Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Nasty Thing in the Corner, Part Two

Wow, that’s a lot of comments! Thank you for your supportive words.

And thank you also to those who took the time to post their dissents. Allow me to respond to a few:

To “A Teen Librarian”: I agree that teens should not have to pay for the political battles of their elders. But they do, every day, in more ways than I can count. I wish I could have figured out a way to attend TLF without hating myself for doing so, but I could not.

To “Paul”: I understand what you are saying and I respect your point of view, although I disagree. BTW, I have deleted no posts here—your insinuation is gratuitous.

To “Nate”: You are technically correct about my misuse of the term “censorship.” My use of the term is deliberate. We all know that the “uninviting” of Ellen H. was not literally censorship. It would be more accurate to say it was “the active suppression of an author to discourage teens from reading her books.” (Can we find an acronym in that? Wait a sec…okay, how about Activist School Suppression of Hopkins’ Access to Teens. I’m sure there’s an acronym in there someplace!) In any case, elephant or mastodon, it’s still a pachyderm. We all know what we're talking about. They may not have literally “censored” Ellen Hopkins, but their actions point to a similar intent.

To “Whoa Nelly”: First, I love your handle. And you are right in what you say, however, I believe that each of us has a point at which we must say, “Whoa, Nelly! I’ve had enough! I have run out of cheeks to turn! It’s time for some melodrama!” I reached that point last week.

Hey, I’m not sure, but I think the Thing in the Corner got a little smaller today!


Greg said...

I think a debate on whether or not Ellen should or shouldn't be able to attend should be based on the fact that her books could help so many teens out there. I think when we throw this on the "censorship" bandwagon that it takes away from the argument about her books and it also takes away from the argument about censorship. But at some point in time we have to agree that a school and parents DO have the right to say, "No, we don't want this in our school. This is too much." And who gets to decide where that line is? Someone will be mad no matter what. People are always going to call "foul" on one side or the other. But they have the right and the responsibility to do what they think is what is best for the KIDS. Just like you have the right to pull out of the Teen Lit Fest if you feel like you need to stand up for what you believe in.

Hoosier Mom said...

Greg, you may have the right to decide what's best for YOUR kids. You do NOT have the right to decide what's good for mine.

You're more than welcome to keep your kids from reading Ellen's books or seeing her presentation.

But how dare you decide that MY kids shouldn't have that opportunity? How dare you decide for me, as a parent, what I should and shouldn't allow my children to read or do?

Tanya Egan Gibson said...

But Greg, *which* parents get the right to say "We don't want this in our school/festival/library/etc."? The most vocal ones? Why should their opinion carry more weight than the opinions of parents who do want their children "exposed" (a word that unfortunately connotes something like contagion) to those books? It seems to me that a vocal minority tends to have way too much sway in such matters.

There are a lot of mainstream characters (a.k.a, passive Disney princesses) that I, personally, find insidious and would rather didn't exist in my young daughter's world. But I wouldn't march into kindergarten and make sure the teacher didn't "expose" her to them, depriving the children of other people (who might or might not think Disney Princesses are great role models) from knowing about their existence.

Anonymous said...

Here's the uncomfortable thing for me. Because Ellen is "high profile" her books may have been more carefully scrutinized. But I know for a fact that the some of the other invited authors have potentially offensive content, too.

If the administrator was made aware of this, would they be "uninvited" too? And if their books were not as carefully scrutinized, wouldn't it make these authors feel like they were sneaking in?

Greg said...

Hoosier Mom,
My kids have read the books. I think they're fantastic. And last I checked no one is keeping you or your children from going to the store or library to buy/check out Ellen's books.

My point, which I knew half of the population would be too emotional to understand, is that they are not censoring her books. They are deciding not to pay her to speak. There is a HUGE difference.

By the way, I don't agree with their decision....but it is their decision. I also don't think Ellen's books are necessarily suitable for all teens, especially some that are 13. However, I don't think Ellen is going to stand up and start shouting obscenities at the teenagers and telling them sex and drugs are great either. I'm just saying that the vast majority of people are fighting the wrong fight. This isn't a censorship issue.

Greg said...


YES! Now you're fighting the right fight! Who gets to decide! That is the question!!

Anonymous said...

Greg--a quick clarification if that's okay.
Exactly which "half of the population" would be "too emotional to understand"?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it the right of the district to decide if they want to invite/ rescind invitation since they were going to pay for her visit? I understand this festival is for middle school and high school--Middle school age begins at 11. How would some of her books even be remotely appropriate for 11?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - if you think no 11-year-olds are going through the stuff she writes about in her books, you are mistaken.

Read Feed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

Anonymous #1

-The half I'm talking about would be the emotional half....not sure what you're getting at. If you think I'm talking about women, then I'm afraid you're getting emotional about the wrong thing.


-So are you saying that whatever any 11 year old has gone through, all 11 year olds should be exposed to? Because I know of some 4 year olds that have gone through some pretty awful things. I guess you think we should open up the preschools?

Greg said...

(copied from the other page)

The reason that I say that using censorship and banning is not appropriate in this context is apparent in these comments. Are people really equating this to racial discrimination and calling the super intendant a Nazi??

No, I don't think they made the right decision by uninviting Ellen. I think she would have fantastic and helpful things to say. I hope that every teen who is going through, or knows someone going through what her books deal with, read her book. But, that still doesn't make this BANNING! I think it really belittles the people who are actually going through censorship/banning issues to call this that. And it's certainly demeaning to Jews, and what they went through, to equate the people who are ATTEMPTING (and maybe failing, but still trying) to do what they think is best for our children to Nazis.

I applaude you, Pete, for standing up for a colleague whom you believe would be a benefit to the teens, and for the way she was treated (and apparently the librarian who stood up for her). I just wish everyone would be a little more careful with their words, and realize that whether or not you agree, most of the people in this world really DO want what's best for our kids.

Helen Hemphill said...

Most of the people in this world really DO want what's best for our kids. Agreed. But this whole situation could have been avoided if the people objecting could have been a bit more reasonable and suggested alternatives rather than simply throwing Ellen out. (Maybe the program could have been one for older teens?)

In my mind, it isn't an issue of censorship, it's one of control. But if the attitude is that authors are a commodity, then there lies the rub. This district took the easy way out of controversy. And it's a no win for everyone.

I support withdrawing from the event. I've been "uninvited" to schools over minor issues in my books. It hurts, and it's wrong to treat people that way. It's not censorship. It's civility. As a community, we should stand up and say no when any one of us is treated poorly. So, bravo!

As for the teens not seeing the authors they love, I think the school district must answer for their actions.

Obviously, this has been a great discussion. Thanks Pete and everyone.

Anonymous said...


For a guy so overly-concerned with everyone getting emotional, you are more emotional than many people in this discussion. You might want to look into that.

Your assumption that I meant women was off the mark. I simply couldn't understand what you were talking about and asked for clarification. I thank you for that clarification. And for the record, "the emotional half" includes you. (the touchy & presumptuous halves too.)

And in case this helps...being emotional is okay. There's no need to be ashamed of it. It helps quite a bit, even in times of level-headed decision-making.

Anon #1

Diana Rodriguez Wallach said...

While I agree that teens will miss out on seeing these authors, I feel this sends a great message about standing up for what's right. Maybe the teens will even protest themselves and get involved.

I feel you are taking a very narrow view in your definition of censorship.

If the festival had decided not to invite Hopkins in the first place that would have been their right. But it is not the right of "several" parents and (one!) library to disinvite her after the fact due to their personal morality issues. That small group decided, after she was already invited and deemed appropriate, that they knew what was best for everyone's children.

Did they consult other parents' before disinviting her? Did they send a letter home discussing ALL of the books that would be presented to better inform parents to make their own decisions? No.

This small group unilaterally censored Hopkins and her books from the festival AFTER they were already deemed appropriate by the festival organizers. That is, quite simply, wrong.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...

Is the disinviting of Ellen Hopkins an act of censorship?

Let's say that in a supreme act of social cluelessness, she decided to show up at the festival on her own nickel, find her way to the stage or a panel where she was originally supposed to present, and proceed to do so. She'd be escorted out, right? Not allowing people to hear her speak is no different from not allowing people to read her books.

Loretta Ellsworth said...

Thank you to all those authors who support Ellen. I wonder if the organizers of the Teen Lit Fest will learn anything by the withdrawal of so many authors? Hopefully, they'll learn to ignore that 'one' school librarian!

tHG said...

I think it is supremely stupid to have disinvited Hopkins from the festival.

I find the course of action extremely illogical. They, those few parents and the lone librarian, had the opportunity to question the one person truly capable of addressing their "issues" with material in these books, yet, instead of really taking on the issue they resort to having her disinvited?

Surely, if it's a legitimate issue of what is appropriate and not appropriate for children, then a conversation with the creator of the work should seem like the next logical step in bring to light their misgivings in an open and respectful forum. To not do so is either an act of sheer cowardice or supreme stupidity.

Debbie Reese said...

On this topic of censorship, there's a story worth looking at in Australia... A picture book written and illustrated by indigenous people was removed due to its content. The book is called WANJA: ONE SMART DOG, and is about a dog in an indigenous community. The dog chases the police van. I blogged it a few minutes ago.


 Ron Sutton said...

I would seem to me that the issue of censorship is one that is left to parents (in this case) to deal with at home. If the children are guided from the home to make good quality decisions then they will decide what is appropriate or not. Being more open is the only way this can be done. The Role Models that matter live at home not in the school admin offices

The almost teen said...

I would like to join in on this debate and point out that not many teens will be at the festival unattended by either parents or a person who has influence over their life, especially the ones who are too young for the books. And then theres the fact that most of the people who go to get their books signed by an author will either have read the book or know what the book is about. Although this is not always the case, it is more likely than not.
If the teen is uncomfortable around that subject, or the parent is uncomfortable with their teen reading that subject, then the teen will probably not read it. But there are people who love Ellen's books. Why should they not have the chance to read the books just because their for older teens, or just some because parents and teens are uncomfortable with the subject? It's just a bad choice (and not to mention rude to both the author and the readers) to un-invite Ellen. I'm sure that she would not have minded if there was even a sign or a warning about the content of the book. I feel that there was a line that they crossed, and if I were an author attending the convention, even if I didn't like her books, I think that I would have withdrawn. There was no need for them to for that far.

Katherine Grace Bond said...

I've been reading this exchange with interest both because I like Ellen (and her books) and because I was once uninvited from a school visit. The reason for said uninvitation was that my book (The Legend of the Valentine) included religious content. I'm still not sure how I feel about the incident. I had taken pains to insure that the school knew about the content, lest I be seen as a "stealth" author. I had planned to take as broad and evenhanded an approach as possible in discussion of religion, given the book's specifically religious language. A teacher (not the one who had invited me) felt nervous about it and asked me not to come, so I withdrew. I've puzzled over it ever since. Are there two sides to the censorship issue? Would it have been appropriate for me to have taken a specifically Christian book into a public school?

Anonymous said...

Greg, I'm not sure what you mean by "exposed." Do I think every 11-year-old should have access to these books? Yes, I do. But that doesn't mean that every 11-year-old will read them, or want to read them, or identify with what's in them. That's why libraries have diverse collections--because not everybody is interested in every book. I don't see the harm in having these books on the shelves. They're not going to jump off the shelves and read themselves aloud to everyone that walks by.

Mari said...

"Hey, I’m not sure, but I think the Thing in the Corner got a little smaller today!"

Nope. The corner just got bigger.