Persuasive Essay: Banned Books

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Persuasive Essay: Banned Books

Every year at the end of September, the American Library Association (or ALA) sponsors Banned Books Week in order to celebrate the freedom to read and honor books that have been challenged or banned somewhere in the world that year. This year Banned Books Week is celebrating its 30th anniversary during the week of September 30-October 6.
The ALA believes that no material should be subject to censorship and opposes the idea that censorship is needed at times when there are "threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals.” Those in favor of what is often referred to as “book-banning” feel that there are instances where the censorship or removal of a book is necessary, especially in libraries geared toward younger ages.
In order to construct this persuasive essay, you will need to use your own background knowledge about banned books and the ones you have read as well as information from the three articles provided to you. As you read the articles, complete a talking to the text. Then ask yourself:

Are any instances in which schools and public libraries should restrict or censor books in their collections?

If yes, then think about…

If no, then think about…

  • Under what circumstances should schools ban or censor books?

(ie. When is it ok to censor or ban materials?)

  • What does it accomplish by banning or censoring books?

  • What is the impact on schools, libraries, students, parents, etc. when books are banned or censored?

  • What about violent, sexually-explicit, or profane materials? Are they appropriate to be in a middle school library?

  • What about parents who do want their children reading objectionable materials?

  • What about the idea that teenagers will be encourage to try potentially dangerous or morally objectionable activities?

After deciding which stance you will take, revisit the articles to complete a Quote-Note-Thought in order to pull out quotes or parts of the article to reference in your paper.

Each essay should have an introduction with a thesis statement, a body that include cited information from the articles, and a conclusion and will be graded using the Keystone Persuasive Writing Scoring Guidelines Rubric.

Please complete a talking to the text with each article!

Darkness Too Visible
Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence
and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?

By Meghan Cox Gurdon ∙ June 4, 2011

Amy Freeman, a 46-year-old mother of three, stood recently in the young-adult section of her local Barnes & Noble, in Bethesda, Md., feeling thwarted and disheartened.

She had popped into the bookstore to pick up a welcome-home gift for her 13-year-old, who had been away. Hundreds of lurid and dramatic covers stood on the racks before her, and there was, she felt, "nothing, not a thing, that I could imagine giving my daughter. It was all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff." She left the store empty-handed.

How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it.

If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.

Now, whether you care if adolescents spend their time immersed in ugliness probably depends on your philosophical outlook. Reading about homicide doesn't turn a man into a murderer; reading about cheating on exams won't make a kid break the honor code. But the calculus that many parents make is less crude than that: It has to do with a child's happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart. Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.

If you think it matters what is inside a young person's mind, surely it is of consequence what he reads. This is an old dialectic—purity vs. despoliation, virtue vs. smut—but for families with teenagers, it is also everlastingly new. Adolescence is brief; it comes to each of us only once, so whether the debate has raged for eons doesn't, on a personal level, really signify.

As it happens, 40 years ago, no one had to contend with young-adult literature because there was no such thing. There was simply literature, some of it accessible to young readers and some not. As elsewhere in American life, the 1960s changed everything. In 1967, S.E. Hinton published "The Outsiders," a raw and striking novel that dealt directly with class tensions, family dysfunction and violent, disaffected youth. It launched an industry.

Mirroring the tumultuous times, dark topics began surging on to children's bookshelves. A purported diary published anonymously in 1971, "Go Ask Alice," recounts a girl's spiral into drug addiction, rape, prostitution and a fatal overdose. A generation watched Linda Blair playing the lead in the 1975 made-for-TV movie "Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic" and went straight for Robin S. Wagner's original book. The writer Robert Cormier is generally credited with having introduced utter hopelessness to teen narratives. His 1977 novel, "I Am the Cheese," relates the delirium of a traumatized youth who witnessed his parents' murder, and it does not (to say the least) have a happy ending.

