Humble Fail

We all know how much I love Humble. It’s Houston’s first line of defense from any invading army, who will have a pretty hard time getting by all those strip malls and car dealerships. Aside from being made of concrete and the childhood home of Steven Wiggins, Humble is lately home to the Humble Teen Lit Festival at Atascocita High School. January of 2011’s main headliner: New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins! Until a middle school librarian riled up some parents, who thought that Hopkins’ books would be Harmful To the Children and effectively got her Uninvited. Classy, Humble.

Hearing about this, other authors lined up to appear started dropping out in protest, including Pete Hautman, Matt de la Pena, Tera Lynn Childs, and Melissa de la Cruz. Other authors like Chris Crutcher and Jane Yolen have said that they WISH they had been invited, so they too could drop out. The Internet is freaking out about it, but I’m surprised there’s been no mention of it in any newspapers (that I can find). I guess the H-Chron is only interested in stories about animals, and everyone else is pretty used to this sort of thing happening to Ellen Hopkins.

Which is really a shame because her books are awesome. They’re written in verse, and usually about subjects affect teens like sex, drugs, religious intolerance, and abuse. It’s obvious why parents would want to protect their delicate teenage flowers from this, right? IT MENTIONS DRUGS which clearly teens have never heard of until reading one of these books. But Hopkins’ books go nowhere near glamorizing drug use; if anything, they present a stark, real message of the consequences–but without the After School Special tone that so often makes teens dismiss such works. After reading many of her books, I feel slightly queasy and drained, just at the thought of being in the same situations as her characters. I think if I were five years younger, the effect would be even more dramatic. Ellen Hopkins gets letters all the time from teens saying her books made them realize they needed to change their lives for the better.

I really feel bad for the teens of the “few” (the reports never say how many) parents pushed to have Hopkins uninvited. It’s likely that just going to public school has made them more knowledgeable about the subjects in Hopkins’ books than their parents realize, but I hate for anyone to have to make life decisions (whether to have sex, whether to take drugs, how to deal with abusive relationships) with only vague ideas about details and consequences. It drives me crazy when people try to shield their kids from the outside world to the point of incompetence and an inability to function in the real world, but, as parents, that’s they’re choice. What’s NOT their choice is to do the job of other parents who might take a more pragmatic, open view. I’m glad when I was younger, my parents trusted me enough to make my own decisions about what to read, and I think I’m a stronger person for it.

To read more about this issue, here is the School Library Journal article and the Houston Press article. The comments are pretty entertaining on both. Also, Ellen Hopkins discusses it on her blog.

One response to “Humble Fail”

  1. If parents are worried about keeping their children’s minds as MONOCHROMATIC AS THE DRIVEN SNOW then they can just not let their kids GO. Like seriously, the librarian that started this needs to chill the fuck out, MAJOR.

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