How can Melinda's predicament from Speak be connected to the predicaments that adolescents face today?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one of the most profound elements from Anderson's book is the notion of finding one's voice.  Speak is powerfully compelling in this regard.  Naturally, Melinda endures the rape, which is the silencing of her voice.  This speaks quite vividly to adolescents who are forced to endure such a violation.  In this way, the novel speaks to a cross section of adolescents.  However, this is only the beginning of Melinda's reclamation of voice.  The social ostracizing that Melinda undergoes forces her to reevaluate who she is and how she is perceived.  It also compels her to fully grapple with the fundamental questions that govern all existence:  "Who am I?" and "What shall I do?"  The novel provides much in way of opening this dialogue with all readers, proving to be particularly relevant to adolescents who might not possess the tools to open such a needed and profound discussion with themselves and the people in their world.  Melinda's experiences with adults who continue the process of silencing voice helps to give further tools and understanding as to how to deal with such realities that other adolescents experience.  Finally, I think that being able to write about how to "speak" a voice of dissent that is true to individual conceptions of self, as opposed to a conformist vision is a reality that more adolescents need to understand.  In a setting where so much social conformity is embraced and almost forced down the throats of adolescents, Anderson's work is one that "speaks" to the idea that the individual quest for identity is one that has to take place outside the context of social realms and that it is better to be in a psychological place of comfort than an socially constructed realm where individual voices are silenced and are not allowed to "speak."

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