Grim though these novels are, they seem positively tame in comparison with what's on shelves now. In Andrew Smith's 2010 novel, "The Marbury Lens," for example, young Jack is drugged, abducted and nearly raped by a male captor. After escaping, he encounters a curious pair of glasses that transport him into an alternate world of almost unimaginable gore and cruelty. Moments after arriving he finds himself facing a wall of horrors, "covered with impaled heads and other dripping, black-rot body parts: hands, hearts, feet, ears, penises. Where the f— was this?" No happy ending to this one, either.

In Jackie Morse Kessler's gruesome but inventive 2011 take on a girl's struggle with self-injury, "Rage," teenage Missy's secret cutting turns nightmarish after she is the victim of a sadistic sexual prank. "She had sliced her arms to ribbons, but the badness remained, staining her insides like cancer. She had gouged her belly until it was a mess of meat and blood, but she still couldn't breathe." Missy survives, but only after a stint as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless. If a teen has been abused, the logic follows, reading about another teen in the same straits will be comforting. If a girl cuts her flesh with a razor to relieve surging feelings of self-loathing, she will find succor in reading about another girl who cuts, mops up the blood with towels and eventually learns to manage her emotional turbulence without a knife.

Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care.

The novel "Scars," a dreadfully clunky 2010 exercise by Cheryl Rainfield that School Library Journal inexplicably called "one heck of a good book," ran into difficulties earlier this year at the Boone County Library in Kentucky, but not because of its contents. A patron complained that the book's depiction of cutting—the cover shows a horribly scarred forearm—might trigger a sufferer's relapse. That the protagonist's father has been raping her since she was a toddler and is trying to engineer her suicide was not the issue for the team of librarians re-evaluating the book.

"Books like 'Scars,' or with questionable material, those provide teachable moments for the family," says Amanda Hopper, the library's youth-services coordinator, adding: "We like to have the adult perspective, but we do try to target the teens because that's who's reading it." The book stayed on the shelves.

Perhaps the quickest way to grasp how much more lurid teen books have become is to compare two authors: the original Judy Blume and a younger writer recently hailed by Publishers Weekly as "this generation's Judy Blume."

The real Judy Blume won millions of readers (and the disapprobation of many adults) with then-daring novels such as 1970's "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret," which deals with female puberty, 1971's "Then Again, Maybe I Won't," which addresses puberty from a boy's perspective, and 1975's "Forever," in which teenagers lose their virginity in scenes of earnest practicality. Objectionable the material may be for some parents, but it's not grotesque.

By contrast, the latest novel by "this generation's Judy Blume," otherwise known as Lauren Myracle, takes place in a small Southern town in the aftermath of an assault on a gay teenager. The boy has been savagely beaten and left tied up with a gas pump nozzle shoved down his throat, and he may not live. The protagonist of "Shine," a 16-year-old girl and once a close friend of the victim, is herself yet to recover from a sexual assault in eighth grade; assorted locals, meanwhile, reveal themselves to be in the grip of homophobia, booze and crystal meth. Determined in the face of police indifference to investigate the attack on her friend, the girl relives her own assault (thus taking readers through it, too) and acquaints us with the concept of "bag fags," heterosexuals who engage in gay sex for drugs. The author makes free with language that can't be reprinted in a newspaper.

In the book business, none of this is controversial, and, to be fair, Ms. Myracle's work is not unusually profane. Foul language is widely regarded among librarians, reviewers and booksellers as perfectly OK, provided that it emerges organically from the characters and the setting rather than being tacked on for sensation. In Ms. Myracle's case, with her depiction of redneck bigots with meth-addled sensibilities, the language is probably apt.

But whether it's language that parents want their children reading is another question. Alas, literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to

the words or storylines in young-adult books. In a letter excerpted by the industry magazine, the Horn Book, several years ago, an editor bemoaned the need, in order to get the book into schools, to strip expletives from Chris Lynch's 2005 novel, "Inexcusable," which revolves around a thuggish jock and the rape he commits. "I don't, as a rule, like to do this on young adult books," the editor grumbled, "I don't want to compromise on how kids really talk. I don't want to acknowledge those f—ing gatekeepers."

