Olivia Mullenax

One of the dedicated group of students fought to keep "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" in schools
Glen Ellyn School District
Glen Ellyn, Ill.

How did you hear about the book challenge in your community and why did you take action?

During the last 2 months of my 8th grade year at Hadley Junior High school, 2 parent's protest of the book “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” caused the book to be banned and removed from Hadley Shelves. Word spread like wildfire and it didn't take long before this was the only news that any one was talking about. At first I felt angry. How could someone have the right to dictate what I could or could not read? How could they go so far as to actually pull it out of the school entirely? Perks is a wonderfully powerful and thought provoking work of literature that should be given the chance to be shared with everybody. This book can and will help people, and there is no reason why it should be suppressed. Soon my anger warped into motivation and passion. Here was a cause that I was willing to fight for, something I saw that needed to be changed. Censorship is wrong and I was ready to do whatever it took fight for something that I believed in. 

You can get books at the library or store, why should we care about a book being removed from one class of students or one community?

It is important to teach and reinforce positive attitudes and meaningful lessons in every school or community. With situations that are relevant to the lives of teenagers, Perks is the perfect example of something we as a school and community can benefit from. The book teaches us to make good choices, physically and emotionally, and even shows us what can happen if we go for another option. True, you can just go out to any book store or library and easily pick up a copy of any banned book. But the withdrawal within the school or community isn't a benefit. We are just going to read it outside of school anyway, so why remove it? Something that would influence good choices instead of bad isn't going to hurt anyone. A choice that is specified for your family should not be a universal decision within the community. What's too mature for one person is inevitably different to another.  

Why do you think being aware of book challenges or bans is important to our country today?

Noticing what is going on around you is a skill that everyone should share. Change, good or bad, is a catalyst vital to our lives. In the case of challenge or censorship,we should always be aware. Our country is one of freedom and democracy, and place where you can raise your voice and stand up for what you believe in. You can take action action things that need to have attention called to them and join fellow advocates in making a difference. Everyone could use help, and you have to be around to hear the cry.  

Who inspires you? Who is your hero?

One person who I derive passion and inspiration from is the founder of the Women's Christian Temperance Union is Frances Willard. A powerful woman who overcame incredulity to fight for her cause. During prohibition Frances Willard chose the minority disposition of apposing alcohol. Her cause seemed fruitless in a country of heavy drinkers and men who believed women to be inferior. But with the founding of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Willard had one victory after another. Under her leadership she established a strong and influential union that saw the passage of the 19 amendment. She established dozens of other sub categories within the WCTU that expanded its reaches far beyond prohibition. Despite all odds, Frances Willard accomplished so many good things. She fought bravely for her causes and her efforts and passion mirror my own. Her experience and situations help me to feel motivated and inspired.