This past week, my university played host to one of the most incredible authors ever (in my opinion) Ellen Hopkins!! Which is why this week’s blog post will be dedicated to censorship.
Now, censorship, by definition, means “the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.”
Unacceptable. Unacceptable? Did I read that right? Yeah, unacceptable.
But, by what standards? Who decides what is or is not acceptable for any given person? Is there any one human being that can say “No, this is not okay for Adrianna.” other than myself? So, basically, the word is stupid just by its definition. But I digress.
Ellen Hopkins is very familiar with being censored. In fact, my school librarian had once taken Hopkins books out of the library and only put them back on the shelves after my classmates petitioned her. I remember asking her if she would get “Tricks” and she said she wished that people would stop asking her about it because she wasn’t going to get it. Well, why not? According to her it was “inappropriate.”
Inappropriate, unacceptable, edgy, gritty. All of these words have been used to describe Hopkins’s books. While the latter two are more acceptable to use to describe them, how about we say what they are: realistic. These things DO happen. So if one reason to write is to send messages to people, why not tell a cautionary tale to young readers about not doing meth, because it can and will ruin their lives? Why not tell about mental health issues like depression, self-harm, and suicide? Why not tell them about the pressure to be perfect and what it can do to a person? Because kids are somehow unable to understand these concepts? I don’t think so.
Now, I’m not saying that “Crank” should be the bedtime story for your five year old. But different kids are on different reading levels, different maturity levels, different levels of understanding material, and most importantly, different life levels. You think an eight year old from inner city Chicago has the same life experience as an eight year old from Vilonia, Arkansas? (A small and conservative country town.) Or vice versa? Absolutely not! We like to think that kids don’t know about stuff like drugs, but they do! (Most of the time, at least.) You think any thirteen year old doesn’t know about sex? Of course they do! And they NEED to know. Again, I’m not saying fill YA shelves with erotic novels. I’m saying that kids can handle reading a story about teenage pregnancy. A great story can turn a young person away from a horrible mistake.
A lot of people have a problem with “Tricks” because it has to deal with child prostitution. Why? It really happens people! Go to Las Vegas or New York City and you will see people under the age of eighteen turning tricks. So why should we not talk about it?
I say let the reader decide if it’s appropriate or not for them to read.
And to the authors out there, don’t let people tell you what is and isn’t appropriate to write.