Dents in my Desk: Ellen Hopkins Disinvited to Teen Lit Fest

Book CoverFrom 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to Hautman’s site, authors Matt de la Pena and Tera Lynn Childs (author of the RITA-winning Oh My Gods), who have both withdrawn from the Humble Teen Lit Fest in protest of Hopkins’ disinvitation.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 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.



Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. Hannah says:

    *Raises hand* Pick me, pick me. 

    I have read all of Hopkins’ books, and love them with all my heart and soul, but they were the property of the Houston Public Library.  The library of Hannah doesn’t have any of her works … but needs one.

  2. Sofia says:

    Ellen Hopkins attends the Teen Book Festival here in Rochester, N.Y., every year and she is one of the BEST. The Humble, Tex., Teen Lit. Fest is really missing out by uninviting this extraordinary author. “Crank” is still one of my favorite YA books, and “Tricks” is in my queue of books to read.

  3. sugarless says:

    I’ve never read her, but now I’m intrigued. I think I would both read the book AND donate it to my (awesome) local library after I was done with it. Or, if they already have enough copies, I could lurk creepily by the local high school in a black trench coat and surreptitiously hand it to some kid walking out.

  4. Travis says:

    This made me so angry. There was NO reason to do that. I’m sure there are plenty of teens there who would have loved the chance to meet Ellen. Her books have helped so many people.

  5. Rhonda says:

    Censorship DOES blow.

    I’ve long meant to pick up Crank to read myself and then pass on to my daughter, hearing all this crap has just made me determined to get it sooner rather than later.

    *grumbls some more*

  6. SB Sarah says:

    Rhonda, I think it is bonafide badass awesome that you and your daughter read books like these together. You rule.

  7. Dara Young says:

    It is terrifying that censorship still exists in it’s most ugly and uninformed states. People making decisions on books they have neither read nor discussed with their peers. Very foolish and I agree, I wish the publisher would air lift in enough copies of her books to blanket the whole town of Humble! Wall paper that fools office with the pages!

    In the mean time love the giveaway…if I win a copy it’s going to a local library!

    SPAM WORD: Together42

    I know there is something witty to say there…but I am just to irritated to think of it!

  8. I have 5 Ellen Hopkins books sitting on my physical TBR at home, I will definitely have to read them and review them in honor of fighting censorship. I do follow her on twitter, and she is awesome. It really bothers me that she would be disinvited from this book festival. Really uncool, Texas, really uncool.

  9. I have 5 Ellen Hopkins books sitting on my physical TBR at home, I will definitely have to read them and review them in honor of fighting censorship. I do follow her on twitter, and she is awesome. It really bothers me that she would be disinvited from this book festival. Really uncool, Texas, really uncool.

  10. I have 5 Ellen Hopkins books sitting on my physical TBR at home, I will definitely have to read them and review them in honor of fighting censorship. I do follow her on twitter, and she is awesome. It really bothers me that she would be disinvited from this book festival. Really uncool, Texas, really uncool.

  11. SB Sarah says:

    Also: I’m going to run this contest for 24 hours, but I won’t close comments – I’ll just post a note that the contest is over.

  12. AudryT says:

    I’d love to see Ellen’s books everywhere.  If I get a copy, I’ll either donate it to our local library, or if they already have it (they might), I will send it to a teenager I know who is smart and—gasp!—unafraid of intelligent books about serious matters.

    If it’s not too much trouble, could you let me know on Twitter if I get picked? Twitter name is AudryT.  I enter contests, and then I forget to check them… O_o (Hazards of a busy life.)

  13. Julie Klumb says:

    I’m sending him a letter now. This is ridiculous. I feel for Ms. Hopkins and for all her fans in Texas who won’t get the opportunity to meet with and speak to her. The people involved should be ashamed.

  14. Teresa says:

    I read the front cover, and what’s the issue.  Most YA know that stuff already.  Those kind of books have always been around.  AND these kids read about this stuff on the internet, TV and other places.  Read it with your child and discuss it.  The principal should have taken the time to review the book before making the decision.  Or asked the hard questions of the librarian and the parents.

