Teen Voices: Winners of CPL Teen Services’ Banned Books Week Challenge

Congratulations to teens across the city for being selected from Chicago Public Library Teen Services’ digital raffle to win two tickets to see Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at Steppenwolf for Young Adults on Saturday, October 14, 2017, followed by an after party! In our Banned Books Week effort to support the freedom of access to diverse ideas and authors, we asked teens to briefly describe a time when they’ve seen a rumor, gossip or a lie “catch fire and spread” among their community, and what they might have done to prevent the lie from turning into an accepted truth.

Below are some excerpts from what some of our teen raffle winners had to say about rumors turning into "ugly truths"…

  • Ixayana G.: I live in Pilsen and there are so many rumors here. Pilsen is filled with Latinos and it's heartbreaking to know what's being said to us. There was a rumor about people getting killed by Trump supporters not far from our homes. It was viral on Facebook, but [in reality] what I saw were people trying to help others, and telling them that nothing would happen to our Latino community.
  • Alberto H.: Some students started a rumor that two friends were dating. My friends [and I] agreed that it was not nice to do, that so we went and talked to the students and we told them to stop spreading rumors or the people involved will not be your friends anymore.
  • Ashley V.: After Trump became President, many of his followers supported the rumor that all Mexicans are illegal criminals. Though I am Mexican, I am not illegal and I am not an immigrant. I can't help feel judged by people that perceive me in a demeaning light, especially because of my physical traits [brown skin]. The news [media] needs to help us share our story and they need us to support us.
  • Emily R.: In sixth grade, my best friend confessed that she had a crush on one of her classmates, who happened to have a girlfriend at the time. This lead to a series of rumors negatively depicting her romantic and supposed sexual aggression. [At the time, I did nothing for a few reasons: to keep my friends’ confidence, and to prevent the spread of more rumors, but also because I believed that the school administration would not take action.] Retrospectively, I think I [should] have told the parents of my friend about the rumors and how she was affected by them. If both her parents and I contacted the school, the administration definitely would've taken action. I also think my friend should've gone to her teacher or administration to address the issue.
  • Cristina M.: A year ago one of my classmates breasts grew two sizes bigger. Other girls in the class didn’t understand how this happened and starting rumors about her stuffing her bra. The rumor spread through the grade and everyone was believing it. I wish I told this classmate about it, so she could defend herself and stop the cycle of lies.
  • Chiara C.: I was born in Uruguay, but moved to the U.S. when I was 7 or 8 due to my father's job. We had our visas and passports up to date, so it was perfectly legal for us to be in the country. About a year after we had been living here, my class read a story about a girl whose father got deported to Mexico, since he didn’t have proper documentation. The book didn't really bother to explain that there are also legal immigrants; it just talked about how illegal immigrants often had fake papers and documentation. It was quite depressing, in all honesty. Anyhow, this one kid thought it would be funny to go around saying that I was an illegal immigrant and asked me if I was nervous of getting deported. Most of my classmates took his word for it. I didn't really blame them; I mean, how could they know about immigration laws and policies? I was quite upset and wish our teacher had explained that not all immigrants come to the U.S. illegally!
  • Jadaniel F.: There was a haunted story about our school building. Sophomore year, people would say that they heard screaming from the basement every Friday and had no clue what was down there. It was initially a joke until the school we share a building with said that they've heard the same sounds for years. We were led to believe that there were something horrific going on in that basement.
  • Triniti C.: In my middle school, the students thrived on rumors. It was a fairly small school (only 300 students), so lies and rumors easily spread from one classroom to the next. One time in particular, a rumor spread about a girl, who was said to come from a very poor family, having lice. True or not, I thought it was a horrible story to spread. The girl was devastated. Another rumor was about me. The story had somehow circulated that I was adopted and my real parents were drug dealers. Of course, this was not true, but it took a lot of work for this false story not to get more popular than it was and reach the ears of the principal. My friends helped by denying the accusations from anyone in the school. To this day my friends still joke about it, but I'm still not sure if anyone else from the school still believes it.
  • Kashish B.: We could have confronted the person spreading a rumor to made sure they understand how it can effect a person [or the people] involved. It’s important to [examine the facts] before actually being convinced that something may or may not be true. We should talk to the person who the rumor is about and get an adult involved to make sure nothing hurtful or negative happens.
  • Chelsea Z.: Once there was a rumor that one of the girls in my school was pregnant. Everyone was quite shocked, but they still ended up spreading this lie. Soon we had a school assembly at which people were warned about the damage of spreading rumors.