' clairefy: Book Banning and Some Girls Are

Book Banning and Some Girls Are

8.06.2015


Recently, Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers, a book regarding bullying and high school cliques with mentions of drugs, sex, and alcohol, was removed from a South Carolina school summer reading list at one parent's complaint. High school parent Melanie MacDonald requested the removal of the book after she read the first 74 pages of the book, according to The Post and Courier, and subsequently deemed it 'trash' not worth her daughter's time.

“I’m not a prude for God’s sake and I understand that these are issues kids are facing – the drugs, the alcohol, the bullying – but there has to be a way to present it that’s not destructive to them. I get they’re trying to find something the kids are interested in, but this book is trash.”


Initially, Honors English 1 students at the high school were asked to read either Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers or Rikers High by Paul Volponi. At MacDonald's upset, the school added a third reading choice for students who were uncomfortable with the previous choices: A Tree Grows in  Brooklyn by Betty Smith. But instead of allowing her daughter to choose a different reading option and leaving the other students be, MacDonald sent a formal complaint to the school asking that Some Girls Are be removed from all students' summer reading lists. Before a challenge committee even met, the high school principal and English department complied, replacing the book with Speak by Laurie Hales Anderson (a book that, ironically, is frequently challenged). 

I am both angered and baffled by this incident. It is outrageous that one parent felt the need to eliminate a reading opportunity for all students just to appease her personal tastes, and that the school- dare I say it- banned this book from all summer reading lists, without a challenge committee, to satisfy one person's needs. The opinion of one person should not dictate that of others'. That's book banning at its finest.  

I think my previous experiences with book banning have made me especially sensitive towards issues like these. Coincidentally, I actually wrote my persuasive essay assignment for English last year on abolishing book banning. While I will stand by those who narrow their personal reading options for their own morals, although I feel that everyone should be open to all kinds of books, I cannot advocate for those who impose their personal restrictions on others. I understand that certain books may be considered inappropriate to certain people, however thinking that all people have the same perspective is unfair, ignorant, and frankly ridiculous. 

MacDonald's mistake was forcing the removal of this book on the school without the committee's consent; the school's was accepting one complaint as the perspective of all. These critics fail to realize that this choice to ban what was an optional reading assignment in the first place ultimately restricts community learning. Although some novels proposed for banning may contain instances of sex, bullying, drugs, alcohol, like Some Girls Are, or other controversial topics, readers ought to learn the history or reasons behind the controversy instead of hiding from them. Students at this school are now discouraged from reading and sharing any personal opinions or lessons learned from this book because of one's complaint. 

On the topic of book banning, Ronald Reagan famously asserted, “Libraries should be open to all...We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors.” Clearly, the President is trying to relay that without seeing matters from multiple perspectives in novels like Some Girls Are, people become narrow-minded and parochial. Thus, exposure to books encourages learning in communities, especially schools, and should be available to all.

Naysayers are right to argue that some book content may be unsuitable for certain audiences. However, these critics seem to forget that community members can make educated decisions for themselves or even for their children regarding what book to dive into. MacDonald made an educated decision to narrow her daughter's reading choices. She did not have to impose this on her daughter's peers. Stripping stories from the shelves only limits the ideas available to the community.

MacDonald's actions relay negative messages to not only the students, but arguably larger communities. The fact that her actions to ban, yes ban, Some Girls Are and the school's acceptance propounds that book banning is okay. It sends the message that teens are unfit to learn about such grossly adult topics like drugs, sex, and alcohol. MacDonald's choice tells students not to think critically; to close their minds and refuse to reach out, to not connect with resources that can be aids to real things occurring in the real world to teens right now. As author Courtney Summers said in her response to the incident,

We don’t protect teen readers by denying the realities many of them are faced with. Often, in doing so, we deny them a lifeline.


This practice of outlawing books threatens the expression of ideas today. Blogger Kelly at Stacked, however, has decided she isn't going to stand idle as students are robbed of a reading opportunity. She is hosting a fundraiser to purchase copies of Some Girls Are for all interested students through the Charleston County Library System. If you are interested in helping out, you can find more information here.

Don’t outlaw books, outlaw book banning.

*exhales* End rant.

