Happy Birthday, Ellen Hopkins!
By: Alex Supko
Today is Ellen Hopkins’ birthday!
Born March 26, 1955 in Long Beach, CA, she is a New York Times bestselling author, writing 14 YA and two adult novels. Her most recent book, The You I’ve Never Known, was published in January 2017. Her YA books cover topics such as drug addiction, mental illness, and prostitution, to name a few.
Because of the subject matter of her books, her writing has been challenged on several occasions, being put in ALA’s Frequently Challenged Book list for both 2015 and 2016. The second novel in the Crank series, Glass, was challenged in 2009 in Norman, OK, which she details in her Livejournal. The challenge resulted in a cancellation of her appearance at the school. In 2010 she was banned from appearing at Humble Independent School Districts’ book festival. When she reached out to other authors who were supposed to appear, the event was cancelled because many pulled out in a sign of solidarity. She has become an outspoken advocate for intellectual freedom, writing an anti-censorship manifesto for Huffington Post in 2010.
To you zealots and bigots and false
patriots who live in fear of discourse.
You screamers and banners and burners
who would force books
off shelves in your brand name
of greater good.
You say you’re afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption
by perversion or sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones do break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.
You say you’re afraid for America,
the red, white, and blue corroded
by terrorists, socialists, the sexually
confused. But we are a vast quilt
of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered
identities. You cannot speak for those
whose ancestors braved
You say you’re afraid for God,
the living word eroded by Muhammed
and Darwin and Magdalene.
But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven
and earth designed intelligence.
Surely you dare not speak
for the father, who opens
his arms to all.
A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.
Because of her advocacy work, she was part of ALA’s virtual read-out in 2015, she spoke about censorship during Banned Books Week 2011, and wrote the forward for ALA’s 2012 book True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries by Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco.
Thank you, Ellen Hopkins, for your writing and advocacy, and happy birthday!
Alex Supko is a librarian for Baltimore County Public Library in Baltimore, Maryland. He is also a member of Maryland Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Panel. He believes passionately that everyone deserves open access to the internet, and that your personal privacy is important.