Why Was the Book Speak Banned

Why Was the Book Speak Banned?


Speak, a young adult novel written by Laurie Halse Anderson, was published in 1999. The book addresses the sensitive topic of rape and its aftermath, exploring the struggles of a teenage girl named Melinda Sordino, who becomes an outcast after she calls the police at an end-of-summer party. Despite its critical acclaim and importance in initiating conversations about sexual assault, Speak has faced numerous challenges and bans in schools and libraries across the United States. This article aims to delve into the reasons behind the banning of this powerful novel and shed light on the significance of providing young readers with access to such literature.

Reasons for Banning:

1. Sexual Content:
One of the primary reasons cited for banning Speak is the explicit mention and depiction of sexual assault. Some argue that the content is too mature for young readers and may be emotionally distressing or inappropriate for certain age groups. However, it is important to note that the book approaches the topic with sensitivity, aiming to raise awareness and educate readers about the consequences and impact of such traumatic experiences.

2. Profanity:
Speak contains some strong language, including curse words, which has been another prominent reason for its banning. Critics argue that exposing young readers to such language may encourage inappropriate behavior or normalize the use of profanity. However, the inclusion of such language in the novel serves to reflect the reality and emotions faced by the main character, adding authenticity to the narrative.

3. Challenging Traditional Values:
The novel challenges traditional values and societal norms, which can be uncomfortable for some readers. Speak delves into sensitive topics such as peer pressure, bullying, and the silencing of victims. By portraying these issues, the book encourages readers to question and challenge societal expectations, leading to discomfort among those who prefer to uphold conventional beliefs.

4. Parental Concerns:
Some parents argue that Speak is not suitable for their children due to its explicit content. They may believe that discussing rape and its aftermath is too mature for teenagers, even though sexual assault is a harsh reality that many young people face. However, it is crucial to recognize that shielding young readers from such topics may hinder their understanding, empathy, and ability to navigate real-world situations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1. Is Speak appropriate for teenagers?
While Speak deals with mature themes, it is specifically written for a teenage audience. The novel provides a safe space for teenagers to explore and understand the complexities of sexual assault, bullying, and self-empowerment. It allows young readers to empathize with the characters and develop a deeper understanding of these issues.

2. Does Speak promote inappropriate behavior?
No, Speak does not promote inappropriate behavior. On the contrary, the book raises awareness about the importance of speaking up against sexual assault and the significance of supporting survivors. By giving a voice to victims, the novel empowers readers to recognize the signs of abuse and encourages empathy and compassion.

3. Should schools and libraries ban Speak?
Banning Speak from schools and libraries denies young readers access to a valuable and important narrative. The book provides a platform for discussions on consent, rape culture, and the importance of supporting survivors. By banning it, we hinder the education and understanding of these critical issues.


Speak, a book that tackles the difficult subject of rape and its aftermath, has faced numerous challenges and bans due to its explicit content, strong language, and its tendency to challenge traditional values. However, it is essential to recognize the significance of providing young readers with literature that addresses real-world issues. Speak encourages empathy, resilience, and self-empowerment, making it a powerful tool for initiating conversations about sexual assault. By promoting open dialogue and understanding, rather than banning it, we can create a society that supports and protects survivors while working towards preventing future incidents of sexual violence.

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