It makes me sad that, as a society, we need to have a month dedicated to recognizing the impact of ignorance on literature and education. What is worse, books are still being challenged today with bans. Like, right now. Literature has been a staple of self-expression since humans began to write. And there has always been (and probably will always be) someone who believes those words and thoughts should be locked away. With anti-censorship being one of our core values, Bookmans continues to fight for everyone’s right to read. With that, I give you five reasons why books are banned – and four better reasons not to.
There is no question that just about every book that involves promiscuity, homosexuality, drug use, adultery, or anything considered “damning” has been challenged and continues to be challenged today. One of the most famous stories banned for homosexual content was And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson. It’s the adorable true story about two male penguins who together hatch and raise a baby penguin named Tango.
It’s obvious why sexual content would make some people uncomfortable. Sexual content is actually the top reason a book is challenged. But you might be surprised to learn that even the mention of something sexual, no matter how innocuous, has been cited as a reason to ban some books. One book that comes to mind is the historical Diary of Anne Frank. In it, Anne writes, “I’ve told you more about myself and my feelings than I’ve ever told a living soul, so why shouldn’t that include sex?”
Philosopher George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In spite of this philosophy, communities around the world have banned hundreds of books for depictions of racism. In fact, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was once banned for exploring racism. Racism is one of the most prevalent social issues in today’s society. Would banning books with racist themes stop this discrimination? You’re not alone if you think that logic doesn’t exactly follow.
What if I told you that one of the most famous and beloved series of the modern age was also a banned book? The Harry Potter series has been challenged all around the world for themes of witchcraft. When I was a freshman in high school, I decided to read the Harry Potter series again (for the 40th time). When I read a book, I have to take it everywhere with me, just in case I had a spare minute to get a few pages in.
I brought it in my math class. As my teacher was walking around helping students with classwork, she noticed the book sticking out of my bag. She made me put it in my locker immediately and told me to never bring that book into her class again.
Out of all the reasons to ban a book, this one might be the most controversial. Should kids read banned books? About 30% of books banned are from schools and teachers. Surprised? J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, once wrote “I have a real issue with anyone trying to protect children from their own imaginations. If we cannot acknowledge that a lot of us have a bit of darkness within ourselves, some more than others perhaps, and bring it into the light and examine it and talk about this part of the human condition, then I think we will be living in quite a dangerous climate. I think that’s much more damaging for children.”
Ever looked at a list of banned books? You’ll notice that the majority of them are literary classics. There’s a reason for that! It’s not a coincidence.
Literature can start a fire in your imagination. Like Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” The same goes for books. They allow us windows into worlds and perspectives we cannot look into otherwise.
Our world is all about problems (and more problems). But why would you silence the voices from our past? America prides itself on the fact that we have a freedom to express ourselves. Stifling ideas and sheltering our youth is no way to continue growing as a society.
Look at it this way: Books are like a collection of older and wiser people’s thoughts. You never know what you will learn about when you pick one up and read a few pages.
Which books were are you surprised to discover were banned? Tell us below!
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