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. 


  1. Totally agree. Also, I love that you mention reading The Hunger Games along with Animal Farm, because that's exactly what I'm wanting to do with my class. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get THG approved, and if I want to read it with Animal Farm, 1984, or Brave New World, but I think it'll be great. There's just no reason we can't bring fresher, more relatable material to students.

  2. Wow! This is the innovation that school really needs. If you can get THG approved, all of those are great choices. Once again, we are on the exact same page when it comes to this issue. I know I would have made more of an effort to actually do reading assignments as opposed to just using spark notes if the material was fresher and more relatable. Good luck!