On Tuesday, The Post and Courier shared an article about a parent’s outcry against content in Courtney Summers’ Some Girls Are. In the article the parent confiscated her child’s Kindle because she deemed the book “inappropriate for her to read.” The book was an optional selection for her daughter’s summer reading program at the high school she was enrolling in. The parent took her complaint to the school and the book was instantly removed.
This is a real travesty in my eyes, and once again it shows how parents thinking they are saving their children by shielding them from content that THEY think is inappropriate or that THEY don’t think they will understand. For those unfamiliar with Summers’ novel, it focuses on a girl who was once a member of a popular clique (a group of bullies) who is then frozen out of the group, and bullied herself. The book is raw and rich with emotion, and it doesn’t shy away from how bullying can ultimately destroy a person’s self-worth. There’s nothing gentle in this story, and it’s exploration of how horrific people can be is quite human — it’s a situation all of us can relation to whether we were the victim of bullying or were the bully.
The parent deemed this book “smut” over a simple comment in the novel regarding “blow jobs.” Let’s be real here: THOSE THINGS HAPPEN AT SCHOOL. In fact, sexual acts at school have risen over the years, and the comment where it occurs in the story is done in quite the off-the-cuff way. The parent has since finished the novel still deeming it problematic. That’s fine, you can dislike the novel all you want, but you don’t think there’s anything to learn from it? This is a statement I disagree with.
I always believed that every book you read has some value to it, even the terrible ones. Reading teaches us so many spectacular things, sharing a variety of thoughts and opinions. It’s why freedom of speech is so important. Furthermore, what this parent has done is deny her child and ever other student the opportunity to study Some Girls Are on a much more thoughtful level. This book lends itself well to discussion, to arguments even, and it’s great for offering varied points of view, especially on the behaviours of the books heroine, Regina.
What saddens me the most are the parents who jump to conclusions and refuse to see merit in books that are often considered challenging. They feel it’s their duty to shield their children from this content and yet what they should be doing is opening a dialogue with them, discussing the pros, cons, issues presented within the novel. If anything parents are dis-servicing themselves from making connections with their children through what they read. It’s fantastic when a parent wants to read the same things as their child to build understanding and forge relationships, it’s another to read with them and basically tell them that this content is off-limits.
When I was an ESL teacher, my students hated reading the classics that were often assigned to them at school. They’d come in, try to piece together what they thought was important about these books, only to ask me if they could read something else because the content was “boring” or “too old.” I still believe that while classics have their value and can be great to read, it’s time to start populating schools with books that they can relate to. Give teens the tough topics they are clearly craving and want to read. When you deny a teen the right to read something with a tough subject matter, the more they want to go and read it themselves.
Parents, I urge you, please do not police your child’s reading. You’re not doing them a dis-service, but you’re also doing a dis-service to yourself. Reading, discussion and providing understanding of novels can bring you closer to your teen if it’s something you wish to engage in. However, reading about tougher subjects and allowing your teen to explore the topics on terms they are comfortable with will go a long way. I cannot stress this enough. Give your teen the courage to explore topics instead of restricting their intellectual freedoms. Open channels for discussion and dialogue instead of telling them you know better then they do — odds are, you actually don’t know any better! You don’t live their lives or deal with their day to day crap or how their emotionally feeling, but you can make a difference if you allow them to explore the tough topics they want to read about and communicate with them.
I am disheartened for the students of West Ashley High School because of one parent’s outcry. It means they miss out on reading a book that is not only engaging, but written by someone who gets what teens are going through and writes in such a way where there is so much to be learned. Courtney writes with such honesty, and while her topics aren’t always pretty, she stands by her stories. There’s a reason why the book has a Kirkus Star and was a Silver Birch Nominee in the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading. The book has accolades to back up a mind-blowingly rough story.
However, we can change this: for starters, check out Kelly Jensen’s campaign to get Some Girls Are in the hands of teens. You can check out her efforts here. For a $1 you can help get Some Girls Are into the hands of teens who want to read this novel and deem it important to their education. Second, I want to reread Some Girls Are in August as a means to not only support the amazing Courtney Summers, but to also bring awareness and discussion about this novel to everyone. I hope you will join me using the hashtag #SomeGirlsAre as your reading the novel throughout the month. Let’s celebrate this novel throughout August!
Join me in August in not only supporting the talented Courtney Summers, but in reading Some Girls Are. I promise that when you finish the book it will not only leave you breathless, but it will leave you thinking and wanting discussion.