Monday, October 5, 2009

Banned, Censored, Challenged: Go Ask Alice

This book was released in 1971. It was presented as nonfiction but is at least partially fictionalized. The author is actually a psychiatrist named Beatrice Sparks who worked with troubled teens in the 70s. She claimed to be only the editor of the book and said the book was the edited diary of one of her patients.

The book is still one of the most banned and challenged in America. It has been removed from school libraries in Kalamazoo, Michigan (1974); Saginaw, Michigan (1975); Eagle Pass, Texas (1977) and Trenton, New Jersey (1977). It was one of 11 books banned in Island Trees Free School District No.26 in New York in 1982. The novels were returned to the library after a US Supreme Court ruling that said the ban violated students' free speech. At the Central (Gwinnett) High School in Georgia (1986) a parent complained that the book "encourages students to steal and take drugs."

Go Ask Alice
does not encourage students to steal and take drugs.The book shows teenagers what can happen if you use drugs. Alice ends up on drugs and becomes a dirty, homeless, ragged teenager. She ends up on the streets, dirty. She sleeps with strangers. While high, she puts herself in dangerous situations that lead to her being assaulted and taken advantage of. This is what drugs can do to you.

How else should drug use be depicted? How do you write a book about drug abuse without drug abuse in it? Should books about drugs be clean and polite, even though drug addiction leads to a dark, vulgar and profane place?


Lisa said...

I agree! I read this as a teenager and it scared me far more than anything my parents could have said to me. It's irrelevant to me, even today, who wrote it; it's the message that matters.

lilly said...

I never read this particular memoir but i remember having read two similar ones, both originally published in German, about teenagers turned drug addicts. To this day (I am now 32) these two books with their harsh reality and brutal descriptions are what has kept me away from drugs all my life. I am a parent of a 10 year old and I will never keep such books hidden from her. The sooner she learns, the bigger impact it will have on her I hope.

Missy said...

I read this book in 1977, when I was in 7th grade, and it scared me silly. Because of this book, I stayed away from situations that could have been potentially harmful to me. I do not agree with it being banned - how else are kids going to get a clear picture of what could actually happen to them if they hang with the wrong people?

Michele Emrath said...

As a parent I understand escapism, wanting to protect your child from the ugliness of reality. But the most important discussions I have with my son (who is only 4, mind you) are the truthful ones. He asks questions and I answer. The minute I say something is off limits, a certain sexiness and intrigue is attached to that topic. I no longer have "off limits" topics. He can ask anything he wants and I hope he, and we, will be better for it.
Michele Emrath