Musings

Happy Banned Books Week!

Hello, lovely readers!

It’s Banned Books Week! I love banned books – so much that I even took a class on the subject in college. The whole idea to me is fascinating, really. That a novel, fiction or nonfiction can be so, so awful that we must literally remove it from society. I understand why some people don’t want their children, etc., to read certain books. Maturity levels matter. But forcibly preventing a whole town or school, for example, to not read a book is laughable. We’re never going to be able to censor the flow of ideas. People will still think. By allowing people to read books – even if we don’t like them or think they’re dangerous – we allow ourselves the ability to control a narrative, to help educate, and to also learn things ourselves. Take Mein Kampf, for example. Mein Kampf, written by the one and only Adolf Hitler, might seem like the perfect book to ban; we certainly don’t want Hitler’s ideas of how to govern and who’s worthy to be alive to be a prevailing viewpoint in our society. But we need to keep the book around so that we can let people understand where he was coming from and prevent that again. (I see you, DJT. Ugh.)

And so, to stop my lecture, I decided to put together some of my favorite banned books to read (in no particular order). If you’re not familiar with how many books actually get banned and challenged each year, some on this list might be a surprise to you. I used the American Library Association to find my info for this post. They’ve compiled the most challenege/banned books for each year dating back to the beginning of the 21st century, and also have lists of oft-challenged books based on genre. The organization even has an Office of Intellectual Freedom that works with libraries, schools and the media to track books that are being challenges or banned.

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  1. Harry Potter series, JK Rowling
    Reasons: anti-family, occult/Satanism, violence
  2. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Reasons: offensive language, sex/drugs
  3. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseni
    Reasons: offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence, homosexuality, religious viewpoint
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird
    Reasons:racism, offensive language, unsuited to age group
  5. Fahrenheit 451,Ray Bradbury
    Reasons: religious viewpoint, offensive language
  6. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: religious viewpoint, offensive language, unsuited to age group
  7. Dreamland, Sarah Dessen
    Reasons: violence, sex/drugs, unsuited to age group
  8. Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chomsky
    Reasons:sex/drugs, language, violence, anti-family, unsuited to age group

This is just a small list. The American Library association and other great organizations track just how much the books we love and need to read are challenged and banned.

I wrote last year on the Times Union book blog that banning books does nothing to help people, particularly children and teens, prepare for the actual world and all of the not-so-great stuff in it.

Learning new things is hard. Understanding new viewpoints is even harder.¬†Banning books simply because they might not be perfect for your precious daughter, son, grandchild, etc.,doesn’t do any good. We need to be challenged ourselves, not challenging books. We need to read about other people, not just what we understand. Though I’ve failed miserably at my personal reading challenge this year to do that, it’s made me realize how important it really is. I could have gone forever without understanding how many LGBT people have been oppressed in Nigeria if my sister hadn’t gotten me Under the Udala Trees. Reading that book helped me learn more about another country as well as seeing the underbelly of discrimination in my own.We need to live with our eyes open, not shut.

We need to support the right to read.

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