By f—ing gatekeepers (the letter-writing editor spelled it out), she meant those who think it's appropriate to guide what young people read. In the book trade, this is known as "banning." In the parenting trade, however, we call this "judgment" or "taste." It is a dereliction of duty not to make distinctions in every other aspect of a young person's life between more and less desirable options. Yet let a gatekeeper object to a book and the industry pulls up its petticoats and shrieks "censorship!"

It is of course understood to be an act of literary heroism to stand against any constraints, no matter the age of one's readers; Ms. Myracle's editor told Publishers Weekly that the author "has been on the front lines in the fight for freedom of expression."

Every year the American Library Association delights in releasing a list of the most frequently challenged books. A number of young-adult books made the Top 10 in 2010, including Suzanne Collins's hyper-violent, best-selling "Hunger Games" trilogy and Sherman Alexie's prize-winning novel, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian." "It almost makes me happy to hear books still have that kind of power," Mr. Alexie was quoted saying; "There's nothing in my book that even compares to what kids can find on the Internet."

Oh, well, that's all right then. Except that it isn't. It is no comment on Mr. Alexie's work to say that one depravity does not justify another. If young people are encountering ghastly things on the Internet, that's a failure of the adults around them, not an excuse for more envelope-pushing.

Veteran children's bookseller Jewell Stoddard traces part of the problem to aesthetic coarseness in some younger publishers, editors and writers who, she says, "are used to videogames and TV and really violent movies and they love that stuff. So they think that every 12-year-old is going to love that stuff and not be affected by it. And I don't think that's possible."

In an effort to keep the most grueling material out of the hands of younger readers, Ms. Stoddard and her colleagues at Politics & Prose, an independent Washington, D.C., bookstore, created a special "PG-15" nook for older teens. With some unease, she admits that creating a separate section may inadvertently lure the attention of younger children keen to seem older than they are.

At the same time, she notes that many teenagers do not read young-adult books at all. Near the end of the school year, when she and a colleague entertained students from a nearby private school, only three of the visiting 18 juniors said that they read YA books.

So it may be that the book industry's ever-more-appalling offerings for adolescent readers spring from a desperate desire to keep books relevant for the young. Still, everyone does not share the same objectives. The book business exists to sell books; parents exist to rear children, and oughtn't be daunted by cries of censorship. No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children's lives.


Books We can Recommend for Young Adult Readers


Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)
This grueling post-apocalyptic National Book Award winner earns its scenes of menace and the odd expletive by believably conjuring a future in which people survive by scavenging materials from the rusting hulks of oil tankers. In a pitiless semi-civilization, one single act of decency launches a young man on a terrifying journey.

Peace by Richard Bausch (2009)
For older teens, a taut World War II novel set in 1944 that evokes the conflicting moral struggles of war. When a detachment of American GIs tramping through the Italian countryside discovers an escaping German soldier and a young woman hiding in the back of a cart, the resulting bloodshed—is it murder or self-defense?—sets off profound reverberations in the men's hearts.

Old School by Tobias Wolff (2004)
Set in a smart New England prep school in the 1960s, this story of a young man's search for authentic identity captures the mixture of longing and ambition that causes so many adolescents to try, if only for a time, to shape themselves along other people's lines. Here, the admired models are writers—Ernest Hemingway, Ayn Rand, Robert Frost—who visit the school and for whom the young protagonist contorts himself in painful and revealing ways.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

A science-fiction classic that offers surprisingly mordant commentary on contemporary American life. In a society where rampant political correctness has resulted in the outlawing of books, Guy Montag works as a "fireman" tasked with destroying intellectual contraband. His wife spends her days immersed in the virtual reality projected on screens around her. When Guy accidentally reads a line from a book, he finds himself strangely stirred—and impelled to an act of recklessness that will change his life forever. Teenagers whose families are maddeningly glued to screens may find Guy's rebellion bracingly resonant.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003)
Told (with the occasional expletive) from the unreliable perspective of a high-functioning autistic teenager, this mystery recounts 15-year-old Christopher's effort to solve the killing of a neighborhood dog. When the boy himself falls under suspicion in the animal's death, his violent response propels him toward discoveries that will ultimately overturn his understanding of his own family.

