Banned Book Week is this week (September 18-24). I figured a post was in order to discuss banned books and the associated ridiculousness especially since there has been a rise in book bans the past few years. PEN America has been tracking many such bans and have a Banned Book Index available to see what some people think shouldn’t be read by others (with a high likelihood they haven’t read it themselves).
There are common denominators for many of the recent book bans with the easiest to determine being the state where the ban was put in place. The three currently with the highest number of banned books are Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida. I am not inferring the citizens, or rather politicians, of these states are illiterate (not on purpose anyway). I don’t think any law should dictate what a person can or cannot read. Anyone should be able to determine for themselves what, and why, they read.
Most books that get banned are targeted because they contain an idea or discuss a topic those imposing the ban don’t want others to see. So the question is: Why? The easiest and best example I think is how 1984 was banned in many countries for anti-communist themes in many countries during the 40s, 50s, and 60s. It was also banned for pro-communist themes in some democratic countries and continues to get or remained banned for various reasons. When a book is banned, especially for political reasons, then it often contains ideas that oppose those currently in office or exposes the negative sides they wish to remain hidden.
Many common reasons books are banned is because they contain language or violence and the bans are restricting the books within schools. Some bans are to remove books from a county or state altogether including public libraries. Books have been banned from entire countries. Books have been challenged without being banned, but the rise in bans is absolutely a concern I wanted to discuss.
Again, the first question is: Why would someone want to ban this book? The second question is: What about this book frightens the people who want to ban it? Do they fear children will be exposed to certain horrors of this world (which absolutely exist) too early? Are they trying to protect people from something, or prevent them from gaining a different perspective that differs from their own? The reasoning behind a ban is often ludicrous and should be treated as such.
The questions can go on forever about this topic. Questions should be encouraged. I, for one, see a book ban as a reason to look into a book I may otherwise not have been interested in. Banning a book makes me want to read it, or at least see why people think it would be bad for us to read. I will always advocate for someone’s choice to read and encourage all forms of reading. So this week, I encourage you to find a book that has been banned somewhere or at point in time and read it to discover what reasons someone would not want that book in our society. You may not find any. If so, look up why it was banned and see if you can connect any dots.
Here are a few books that have been banned that I have recommended before:
The Handmaid’s Tale
Brave New World
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
To Kill a Mockingbird