  15. Ellen Hopkins is a talented and important writer of modern YA fiction. Her books are powerful and artistic studies of issues that profoundly affect many teens. They are important reads, both for teens who deal with issues like drug use and sex abuse and also with teens whose lives have been touched by families and friends who deal with. And also by teens who have no personal experience like that at all.

    As a teenager, I often used novels to explore issues that I was curious about but were outside the realm of my experience. Reading about a girl dealing with drug addiction was a completely safe way for me to learn.

    I have also heard Hopkins is an excellent speaker and presenter.

    I feel bad for the teens who will be missing out not only on Hopkins’ presentation, but also on the presentation of the other authors, and for the librarians and organizers who are dealing with the backlash after trying to create a marvelous event for their community.

  16. Sue K says:

    I’ll be more than glad to donate it to the local library… or if they already have it & don’t need/want another copy, I will find another library who needs/wants it.

    (of course, I’ll gently read it first.)

  17. Arlinda D says:

    Not only does censorship infuriate me, but when such a dedicated author such as Ellen Hopkins is placed into the fire it really perturbs me. The youth of today should be entitled to read material which will better their judgement, and help them have a greater understanding of the world around them. By censoring books we are certainly denying them of their rights as growing citizens. To teach our children that censorship is acceptable is a horrifying mentality in my opinion. I will try to do my best spread the word on this matter, and I will personally try and get many others involved. Thank you for placing this issue in the forefront where it belongs.

  18. baddict17 says:

    I love Ellen Hopkin’s books! I’m outraged and if I were her I’d be on a rampage! I can’t believe it, I’m sure plenty of people were looking forward to seeing her there. I know I’d do anythign to meet her. She’s an amazing, true author.

  19. Ruby says:

    That is absolutely ridiculous! I’m outraged!  Hopkins’ books are the only books my husband reads cover to cover.  Amazingly enough (even though we live in a small town), Ellen Hopkins visited our library and since I work at the reference desk, we got to go to dinner with her!  She signed all his copies but would use this copy to donate to our library 🙂

  20. Teri C says:

    Wow. That is whack ladies. Those people should also on the same note not be allowing their kids on the net and certainly not watch the tv, and yeah they should blank out the radio, because bad stuff is everywhere.
    I have read Crank, Glass and Burned, and discussed them with my teen daughter when she was reading them. It is very sad that the people in Texas are not going to see Ellen. I would read this book and pass it on to my library, because that is where I have checked out her other books that I read. There are also several other of her books at my daughter’ school. Maybe if more adults would read these books, we could notice more signs when kids are having problems, instead of pushing out the authors who write them.
    Good job ladies!

  21. jo swartz says:

    I just sent this letter to Mr. Sconzo:

    I am saddened to hear about the quick and unjust decision made to uninvite Ms. Ellen Hopkins from your Teen Lit Fest.
    It is not to late to make amends, and would certainly show the teen population that it okay to make poor, rash decisions – providing you apologize, change your ways, and make amends. Just like in Ms. Hopkins’s books, and others of that type, which show humans being, well…human. We are flawed. We make mistakes. But a good author, one with a conscience, can show all this to the reader and help pull the reader to the light. But if the darkness isn’t shown – then the light has no purpose. If there is no truth in literature, why would we want to read it? Sometimes that truth is gritty, hard to write about, hard to read about, but even worse to live it.  Thank God for those writers who do dare take something like that on, and who help provide a perspective that can sometimes make a real difference in people’s lives.  I truly hope that you see the error of what this decision has done and re-invite her to attend.

  22. RomWriter says:

    Since it’s Texas, this doesn’t surprise me. And nothing against Texas, my mom lives there, I used to live there and loved it. But extreme right-wingers have control there. Did you know they’re currently in the process of rewriting the history textbooks that will be used in their public schools? Yeppers. They’re rewriting history to better suit their right-wing agenda. One of the things they’re doing is replacing Alexander Hamilton with a religious figure of the time because Hamilton was such a controversial figure. There’s tons more andit’s infuriating. The New York Times carried an article about it just the other day. I recommend everyone who’s interested look it up and see what’s going on down in cowboy country. It’s a real eye-opener

  23. PK says:

    I have a teenaged son who reads any and everything he can get his hands on, especially books he’s interested in like SF/F, YA, and paranormal.  Most of the time, I read the books first and then hand them over to him.  Now that he’s older, that doesn’t always happen.

