After finding Shout, her memoir follow-up to Speak, at a local thrift shop, it felt only fitting that I found Speak at one too. A quality copy, too, unlike the copy of Shout, which had been missing its dust jacket. I had thought back when I read Shout that I needed to see what had caused such a stir, inspiring book bans and making uptight folks lose their cool, and now that I’ve read it… this is quite tame, honestly. Like almost always, the book bans feel like a gross overreaction. Book bans should never be the answer; even if you were to try to use it for edge cases, such as dangerous, divisive rhetoric, they only serve to draw further attention to the subject of the ban, AKA quite the opposite of the intended effect. But here, we have a very personal story that leans heavily on the author’s own experiences growing up and mostly hints at the acts themselves, until we finally see them revealed towards the very tail end of the book. Our main character’s self-harming behavior is more frequent and in-your-face than the rape aspect that seems to be the hot-button issue, at least from what she said in Shout.
Maybe the fragile white men are afraid of somebody disseminating that they deserve to be punished for their own misdeeds that they’ve tried to brush under the rug, because this book does strongly hint at that. The student goes unpunished, but he’s deservedly outed as a creep and treated as a pariah nonetheless. That’s, unfortunately, probably the best case scenario in the world we live in in most of these sorts of situations. Likewise, the best we can hope for is that the ones affected by these cretins can see it through to the other end and heal, like our main character begins to. So many don’t make it, as I remember seeing made clear in the documentary Audrie & Daisy, among other places. Whatever the reason, by banning this, or not allowing it to be discussed, you’re just going to show that you only care about silencing women and their concerns. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. This story is the story of so many young girls and it will continue to be until we learn from it and fix the fundamental problems causing it. Book bans and shushing aren’t going to do that. Or, who knows, maybe they will? Because, like I said, bans might as well be a “read this” sign.