24 comments :

  1. I agree 100%! It bothers me soooo much when one person feels the need to remove a book from a school or library just because they don't agree with the subject the book discusses. I respect parents rights to patrol what their children read, but when you begin making decisions for other children, that's when I get really angry. No one should have the right to remove a book from a school or library.

    This story irritates me even more because the school offered options! Okay, let your child read another book on the list. Why must you deprive ALL the students of this book just because you don't agree with the content??

    Thank you for this post. I'm really glad I'm not the only one who gets extremely upset by the ridiculousness that is the practice of book banning. I really wish people could understand the importance of allowing access to all books and the importance these books that are often banned could play in a child's life.

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    1. Thanks Jada! That's exactly what annoyed me about this entire incident. The parent could have EASILY allowed her daughter to read one of the other books. The school added another book to the curriculum just because of that complaint. But instead of just choosing another book, she complained further and had it removed without a committee! It just isn't fair for the other students!

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  2. Book banning frustrates me, because I feel like it restricts readers from being open-minded. Yes, you may feel uncomfortable by a book, but another reader might learn something from the book. Everyone has their limits, and they should ALL be respected.

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    1. Precisely, Emily! Different people have different tastes, and I think it's a matter of 'agreeing to disagree'. People need to realize that not everyone has the same opinions, morals, etc. It was okay for the parent to stop her daughter from reading the book as a personal choice, but not for her to stop everyone from reading it.

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  3. This just annoys me when people think their opinions are so important that they want their whole society to run some way. This mother had no right to ban this book from the school and I find that the school system was stupid for allowing her to get away with it. If taken to legal systems this could be taken as an act against the first amendment. Freedom Speech and expression is being violated here. Students have the right by the constitution to read what they want. If the mother felt so strongly against this book, she should have just told her daughter not to read it and stopped there. Her mentality just doesn't make sense to me. It just rises up the question, do we truly live in a democratic society? We let one individual make decisions for a whole district without the consult of others. It's just truly annoying and something I'm really passionate about. Great post! It truly raises some ideas about this controversial topic.

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    1. I feel the same way, Maria! In addition to the US Constitution, this also defiles the ALA (American Library Association) Bill of Rights! A challenge committee hadn't even met before they removed this book, again, because of ONE person's complaint! The whole problem just strikes me as ridiculous and could have been avoided in the first place of the parent didn't try and restrict everyone's school reading.

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    1. Thanks for the tag, Maria, I really appreciate it! I've actually already been tagged for the I Mustache You a Question tag, but I may re-post it in response to your post later.

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  5. Love this post! You make some fantastic points! I think schools are always trying to please parents because they don't want to cause a scene, but they need to be stronger advocates of education and for their students. Great rant :)

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    1. Haha, thanks Jade! I completely agree that schools should advocate for their students' education. They shouldn't comply and restrict everyone at one complaint.

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  6. Oh this is SUCH a problem.

    My parents have never stopped me from reading whatever I want. And I'm so grateful to them for it. I can't imagine being in a place where people try to control what we do and what we see. Some parents just don't realize that as morbid as it is, their kids will outlive them and IDK about them, but I want to be someone who's prepared to go into the real world knowing the whole truth - not just the bubblegum stuff. Yes, it's not pretty but it's real and no one should choose ignorance. it is not bliss when people are getting hurt and these dangers are so present.

    i haven't read the book in question but any book that teaches youth about the things that are really happening are NOT trash.

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    1. Thank you Nova! I'm with you on that! I am very lucky and glad that my parents have always allowed me to read what I wanted to read. Hiding the 'next generation' from harsh reality will only have a negative outcome. More people will get hurt. It's better for all if people are aware of these issues now, so in the future we'll be prepared. And I think books, like Some Girls Are, are a great way for us to prepare.

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  7. Wonderful post Claire! I feel like some parents feel they're "protecting" their children by not letting them read whatever they want, but that's completely false. Reading books about difficult issues helps tweens and teens see that the world isn't all sunshine and rainbows. It helps them stay more in tune with different cultures (if it's a book about diversity), learn what their freedoms and rights mean (if it's a dystopian book), and how poor decisions can negatively impact your life (some YA contemporary novels).