True Grit by Charles Portis (1968)
The movie versions are fine, but they only approximate the drollery and tenderness of this tale of Wild West vengeance. Narrated in retrospect by a rawhide-tough woman named Mattie Ross, the novel recounts her girlhood quest to hunt down her father's killer in lawless Indian Territory, with the aid of dissolute U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. The brilliance is all in the tone: Beneath Mattie's blunt manner lies a fierce intelligence and wagon-loads of grit. Girls will love this one, too.


What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (2008)
The events swirling around 15-year-old Evie in this sophisticated National Book Award winner seem to her, in the blinkered way of teenagers, mainly the backdrop to her own sexual awakening. In a story involving deceitful parents, stolen Jewish treasure, a handsome ex-GI, adultery and murder, all set in louche, off-season Palm Beach, it is only when Evie must decide whether to lie—and whom to save—that it is apparent that she is no longer a child.

Ophelia by Lisa Klein (2006)
An inventive retelling of the story of Hamlet from the perspective of beautiful, bewildered Ophelia. In Shakespeare's play, we are meant to understand her as a love-struck medieval girl gone mad. Here she is an intelligent if impractical Elizabethan who, with the help of Queen Gertrude, secretly marries Prince Hamlet, fakes her own death and runs away with—well, that would be telling, wouldn't it?

Angelmonster by Veronica Bennett (2005)
This elegant novel introduces us to 16-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, future author of "Frankenstein," shortly before she meets the dashing poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. The events that ensue seem as jolting today as they were to the couple's early 19th-century contemporaries: an adulterous escape from London to Europe, the births and deaths of two children, a sojourn in Italy with the "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" Lord Byron (which included a famous night of telling ghost stories), and Percy Shelley's tragic death at sea.

hZ for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien (1973)

A post-apocalyptic novel for adolescents that is all the more frightening for its restraint. It has been a year since all-out nuclear war has left Ann Burden apparently the only girl in the radioactive remains of the United States; thanks to a quirk of geography, her family's farm (but not her family) survived the cataclysm. When she sees a column of distant smoke, Ann realizes that she is not alone, and soon she is nursing back to health a man who turns out not to be the person to play Adam to her Eve.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)
This vivid novel of early 20th-century Brooklyn is proof that mature material can be rendered with such subtle humanity that a younger teen can read it with as much enjoyment as a person many years older. I got my copy in a used bookstore when I was 11 and was so entranced by the story of book-loving Francie Nolan and her impoverished Irish-Catholic family—her beautiful mother, her handsome drunken father and various other misbehaving or censorious relatives—that I read it over and over throughout adolescence. Only years later did I grasp everything that happened between the adult characters. Isn't that what being a young reader, or indeed a teenager, is all about?

Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood
By Sherman Alexie ∙ June 10, 2011

Recently, I was the surprise commencement speaker at the promotion ceremony for a Seattle alternative high school. I spoke to sixty students, who’d come from sixteen different districts, and had survived depression, attempted suicide, gang warfare, sexual and physical abuse, absentee parents, poverty, racism, and learning disabilities in order to graduate.

These students had read my young adult novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and had been inspired by my autobiographical story of a poor reservation Indian boy and his desperate and humorous attempts to find a better life.

I spoke about resilience—about my personal struggles with addiction and mental illness—but it was the student speakers who told the most important stories about survival.

A young woman recalled the terrible moment when indifferent school administrators told her that she couldn’t possibly be a teen mother and finish high school. So they suggested she get a General Education Degree (GED) and move on with her life. But, after taking a practice test, she realized that the GED was far too easy for her, so she transferred to that alternative high school, and is now the mother of a three-year-old and a high school graduate soon to attend college.

After the ceremony, many of the graduates shook my hand, hugged me, took photos with me, and asked me questions about my book and my life. Other students hovered on the edges and eyed me with suspicion and/or shyness.

