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.
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.
*exhales* End rant.