Here we get another page-turner. We loved the film and hopefully you enjoyed reading the novel too.  The title is quite emblematic, isn’t it?  Melinda Sordino undergoes a traumatic experience and this forces her into a sort of depressive tunnel.  She does not have any point of reference.  She cannot SPEAK UP, that is she cannot express her feelings, her emotions, her thoughts.  She withdraws into a sort of catatonic state, she barely speaks and living (and going to school) becomes a trudge, a burden.  Yet, little by little, especially thanks to her arts teacher, she frees herself from fear, from shame and decides to SPEAK UP, she decides to express herself first through art and then she manages to verbalize her nightmare to guarantee herself a much-expected rebirth.


If you were asked to change title to the novel, what would it be?  It should retain the quality that SPEAK guarantees, that is it should be effective about the plot without spoiling the read.
The author herself, Laurie Halse Anderson, says that “there are lots of kids out there in Melinda’s position – struggling with depression and teetering [moving unsteadily] on the edge of disaster – but people don’t pay attention unless they do something drastic”.  Do you agree with this statement of hers?  Why (not)? Can you think of any “drastic” event involving young people with problems either in Italy or in the USA?
The writer adds “today’s teens have to cope with massive amounts of stress and conflict.  Way too many of them understand the pain of not feeling like they can speak up”. Do you feel supported at school?  Do you think that if you were in trouble you could rely on some of your teachers, on you classmates, on any other adult figure within the school you attend?  What do you expect as a student from the institution that you frequent 5 days out of 7? Do you think students are well-catered for? (Try to provide examples). 
Do you think Melinda Sordino’s lot [condition in life] would have been different if she had been attending your school?


I do not generally watch the film adaptation before I read the novel.  With you I opted for the reverse, to help you find your way through the book.  The following is the trailer to the film, do you find it to the point?

What I liked about the film and the trailer is that they highlight the key-role of the arts teacher in helping Melinda find her voice.  Of course, being a teacher myself, informed the way I perceived some scenes in the film.  I despised the history teacher for his being obnoxiously arrogant, for not promoting free expression in the class, for abusing his role as a teacher and most of all for being racist.  Yet, there is the other teacher that balances the situation perfectly well: he is a teacher who cares for his students and cherishes his profession.  I would like you to think of a teacher that you esteem/ed a lot, that in your opinion helped you become a better person.  Write a letter to that teacher and express your gratitude, express in what way s/he helped you.  (TASK ONE)

The movie is faithful to the book, but there are obviously things that had to be cut.  What scenes are not in the book but in the film? (mention one you found meaningful).  Then, what scenes are present in the novel, but not in the film? (once again mention just the one/s you deem more significant).  Why do you think the director chose such an ending?  Were you happy with it?  If yes, why?  If no, why not?


I was astonished to read in an interview to the writer that lots of young men asked her why Melinda was so upset about being raped.  This means that many young men are not being taught the impact that sexual assault has on a woman.  As we mentioned in class, we are inundated by sexual imagery in the media (think of advertising with lots of sexual innuendo, it seems that if there are no hints to sex a “product” does not sell!) and often youngsters come to the shocking conclusion that having sex (even forced/unwanted sex) is not a big deal.  This explains why the number of sexual assaults is so high.  Another aspect that puzzled me was reading that most adults feel that rape is an inappropriate topic of discussion with teenagers.  What do you think?  Do you think teachers should speak openly about sexual issues or do you think this topic should be left to the free choice of families only?


Believe it or not, but Speak was banned from schools in certain States in the USA since it was considered filthy and immoral; in other words mentioning rape meant for the censors dealing with “soft pornography”.  Do you think “rape” should not be mentioned in school or do you think that mentioning it helps some students become aware of the ordeal some “victims” have to face, or helps them speak up, as it happened for some of them in the USA?


