I usually steer clear of controversy on this blog. I don't like making people mad (and I hope I won't make anyone mad today!). But this is something I've been thinking about for a long time.
Last week I finally read SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. I've had it on my list ever since all the hubbub last fall. For any of you who missed it, this should give you the gist of what went down.
I know I'm super late to this discussion, but I wanted to say a few things now that I've read the book.
First, I thought SPEAK was excellent. A must read. The subject matter (recovering after rape) was painful, but so important. I felt like both of the scenes dealing with rape were done well. They were not gratuitous at all, but still showed the violence and horror of the act. I agree one hundred percent that the Missouri professor was WAY off base calling it soft porn.
It is absolutely a book I want my kids to read when they get older.
All of that said, I want to address one of the issues I had with the uproar last fall. While Laurie Halse Anderson and all the bloggers and writers who rushed to her defense had the right to speak up and defend something they believed in, so did the guy in Missouri. And though I don't agree with what he said, I do believe he had the right to say it.
In the U.S. free speech is a right for everyone, not just writers and artists. Not just people with whom we agree. EVERYONE. Whether a person is conservative, liberal, communist, or just plain crazy they have a right to say what they believe. Sometimes I think we forget this.
Here's an example:
About a year ago, I was on Twitter when a published author tweeted about reading a Goodreads review of her book. She was livid. The reviewer found some of the things in the book offensive and rated it low.
So, the author went to the Goodreads review and left a scathing comment about how the reviewer was an idiot, and the review was tantamount to censorship. AND THEN the author posted a link to her reply on Twitter and encouraged her followers to leave more mean comments on this poor person's Goodread's review. Goodreads! This was not some national reviewer. This was just a reader who picked up a book and didn't like it.
I thought the whole thing was very TACKY. And wrong. The author had the right to write her book. She had the right to include any content she wanted to include. But the reviewer also had a right to voice her opinions. Having the author and twenty of her twitter followers jump down the the reviewer's throat, and attack her personally, for sharing her thoughts was more than a little hypocritical.
Needless to say, I deleted the author from my twitter feed.
I think the issue I had with both this situation, and to an extent the SPEAK uproar, was that people did not simply defend the books in question, they also attacked the person voicing their opinion. It is one thing to say, "I totally disagree with you. I believe this book was good and important for XYZ reasons," it's quite another to say, "Because you made this comment you are a pervert/homophobe/idiot/insert- overblown-insult-here."
I think we need to accept that not everyone will like what we write. We may offend people. Our books may even get banned. And while we have the right to defend ourselves against criticisms we find unjust, we should try to do it in a civilized manner. It's importatnt to respect other people's right to speak freely, even if we strongly disagree with their opinions.
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