Censorship Goes Beyond Book Banning

I’ve been following the news about the Teen Lit Festival in Texas with increasing frustration because few things irritate me more than censorship. The situation is this: best-selling author Ellen Hopkins was invited to take part in the Humble, Texas Teen Lit Festival that’s happening in January 2011. On her blog, Hopkins says she had visited two high schools in that school district before and was happy to be invited back. After she accepted the invitation, a school librarian (!) and a few parents took matters into their own hands and convinced school Superintendent Guy Sconzo to rescind her invitation.

So why uninvite one of the most popular authors in YA literature? Hopkins writes about serious subjects like drug abuse and suicide, which make her a frequent target of book banners. One of her most popular books, Crank, is based on her own daughter’s struggle with drug addiction.

When fellow authors Pete Hautman, Melissa de la Cruz, Tara Lynn Childs and Matt de la Pena heard about what happened, they decided to drop out of the festival in a show of support. Hautman writes on his blog:

Censorship of children’s literature can take many forms. In its most blatant incarnation, books are removed from classrooms and libraries. Thankfully, this does not happen often. But there are more insidious forms of censorship…

What is important is that a handful of people – the superintendent, the one (one!) librarian, and “several” (three? five?) parents – took it upon themselves to overrule the vast majority of teachers and librarians and students who had chosen one of the most popular YA authors in America to be their headliner.

That is a form of censorship as damaging and inexcusable as setting fire to a library.

I couldn’t agree more! Some people are arguing that asking Hopkins not to speak at the festival isn’t really censorship, but I don’t think that’s true. The censors are trying to suppress her First Amendment rights simply because they don’t like her viewpoint. And that’s just wrong. I also like what Hopkins writes on her blog: “Debating the definition of censorship only serves to keep the ugly beast alive. It will only stop clawing our society when enough of us fight to declaw it.”

So what do you think of the Texas Teen Lit Festival debacle? Have you ever been affected by censorship?

Follow me on Twitter @kristendaemons

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