Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Speak Loudly

I came from an alcoholic and abusive family. I'm not ashamed to say it because I had no more say in the matter than I had over the color of my skin or the shape of my ears.

I'm proud of the fact that my father spent the last twenty years of his life sober, and that--through the grace of God--he and I repaired the very bitter divide that separated us for half my life. We had nearly two decades of a loving and supportive relationship before he died.

Having said all that, my childhood was the stuff of nightmares. I knew very early on that I was all alone. My mother had her hands full with paying the bills, raising four kids and keeping the family secrets.

The only safe place I knew was between the two covers of a book. I found peace in reading. Many years later, a therapist told me my real parents were on my bookshelf.

By age nine, I'd built a little library in my bedroom at the rate of two books a month (the limits set by my allowance). After my father destroyed my books, three librarians saved my sanity by recognizing the needs of the spooky little kid slipping in and out of their doors. They made two libraries--one at school and the other in town--my refuge.

I'm dredging all of this up today because of a post I read on the fabulous Janet Reid's blog. Janet said:
I think it's incredibly important that books for teenagers about horrible subjects--rape, incest, school shootings, death-- get published. And even more important that those books are available in libraries so kids can read them even if they can't afford to buy them, or don't want anyone to know they are reading them.
I'm here to say that is not an academic statement to me. It's where I lived.

I understand the desire of Christian parents to protect their children. But there are children out there whom child advocate Andrew Vachss calls "Children of the Secret" who don't have anyone to protect them. Those kids need to be able to find the books that help them work through their pain.

It can be unbearably lonely to think that you are the only person going through what you are experiencing. Books can introduce you to others, books can allow you to vent your fear and anger, BOOKS CAN HELP YOU FEEL NORMAL.

Even if what you are experiencing is far from the norm.

Saturday begins Banned Book Week. Please read the following posts. After you do so, I hope you'll decide to do what you can to help the Children of the Secret:

Start with Janet Reid here.

Let her take you to Myra McEntire here.

Myra will lead you to Veronica Roth here.

And don't forget C.J. Redwine here.

If you want to speak loudly, write a blog post.

If you don't have a blog, go to the Twitter thread at #SpeakLoudly.

If you don't have a Twitter account, add your voice to the comments here.

Never forget what Edmund Burke said: "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing."

And make no mistake. Good, well-meaning Christians can do evil in the name of the Lord.


Melanie said...

Great post! I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a librarian. I agree with you totally about books. One caveat, I want books that deal responsibly with hard issues that young adults face. That's not always the case with "popular" YA fiction. Then again, knowing you're not alone may ultimately be more important than the actual advice provided. Kudos!

Maya Reynolds said...

Melanie: Thanks for posting. I don't disagree with you. And I have a huge amount of trust in the ability of the majority of this nation's librarians to select literature for kids and young adults.

I also don't think that kids from "normal," healthy families will be harmed by exposure to books like SPEAK. Such books are excellent opportunities for parents and children to discuss scary topics like drug abuse, incest and rape. I believe parents owe it to their children not to send them out into the world unprepared for what they may encounter.

I have a 17 y/o and an 18 y/o niece. Both have been raised to feel comfortable going to their parents with questions.

live, laugh, inspire said...

Maya, thank you so much for sharing such an important issue. As I read your post I got chills down my spine, I felt that you had opened the door to my secret place. Your story is a mirror image of my own, my father has been sober now for 20 years and every librarian I have come across has very quickly become one of my closest friends. Every surface in my house is the resting place for a stack of book's and recently my therapist suggested that it may be a good idea to look up from my book once in a while. I am also happy to say that my father and I have a very close relationship now, however it is still painful one. He managed to give up the drink but never the cigarettes, and now emphysema is robbing him of life. I am working on one novel at the moment that deals with complex family relationships and death and I have copious notes for several others that deal with issues I feel it is important for young adults to absorb. Keep up the good work in spreading the message, you are most certainly not alone!
Take care out there.

Maya Reynolds said...

LLI: How kind of you to write.

I'm glad you're putting pen to paper. There are lots of kids out there who will benefit from your experience.

Take good care of yourself, Sister.

Mike Keyton said...

A great post, Maya