Thursday, October 22, 2009

FREE PEOPLE READ FREELY

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
—Benjamin Franklin

“God forbid that any book should be banned. The practice is as indefensible as infanticide.”
—Dame Rebecca West

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
—Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989)

According to the ACLU’s 13th Annual Report on Challenged and Banned Books in Texas Public Schools (http://aclutx.org/files/FREE%20PEOPLE%20READ%20FREELY%202009.pdf), House of Night is the most banned series in the state of Texas. Hum. Makes me even prouder to be an Okie! And, wow! I’ve joined some prestigious company: Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, John Steinbeck, Judy Blume, Salman Rushdie, Bram Stoker, and Cormac McCarthy (to name just a few authors who have been banned).

I really love the irony that one of the school systems banned my entire series. Yep. Even the books I haven’t written or published yet. As Aphrodite would say, “Crazy much?”

The fight against banning books is nothing new to me. As many of you know, I taught high school for fifteen years before I retired to write full time. During those years I stood my ground against tunnel-visioned, overbearing, smug parents/administrators/school board members as I insisted that one person or group of people do not have the right to choose for the rest of us what we read. No, please understand that I have always supported the parental right to excuse his or her child from reading, say, To Kill a Mockingbird (yes, this really did happen) because they didn’t want their kid “reading about rape and the N word.” But no parent has the right to decide for a school system, or a library, whether Harper Lee’s genius of a book should or shouldn’t be shelved.

Recently I was interviewed for a writer’s magazine and one of the questions was about advice I would give aspiring young adult authors and how they can get the tone of their YA books right. I said, basically, that an author has to really “get” teenagers to be able to write for them, and that often means an author needs to press the perceived envelope about what's "acceptable" to many adults, and instead write about what's real to teens today. The interviewer came back to me with this follow-up question:
By 'acceptable to adults,' do you mean sex, drugs and other behaviors that adults would rather not think of their teens as doing? And the case for writing about these behaviors in YA is that that's what teens face in their lives?

Here is my answer:
The case for writing realistically for teens is many faceted. First, there is the credibility issue. As I've said before, kids know whether you get them or not, and that's regardless of if we're talking about standing before hundreds of them in the classroom or writing for them. Also, I always write what I'd like to read, and I know teenagers too well to want to read/write Pollyanna stuff about them. And then it comes down to the fact that ignorance is not bliss. Avoiding subjects that are uncomfortable doesn't work for me on lots of different levels: I believe in sex ed. I believe in talking to my daughter honestly about life's unpleasantness. I believe in facing issues head-on with teens, even if it means I write the most banned series of books in Texas. Let's just be honest about what our kids are dealing with on a daily basis and open communication lines with them so that they don't have to face those things alone!

The ACLU said something very similar in their report:
“Once kids outgrow carpooling, perhaps parents should grow up, too.
Instead of trying to prevent pre-teens and teens from reading about what they already know, parents should consider reading to find out what’s going on in the lives of kids the same age as theirs. Carpooling by reading, so to speak. Then parents can use the books as starting points with their kids for heart-to-heart conversations about values and behavior. That way everyone might learn something. Instead of banning juvenile literature, let’s all read some and talk about it.”

It’s the truth: FREE PEOPLE READ FREELY. Just because someone disagrees with something, doesn’t give them the right to censure it from the rest of us.

I’ve been quietly checking out some of the stuff blogs have been saying about my series being banned. One blog group actually said that they could understand it because my books were basically about lots of oral sex. What? See, this highlights one of the most nauseating things about people who like to decide what others should or should not read: most of them don’t actually read the works they’re slandering. One of my favorite examples of this happened a couple of years ago in my sophomore English class. I was teaching a unit on Les Miserables, and used the 10th anniversary PBS musical special wherein famous actors/actresses from the London stage sang the score from the play. I gave my students a copy of the lyrics, so that they could follow along (and quote from the songs later in the papers I had them write). So a kid took home the lyrics. Her mom opened it to the Lovely Ladies song, read a couple of lines (literally – two or three), then skipped ahead and found Javert’s Stars, which is the song he sings to God before he commits suicide. She promptly called Spineless Principal and insisted I be forced to stop teaching Les Miserables because it was “about nothing but whores and suicide.” I refused to stop teaching a classic I’d been teaching for a decade because of one parent, and went on about the business of educating young minds. Next time I heard from Spineless Principal he was telling me not to worry about cutting Les Miserables from my lesson plans (which I hadn’t been doing anyway) because the parent had called and retracted her demand. Seems someone at church had told her that the play really was okay, so she guessed it must be all right. No, she never bothered to read any more of the lyrics, watch the PBS special, or read Victor Hugo’s book.

