Why Was Speak Banned

Title: Why Was “Speak” Banned: A Thought-Provoking Exploration


Published in 1999, “Speak” is a critically acclaimed young adult novel Laurie Halse Anderson. It tells the compelling story of a high school freshman, Melinda Sordino, who becomes an outcast after calling the police at a summer party. The novel has garnered both immense praise and controversy, leading to its inclusion on several banned books lists across the United States. In this article, we delve into the reasons behind the ban and explore the impact of “Speak.”

Reasons for the Ban:

1. Controversial Subject Matter:
“Speak” deals with sensitive topics such as rape, trauma, depression, and social isolation. Some argue that the explicit depiction of these issues may not be suitable for young readers. Critics contend that the novel’s subject matter is too explicit or inappropriate for its targeted audience, often leading to complaints from parents and educators.

2. Sexual Content:
A particular scene in “Speak” describes the sexual assault experienced the protagonist, Melinda. The explicit depiction of the assault has been a significant point of contention, with some arguing that it is too disturbing or graphic for young readers. Critics express concerns about the potential emotional impact on vulnerable readers and argue that it may be unsuitable for classroom discussions.

3. Offensive Language and s:
The novel contains strong language and explores themes of bullying, social hierarchy, and teenage angst. Some opponents of “Speak” argue that the language and themes present may lead to a negative influence on young readers, perpetuating a culture of disrespect and rebellion.

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4. Challenging Traditional Norms:
“Speak” challenges societal norms encouraging young readers to question authority, speak up against injustice, and advocate for themselves. This unconventional approach has been met with resistance from those who believe it undermines the traditional values and authority figures within society.

5. Religious and Moral Objections:
The inclusion of controversial topics in “Speak” has led to religious and moral objections. Some individuals argue that the novel’s content contradicts their religious beliefs or promotes values they find objectionable. Such objections often arise from a desire to shield readers from content that may challenge their worldview.

6. Lack of Parental Control:
Opponents of “Speak” argue that the novel’s explicit content should be a parental decision rather than a prescribed school curriculum. They contend that parents should have the ultimate authority to determine what their children read, believing that schools should not expose students to potentially sensitive or triggering material without parental consent.

7. Misinterpretation of Intent:
There have been instances where critics misinterpret the purpose and intent of “Speak.” Some argue that the novel condones or promotes inappropriate behavior instead of addressing the issues it aims to confront. This misunderstanding has fueled calls for its banishment from school libraries and curricula.


1. Is “Speak” appropriate for teenagers?
“Speak” is a young adult novel that tackles sensitive topics, including sexual assault. While it may be challenging for some readers, the book provides a valuable opportunity for dialogue and understanding. Parents and educators should assess its appropriateness based on the maturity and emotional readiness of the individual reader.

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2. Does “Speak” promote harmful behavior?
No, “Speak” does not promote harmful behavior. Instead, it serves as a source of empowerment and gives voice to those who have experienced trauma. The novel encourages empathy, self-expression, and understanding, emphasizing the importance of speaking out against injustice.

3. Should schools ban “Speak” from their curriculum?
The decision to include or exclude “Speak” from a school’s curriculum should be based on careful consideration of the educational value, appropriateness for the target audience, and the potential for meaningful discussions. Banning the book entirely may limit students’ exposure to important social issues and stifle critical thinking.

4. Can “Speak” be a trigger for survivors of sexual assault?
Given the explicit portrayal of sexual assault, survivors should approach “Speak” with caution and consider their emotional readiness. However, the novel can also provide a validating and healing experience for those who have experienced similar trauma. It is crucial to provide appropriate support and resources for readers who may be triggered the content.

5. How can “Speak” benefit readers?
“Speak” provides a powerful narrative that raises awareness about sexual assault, trauma, and the importance of speaking up. It promotes empathy, resilience, and self-discovery, making it an invaluable tool for fostering discussions on these challenging topics.

6. Can parents have control over their child’s exposure to “Speak”?
Parents play a crucial role in guiding their child’s literary choices. Communicating with educators and being involved in the curriculum process allows parents to voice concerns and make informed decisions regarding their child’s exposure to “Speak.”

7. Is banning books an effective solution?
Banning books restricts intellectual freedom, limits access to diverse perspectives, and hampers critical thinking. Instead of banning, open dialogue, parental involvement, and age-appropriate discussions can help navigate potentially sensitive material while respecting individual choices.

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While “Speak” has faced criticism and found itself on banned books lists, it remains a powerful and thought-provoking novel. The controversy surrounding its content highlights the importance of ongoing discussions about censorship, the freedom to read, and the need for age-appropriate literary experiences. By engaging in meaningful conversations, we can appreciate the impact of “Speak” and the valuable lessons it imparts upon its readers.

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