Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dealing with Censorship

Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, and Fallout. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, with her husband and son. Every day her Facebook page gets messages from teens claiming that she "is the only one who understands them." She's been an inspiring force in writing on subjects that tend to be rougher than most: rape, drug addiction, et cetera yet her writing draws you in to be a part of the story. Ellen has been in the news lately for being uninvited to a Teen Book Festival in Humble, TX but that didn't stop her. Many authors, bloggers, and readers came to her and showed support through this and even the other authors that were invited to the festival cordially declined their invitations. The festival was cancelled soon after. Ellen has stood up against censorship and I was honored when she said she would write this for me.

I can think of no other perfect way of opening up Banned Books Week than with Ellen. Here is here post on censorship:

There's an old joke writers sometimes repeat about wanting their books banned because it's good for sales. I can't really argue with that. Every time I've faced a challenge and it has gone public, my sales have spiked. Last year when I was uninvited to do a school visit in Norman, OK (a large suburb of Oklahoma City), you couldn't find my books in stores for more than three months because every time they came in, they were snapped up. But censorship isn't funny. And when your books are challenged and you decide to fight, it's stressful. Tiring. And sometimes the fight gets downright dirty.

I'm sure I've only heard about a small percentage of the challenges to my books. Sometimes a librarian will write me, asking for ammunition to keep them on the shelves. I keep a file of reader messages, telling me how my books have turned them off a bad path, given them much needed insight, or even "literally saved my life." It's hard to argue with those. And yet, people do. Mostly because of bad language, or sexual content. Look, I'm writing real life. Young people sometimes use bad words. And teens are having sex or thinking about sex or having sex forced on them. The fact is, sex is an integral part of real life. It's better when love is attached to it, something I hope my books illustrate. But pretending there is no such thing for teens is not only ignorant. It's dangerous.

No book is right for everyone. If it's not right for you, close it. If you don't think it's right for your kids, close it. But you do not have the right to close it for everyone, because it's most definitely right for someone. My books are not only right for many people, they're necessary. If you don't believe it, I've got a file of messages I can send you. But they'd probably make you cry.

Thank you so much for writing this for me, Ellen. And thank you for standing up and speaking out for banned books! Let Ellen know what you think in the comments and I'll email them to her!


  1. Great post!! I completely, 100% agree with what Ellen said. No one has the right to take away books from someone else. If a book isn't "right" for someone, it will be "right" for someone else.

    I can't wait to meet Ellen at the Austin Teen Book Festival this coming Saturday.

  2. I am embarassed to be from Oklahoma when I hear about books being banned here.

    Ellen Hopkins is amazing. What she writes about is gritty and real, and teens shouldn't be sheltered from that... it gives them a chance to prepare for what is really out there. Life isn't always peachy.

  3. This is a great post. I love that Ellen sticks her neck out to fight for her own words. To me that makes her a hero absolutely.

  4. I teach high school in a urban setting so it is rare we are challenged on the books on our shelves and I am so thankful for that. I have read two of Ellen's books, Crank and Glass and loved them. My students went happy crazy, when they found out I was reading them and couldn't wait to tell me how much they loved her books. Most of the girls in my classes have read all of her books. Thanks for fighting against censorship!

  5. I bought "Crank" when I first read about the "uninvite". While any group may invite and, I suppose uninvite, whomever they choose, let it be done in the full awareness of the messages being sent. First: speaking your mind and saying what needs to be said can get you sanctioned - by us. Second: there are ideas we don't want you to hear and we'll use our power to keep them from you.

    Not, I would submit, the best ideas to be sending to the coming generation. And certainly not in relation to a book event, access to books having played such a role in the democratization of ideas.

    Had they read more, those wielding the power at this event might have learned that controlling ideas is a lot harder than saying "you may not".

    And "la, la, la, we can't hear you" doesn't work either. Witness this blog entry and the widespread news of the action.

  6. Amazing post. I absolutely love the part where she says "If it's not right for you, close it. If you don't think it's right for your kids, close it. But you do not have the right to close it for everyone, because it's most definitely right for someone."

    So true, not every book is for everyone, but that does not mean it should be banned! I absolutely loved all the ellen hopkins books i've read; with "Identical" being my favorite (so far).

    You're such an inspiration and I love your books.. I can not wait to read "PERFECT"!!! I loved "Impulse" and can't wait to see where you take Perfect.

    Thank you Jeremy for the post! It was great! :)

  7. Preach it Ellen! I could read your stuff forever...sigh. Your truly amazing, talented and an inspiration.

  8. I think the banning of YA books is an even bigger issue than normal because it seems like an insult to the intelligence of young readers. To quote Lucy Honeychurch from A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, "To shield me is an insult." Young people need to know that the world is not full of dandilions and rainbows. It's riduculous to feed them fluff and I agree, it's dangerous. Excellent post.