Banned Books Week is this week. Attempts to ban books nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022.
That is an insane amount of time and effort to ban ideas. Instead, let’s celebrate the freedom to create and seek stories, even if you don’t like what’s in them.
Out of the 13 most challenged books of 2022, there is definitely a theme. LGBTQIA+ and anything that could be considered “sexually explicit” were common for the 1,269 challenges to library, school, and university providers.
If you want to dig deeper into the breakdowns, including types of providers and the groups or individuals who start these challenges, the American Library Association has great data and overviews on it all.
What concerns me the most as a reader is that some of these books I read as a child or teenager.
“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison is an uncomfortable read on purpose. It explores race, culture, beauty norms, and how twisted victim’s worlds can get after traumatic events. I read it for school and it’s an important piece that contrasts black and white experiences during the Dick and Jane era of America. Some of which we are still working through today.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” hit me hard as an awkward teenager. It deals with sexuality, mental health, and trying to figure out your place in a rough world.
The interesting part is that banned books aren’t necessarily new. I don’t particularly see value in reading “Lolita” because I find it exploitative and lacking value. Do I think it should be banned? Absolutely not. Censoring our past doesn’t give us anything to learn from going forward. Try to read Nancy Drew books again as a grown woman. The way she refers to and treats her sidekicks is deplorable. We’ll just chock that up to a reflection of the time it was published. I guess that doesn’t deserve banning from those same groups?
Stories are something we can learn from. They can help create empathy by detailing how a character sees the world. They can teach us about events by giving a character lens to look through. They can make us feel less alone by reading about people like us or that we would love to be friends with. They can make us uncomfortable and help us figure out why we are avoiding that topic. Those same books that you don’t get can help someone going through a similar situation and should not be hidden away when free speech is (allegedly) a right.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go re-read “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas or “Saga” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (both which I would have adored in my teen years) like the devilish degenerate I am.