Monday, September 28, 2009

Defy authority! Read banned books!!

Quiz time: What do the following books have in common?

-The Giver by Lois Lowry
-Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
-Looking for Alaska by John Green
-The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
-Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
-Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
-1984 by George Orwell
-Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
-Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
-The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
-Forever by Judy Blume
-Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
-The Witches by Roald Dahl
-A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
-Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The answer: In addition to being excellent books, every book on this list has been challenged or banned for some reason. For a comprehensive list of commonly banned and challenged books, you can visit the ALA website. I included just a few here because they are all books that I've read and enjoyed. Some were assigned by my English teachers; some I picked up on my own. The odd thing is that looking over the list I recognize A LOT of the titles.

Why are these books banned? There are various reasons given, usually that the subject matter is not age-appropriate, or that the book includes sex or violence (though sex is listed more often than violence). But the real reason is that someone is afraid of the book. Or, more specifically, someone is afraid of what will happen when people (usually children) read the book. They are afraid of the messages it contains, the characters it portrays, or the situations they are placed in. These books make people uncomfortable.

Which follows that a book must be really good if it is banned. If someone was so afraid of an author's message that they tried to keep other people from reading the book, that book is powerful. The more people read, the more knowledge they will have. Reading should challenge your views on the world. If you read something that makes you feel uncomfortable, good for you. The world is a big place, and everyone sees it differently. We could all stand to step out of our comfort zones more often. I don't exactly want to congratulate these authors for having written banned books, but I would like to encourage everyone reading this blog to go out and pick up a book that someone else thinks you shouldn't read.

And you can laugh evilly in their general direction.