Readers wrote tons of letters to the writer, expressing their gratitude for the book, because reading it gave them the strength to speak up.  To respond to their letters, Ms Anderson decided to write a poem dedicated to all the victims of rape.  Significantly enough she decided to entitle it  “Listen”.  The striking words are “cut to let out the pain”, “your book cracked my shell”, “Speak gave me wings, opened my mouth, I whispered, I cried, I hated talking”, “You made me remember who I am”.
Can you write your poem through Melinda’s eyes? (TASK TWO)

This is my poem:
You usurped my being
You bent my will
You choked my living energy
You gagged my thriving youth
You silenced my days
You threw me into an unspeakable and gnawing despair
You were like an avalanche crawling over my body, scarring it to unmentionable limits
You branded my deep soul with your filthy semen
If only you knew what deep gorging chasm you forced into me
I want my old me BACK
I want my life BACK
You uprooted the joy of my future
You viciously deprived me of a loving choice
Numbing Despair
Limiting my teen days
Spoiling my life
Energy, I beseech you,
Enter my body,
Delete the brutish and fiendish wound that aches within my body and my mind
Spark some new vitality into me
Ambers turn into a vigorous fire
Energizing life sow positive seeds into my being
Seeds that will make my despair vanish for ever
Anguished, but much yearned rebirth.

If you are interested in getting to know more about the author, you could visit her webpage at  http://madwomanintheforest.com/

Last but not least, this is a useful website for rape victims http://www.rainn.org/ 

Is there a similar website in Italy?  What do you think is done in Italy to sensitise the public opinion about the ordeal of rape?  What is done to help young teenagers overcome the pain, the shock, help them speak out their turmoil to win their lives back?

When I was an adolescent a school mate of mine, the girlfriend of a classmate and a friend of mine, was raped.  That changed both their lives.  I have clear recollections of those days.  Little was done to help her.  Not because of lack of will, quite the contrary, it had more to do with a deep sense of embarrassment.  Speaking about sex and tackling the problem of sexual assault was a taboo issue.  If only I could go back to those days! I am sure I would react differently, I am sure I would do something to make a difference in my friend's life.  Speak has certainly made me rethink about that terrible incident and writing this post has certainly worked as a catharsis to me.

A good book should reflect human experience we can learn from, Speak certainly did.


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34 Responses to SPEAK

  1. anonimo says:

    It's YOU.
    You are a BEAST.
    Why did you do that?
    Why me??
    You stole my choice.
    You stole my love.
    You stole my innocence.
    You ruined my teens.
    I wanted to shout,
    but you didn't permit me to do that…
    …now I'm mute.
    I'd like to talk to my mother, to my friends,
    but I'can't, I have a block of  ice in my throat.
    My soul is shouting and fighting against that memory,
    but my body is motionless.

    Why can't I move?
    Why can't I forget?

    Now I have understood…
    I have to face it, I have to live with it…
    I'm still the same person,
    he didn't change me and my personality.
    Now I can start a new life…
    Now I'm stronger…
    Now I'm again the old MELINDA.

    Alice Piccolo

  2. anonimo says:

    Where are you? Sweet, innocent
    lighthearted girl. Where are
    Lost among blades of glass
    too tall
    too bright.

    Where are you? Me no longer mine,
    flown away
    to get rid of the guilty lymph of
    my days. Twin traitor, where are
    you? You left me alone.
    My mirror the pain.

    Come back to me. I need you
    I want you. Give me the strenght
    to show him I'm not died.
    You can.
    I know you. Where are you?
    I'll reach your land.

    silvia maglio

  3. anonimo says:

