Dangerous Minds

In the past week, there have been two cases of censorship that have left me scratching my head once again.’  The first concerned Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.’  Someone took the book to task for encouraging anorexic behavior among teens, calling it a “how-to” manual (http://tinyurl.com/pcf3qf).’  Then, later, a group in Tennessee have removed a link from their summer reading list that directed folks to YALSA’s BBYA list of recommendations (http://tinyurl.com/or8vo6).

I am bothered here because both of these’ instances seem to suggest to me that’ there are adults out there that think teens are not intelligent, that they are unable to separate fiction (what they are’ reading) from reality (what they are living).’  This’ attempt to somehow protect teens from reading about any difficult issues and topics seems not’ always to be a matter of’ being overly protective.’  Rather it seems that we, as adults, are not giving teens’ sufficient credit for’ being intelligent beings, perfectly capable of reading about’ ‘ anorexia or sexual abuse or’  vampires or witchcraft without becoming anorexic (or becoming witches for that matter).

If we are what we read, or if we become what we read as teens, then I am in big trouble one of these days because my teen years were given over to gothic romances.’ Hence, I should, at any moment, become like the heroines in these novels: allow myself to be seduced by a darkly dangerous man’  and fall into wanton behavior and end up a stepmother living on the moors in a drafty castle.’  Sure, that’s going to happen…

The issue goes beyond books, too.’  It is one of the rationales for filtering web access, for blocking social networking sites,’  and for much more.’  Keep teens safe?’  Sure.’  Keep them at arm’s length from material that challenges them to think critically? I do not think we can afford to do that.’  I know I am preaching to the choir here.’  But I do hope all of you reading this will add your voice to this choir and send our a clarion call about how censorship reduces teens to mindless vessels that can only be filled with the very best “literature” can offer or somehow they will become corrupted.’  Blog about these instances.’  Send letters and comments to the newspapers that run these stories.’  Keep your voices loud and strong all year and not just during Banned Books Week.

Posted by Teri Lesesne

About Teri Lesesne

I am a professor of YA lit in the department of library science at SHSU in Texas. I am an active YALSA member, an author of two professional books, a blogger, and a grandmother of 6. I am on the Printz 2010 Committee and the YALS Editorial Board currently. I have also served on the QP, Edwards, and Odyssey Committees.
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One Comment

  1. Thanks so much for this thoughtful post, Teri. I agree that using our voices to make more people aware will help fight censorship. Teens I talk to in my library are always appalled at instances of censorship that I share with them. But they are often unaware of these things unless we bring it to their attention. Knowledge is power, and knowledge spread about censorship will help create the next generation of free speech supporters.

    Holly Anderton
    Chair, YALSA Intellectual Freedom Committee

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