Here’s the bottom line: READ SOME BANNED BOOKS. Talk about them. Share them. Get vocal about your right as an American to exercise your freedom of speech. Start with Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. And, like Juan Ramon Jimenez said, “If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.”

Happy reading!
PC Cast

29 comments:

mean mom productions said...

OMG...I wish you can been my highschool teacher. I actually made national news with some college students in Texas..you'll have to email me for the details. It was about something similar. Yes, its wrong...everyone wants freewill but everyone with a "god" complex thinks differently.

Briony said...

PC, What do you think about the new e-book delays?

I heard some Authors (like Stephen King) are delaying E-book formats because the lower e-book prices interfere with the higher "Hardcover" prices that are the first in the publishing schedule. They delay the cheaper e-books until after the more expensive Hardcovers have been out for awhile so they get the higher revenue. (see article)
http://shelf-life.ew.com/2009/10/23/stephen-king-ebook-delay-price-wa/

Will Tempted be coming out in e-book version? Amazon and BN still don't have it availble for pre-order. I have a Kindle and the best part is downloading a book 1 second after midnight when it's first available. Then I stay up all night to read the book before the bookstores even open. Not to mention how many trees we save for Mother earth.

QueenofPlanetHotflash said...

AMEN SISTAH!!! I am 49 and have read your books love em, so have my 3 daughters and 2 granddaughters we pass the books down the line. People are just afraid they are going to actually talk to their children and have to explain, they would rather stick them in front of a TV with a Nintendo going rather than answer any questions.

PC Cast said...

Briony - few authors have any control over what format their publishers release their books in. If Mr. King is holding the release of an e-book, then I would guess he maintained rights to do that. I don't have those rights, and have no say in Kindle, hardback, mass market or any other format decisions. The last I heard the TEMPTED would definitely be out in an e-format, and out on time.

ricaspaz said...

The only thing I can say is that pretty much no teacher will assign something to do with sex, rape, drugs, etc before junior high and if any parent thinks that their child has no inkling about any of the topics by seventh grade then the parents are the ones that are naive

Keith R. B. said...

I had the same problem at my school a few years ago. I was re-reading one of the "Harry Potter" books and I had some teacher or the Dean of Students tell me that I couldn't read that because it contained magic and witchcraft. I didn't flip out or anything but I got a pass to the library, and took every single book in there that even mentioned magic or evil (or anything similar) and took it to the office and said "These books shouldn't be here, they contain magic and witchcraft" So I got in trouble for taking books out of the library without charging them out, and had to go talk to the principal. Well she said I had a point and that she was a "Harry Potter" fan also and that she was going to have a talk with whoever it was who told me I couldn't have my book. She said that it's a direct violation of the bill of rights, and that "Harry Potter' is one of the best out there. And I agree that the "House of Night" series is like tied for first place in my favorite series of books.

-- It just stuns me that people are so stupid do try and pull stuff like this, kids should be allowed to read what they want to (within reason). *sorry if this keeps coming up, but the thing keeps telling me "incorrect password"*

>EmilyOkie< said...

Kudos, because that is the only way narrow minded people can learn to open their minds and enjoy books the way they were meant to be. People are so concerned about the "Right to bear arms" that they don't realize their brain is the most important weapon!!

:) said...

Wow, they really ban books? In Singapore most 15 year old sudents have to read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 as their literature material! :) Well im glad i don't live in Texas, cause HON series is No. 1 on my favourite books list!

Priscella said...

PC, can I interview you for a school project through instant messaging?

I have to research a job and I need to do a personal interview through instant messaging, phone, or in person. I've decided I wanted to do book authors. Please reply. :D
Thanks

PC Cast said...

Priscella - all interview requests need to go through my publicist, Katy Hershberger, katy.hershberger@stmartins.com

Kathy said...

I'm a huge reader and always have been. When I was in school, if a teacher assigned a book I didn't want to read, I simply didn't read the book and took the hit on my grades. But the choice was my own. I never refused to read a book because it contained magic, sex, violence or other stuff, I just didn't find the story interesting. But I read like mad. My nickname in school was bookworm because I had one book I was reading and three more in my purse in case I finished before the day was over.

I seriously disagree with banning books for any reason. I don't believe anyone has the right to force their own views or beliefs on us, and banning a book because it contains material you don't like is forcing your views on everyone else. Let people decide for themselves what they want to read. Most parents should be glad their kids read at all with all the temptations that are out there.

