I hate banning books. You want to know why? Read 1984. Oh wait, you can’t, because it’s BANNED!
This week is Banned Books Week. I’m pretty passionate about censorship of all kinds and as an English teacher, I even studied banned books for a semester. I read cases about different banned books and it really just got me more upset than anything. I take banning books very seriously and here’s why:
Every person, including kids and young adults deserves access to information. The second we stop that information from getting to them, the more ignorant they become and consequently, the more ignorant our society becomes. I don’t think it’s right for a parent or government official to say, “I don’t want my 15-year-old to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower because there’s sex in there and they shouldn’t know about that.” Can we be real, for just a moment?
Most kids know everything and I mean everything from about the age of 10 on. And some kids are even participating in everything from the age of 12. Which isn’t okay and is tragic, but that’s a different story. The point I’m trying to make is that these things happen: sex, drugs, rape, identity, death, sexuality, etc. Life happens. It seems to me that people who want to ban these books because of the said things want to pretend like none of that is happening. If we don’t talk about it, it’s not happening, right?
Wrong. That mentality is dangerous. Ignoring an issue is only going to make it worse. If kids and young adults are discouraged from having healthy conversations about things like sex and drugs, the unhealthier they will be with those things. They need to be encouraged to have open and honest conversations about things like sexuality and identity, because without those conversations, teenagers are going to have learn a lot of things the hard way.
This goes back to books, because books are a perfect gateway to these conversations. These books should be allowed in libraries and, gasp, dare I say, in the classroom. We should be reading these books and having these conversations in the classroom. And no, it is not inappropriate. What is inappropriate is leaving our children at a disadvantage and placing them into world of ignorance.
What makes books great is the fact that they can talk about these things in a free space and, as a reaction, starts these conversations. Here are some of my favorite banned books, because they do just that:
- The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Or anything by Sherman Alexie for that matter; he’s one of my favorite authors. This novel is challenged because of sexual references. The horror!!! This book is raw and honest about the teenage experience.
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I’m actually teaching this book right now. It’s been challenged for a rape scene and graphic violence. But it shows culture so misunderstood in America today in a light that is honest and critical. This book is gorgeous; I’ve never read a better ending.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Challenged because of sex, homosexuality, and drugs, oh my! It’s the tri-fecta of banned conversations. And that’s why this book is perfect.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Challenged because Gatsby once remembers that he “took her.” Ahh! My eyes! Please.
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Banned because it talks about everything we don’t want to talk about and questions a dystopic society that hides information. Oh, the irony
Do you have a favorite banned book? What are your thoughts on banning books? Leave it in the comments.