    Dear teacher,
    I would apologize for my actions that maybe could be arrogant. I would apologize for my loud and selfish voice. I would apologize for my excuses that in that moment I should avoid and I should silence. But I would thank you to teach me what I should do in that moment and that the respect is the only weapon we have to win every obstacle, every problem.
    I think I grow up with this telling-off and I think I change my behaviour in front of an adult. You was like a mum who tell off her daughter to have respect, to think before speaking, to be older.
    I know you're not a mum, you are a teacher and I'm your student: there's no as a close relationship as I have with my mum. But you was a mum the same. Or maybe a guide!
    Many times I hate you because I think you forgot that I'm 17 and I make a mistake more than an adult: my actions were disrespectful, yes, but, believe me or not, I have never wanted to pull your leg.
    But many times I love you because you teach very well, you are strict when students need, you work not to earn money but because you love this job and you are a guide, for everyone. You are able to preserve the silence, involve your students and ( It is the most important feature you have) you always spend a lot of time to re-explain. to help when we don't understand. I esteem you a lot, even if we are opposite persons and if I decide to go to universe and learn the same subject you teach, I will come to you for every doubt, hoping you accept me.
    Thank you for all!
    Eroina Giada

  4. anonimo says:

    It is eleven o'clock p.m. and I have just finished rereading all your poems.  I feel touched, I feel proud of you.  Regardless of the mistakes (I did not want to edit your poems, I wanted you to post them with their mistakes because they express the fact that you are blossoming and blooming students.  If you keep on studying and upgrading your level of English, in two years time you will be able to go back to these poems, be proud of who you were then, of what you were able to express in a foreign language, yet spot the mistakes and realize how much you have bettered yourselves as users of English!
    I am proud of having you as my beloved students.  You thanked me for what I am doing for you, well, I MUST SAY THAT IT IS BECAUSE OF YOU THAT I AM DOING ALL THIS! If you were not special students I would be in bed now, reading a book perhaps.  So THANK YOU for taking up all the challenges I come up with.  THANK YOU for giving new sap to my profession (IF IT WERE NOT FOR MOTIVATED STUDENTS LIKE YOU MY TEACHING CAREER WOULD BE A DRAB, SEEN THE FACT THAT THERE ARE LOTS OF STUDENTS WHO DO NOT FEEL LIKE STUDYING AT ALL).
    Some of you wrote a letter to me, well I do not deserve it, yet I thank you for that.  You filled my heart with joy.  Not because of the compliments you paid me, but because your gratitude for what I am doing makes me understand I am on the right track as a teacher.  You know I cherish values more that anything else.  The fact that you appreciate that gives me an energetic spur.  Even when I am confronted with disruptive and who-could-care-less students (I have a bunch of them clearly "painted" in my memory!), your words give me faith: I should not give up believing in the power of teaching because of them.  I should focus more on the achievements than on the failures.
    This is my heart-felt letter to you.  You were asked to write a letter to a teacher you admire, I am writing a "pseudo" letter to you as students I admire.

  5. anonimo says:

    Darkness. deep down in my soul
    Alone. Nobody sees something. nobody feels something
    Guilty. I am the only one to blame
    Pain. I do not want to hear, I do not want to see, I do not want to speak
    Price. someone had to pay for another one’s mistakes. It is me
    Awareness. what is happened is happened, I do not want to be dead forever
    Strength. Is the only thing I really need
    Ears. someone to rely my painful secret
    Light. thank you for helped me
    Alive. finally I can smile, I am not alone. No more

    Bozzolan Arianna

  6. anonimo says:

    Really nice, Arianna.  I enjoyed reading your poem.  🙂
    Your teacher of English

  7. anonimo says:

    Pain and emptiness
    This is what you left me
    and I, that I was mislead, you were so nice, so strong
    Now, you are my nightmare.
    You are the one who raped my body, but most of all
    You are the one who raped my soul.
    Your hands that covered my mouth,
    I feel them still on me
    and I can't speak.
    Your body on me, made me a prisoner of a world that I hate.
    Now, I'm dead inside, you killed me.
    You prevented me from choosing, deciding, being happy.
    I am alone — I am alone in the world.
    I and my will to escape, to scream and no longer exsisit.
    BUT, I can't stop living!
    I have only one certainty:
    I was raped.
    I can't cancel this, I can't forget it
    BUT I can overcome this nightmare, I want to, I shall overcome!