Denise~ said...

PC - I find it absurd that your book is banned in a school - any school.

Years ago a long time friend gave me a pin that read "I read Banned Books". Every year the library association prints a new list of banned books - and encourages people to read them. I'm usually stunned at some of the titles on these lists - many of my favorites and quite a few classics have been found "unacceptable" by some ignorant group/person.
Having said that - Consider yourself in good company!

924168194 said...

u go girl.

deadgirl said...

P.C
I really enjoy your books. I am older 32 years old. My sister Bri is 13 years old, she love to read. I like you to know what teen are reading today.When I was younger there was nothing that I enjoyed to read.
Some people think she to young. I have my sister reading Gone with Wind. She come asking why do white people treat anyone different. My answer it was how they were raised to be blind. That's why mom and I tell you to talk the person before passing judgement. Above all else. Everything is just only face value. That how most people like to see things. Its your job to look pass it.

So keep writing. fight the good fight.
C.C

Sophie said...

Hey PC, all I have to say is:

YOU GO GIRL!!

I am a pre-teen (I am 12) and I have seen my fair share of plain jane PTA life controlers. I think you are an inspiration, you are not afraid to deal with subjects that go on like sex, that teens have to deal with. I love your books and can't wait for Tempted to come out and I have been told that they are unacceptable by certain teachers but do I care? NO! You really 'get' us teens and pre- teens and I think you are doing a great job.

Sophie xoxo

Heather said...

Being a teacher, it's hard for me when I find a good book that I know I just couldn't assign. I keep a list of them, and some more convoluted "appropriate" books and I give the list to the students as an option to read for extra credit or to get out of their final. They have to go home and get their parents to sign off on what they choose (even though they're high school students) just to cover my butt. It's optional and they could pick something else so I get by okay. I wish I could assign Ken Follett's Pillars or World W/O End, but one has a rape scene and they both have a sex scene. They're so historically accurate and they get excited about the Middle Ages after reading it, but I only get one or two kids a year that will pick them. Plus, I talk to the kids about what they've chosen and make sure they're mature enough for their picks.
As for Texas... Grrr... my husband wanted to move there and I told him it wasn't happening. They also think Michelangelo's David should be removed from all texts because the statue "violates their daughters". Apparently there's no difference between the David and Hustler.
I'm sure that this will mean that more kids will try to sneak your books. The best way to increase somethings popularity amongst teenagers is to ban something. Good luck dealing with the neanderthal's.

PC Cast said...

Heather - I was right there in the trenches with you, girl. I fought to have novel day every Friday, where kids read WHAT THEY WANTED TO READ instead of "literature." I, too, had to have parents sign forms that I kept on file so I could show they approved of their child's choices, which was actually fine with me. What wasn't fine was that I had to continually battle my administration about the importance of reading. Yep, "educated" professionals in the field of education fought me on the importance of reading. The first English department meeting after I left teaching they did away with the reading program I'd established for fifteen years. That would be at South Intermediate High School in Broken Arrow, OK. What a terrible disservice they're doing those kids!

Keep fighting - it's worth it. Novel day was the single most successful programs I used in my classroom. Literally hundreds of teens rediscovered their love of reading through being free to choose (with parent approval) everything from Dean Koontz to Nora Roberts to Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey (whose Pern books I managed to teach a couple time), Pat Conroy, and many other amazing authors.

Well done you Heather!

PC

Bethany said...

First of all, let me tell you that my mother taught English in small town Texas for 20 years and also owns a t-shirt that says, "My library has something to offend everyone." I have lived in Texas my whole life, and if anything offends Texans, it's most likely the "bashing" of a protestant group. whether the group is fictional or not. Don't get me wrong, there are some truthful parallels between HoN's "People of Faith" and other churches, but no one wants their kid to read something that bashes their beliefs.

That said, banning a book, (or series,) is ridiculous. I make a point to find out what's "hot" in YA so that I can read it before my daughter. If I find something objectionable for her impressionable mind,(she's only 10,) I don't let her read it. More importantly, I make an alternative suggestion to the book. Parents need to make the decisions, not schools.

I love the HoN books, but they're not appropriate for my daughter, yet. And that's my decision to make, not her school's.

r.a.b. said...

Wow, my library won't even stock your books, yet they have all of Anne Rice's books! They also have another book called teen idol, and they just used sharpie to black out the words! terrible terrible terrible! Something needs to be done about these people! they remind me of the people of faith. hhmmm.

