Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


It's the last day of my Banned Books Week Giveaway. For more information about how this giveaway works and why I'm doing it, read this introductory post.

For this last entry, I’m going to switch things up and tell you why this book was challenged before I tell you what it is. Robert P. Doyle writes that it ran into trouble because of “. . . complaints that it is ‘soft-pornography,’ ‘glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex,’ and ‘teaches principles contrary to the Bible.’” (Books Challenged or Banned 2011-2012. American Library Association.)

Are you ready to learn what this terrible, terrible book is? It’s none other than National Book Award finalist and Printz Honor book Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Part of what is so horrifying about the particular complaints leveled at this book is that it is about Melinda, a girl who faces social ostracization after trying to report her own rape at a high school party. The only “sex” depicted in the book is a description of rape. That someone would interpret that as “soft-pornography” or a glorification of premarital sex says more about the very disturbed worldview of the person who made the complaint than the contents of the book. Because rape isn’t sex. It isn’t even about sex. It’s about power and the abuse of it.

If sexual assault is something young women have to contend with (and as we discussed in the entry on Just Listen earlier this week, it unfortunately is), then we also need narratives about how to cope and find our voices again if it happens, like the narrator of Speak. This is another book that could be a lifeline to a reader. In fact, we know it is, because of the many people who have spoken to Anderson after reading it. Here is Anderson, in an interview from 2013:

Somebody calculated I’ve spoken to over a million teenagers in high schools in the last decade or so, and every time I’ve ever given a presentation, I’ve had somebody come up to me afterwards in tears because they really feel like for the first time it’s safe for them to talk about what happened to them.”

I encourage you to read the full interview here. Anderson talks about how harmful our social taboo against even talking about rape can be, and how we are not protecting kids by keeping them ignorant. She writes,

“. . . I say, when you have small children, you know that your job as a parent is to teach them to look both ways before they cross the road. When your kids enter adolescence, you job as a parent is to teach them the realities of sexual assault, especially teaching your boys, so we can finally stop things like Stubenville from happening.”

Like Melinda in Speak, we need to find our voices as a society when it comes to sexual assault. It’s only through talking about consent and respect that we will put an end to sexual assault. Books like Anderson’s are an important tool in that conversation.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or abuse - or even if you're confused and want clarification about what constitutes abuse - check out, call 800-865-HOPE, or use's chat feature.

If you'd like to enter the giveaway for this book, you have until 11:59 p.m. today, Sunday, Oct 1st. You will get 1) a paperback copy of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson 2) a copy of Robert P. Doyle's 2015-2016 Books Challenged or Banned, and 3) a paperback copy of my book, Sound, which is coming out this week. Enter below!

Powered by Squarespace. Background image by Stocktrek Images.