It was a beautiful and painful ceremony. But it was not unique. I have visited dozens of high schools—rich and poor, private and public, integrated and segregated, absolutely safe and fearfully dangerous—and have heard hundreds of stories that are individually tragic and collectively agonizing.

Almost every day, my mailbox is filled with handwritten letters from students–teens and pre-teens–who have read my YA book and loved it. I have yet to receive a letter from a child somehow debilitated by the domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, poverty, sexuality, and murder contained in my book. To the contrary, kids as young as ten have sent me autobiographical letters written in crayon, complete with drawings inspired by my book, that are just as dark, terrifying, and redemptive as anything I’ve ever read.

And, often, kids have told me that my YA novel is the only book they’ve ever read in its entirety.

So when I read Meghan Cox Gurdon’s complaints about the “depravity” and “hideously distorted portrayals” of contemporary young adult literature, I laughed at her condescension.

Does Ms. Gurdon honestly believe that a sexually explicit YA novel might somehow traumatize a teen mother? Does she believe that a YA novel about murder and rape will somehow shock a teenager whose life has been damaged by murder and rape? Does she believe a dystopian novel will frighten a kid who already lives in hell?

When I think of the poverty-stricken, sexually and physically abused, self-loathing Native American teenager that I was, I can only wish, immodestly, that I’d been given the opportunity to read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Or Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak.” Or Chris Lynch’s “Inexusable.” Or any of the books that Ms. Gurdon believes to be irredeemable. I can’t speak for other writers, but I think I wrote my YA novel as a way of speaking to my younger, irredeemable self.

Of course, all during my childhood, would-be saviors tried to rescue my fellow tribal members. They wanted to rescue me. But, even then, I could only laugh at their platitudes. In those days, the cultural conservatives thought that KISS and Black Sabbath were going to impede my moral development. They wanted to protect me from sex when I had already been raped. They wanted to protect me from evil though a future serial killer had already abused me. They wanted me to profess my love for God without considering that I was the child and grandchild of men and women who’d been sexually and physically abused by generations of clergy.

What was my immature, childish response to those would-be saviors?

“Wow, you are way, way too late.”

And now, as an adult looking back, I wonder why those saviors tried to warn me about the crimes that were already being committed against me.

When some cultural critics fret about the “ever-more-appalling” YA books, they aren’t trying to protect African-American teens forced to walk through metal detectors on their way into school. Or Mexican-American teens enduring the culturally schizophrenic life of being American citizens and the children of illegal immigrants. Or Native American teens growing up on Third World reservations. Or poor white kids trying to survive the meth-hazed trailer parks. They aren’t trying to protect the poor from poverty. Or victims from rapists.

No, they are simply trying to protect their privileged notions of what literature is and should be. They are trying to protect privileged children. Or the seemingly privileged.

Two years ago, I met a young man attending one of the most elite private high schools in the country. He quietly spoke to me of his agony. What kind of pain could a millionaire’s child be suffering? He hadn’t been physically or sexually abused. He hadn’t ever been hungry. He’d never seen one person strike another in anger. He’d never even been to a funeral.

So what was his problem?

“I want to be a writer,” he said. “But my father won’t let me. He wants me to be a soldier. Like he was.”

He was seventeen and destined to join the military. Yes, he was old enough to die and kill for his country. And old enough to experience the infinite horrors of war. But according to Ms. Gurdon, he might be too young to read a YA novel that vividly portrays those very same horrors.

“I don’t want to be like my father,” that young man said. “I want to be myself. Just like in your book.”

I felt powerless in that moment. I could offer that young man nothing but my empathy and the promise of more books about teenagers rescuing themselves from the adults who seek to control and diminish him.

Teenagers read millions of books every year. They read for entertainment and for education. They read because of school assignments and pop culture fads.

And there are millions of teens who read because they are sad and lonely and enraged. They read because they live in an often-terrible world. They read because they believe, despite the callow protestations of certain adults, that books-especially the dark and dangerous ones-will save them.

As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.

And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.

