Friday, October 1, 2010

In the News This Week: Banned Books and Bullying

As Banned Books Week comes to a close, I'm dedicating my weekly roundup of news to two important--and related--topics getting coverage: book banning and bullying. As we celebrated ALA's Banned Books Week by bringing challenged books to the spotlight, we heard of a fourth in a recent string of tragic suicides by young people who were bullied. As Ellen DeGeneres expressed in a heartfelt video, "Being a teenager and figuring out who you are is hard enough without someone attacking you."

Young people enduring the wrath of bullies for their sexual orientation, appearance, ethnicity, whatever, are your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors, and your readers. Those who ban books are another type of bully, forcing their beliefs on others by working to limit choices for young people walking into a library. One must wonder how many teens could be helped by learning, through books, that they are not alone, that others have gone through what they've gone through and survived, that It Gets Better.

"As authors," author Ellen Hopkins recently said on her blog, "we must maintain a unified voice against the idea that one person, or even a few, has the right to decide for everyone else what they are allowed to read, or what information they can have access to." My first news piece is written by Ellen for Huffington Post. Beyond that you'll find ways to celebrate banned books (because why stop at a week), news on frequently challenged books, a small collection of stories about the bullying of gay teens, and a piece from the New York Times full of links to resources that will help get conversations going. (I had one with my 6-year-old this morning. He'll be 16 soon enough.)
On Tuesday I spoke to a packed house in Columbus, Georgia. I talked about my journey to New
York Times bestselling author -- a road pitted with pain. (My first novel, "Crank," was inspired by my daughter's descent into the hell that is methamphetamine addiction.) Afterward, I signed books, and as the room emptied one lovely young woman remained. She came forward and when I asked her name, she crumbled into tears.

Penguin 'Times' Ad Defends 'Speak' (PW)
Responding to an attack by an associate professor in Missouri who called Speak "soft pornography," the Penguin Young Readers Group took out a full page ad in today’s New York Times to defend the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. In an op-ed piece earlier this month in the Missouri News-Leader, Wesley Scroggins, associate professor of management at Missouri State University, wrote that Speak was not appropriate for students of the Republic School District and also challenged Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer. “That such a decorated book could be challenged is disturbing,” said Penguin’s Shanta Newlin about the decision to run an ad. With Banned Books Week now in full swing (Sept. 25-Oct. 2), Penguin believes the ad points to the larger issue of books still being challenged in large numbers across the country, Newlin added. The ad, in fact, notes that "every day in this country, people are being told what they can and can't read," and it asks Times readers to "read the book. Decide for yourself."

Lauren Myracle Tops Most Frequently Challenged Book List
Lauren Myracle has been singled out as the chart-topper on 2009's top 10 most frequently challenged books. Her Internet Girls series have spawned a writer in many "un-fans" as she calls them. Myracle receives at least 10 "un-fanmail" pieces per day. She’s been accused of satanism, pedophilia, and youth corruption.

Let GLBT Teens Know 'It Gets Better'
Longtime Ypulse readers know we're strong advocates of fostering tolerance for GLBT teens. Whether it be through more realistic, multifaceted portrayals in the media, movements on the ground like GSA alliances, or online resources dedicated to supporting and celebrating them for who they are, wherever they are.

10 Ways to Celebrate Banned Books Week 
Held annually during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of intellectual freedom and draws attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted banning of books across the United States, including books commonly taught in secondary schools.

Banned Books Week
Banned Books Week runs September 25-October 2. Celebrating it’s 29th year, the American Library Association received 460 challenges. According to the ALA, “people challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and they protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups–or positive portrayals of homosexuals. Their targets range from books that explore contemporary issues and controversies to classic and beloved works of American literature.”

Banned Book Week Goes Viral (Ypulse)
Let intellectual freedom ring! Banned Book Week (Sept. 24 – Oct. 2) is underway and libraries, classrooms and bookstores across the country are celebrating. To commemorate the 8 days of advocacy, we thought we'd highlight some of the best viral-friendly strategies for spreading the anti-censorship message on the web and beyond.

Tyler Clementi Suicide Puts Bullying In Spotlight (MTV)
On Wednesday, police found the body of 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi one week after he killed himself following his roommate posting a video online of Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man. Authorities believe that Clementi leapt from the George Washington Bridge in New York after his roommate secretly taped him and then posted the footage on the Internet.

College Students Are Less Empathic Than Generations Past 
(Scientific American)
The rise of social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Flikr, has been accompanied by fears that we are producing the most narcissistic “Generation Me” in history. But is there any actual scientific evidence for that view? Well, a study of 14,000 college students found that today’s young people are 40 percent less empathetic than college kids from 30 years ago. The research was presented this weekend at the annual meeting of Association for Psychological Science.

Why are so many gay teens dying? (Salon)
On Sept. 22, Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers freshman, reportedly posted a message on his Facebook page that read, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." And then he did. But Tyler Clementi was not the only Rutgers student using social media to broadcast Tyler Clementi's activities. Days earlier, his roommate, Dharun Ravi, tweeted, "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay." Local authorities claim he then streamed the action live online. Three days later, he apparently did it again, tweeting, "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again." Clementi committed suicide the next day.

Tools Against Homophobic Bullying
A tragedy shines a spotlight on the ways it might have been prevented. Tyler Clementi’s suicide and the arrest of his roommate for streaming Tyler’s intimate encounter with another man online, is highlighting the paths in place to help L.G.B.T. teens find help against bullying.


Sayantani said...

I am so disturbed by the spate of teen suicides as a result of homophobic bullying, and very glad that you paired the notion of bullying with banning books. Although different, both have to do with SILENCING VOICES. The writer Chimamanda Adiche talks about 'the danger of the singular story' and that is just what we are at risk for through book banning; similarly, a MULTIPLICITY of LGBTQ narratives out there - on youtube, in YA literature, in the media are at least part of the resistance against the forces of intolerance.

Unknown said...

It all seems of a piece: Censorship is so often rooted in prejudice. I just read Risha Mullens' blog about losing her job due to censorship.

I wasn't the least bit surprised when I saw that "gay propaganda" was one of the labels used as ammunition against the books--and the teacher.

Sayantani summed it up: It's about SILENCING VOICES.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks for this great summary, Alice. Really important stuff - I hope every gay and lesbian and questioning teen out there gets to watch Dan and his husband Terry's video. It DOES get better!
Namaste and a Hug,