For decades society has been a victim of censorship, whitewashing, and banning. Either history is told a different way, or it is retold in hushed tones. As if shouting, it would erupt mass chaos and destruction. Book banning can be seen in two ways: either an attempt at shielding younger generations away from accurate aspects of life that they will, regardless, find out about in the future; or an attempt at hiding history and developing in students a narrow worldview. It means a denial of First Amendment rights and proven psychological deficits.
Here’s the thing. We are capable of knowing what this world can be susceptible to. Capable of witnessing how destructive society can be. And capable of performing deep analysis and realizing that that is not the way it should be. Knowledge is power, and history needs to be known in order for it to be prevented.
The problem is that these books are often seen as an invitation to do the exact thing that is written in them and not as an accurate portrayal of human life and its consequences.
What is the necessity to stray away from a truth that is going to be learned regardless, possibly in a worse way? No child will ever be perfectly sheltered. Therefore, it is better to learn it in an environment where young people can talk about it with adults and get educated on it; rather than learning it from a peer who scarcely knows an abundance of the topic, much less how to approach it correctly.
Teaching them this in a serious way and in an educational environment, as opposed to having them learn it in a social environment, may prevent the use of this topic in the non-earnest, humorous way that often leads to emotional damage to other peers.
Books like these represent aspects of life that exist that are real, and that can be seen every day on TV when you turn on the news channel.
These are some of the most banned books in the U.S. right now:
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
In this memoir-manifesto, George M. Johnson retells the challenges of growing up Black and queer, from bullying to molestation by a family member. It also retells the beauty of it, from flea-marketing with their grandmother to experiencing young love. If the author was old enough to go through all of that, then young generations could be old enough to read about it.
Author’s response to the banning: “Books with heavy topics are not going to harm children… children still have to exist in a world full of these heavy topics and are going to be affected by them whether they read the book or not. Having [this] book, though, gives them the tools, the language, the resources, and the education so that when they have to deal with a heavy topic, they have a roadmap for how to handle it.”
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
This is a historical fiction book that chronicles the love between a Mexican American girl and a Black boy while creatively retelling one of the worst disasters to happen in American history: the 1937 explosion of the New London school, which killed over 300 students and teachers. This book portrays racism, classism, and a scene criticized by a Texas mother at a school board meeting that highlights “how some of the town’s white teens harbor violent sexual fantasies about Naomi.”. This is a scene that portrays the way women were seen, as sexual objects, at this particular time (1937).
Author’s response to the Texas mother in a YouTube video: “It seems to me that the author is using this language for effect. You know, at this time, men did sometimes treat women as sexual objects. I think that the author’s illustrating that not endorsing it… I wrote Out of Darkness for brave, big-hearted readers ready to embrace some painful aspects of our country’s history.”
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This famous book-turned-movie retells the story of 16-year-old Starr Carter, a black girl who becomes an activist after her unarmed friend is murdered by a police officer. This book is slammed for “profanity,” “violence,” and “anti-police agenda.”
And the author’s response to some parents who claim that “I’m not sure my child is ready for this” is: “The fact is, Black parents are [needing] to have these conversations with their 9-and 10-year-olds about the subject matter in this book. I need white children to be aware of that.”
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
A classic form of literature, this book is about an abused Black girl, pregnant by her own father, who wishes desperately for blue eyes. Since it was published in 1970, this book has mostly remained on the banned book list for its “offensive language” and “sexually explicit material”
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This is a book where Junior, a teenage cartoonist who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, attends an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. He now faces challenges on both the Reservation and the school.
The author of this book responded to the repeated challenges of profanity, sexual references, and derogatory terms by saying: “I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing every day and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons – in the form of words and ideas – that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”