Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Intellectual freedom at issue in Humble, Texas

The controversy surrounding Ellen Hopkins' being disinvited from the Humble,Texas literary festival hits a little close to home for me.

Last year, a mother complained to our assistant principal about the language in Burned. It was an exchange my administrator didn't mention to me, one I only heard about because he asked my paraprofessional to make sure the student hadn't accrued a fine when he returned the book. I have an administration who understand and even privilege the importance of access to books teens want to read. But we've already had six classes of freshmen in for orientation this week, and the Ellen Hopkins books were gone with the first group. I fought not to worry as the baby-faced ninth graders checked those books out. I'm sure they didn't have those at the middle schools.

And one thing is for certain, Hopkins' books are among my students' favorites, so much so that not one of our five copies of Burned made it back on the shelf this summer -- I definitely need to place an order there. No one who has read them could possibly think Hopkins' book glorify drugs or sex, and I have had students attest to their bibliotherapeutic qualities, either in reflecting the realities around them or warning them about pratfalls of reckless behavior.

Hopkins is among the fiercest teen advocates I know. Her posts surrounding the Texas incident, like those during the brouhaha in Oklahoma last year, are wonderful. The exclusion, and the subsequent author solidarity in reaction, is all over the biblioblogosphere,  but I especially appreciated Harmony's take as a teen:
NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT TO READ. NO ONE. My parents don't even tell me what I'm allowed to read yet ONE person whom most of the teens have probably never even met has the right to decide what ALL of them are allowed to read?
I enlarged Hopkins' 2009 Banned Books Week poem "Manifesto" to poster size. It hangs on our circulation desk, beneath whichever of books we happen to have just gotten back. We keep them there because they won't stay on the shelf for long.

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