Kelly Renee said...

I don't understand why books are banned in the first place. Because insecure parents feel the need to keep their children in the dark and "protect" them from what's really going on in the world? That's being ignorant and naive, my friends.

And yes, P.C., I think your books should not be banned and that they actually teach a reader something.

I'm also proud to say that your books are in my school's library.

A_Lafont_Lurver said...

Jeez it happened to Richelle Mead of the Vampire Academy series too. Sigh.

Heather said...

I know it's not all Texans. I should have clarified that. I just didn't want to risk moving into an area where it was happening. Seeing how I didn't have any friends that could direct me to certain counties, I figured it was best to avoid the risk. Although, I ended up in Tennessee, which can be worst in some areas. I just happened to know where I would fit in within the state.

Elizabeth said...

In my school district, To Kill a Mockingbird is a 9th grade staple. Everyone is required to read it, and write about it. It amazes me that it's a banned book in some areas. With your books it's even more suprising because your characters are (mostly) very good moral examples who just make some mistakes. You can definitely add me to the list of people who think it should be a parent's choice whether or not their child should read any book. What is good for one kid may not be for the other, but to deny the child who is ready is a disgrace. And on that note... Education is the best tool against ignorance.

Lyndsey_1321 said...

Lyndsey....

I love the house of night books... I finished tempted not to long ago.. anyways I would like to comment on the banned books. I live in Dallas Tx and love my state with all my heart... I would have to say... the schools should not ban the books maybe they should have a age limit on the books... I dont think middle school children should be reading a book that is meant for 16 and up. Just like they have an age limit for games they should have them for the books in the schools. Also, parents should maybe read with there children and talk about the context in the books... and the children will open up more to there parents as well.

Darlene said...

PC... WAY TO GO! Both my daughter (14) & I have just discovered your House of Night books... WOW!! - blown away, amazing and extradorinary writing! We have loved the series.

Australian schools must be a little more progressive... LOL!... My daughter's Yr 9 class are studying Vampires this semester. While their focus has been Twilight... Ashlei did try to get the teacher to use the House of Night series instead... that's how much she loved them. For their end of yr exams, they had to write an original concept story about Vampires, etc.... I can't wait to see what she has come up with! She has also told me that they have been having some quite vocal debates about Vampires, etc - oh to be in her class...

Tempted has just been released in Australia... so we're determining who reads it first... hehe!

As far as the sex or other issues - any questions Ash has, well we answer them... how hard is it really!

take care - don't ever stop your brilliant creativity & inspiration in the written word.

hugs
Darlene

SRHaws said...

PC - You go girl! It never ceases to amaze me that ignorant judgmental people continue to think that by banning books (or anything really) will actually prevent people from reading what has been banned. Those asinine actions only serve to encourage people to want to do the opposite. I bet your HON books are flying off the shelves in Texas.

I completely agree with you that knowledge is power. If you don't give your kids all the information to be able to make the best decisions possible when the time comes, then you have not been a responsible parent. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Its a recipe for disaster.

I have two teenagers and no subject is off limits. I am so happy for you and the success of HON. We met in Reno two years ago. I really miss the Goddess Summoning series though. Maybe that one stupid blog post got one of the HON books mixed up with Goddess of Love! :)

Keep up the great work!

Bandit said...

Hi P.C.
I am a fan of The House of Night series, they are one of my favourite books to read also I am a fan of your work, and I like to say your books are really captivating I could actually relate to Zoey and her problems lol.
I am so thrilled I just can’t wait to get you new book and I would like to thank you for a wonderful story like this one.
*Bandit*

Pamela said...

PC,
I have just finished reading your series. The entire series in about 5 days. My oldest daughter (18) introduced me to your stories. You are an exceptionally talented author. I hope that nothing ever discourages you from continuing to write. I will be turning these books over to my youngest daughter (11) now that I have read all of them. I read everything before my children do so that I can answer any questions the subject matter may cause to arise. I agree with you and many of your readers that book banning is an awful practice that only leads to further ignorance and prejudice.
Please keep up the wonderful work,and know that in some school districts your books are being added to the AR books list.

Jess said...

I find it entirely ridiculous too that any book should be banned! Here in the UK "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a GCSE set text that we all have to study! And one of my cousins' middle name is "Jem", after Jem in the book - my auntie is a secondary school english teacher. If she heard about that she'd go mad!!! All I have to say is good for you - standing up to the system - i heart that! I'm now going to re-read "TKAM" and then read other US banned books. I think no books should EVER be banned - I'm with you!!
x