiction and the low places it brings you, you can't sugar coat it. I agree the book shouldn't be read by 5th graders. but i honestly think that grade 8 students should b required to read this book, or books of the same nature. I have had the message " Say no to drugs" preached at me for years, and it sucked. Kids don't listen to their parents who sit there and preach to them about not doing drugs. We shut down, in one ear and out the other. But this book is different. It sends the message of dont do drugs in a whole different way, because it never specifically says DONT DO DRUGS. It is a book telling the story of the complete hell someone went through... leaving us to make our own assumptions. Its not all in your face telling you what to do. its just giving us the information, the story of what happens, showing us the danger of drugs. Theres no statistics, or parents preaching, or teachers yelling... its just the truth. Banning the book from the library won't help anything. We see and hear worse things on a daily basis. Oh and the whole "f-word" thing. seriously? you think that this book is the first time someone has heard the f-word... i was with my younger cousin who is 11, and she was with her friend. every 3rd word was profanity. Everyone thinks their children are little angels who have perfect language... WAKE UP. your kids swear like truckers at school.
samm_on
Aug. 3rd, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
Re: wow.
You have a good point here, kids don't like to hear "don't do drugs", they are more responsive to real life dramas. It would be so much easier for everyone of teenager would listen to anti drug slogans but I guess it's not gonna happen in our world. Maybe someone will read your message and unban the book or maybe some real life drama stories from people in residential drug treatment centers could also help.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )