Laurie Halse Anderson Fights ‘Soft Pornography’ Label

By Maryann Yin Comment

Award-winning novelist Laurie Halse Anderson (pictured with this GalleyCat correspondent at BEA 2010) wrote the controversial young-adult book Speak, where the female protagonist is the victim of rape. A Missouri college professor recently labeled her work as “soft pornography.”

In response to professor Wesley Scroggins’ claims, Anderson wrote a personal blog entry: “The fact that he sees rape as sexually exciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying. It gets worse, if that’s possible, when he goes on to completely mischaracterize the book. Some people say that I shouldn’t make a big deal about this. That I am giving him more attention than he deserves. But this guy lives about an hour and half from the school district that banned Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian this month. My fear is that good-hearted people in Scroggins’ community will read his piece and believe what he says. And then they will complain to the school board. And then the book will be pulled and then all those kids who might have found truth and support in the book will be denied that.”

Hours after Scroggins’ pronouncement, the Twitter hashtag #speakloudly was born. The Internet community united in this tweeted conversation.

Ellen Renner wrote: “Because books should not be banned, and books like Speak save lives.”

Pamela Voelkel quoted archeologist David Lee: “It’s not just freedom that requires vigilance, it’s also knowledge. Knowledge is fragile.”

Danaye Shiplett wrote: “I can’t believe anyone would think of banning Speak! The story is amazing and empowering. I support Laurie 100%!!!!”

Liza Kane said: “In Honor of This Year’s Banned Books Week…Speaking Loudly for Speak”

Anderson has her publisher’s support. The Penguin Young Readers Group purchased one full page ad space in the September 30th edition of the New York Times standing by the author’s book. MSU students also joined in on the act. The school’s English Society organized a public reading of Anderson’s book on campus voicing disapproval of Scroggins’ essay.

After reading these tributes, Anderson confessed to being moved to tears. Her hopes for a continuing conversation about these and other delicate subject matters remain strong as does her conviction against banned books. (Via Pop Matters)