Who Decides What Books Teens Read?
By Natalie Garside ∙ September 27, 2011

There is something uniquely polarizing about banned books for teens and children. When an adult decides to buy a book, the conflict of its content exists only between themselves and social mores. When a teen or child reaches for a book, immediately involved is a parent or caregiver. On the one hand you've got authors, fiercely passionate about telling the truth in their writing, in acknowledging the realities faced by teens and children no matter how dark or brutal. On the other you have adults willing to stand between that content and their child, to protect them from and nurture in them feelings and realities unconnected to anything unpleasant. The battle between these two ideologies may be a healthy one.

Recently Meghan Cox Gurdon's "Darkness Too Visible" article in the Wall Street Journal ignited a fury of response in the Young Adult (YA) writing community when it chastised local bookshops for exposing teens to depravity, violence and abuse. She highlighted titles like Go Ask Alice a diary of a teen's spiral into drug abuse, rape and prostitution and went so far as to site S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders as "launching the industry" on YA novels with its tale of "class tensions, family dysfunction and violent, disaffected youth."

Lauren Myracle's Shine about gay hate crimes in a small southern community, and Cheryl Rainfield's Scars about a 15-year-old who copes with memories of childhood sexual abuse by cutting herself, also made Cox Gurdon's list when they were on the table for banning by the U.S. library system. She thought their profanity and content crossed the line when parents and caregivers were trying to exercise "judgement" and "taste" in what their children were exposed to. The move to ban them fell through. She was honest about how cornered parents feel when teachers, libraries and authors themselves accuse such censorship as banning the truth and reality of the world from children and teenagers. She acknowledges that the landscape is changing in literature and it is harder than ever for a parent to have any real control over what their children are influenced by via literature, television and movies.

Authors of Young Adult books immediately took up arms. Sherman Alexie, author of the semi-autobiographical YA book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian countered with his own article, "Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood," describing the profound experiences he had touring high schools and talking to teens about the real issues they deal with. He talked about resilience and hope and the need for teens and children to connect with others about their experiences. And he highlighted that darkness already exists in children's lives and needed to be acknowledged.


"I have yet to receive a letter from a child somehow debilitated by the domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, poverty, sexuality, and murder contained in my book. To the contrary, kids as young as 10 have sent me autobiographical letters written in crayon, complete with drawings inspired by my book, that are just as dark, terrifying, and redemptive as anything I've ever read."

Books like Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak whose heroine struggles to find the courage to tell the truth about being raped at a party and Chris Lynch's Inexcusable told from the perspective of a teen football player who can't understand why what he has done is considered rape, made his list of books he wishes had been available when he was an abused teen and felt unredeemable.

The Twittersphere lit up during this exchange with the hashtag #YASaves filled with comments from YA Authors, teen readers, booksellers, teachers and parents talking about the incredible influence and experience of reading on their lives. Authors like Cassandra Clare whose Mortal Instrument series features an urban fantasy landscape where teens confront issues of family dysfunction, loss, and sexuality weighed in on their own teen experiences and the dark places within them, claiming that difficult content confronted in kids and teen books plays a vital role in helping them cope.

Ellen Hopkins, whose series of poetic , free-form YA books , beginning with Crank cover the horrors of drug abuse and are particularly well-received in Canada, tweeted, "It is ludicrous to assume a teen who reads about cutting will choose to self-harm."

Other responses cautioned against painting Cox Gurdon's article too harshly: "Cox Gurdon isn't saying: Never read young-adult books. She's saying: Know what's in those books, and use judgment, as you would with movies."

Malinda Lo, author of Ash, a Cinderella retelling featuring a gay heroine who falls in love with a royal huntress, tweeted, "The subtext of Gurdon's essay is that YA literature has a responsibility to teens to show them a moral world. The problem is: Whose morals?"

Responses were varied as illustrated in the book blog Bookshelves of Doom's post, "A round up of WSJ #YASaves responses."

An incredible dialogue opened up between two groups of people who love children and teens: parents and caregivers who cherish and protect them, and authors who are determined to keep vigil with all of the feelings and experiences teens and children have through the stories they tell.

