From the Headdeskery Department comes some asschapping news, thanks to librarian Christine of the Awesome. From Pete Hautman‘s blog comes a write up of the Humble, Texas, Teen Lit Fest, where, due to one librarians complaints, author Ellen Hopkins was disinvited to the 2011 celebration.
From Hopkins’ blog:
Once again, censorship opens its nasty mouth and takes a bite out of me. This time in Humble Texas, a suburb of Houston. Let me say first thing that I did two high school visits there a couple of years ago, and they went very well. The librarians were totally supportive and, in fact, took me to the amazing Houston Rodeo afterward. So when they asked me to take part in the Teen Lit Fest they help organize, I said sure. The event is scheduled for the last weekend in January, 2011. But I won’t be there after all.
Apparently, a middle school librarian saw my name on the roster and decided my presence would somehow negatively affect her students. I’m not sure how that is possible. Maybe she thinks I sweat “edgy and dark.” (Are those things catching?) Anyway, she went to a couple of parents with her concerns. I’m guessing she knew the exact ones who would raise a stink, and they did. They went to the school board, and the superintendent, Guy Sconzo, decided to uninvite me. (He says I was never invited, but I was!)
You know, I’m kind of getting used to this, and I had just about decided not to make a big deal about it. But then another Texas librarian, who is a great supporter, e-mailed Mr. Sconzo. His reply was arrogant and condescending and really made me mad, on two fronts. First, he admitted he “relied on his head librarian’s research” in regard to my books or me or both. Meaning he never bothered to read them himself. (Censors rarely do!) Never bothered to contact me with his concerns. Didn’t listen to the other librarians who lobbied heavily to keep me on the speaker roster, or ask other teen book festival organizers about their experiences with me.
Understandably, this pissed off a lot of people, including the fine folks at the Librarified blog, writer Melissa De La Cruz, and, according to Hautman’s site, authors Matt de la Pena and Tera Lynn Childs (author of the RITA-winning Oh My Gods), who have both withdrawn from the Humble Teen Lit Fest in protest of Hopkins’ disinvitation.
My first thought was, holy smoking jackasses, that’s just ridiculous. What scary horrible things does Hopkins write about?
Her 2004 book Crank was about a young girl who gets hooked on crystal meth. That’s not a hideous problem affecting teens right now or anything, deserving of frank discussion. No, not at all. Her 2009 book, Tricks, is a book told in verse dealing with various teens from different backgrounds experiencing and dealing with… wait for it… oh, gosh you might want to hide under the table here… are you sure you want to know?
Fine, I’ll spoiler it. It’s about
CAN YOU IMAGINE?! WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN (who won’t get to meet a New York Times best selling author whose books deal directly with scary shit that many children AND parents are completely unprepared to deal with)? CAN YOU IMAGINE THE SCANDAL (if an author whose books are powerfully scary could reach one kid and help them understand why drugs and sex or both might not be the best answer to whatever is hurting them right now)? WHAT THE HELL WAS SHE THINKING (that librarian who decided she knew best and better than everyone, let alone the superintendent who listened to her)?
Raising children is tough business. There is some scary ass shit out there that I don’t know when to mention to my own children, much less how to deal with any of it, but I do know that I learned a powerful amount of fear and the antidote to much of my self-loathing from books. Decisions like these are the lowest form of asshattery, and I want to start screaming and handing out free books. Censorship is not the answer – but maybe knocking heads with hardbacks is?
Ellen Hopkins published the email address of the superintendent on her site, so if you’d like to send a strongly worded (please don’t cuss at him, though it’s tempting) explanation as to why this decision makes you see steamy red demons of rage and sadness, have at it. His name is Guy Sconzo and his email is Guy.Sconzo@humble.k12.tx.us. Please feel free to post your reaction or the email you send in the comments, and holy smacking morons, I hope this decision is reversed, and her publisher plasters Humble, Texas, with copies of her latest book for all who ask for it.
Hell, let’s give away some right here. I’ll pick three comments from this entry and send a copy of her latest book, Tricks. You can accept or donate to your local library. Obvious disclaimers apply: I’m not being compensated for this giveaway, except to ease the raging vitriol currently circling my brain. Censorship blows.