So, I recognize that Banned Books Week was last week, but since I’m a chronic procrastinator I feel no shame in posting this after the fact. Also, standing up for your first amendment rights and fighting censorship is something that should be celebrated all year long. And I NEVER miss an opportunity to stand up to the man. Censoring books might feel like something of the past that our culture has overcome, but it’s just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. With emerging groups fighting for social equality and increasing racial tensions, it’s even more important for younger generations to understand the problems that exist in our culture and find ways to overcome them.
In recognition of Banned Books Week, the American Library Association posted this video of the top 10 books challenged in 2016. Books were often banned for content thought to be sexually explicit, containing foul language, or exploring racial themes thought to be inappropriate. Today the most common reason for a book to be challenged or banned is for exploring LBGTQ issues. 6 out of the 10 most challenged books of 2016 were challenged due to LGBTQ characters or themes.
If you are an avid reader like me, you have probably read your fair share of banned books. Seemingly innocent books such as Where the Wild Things Are, The Lorax, and even Charlotte’s Web might as well have been written by the devil himself according to some. I tried to get the Scarlet Letter banned in high school, but my teacher didn’t go for it. For a book about a hussy, it’s incredibly boring. Even the American Heritage Dictionary was banned in Anchorage, Alaska for “objectionable” entries. I don’t blame them. Have you ever actually sat down and read the dictionary? It’s downright filthy!
I sat down and thought about all the books I have read that have been banned or challenged at one point or another. I realized that these are books that stuck with me the most and shaped my identity as a reader. Hell, these are the books that made me who I am today. They made my imagination soar, made me consider my place in the world, gave me empathy for others, and (most importantly) made me challenge authority. Here are 4 banned books that made me love reading!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Asking me to choose my favorite book is like asking me to choose a favorite child. I might have one, but I’m not going to say it out loud! I don’t want to hurt the other books’ feelings. This one is definitely in my top five, though. Scout, Jem, Atticus, Calpurnia, Boo Radley; the characters and story are timeless. I feel like this book should be taught in schools forever. The book explores themes of social injustice, but it’s not the main story. It’s subtle and takes a back seat to Scout’s daily life. Not unlike social injustices that take place today.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I love this book. I just love it! It’s funny, but profoundly moving at the same time. It’s a story of race, poverty, and identity while tackling many social issues surrounding Native Americans. Alexie is brutally honest in his writing, and this book is no exception. I’ve always wanted to teach this book to my 7th graders, but did not want to discuss the masturbation scene with a bunch of pre-teens. Awwwkward!
What says “banned books” more than a world where books are burned by the government? Personally, the most disturbing thing in this book was all that talk about fast-driving cars. Why are they driving so fast? That’s just irresponsible. Honestly, I think Bradbury was clairvoyant. He accurately predicted a society in which people have deeper relationships with electronic devices than with other people.
If I could sell my soul to go to Hogwarts, I totally would. I was in 8th grade when I checked this book out of the local library. This was the first book I completely fell in love with. I devoured it. I wanted more. I was completely consumed by Rowling’s magical world. I am convinced I would be in Ravenclaw and an excellent Quidditch player!
What are your favorite banned books?
*As a side note, I wrote this post yesterday. Upon publishing this post today, I would like to take a second to recognize the terrible tragedy that took place in Las Vegas last night. My mind can’t even comprehend how something so horrific could happen. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, survivors, and families of both. I hope we can one day create a world in which such horrible events can be prevented.