Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Censorship: In Defense of Twenty Boy Summer

The YA Literature community has recently been abuzz about a very touchy subject. Censorship. In case you don't know what it censorship is, let me briefly explain it to you. Censorship occurs when a book gets banned. It is often take out of libraries, school districts, etcetera. When a large group of people feel the book is "without worth" they can choose to extract it from curriculum or library circulation.

The case that most recently occurred has taken place in my own state of Missouri. Two school districts in the Ozarks have banned or have begun to ban books. The three books being banned are Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut, and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.  The claimed issue with said books is that they, "glorify pre-marital sex" and "could be classified as soft pornography." The instigators of the book banning claim Speak is inappropriate because of a graphic rape scene. They contest Twenty Boy Summer due to its teenage party scenes and mention of condoms and safe-sex. The banning of Twenty Boy Summer, a fairly recent YA novel, especially infuriates me. In case you haven't noticed, school districts seldom incorporate contemporary YA into their curriculum. I believe if my school had me reading The Hunger Games alongside a novel such as Animal Farm, I would have a different, deeper understanding of the point that both books share. I'm not criticizing classic literature, however there is only so much of it that teens can take. When a book such as Twenty Boy Summer makes it's way onto a school recommended reading list, the curriculum is headed in the right direction. The fact that it is being banned is a sad step backwards. The absurd reason for it's proposed banning is truly disgusting. Whether Twenty Boy Summer does or does not glorify pre-marital/teenage sex is ones opinion. However, this is not a new theme. I'm curious if the ones that proposed this ban would be okay with Romeo and Juliet in the curriculum.  What about The Odyssey and A Midsummer's Night Dream? All of those books, books I've read for my high school classes, have a decent amount of pre-marital sex in them. If your still not convinced, why don't you turn on a television right now. With a few clicks, I'm sure you could find something that glorifies pre-marital sex rather quickly. And, chances are, your teen is watching it. One way or another, wouldn't you rather have your child reading a book instead of staring at a screen?

The bottom line of all of this is that censorship is wrong. Yes, it is that simplistic. Someone should never have the ability to take away your voice; and that is what censorship does. It snatches away an individuals opinions and replaces them with a path of safe conformity. I'm having trouble seeing how censorship is any different than setting the book on fire. Granted, I'd never actually want to see that happen, but you get my point.I encourage everyone to speak loudly against censorship. Please share your thoughts, and don't ever let anyone stop you. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Plotting (Your Life and Your Story)

Today I’d like to talk to you on the subject of plans. Actually, in my case, the lack of plans. Anyone who truly knows me would be able to tell you in a heartbeat that I’m hyper-organized, controlling, paranoid, and many more things that are less than flattering. However, I have to admit, they are all true. My work in progress is obsessively outlined, each day is rigorously scheduled, and I often consider my life to be completely planned out. Recently I have been rethinking my insane choices. But today, I make an oath out of reverence for the present.

Just as rules are made to be broken, plans are made to be changed. I often forget that I’ve only walked this earth for a mere 16 years. Every teenager thinks they know it all. We are a unique breed in that we are stuck in an awkward combination of childlike innocence and adult like arrogance. Maybe that’s why Contemporary YA is so fun to write. No teenager handles things exactly the same way. Teenagers as a culture are constantly changing. But, one thing remains true, instead planning for our future, we need to plan to be surprised. I’m not saying to ignore college, grow a beard, buy a van, and go sell tee-shirts down by the beach. However, in this high pressure society we need to be open to all possibilities. This goes for everyone, not just teenagers. There’s no need to force yourself down a certain road.

This can be applied in so many different ways. For a literary example, I left the ending of my WIP unplanned. I know where I’m going, but I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen when I get there. Deviate from the outline. I recently wrote in two characters that I had no idea were going to exist in my novel. They are now intertwined with the plot and better the story. They were entirely unexpected and fit perfectly. I respect those that don’t outline their novel at all. Following ones intuition is essential for all writers; although the degree can vary. Novels are constantly re-written. No one ever gets it on the first try. So explore your options. I know I need to explore mine. A lot. 

So this may not have been the most coherent thing in the world, but it’s been on my mind the past few weeks. Let me know your thoughts!