    We were at the Niles public library and he brought a book back from the stacks and asked if I’d read it.  It was Ellen Hopkins CRANK and I told him that I hadn’t yet but I’d heard good things about it.  He smiled, put it in his to-be-checked-out stacks and returned to the graphic novels. 

    Jumping to the end of this narrative, he checked it out, read it and loved it.  He asked some questions too and OMG isn’t that the whole point?  Not laying out a road map for kids to go out and emulate bad behavior but to start a dialogue with them about things they might not understand?

    I’m so upset on behalf of Ms. Hopkins that it’s not even funny.  I believe I might know of a suitable outlet for all this frustration and anger (no cussing, I promise) and his email is already listed.

  24. Kristi Davis says:

    Wow, that makes me sick. The fact that he admitted that he relied on someone else to… well. I emailed him. Here is what I said! BTW – I haven’t ever heard of this author or her books but they sound great. I am more disgusted with his actions. I hope he issues an apology and makes things right. You never know.

    Title: Disappointed
    I was really disappointed to read about how you dis-invited Ellen Hopkins to the 2011 celebration.  Relying on someone else to make your decisions and censor novels and authors is a shabby thing to do. I can only hope that you can look at your actions and make things right.

    Kristi Davis

  25. Glynis says:

    Lemme get this straight. In order to not offend the delicate sensibilities of a few, the pleasure of Ms. Hopkins is being denied to everyone? That’s fucked up.

    Here’s a thought, if you’re not a fan of Ms. Hopkins’ work (I think you’re a twit to not seize on the opportunity to discuss these very real issues with your children.), don’t attend the event.

    I don’t go to church. I believe that many of them are bad influences. But you don’t see me demanding that churches be shut down. I simply don’t go.

    (Captcha word? Start86. Yeah, I’ll start 86-ing those who believe that censorship is okay.)

  26. Irene says:

    Screw commenting – somebody please send out PRESS RELEASES!

    Nothing like the bright spotlight of public exposure to make bullies scurry back into the crevices.

  27. Britt says:

    I’d say pick me, but I kind of want to go buy a copy or 12 now. And maybe ship them to Texas. But thank you for the rant. You said everything that was in my head, just more eloquently and with far fewer expletives.

  28. JB says:

    PK, you put it so well!  Books that talk about tough subjects are meant to open dialogues with teens and kids.  And how fantastic that your son does so!

  29. MarieC says:

    I’ve never read any of her books and had her books on my radar.

    I’m not entirely surprised about censorship (afterall, there is a banned books list, right?), but I am about how blatant and unashamed he is about it.

    If won, I would definately donate to my library…

  30. Katy says:

    Wow. I can’t believe they’d go so far as to disinvite her just because a few overly-cautious/controlling people thought her books aren’t “appropriate”. Not a fan of her books? So what? That doesn’t mean the teens who ARE fans wouldn’t like to hear her speak.

  31. I share your rage. My sister-in-law is a high school librarian at an underfunded city school and she will be very grateful for the donation if the book should happen to come my way. And if it doesn’t, I may just buy Ms. Hopkins’ entire list and donate it.

  32. Yara says:

    This is just unbelievable. I live about 10 mins away from Humble and was looking forward to this festival. I will no longer attend.

    I think they handled this very wrong. I hope they get such a large amount of protest and emails, so they can realized they handle this like a child and not a Adult.

  33. Heather says:

    Well, will have to look into these books for my oldest now. I don’t get some people. What makes them think they have the right to decide what others should and shouldn’t read? Drives me insane. If that one person doesn’t like the books, fine, no one’s making her read them, but to deprive others of the opportunity? It’s taking things too far.

