Banning books does not quash the ideas, thoughts and stories carried within those pages. All it does is bring to light the ignorance, shallowness and hatred instilled in those who support the bans.
There are plenty of crappy books in the world that have been shoved on the public by major publishing houses. No one is asking for those to be banned. I’m not for banning any book, but if I had to, that’s where I would be begin—with the bad books.
But my list of “bad” books is going to differ from your list. So, whose list is “right”? I’ve read critically acclaimed, award-winning books and thought what garbage. I’ve read others that made me wonder why there wasn’t any buzz around them.
That’s the thing about books (and art in general), so much of it is subjective.
I don’t want anyone to tell me what I cannot read. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear/read someone’s opinion about a book. Those are very different things.
Reading is one way to learn. Why would we want to limit learning? Why would we want people to not know about people who are different than them? Why are we so worried about profanity and sexuality?
Schools of all levels (K-12, community colleges, universities) should open students’ eyes to an array of ideas as well as teach them the truth. The truth is not opinion. That can be the problem.
The American Library Association in 2020 tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services. Of the 273 books that were targeted, here are the top 10 books that were challenged and the reasons people wanted them banned:
- George by Alex Gino
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author.
- Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message.
These are probably the books we all should be reading.