    Thanks for sharing this and, as always, fabulous discussion! ♥

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

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    1. Thanks Zoe! As I mentioned above, I think reading books, especially ones that tackle modern-day issues like bullying, alcohol abuse, etc. are a great way to prepare for the future. We as a whole can prevent these modern-day issues from occurring through awareness. That way, people will know what to do and how to react. As they saying goes, knowledge is power!

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  8. Book banning makes my blood boil. I can't stand it. What gives ONE PERSON--or even a group of people--the right to decide what books people have access to? If you keep shielding people from topics deemed to "sensitive" or "mature", how will they ever learn to deal with them? Reality alert--the world is not unicorns and rainbows, and people need to learn to come to terms with that at some point. Censoring in general is something I just do NOT understand.

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    1. Exactly, Erin! The whole concept is outrageous. It's better to learn about the 'sensitive' content and understand why it's considered sensitive than hide from all of it and be unprepared for the future.

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  9. My language arts class did a whole project on this and since then I have been sooo erked every time I hear these kinds of stories. I understand the parent's need to censor this kind of content from her daughter but the FACT that she had to take it off the whole entire list is just (say it with me) bullshit! Not only is it disrespecting the author (who A. put so much work into it just to have it be banned from reading B. spoke he/she's opinions in that story.) but banning it would just be telling the authors to "screw you opinion. it's not child friendly enough." Sooner or later people will have to face these situations: drugs, sex, alcohol; all that jazz. If you don't get exposed to that stuff and taught that it's not good before it's too late then that doesn't lead to good things. All I'm saying is that telling her daughter not to read the book bugged me a little, taking it off the reading list threw me into 5 different types of annoyance and rantiness.

    ~Kaitlin @ Next Page Please!

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    1. It bothers me too! It's not fair that the entire class was unable to read the book because of the one parent. I understand if some disliked it or didn't read it because of the content or personal reasons, but it's not fair to stop everyone from making their personal choice about their class reading assignment. You're right! This situation went from bad to worse.

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  10. OH MY GOSH. I love this post so much, like I want to FRAME IT. This is an incredibly important discussion and an amazing take on it as well. First of all, replacing Some Girls Are with Speak is not better. I have not yet read Some Girls Are, but I have read Speak which features similar themes. Schools and educators should not deny students REALITY. You have amazing points! I love how you took a recent real-world event and turned it into this great discussion. I agree that the principal should've just kept a third option instead of replacing Some Girls Are. Claire, you are becoming one of my favorite bloggers. Honest to God.

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    1. Aww thank you so much Jess! That means a lot to me.

      I completely agree that it is wrong of administrators to deny students reality. If one person doesn't like it, okay, they can do their own thing, but it isn't right to impose that same restriction on everyone else. Just as you said, it denies reality along with a great learning experience.

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  11. This is my first time viewing your blog, and I have NO IDEA how old you are, but I must say: you are more mature than most adults I know, and I say that as a compliment. I do not despise MacDonald for complaining about the book, because I respect each and every one's opinions. But like you, I really don't agree that she should ban the WHOLE school from reading it. And it's also the school's fault for agreeing to such ridiculous request. Like I said, everyone has their own opinions, and if she chose to be narrow-minded and not allow her daughter to read it, SO BE IT. But she need not have limit the amount of knowledge other kids could have gained from reading that book.

    You, girl, are amazing in writing this post. I do hope that more people would come and read this, because this is a problem in today's society that we definitely need to address.

    Maryam @ Once Upon A Story

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    1. Thank you Maryam! I really appreciate that!

      I've just started ninth grade, actually, so when I saw this issue occurred in a high school, I was drawn to it. I realize that different people have different reading preferences, morals, etc., but, as you said, it's important to remember that everyone has these different preferences-- making it completely unfair to ban an entire grade from reading it.

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  12. I love, love, LOVE this post, Claire! It is so well written and I cannot agree more. Book banning is a practice that needs to be abandoned, and I wish more people talked about it! It is fine if a person makes choices on what they personally are to read, or not read, but not when they start forcing those decisions onto others. This is the case with all beliefs, I think.

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    1. Thanks Erin! I completely agree! It's unfair to impose banning one specific book on all.

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