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Banned Books Week


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

different seas.


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.

-Ellen Hopkins

9 thoughts on “Banned Books Week

    • If I had remembered my purse, I would have walked away spending WAY too much money.

      The one I went to was the Ya Literature Conference put on by Anderson’s Bookshop here in Naperville. It’s the BEST place in the entire world, I swear. It was geared toward teachers and librarians too but I feel like I learned a lot as well.

      Crank was one of those books that terrified me to the very core in hopes that my children NEVER use drugs. But it was an amazing book.

  1. Thanks for the reminder that it’s Banned Books Week, Erin. I heard about that school that uninvited Ellen Hopkins to an event because a few parents were up in arms about her books. I can’t remember all the details, but the other authors who were also attending declined to go because of the way they treated Ellen. I think her books are powerful and deal with important issues that teens face, and there’s a great need for those books. Thanks for this post.

  2. Thanks, Lynn. I heard about the same event with Hopkins. On one hand I appreciated the authors and the solidarity there. On the other, I just found it so sad that in this day and age people would have a problem with her books in the first place. Because you’re right–there is a great need for books like that. For ALL books.

    I read a blog post by Veronica Roth during the YA Saves initiative which really made me think–there should be books for everyone. Some kids might be too young or too sensitive to read a book like Crank, so they shouldn’t read it (but should get to decide that for themselves). But there are others who desperately need books like that to cope with the reality of their own lives. And why would anyone want to stop that?

  3. Hi, I found your blog in a search for the actual youtube video from the conference – I was there, too! Everyone I met asked which library I reprensented, but I was there as an unpublished writer who loves YA. Everyone was nice but one lady seemed pretty underwhelmed, ha. Are you an educator?

    • Ha! Nope. Not an educator, though I did leave that day wanting to be a librarian :). Just another unpublished YA writer who wanted in on the fun. Did you enjoy the conference? I haven’t seen the video yet either, but I haven’t looked in a few days. I think you can get to it on bannedbookweek.org.

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