For this particular blog post, I will be covering the readings of week 4 in my Burning Idea course. Grace Enriquez’s “The Reader Speaks Out” is an excellent read about Adolescent reflection about controversial young adult literature. When studying censorship, especially censorship around young adult literary works, one must consider the youth interpretation of these serious topics. Topics like sexual assault, suicide, family abuse, and depression are all able to trigger a traumatic event for the reader. It is for this reason, among others, that certain books become banned or taken off of the assigned reading lists.
“Since adult opinions can
prevent students from
reading worthwhile texts,
studying what students
themselves say about
reading controversial YA
literature in the class-
rooms presents an oppor-
tunity to better assess the
significance of teaching it.”
When there is a challenge against a book for young adult literature, the complaint is usually made by a parent or group of parents who feel that their children should not be subject to the topics discussed in the book. In this reading by Enriquez, we see the other side of the censorship debate, the students’ perspective. She aims to look at information that has been collected in four public middle school literature classes, as often these adolescents are the ones most affected by the texts they read. The student’s responses were collected over the course of two weeks, the sessions were of mixed races, upper middle or middle class students, and all aged between 11-13.
When examining these classes over this time frame, I am curious of a few things: 1. Why this particular school? Public schools have attendance from students who live in the surrounding area, this would limit the amount of class diversity available, for they would all be around the same class identity. 2. In considering the types of responses from the students, how would the questions guide the students? By this I mean her four questions that she would ask the students: “Four questions—“What makes a book controversial?”, “Why are books censored?”, “How do adolescents perceive inappropriate topics?”, and “What makes a book worth reading?”.
I believe these questions that are being asked to these two separate groups of students, the advanced section and the regular class, would be completely different responses if they were asked to a more diverse school district or even a more homogeneous district. Yet, some of the responses from the students interested me. Grace noted one classroom discussion in which most students agreed that racism is a topic of contention.
“Elon: You can’t say anything that’s like racial remarks
’cause you’ll offend people.
Lara: Yeah, you definitely can’t be racist at school.
Drew: That’s an easy one.”
These kinds of topics are why books are banned, and these students were able to see why these topics would cause tension. The students’ voice was able to come out from this article, I could see them thinking critically about why books are banned. This kind of adolescent feedback could help school administrators and teachers plan the curriculum. Students are hungry for knowledge, they should be allowed to pursue it without censorship.