Author Defends Her Novel Stating that Rape is Not Soft Porn

For an event like Banned Books Week, it never hurts to have a cause célèbre, and this year, organizers needn’t have gone very far in search of one. They just had to turn to Twitter, where people have been rallying behind the young-adult author Laurie Halse Anderson, whose best-selling 1999 novel, “Speak,” has found itself at the center of a heated censorship debate.

Earlier this month, Anderson posted a series of messages about a Missouri man who wanted “Speak” removed from the high school curriculum in his school district. The man, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of management at Missouri State University, wrote an opinion article for The Springfield News-Leader in which he said that “Speak” — as well as Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” — should be classified as “soft pornography.” (“Speak,” for the record, is the story of a high school girl who is raped by an acquaintance but then tells no one, is ostracized as a result of rumors about the episode, and becomes virtually mute. It was nominated for the 1999 National Book Award and was a Printz Honor title in 2000.)

Soon, Paul W. Hankins, a high school English teacher in Indiana, wrote a message of support to Anderson. He encouraged others to write on Twitter about “Speak,” using the hashtag #speakloudly. Then Judy Blume, renowned chronicler of all things adolescent, got involved. “Outrageous!” she wrote in a Twitter message to Anderson. Blume — herself no stranger to efforts to censor her work — serves on the board of directors of the National Coalition Against Censorship and promised to bring the “Speak” issue to that organization’s attention.

On her Twitter feed, Anderson listed the ways in which she believed Scroggins had misinterpreted her work. What upset her most, she said, was his characterization of a book about rape as “soft pornography.”

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