Why Banned Books are the Best Books

By Val Dunn
Staff Writer

Growing up, I often read by flashlight, barricaded under a teepee of covers. I worried that if my mother caught me reading into the wee hours of the night, she would scold me and take my books. Though she threatened to do so on several occasions, I can’t recall a single time she prohibited me from reading. Imagine my horror then, when I grew up and realized that certain people do ban books. More repulsive to me: they think it’s a good idea.

After considering the tantalizing qualities of forbidden love last week, I am compelled now to question the logic behind banning books. Appropriately, this week marked the 30th annual Banned Book Week celebrated in part by organizations such as the American Library Association.

The ALA recently posted its list of the year’s most contested titles. In tenth place stands a familiar face to the banned books list: Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” banned for offensive language and racism. Religious viewpoint caused the banning of Lauren Myracle’s series “ttyl;” “ttfn;” “l8r, g8r” (first place), Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” (fifth place), and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” (seventh place).

“The Gossip Girl” series by Cecily Von Ziegesar received ninth place for its drug content. “The Color of Earth” series by Kim Dong Hwa (second place), “My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy” by Dori Hillestad Butler (fourth place), the “Alice” series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (sixth), and “What My Mother Doesn’t Know” by Sonya Sones (eighth place) were all challenged for containing nudity.
In third place, “The Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins was banned for containing subject matter considered anti-ethnic, anti-family, occult/satanic, with instances of insensitivity, offensive language, and violence.

Over the course of a year, the ALA collects information from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books throughout the country. It is important to note the difference between a challenge to a book and actually banning a book. When challenging a book, a person tries to restrict or remove offensive materials.
The banning of a book involves the actual removing of a certain title from a given community. As an organization, “The ALA condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information.” (This and more can be found on their official website: www.ala.org.)

According to the ALA, the majority of challenges to books come from parents who seek to protect their children from material they consider inappropriate. Though it is a parent’s right to exhibit some sort of security over his or her child, it makes little sense to punish other readers with bans and censorship.

Yes, we live in a world flooded with violence, cruelty, and debauchery. However, more often than not, works of literature do not celebrate depravity but the characters who embody goodness amongst a crumbling world.
Censorship breeds ignorance, and ignorance nurtures hate. By encountering questionable subject matter in literature, I have not submitted myself to evil. Rather, I have learned to work against forces of oppression and bigotry. Literature entertains, but it also informs the reading public of the essences of life, the things worth living and worth fighting for.

As I scroll through the ALA’s list of banned and challenged classics, I lose track of the number of listed novels which have changed my life for the better.

Then I remember with a shiver the eerie fate of books in Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” (incidentally a past member of the banned and challenged list). Though the week of banned books comes to an end, the fight against censorship does not. So grab a book, revel in the words, and let the message resonate.

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