I had the immense pleasure of attending my very first YA Literature Conference yesterday. Spending eight hours with a group of people dedicated to literature and literacy was like a B Shot for my brain.
The very first activity we participated in was a virtual read out for Banned Books Week, which started yesterday. Words are powerful. Authors have been challenging ideals since they were able to put words on paper, but there are those out there who would stifle a voice that disagrees with their own. Censorship. Does anyone find it ironic that the word meant to protect us from dirty words is, itself, a dirty word?
Ellen Hopkins, author of YA books like Crank and Tricks, wrote a poem called Manifesto which conveys this issue much more eloquently than I ever could. So I’m going to share it with you. Because after we read this outloud as a group at the conference yesterday, I felt empowered. I hope you will too. And I hope you’ll fight censorship with us. All voices have a right to be heard.
To you zealots and bigots and false
patriots who live in fear of discourse.
You screamers and banners and burners
who would force books
off shelves in your brand name
of greater good.
You say you’re afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption
by perversion of sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones to break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.
You say you’re afraid for America,
the red, white and blue corroded
by terrorists, socialists, the sexually
confused. But we are a vast quilt
of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered
identities. You cannot speak for those
whose ancestors braved
You say you’re afraid for God,
the living word eroded by Muhammed
and Darwin and Magdalene.
But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven
and earth designed intelligence.
Surely you dare not speak
for the father, who opens
his arms to all.
A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.