    In other words, I’ll echo everyone else. Censorship SUCKS!

  34. I did a quick check of Orange County (FL) Public Library and all of Hopkins’ books are available in bound form—and many in electronic formats. “Available” is perhaps heady, as all 14 copies of CRANK were checked out and a waiting list is forming.

  35. Sarah W says:

    Censorship is cowardice. 

    It’s also self-defeating and , as Chris Crutcher says, the best advertisement for a book ever.  Every time one of his titles is censored, his sales skyrocket, because everyone wants to know why.

  36. Maria Brown says:

    As a parent of a seven year old I can tell you that tv and movies make it really hard to let kids just be kids. Having a book that discusses issues parents don’t or won’t is a must. Or hey maybe they can watch tv and think that happily ever after endings are real life. TV and movies expose kids to unrealistic views of drugs and sex at an increasingly earlier age. Someone needs to show the true side of the story.

    Censorship is never pretty, and when no research is used to justify it then it becomes a joke. If the guy had been able to articulate why he didn’t feel the book was right I could respect him. Disagree with him but respect him. But to base his judgment on the opinions of others is stupid and dangers. You have brain use it!

    Okay….that’s just my 2 cents.


  37. censorship just makes me so angry.

  38. Larissa Ione says:

    This is seriously infuriating. Ms. Hopkins is an AUTHOR, not a serial killer.  What are people afraid of?  She might influence kids to what…read?  Write? Learn? Develop an imagination?

    And if kids are reading her books, the fact is…they’re READING.

    My parents didn’t censor my reading material—ever.  I grew up reading Stephen King and other horror authors.  I didn’t grow up to become an ax murderer, a prostitute, a drug addict.  I didn’t go through any of the things parents worry about, like teenage pregnancy. In fact, I didn’t marry until my late twenties, didn’t have a baby until I was almost 30.

    I learned so much from books, even though they were fiction.  Very adult fiction. What I read took me out of the small, isolated town I grew up in. Reading engaged my imagination, taught me reading and writing skills, taught me lessons I still think on today. (As an added bonus, I know exactly how to kill vampires and zombies, and you never know when that’ll come in handy!)

    My reading material contained violence, drug use, and, gasp, sex. And I grew up to serve in the military, become a meteorologist, and become an author myself, because the written word captivated me, and authors inspired me.

    I’m SO writing a letter to Mr. Sconzo. And I’m going to tell him exactly what I said here. (Minus the vampire/zombie thing…)

  39. Joy Kennedy says:

    I’d remind the principal that the teens are a time when children are naturally curious, confused and on edge.  Literature is a safe way for them to explore the scary things in their world—sexuality, dark feelings, constant temptations to explore the forbidden and a society that seems to push them to both grow up fast and yet stay a child.  A teen lit festival that showcases fun, silly reads and sensitive, deep reads can appeal to both the child and the adult in teens.  They need to be exposed in a safe way—through books—to the scary and potentially distructive things that they’ll encounter.  And they WILL encounter these things no matter how we wish they wouldn’t have to.  They need to have fun escape tales to spark their imagination.  Providing a broad platform for all kinds of literature is extremely important.  I urge you to reconsider your ban on Ms Hopkins’ books.  Children need to encounter the problems she discusses in the safe environment of a book so that they can think about these things and discuss them and their feelings with trusted adults like their teachers, their parents, their ministers.

    (If I were to win, please donate my book to Teresa Stevens’ sister-in-law’s underfunded city school.)

  40. liz talley says:

    This kind of thing makes me really sad. Having a book deal with such subject matter is a prime opportunity for parents and teens to openly discuss drug abuse. I’m constanly surprised at the ignorance that is out there all in the name of protecting our children. I’ve not read the books, but you can bet I’ll pick it up when I can.

    Ironically, one of my upcoming books has a subplot dealing with censorship…it gets my heroine in a bit of trouble. Had to chuckle when I saw this happened in Texas…where my story is set. I’d wondered about plausibility. Now I know.

    Very sad.

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