So today is the last day of Banned Books Week. This is an annual event which celebrates the freedom to read, and highlights the value of having open access information. It brings together readers all over the world, as well as people from every corner of the book community – librarians, teachers, publishers, authors – everyone!
The theme for this year is ‘Banning Books Silences Stories’. It aims to address the fact that we all need to stand up against the tide of censorship. The 5 books I’ve chosen to talk about are some of my favourite books and it made me a bit irate to find out the exact reason why they were banned whilst I was researching for this post. Even though banned books week is coming to a close, I encourage you ALL to head over to the list of Banned Books on the ALA website and READ A BANNED BOOK!
And so, without further ado, here’s a list of my top 5 reads that have been deemed so scandalous that they’ve been banned:
1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The irony is real. This book is set in a world where books are now banned and if they are found, they’re burnt and destroyed by firemen. This book has been banned many times across the US, and I can’t help but sit here and think about the thought process that went through someone’s head when they actively banned a book about book banning. Among other reasons, this book was banned for ‘using God’s name in vain’, ‘dirty talk’ and ‘questionable themes’.
2. Blankets by Craig Thompson
This was the first graphic novel I ever read and is a story about childhood, family life, faith and young love. The illustrations are beautiful, the story is complex and powerful, and puts me in a very wintery and cosy mood when I read it. This book was banned by a public library in Missouri because of ‘obscene illustrations’ that were deemed ‘unsuitable for children’.
3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
For those who don’t know, this book, (and subsequent excellent film), is the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters who meet at a support group for people with cancer. The story unfolds from there, and has become an iconic book in YA fiction. Rightly so as well, because it explores mortality and love in a complex way, and the plot is woven together with hilarious witty moments. It’s a top notch read. This book was banned in response to a challenge from a parent who deemed that the “morbid plot, crude language and sexual content” was inappropriate for her children, and for “11-, 12- and 13-year olds”.
I mean, in the story, Hazel Grace is diagnosed with stage 4 thyroid cancer at age 13. I don’t think it’s inappropriate for children to read a story that many other children their age are actually living.
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give is a book, and soon to be released film (5th October!) about a girl called Starr whose world is shattered when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil by a police officer. This book is so important. It covers themes so prevalent in today’s society, and allows the story to be told in a natural way that is raw with emotion. It really is a fantastic #ownvoice novel. Needless to say, this book was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered “pervasively vulgar”, and included drug use, profanity and offensive language.
5. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
I read this book only a few months ago in anticipation for the film (which I’m yet to see, but man, aren’t we blessed with YA film adaptations of great books lately?)
At the beginning of the story, Cameron’s parents die in a car crash. She is forced to come to terms with this loss, at the same time as struggling to come to terms with her sexuality. Cameron is then forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth. When she finds out about Cameron’s sexuality, she takes every action possible to try and “fix her”. This book was banned because it contained “profanity”, even though other books on the same list contained similar language. This then raises questions, and gives privilege to the political and religious views of some people who object to the book because of its emphasis on sexuality (which is very shitty).
Everything, if you look at it closely enough, can be considered too something. Too profane, too sexually explicit, too crude, too morbid.
I wish people would stop trying to shelter kids from things which they WILL be exposed to in the world. By reading these 5 books, imaginations will run wild about the possibility of a world without books, the importance of friendships, about how complex families are, and experiencing love in the face of death. They’ll read about racism that’s happening right here right now, and accepting your sexuality and being true to yourself.
Not only should these books be readily available, this is the exact sort of material that kids and teenagers and adults need to read.
Silencing things that make us uncomfortable or fearful is not the answer. – Emily M. Danforth