                                                                                   Irene Pellegrini

  8. anonimo says:

    Dear Ms. E.R.
    I heard about the good news, the birth of your son, and I am very happy for you and your husband.
    I hope you remember me, I’m Irene, a student of section F, the legendary F!
    By now, the years of middle school are just distant memories but they are the best years, that I remember with joy and with a smile. I had a great admiration for you and you knew this. In your subjects I always tried to give the best of me. With you Italian, History and Geography became more interesting and engaging. I studied a lot, but studying was not a burden, and you always rewarded me. The only “flaw” that I had and still I have now is my way of writing, that you always described as “different, contrary to the whole world, but I like it” I remember that you used to said this sentence when you handed me back my essays. You were my favourite teacher from the first year maybe not at first sight. I remember the first few weeks were tough with you, almost the whole class had called you as the teacher who gave poor grades. But in a short time, you changed our mind. A smile, a comforting word, a lesson speaking about us and our problems…all this marked the three best years of my life! You were close to me for three years, saw me grow up, helped me to grow, there have been moments of difficulty with the school with friends, especially with a particular friend, my best friend. You were available for ours problems with school, especially at the third year for the exams. We spent entire afternoons sitting on the lawn of the school under the sun, you were like a mom for me! When my best friend and I quarrelled you immediately noticed that and tried to help us, let us grow closer again. I will never forget the day of the exam, after my exam, you got up and with tears in your eyes you hugged me, and I handed you a letter that after three years of middle school I decided to write to thank you for everything. Thank you for the teacher who had been for me for what you taught me and for what you made me feel, you are a fantastic person. Your reproaches were always constructive because I realized that it was from there that I had to start: from mistakes, to become a better person. I miss my favourite teacher I miss you a lot!. I feel the need to go back to those moments, I feel too grown up, I feel the responsibilities are becoming bigger and bigger. More than once I went back to school to see you, and as soon as I entered I felt at home. You made me appreciate studying, knowledge, school, knowing how to live well, knowing how to love … and many other things that I keep all inside!
    I will never forget you, you are my idol, you are a myth, you are the best teacher I had at Middle School.
                                 With admiration and gratitude

  9. anonimo says:

    dear teacher V.,
    it is a long time since we last met, but you know, there are things which do not disappear after one, two, three weeks, three months, three years. They are always there like the moon, half-covered at times, hidden at others, but costantly, always "hanging" in the sky.
    How are you? I'm fine: school is running fast away and soon we'll be lying on the shore. I can't wait, really. I wonder how many German people I'm going to meet this summer. I can hear you saying: "holidays is the best occasion to improve your German. Do not tell me German guys are not fair!!". Don't worry, I promise I'm going to do my best. All in all, that's what you ever asked us. Our best. Because you believed we were all able to do something important in life, no matter what. We were all able to achieve our dreams if we really cared about them. I remember we were a different class during your classes. No arguing, no scuffles. We were all in charge of our life and the others one. I can't say why, how you could do that, but it happened.
    Now I'm quite good at German. You were right, it is a sort of "geometric language". After the first toils it all becomes easier. But if you don't make that effort German will remain your nightmare, you won't understand anything. Not because you can't, but because you haven't tried to.
    You always understood which were my difficulties. I don't know, maybe you read it in my astonished gaze, when you tried to explain something "strange". "You have to take it like that, German people place the past participle in the last place. No rational motivations. They are a little bit foolish". And how many times you understood I was tired and you told me: "meine Liebe, you really have to take a day off. Go to the sea, go riding, get relaxed". I do not know how you could do that. I'd say you were able to read my mind, you could understand all what I needed, what was up. I think it was a matter of experience, but also a capability of reaching a different wavelenght. It is not easy, you need to be there, your eyes open but not searching; your smile ready, but only when you really feel like that.
    Thanks, because you really managed to be all that. Thanks, because you gave me so much. Thank you.

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