Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why Christians Need Speak...

If you follow many book blogs--especially blogs dedicated to YA books--chances are you've heard about the latest issue with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. The author, I believe, first mentioned this last Sunday on her blog. Speak is one of three books mentioned in Wesley Scroggin's article "Filthy Books Demeaning to Republic education." (The other two are Twenty Boy Summer and Slaughterhouse Five.) You can read my review of Speak, Twenty Boy Summer, and Slaughterhouse Five. (Though I definitely wouldn't recommend Slaughterhouse Five to just anybody. It doesn't seem like the best fit for required reading.)

I didn't post about this earlier because it's overwhelming to approach it.

Should I mention how silly and ineffective it is to try to ban books? How it only makes the book more appealing? (Not that a book has to be "banned" or "challenged" for it to be appealing. But I do think some readers pick up a book just because it has been banned or challenged.)

Or I could talk about how it is just wrong, wrong, wrong to want to ban any book for any reason. I'm not saying every book is appropriate for every reader. I think there's a BIG difference in saying a book is a good fit for the school or public library and a book is a good fit for required reading within a classroom.

I could talk about the distinction between a parent's right to be involved with their own child's reading (which I support) and the parent's "right" to interfere be involved in other children's reading (which I don't support). If you don't want your child reading a book, that's one thing. If you try to tell other parents, teachers, librarians that you don't want ANY child to be able to read a book, that's another. That's overstepping it.

I could talk about the importance of context. How important it is to judge a book as a whole. How seemingly "offensive" things can seem in isolation. How tallying up "bad" words doesn't really give you a clue to the book's quality. Why it is so important--as a reader--to ask WHY.

I could talk about how important it is for people to have the freedom to read anything.

I could talk about my mixed feelings on required reading. How difficult it is--at times--to like anything you're required to read. How many good books are wasted because they're forced onto unwilling readers.

But. I think I'll talk about assumptions. How very easy it is to make assumptions. To make quick judgments. To assume that you know everything, and others know nothing. To assume that you're always right about everything. To assume that you have enough knowledge--enough wisdom--to know where another person is coming from. As Atticus Finch wisely tells his daughter,
"If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view" (30).
There are plenty of people in Melinda's life who think they know her. People who are quick to judge her. People who are quick to label her as this or that. These people are quick to act on those judgments, assumptions. It's not just that people think of Melinda in a certain way. They talk about her. They shun her. They bully her. They want Melinda to feel bad about herself, to feel "properly" punished. The adults aren't much better. A couple of adults in particular seem just as mean, just as prone to bullying.

There are very few people in Melinda's life--teen or adult--that seem concerned--thoughtfully and prayerfully concerned--for her. Very few who question why this young woman has stopped talking. Why her grades are falling or why her behavior has changed so much in the past year. Melinda is troubled. But who is there for her? Is there anyone who sees her? Who really and truly sees her? Who seeks to understand? Who seeks to listen? It seems that Melinda is easily dismissed, ignored.

Yes, it is important for Melinda to speak, to find her voice. But it's also important for her to be heard.

I believe that Speak is a book that everyone should read--teen or adult. Perhaps Christians should ask themselves how good they are at seeing the world around them. Of seeing the needs of others. Of listening--really listening--to people. Are you seeing the world through His eyes? Are you being his hands and feet? Are you loving the "least of these"? Are you spreading God's grace through compassion? Are you treating others with respect and dignity? Are you treating others the way you would want to be treated? Or are you among the first to judge, to throw stones?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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