A large part of my childhood reading life involved the Sweet Valley twins. In retrospect, I know now that the Wakefields are an odd bunch. Elizabeth is controlling and self-righteous while Jessica is insensitive and self-destructive. But back in our day, their weird adventures opened me to a lot of things in life, like friendship, love and ambition.
Unfortunately, not every child gets the same experiences I did. Libraries and governments over history have challenged, censored, and banned books with content they believed poisonous to the minds of people, especially youth. Banned Books Week is a response to that. The campaign encourages readers all around the world to pick up a banned book and celebrate it, to exercise the freedom to read.
My favorite “banned books”
1. Harry Potter series, Joanne Rowling
Banned for: witchcraft, violence
I find it sad whenever Harry Potter gets rejected for its wizardry and magic, because those things are supposedly un-Christian? Uhh. Fantasy and fiction are incredible and important because they test the limits of the imagination and can be used as metaphors for all things love, hope and courage. If you think that isn’t what you want for the youth, I have to wonder what your vision for the world is.
2. Looking for Alaska, John Green
Banned for: language, sexual content, and being too “mature” for its age group
I see how LFA can be controversial if misinterpreted. But it’s a great book, even if only at surface level, because it captures those wandering, seeking feelings that today’s youth tend to have. There are few things more fulfilling than finding your experiences expressed and affirmed by somebody else. Taking away Looking for Alaska means taking away that necessary experience from millions of people.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Banned for: language, racism
Okay, if you want to ban a book that acknowledges racism you are probably a racist. To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite “classic,” not just because the writing is so good, but because it teaches all about respecting and caring about other people, no matter who they are or what form they come in. I seriously can’t wrap my head around the idea that this book gets banned for being dangerous material.
4. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Banned for: violence, themes of rebellion, and being too “mature” for its age group
THG is currently my favorite YA series, but it wasn’t until it gained popularity that I realized just how controversial it was. People think that THG promotes the very things that it actually speaks against: sensationalized violence, child exploitation, and the false detachment of reality TV. It has a lot of difficult but important and increasingly relevant themes, and it is because of this that THG should not be banned, but rather discussed and taught so its message can shine through.
These are some of my favorite books that have been banned at some point, but there are many many more. Too many, in fact. But I think every [well-written] book has a very important message or effect to share with its readers and for this reason should be allowed to find its way to them. Every book with an unorthodox or controversial theme should all the more be encouraged because it encourages minds to grow open, to look at things more critically, and to form its own opinions of the world.
Any person or entity that thinks knowledge and learning is dangerous probably ought to reevaluate what they think they’re fighting for. Because it’s clearly not progress.