Is there something in the air? Another AS IF! member is under fire
for a book she's written. This time, it's Ellen Wittlinger and her wonderful and wonderfully thought-provoking young adult novel, Sandpiper
. A teenager in Alabama checked it out from her school library, and was so offended by the book's content that she decided, with the support of her grandmother, that she wasn't going to ever turn it in again.
Alas, this is a very common tactic on the part of book censors, so I hope this teenager doesn't think she's being particularly clever. These folks seem to think that by destroying public property, they're "protecting" society from some nefarious "evil"; we at AS IF! think they're depriving others of the fundamental right to decide for themselves what books they want to read and striking at the very heart of what it means to be an American--and that they're stealing to boot.
You say "potato," I say "potahto."
But why am I blathering on when we have the oh-so-eloquent Ellen Wittlinger to tell us exactly what she
thinks about all of this?
I was surprised at just how chilling it was to read in the Tuscaloosa News that a fifteen-year-old girl, Lysa Harding, and her grandmother were calling my novel, Sandpiper, “offensive” and “sick.” I know that there are people in this country who, in the name of religion, feel high school students should be kept as ignorant of sex as possible, but I was shocked that the girl herself was equally afraid of knowledge.
Lysa says, “At my high school they teach abstinence and no sex before marriage, but then all the book is teaching is how to do those things.” Which tells me that she didn’t read past page two on which there is one paragraph, six lines, describing the protagonist’s take on oral sex. The last line of the paragraph is, “It’s like I’m not even there anymore.” Hardly a recommendation or a how-to guide. This is the only sex in the book except for a near-rape at the end, also not an advertisement for early promiscuity.
The reason I wrote a book on this subject to begin with was because I kept hearing about middle-school girls who were very blasé about oral sex. They didn’t think of it as “real” sex. They also didn’t enjoy it much, but it was becoming a cool thing to do. It seemed like a worthy topic to tackle in a book, but I knew if I set it in a middle-school I’d have lots of parents upset with me, so I made my protagonist a fifteen high school girl, an age at which there are probably very few students who have never heard of oral sex.
Of course, the bottom-line, as always, is that Lysa Harding didn’t have to read the book if she didn’t want to. But there are no doubt other students who do want to read it and she should not be able to decide what anyone else can or cannot read.
And if you're reading this, Lysa, please know that among the 86 members of AS IF!, there are almost certainly some of your favorite authors (definitely some of mine!). Be aware that virtually all of us, including these authors of the books that have inspired and enchanted you your whole life, are saddened by your actions.