Now that you have read the three articles and have completed a talking to the text with all three, please choose a stance. Is there ever a time when censorship is appropriate? Review your talking to the text and complete the Quote-Note-Thought chart in order to pull out six quotes that you can use in your paper to support your position.




Censorship Essay

Scoring Doman

Distinguished (8)

Proficient (6)

Apprentice (4)

Novice (2)

Incomplete (0)


  • Establishes and sustains a precise claim or position

  • Displays a clear understanding of task, purpose, and audience

  • Establishes a claim or position

  • Displays an understanding of task, purpose, and audience

  • Provides an inconsistent claim or position

  • Displays a limited understanding of task, purpose, and audience

  • Provides vague or indistinct claim or position

  • Displays a minimal understanding of task, purpose, and audience

  • Provides no evidence of claim or position

  • Displays no understanding of task, purpose, and audience


  • Does not respond to the prompt


  • Provides relevant content and specific and effective supporting details that demonstrate a clear understanding of purpose

  • Uses sophisticated transitional words, phrases, and clauses to link ideas and create cohesion

  • Considers possible counterclaims (alternate or opposing arguments)

  • Provides relevant content and effective supporting details

  • Uses transitional words, phrases, and clauses to link ideas

  • Acknowledges possible counterclaims (alternate or opposing arguments)

  • Provides insufficient content and ineffective supporting details

  • May use simplistic and/or illogical transitional expressions

  • May not acknowledge possible counterclaims (alternate or opposing arguments)

  • Provides minimal content

  • Uses few or no transitional expressions to link ideas

  • Does no acknowledge possible counterclaims (alternate or opposing arguments)

  • Provides little to no content

  • Does not use transitions to link ideas


  • Does not respond to the prompt


  • Chooses sophisticated organizational strategies appropriate for task, purpose, and audience

  • Presents fair and relevant evidence to support claim or position

  • Includes a clear and well-defined introduction, body, and conclusion that support or reinforce the argument

  • Chooses appropriate organizational strategies for task, purpose, and audience

  • Presents relevant evidence to support claim or position

  • Includes a clear introduction, body, and conclusion that support the argument

  • Displays some evidence of organizational strategies

  • Presents insufficient evidence to support claim or position

  • May not include an introduction, body, and/or conclusion

  • Displays little evidence of organizational strategies

  • Presents little or no evidence to support claim or position

  • May not include an identifiable introduction, body, and/or conclusion

  • Displays no evidence of organizational strategies

  • Presents no evidence to support claim or position

  • Does not include an identifiable introduction, body, and/or conclusion


  • Does not respond to prompt


  • Uses consistently precise language and a wide variety of sentence structures

  • Chooses an effective style and tone, and maintains a consistent point of view

  • Uses precise language and a variety of sentence structures

  • Chooses an appropriate style and tone, and a point of view

  • Uses simplistic or repetitious language and sentence structures

  • Demonstrates little or no understating of tone or point of view

  • Uses repetitious language and sentence structures

  • Demonstrates no understating of style, tone or point of view


  • Does not respond to prompt


  • Writer makes few errors and errors do not interfere with reader understanding

  • Writer makes few errors and errors seldom interfere with reader understanding

  • Writer makes errors and errors may interfere with reader understanding

  • Writer makes errors and errors often interfere with reader understanding

  • Writer makes errors and errors consistently interfere with reading understanding

  • Demonstrates command of standard English grammar and usage

  • Demonstrates command of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling

  • Demonstrates command of sentence formation

  • Demonstrates control of standard English grammar and usage

  • Demonstrates control of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling

  • Demonstrates control of sentence formation

  • Demonstrates limited or inconsistent of standard English grammar and usage

  • Demonstrates limited or inconsistent of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling

  • Demonstrates limited or inconsistent of sentence formation

  • Demonstrates minimal control of standard English grammar and usage

  • Demonstrates minimal control of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling

  • Demonstrates minimal control of sentence formation

  • Demonstrates little or no control of standard English grammar and usage

  • Demonstrates little or no control of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling

  • Demonstrates little or no control of sentence formation

TOTAL: ______/50


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