According to Pen America, there are currently more than 1,100 titles banned or facing a ban across the USA.
Let’s be clear on this. Not only is it a reprehensible move by the far right to censor childrens’ and young peoples’ education, but it holds a mirror up to their own twisted ideology. The idea that censoring material because it will “corrupt” young minds is a smokescreen for the real purpose: To push an ideological view of America shaped by ultra-conservative views of bigotry, hate, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and Christian zealotry.
What are the most commonly cited reasons for censorship?
- Race – obviously, racism shouldn’t be encouraged, but a book that shines a light on racism and its wider impact should be considered essential reading. For that reason, I can thoroughly recommend The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
- Witchcraft/The Occult – massively misunderstood (Salem Witch Trials, anyone?) practises with both good and bad elements. Books such as the Harry Potter series are seen as promoting occult practises and attacking religion.
- Sex – in particular, same-sex relationships, sex before marriage, sexual abuse, anything on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Do these censors honestly believe a book can turn a straight child gay or question their gender? I’ve got news for them, kids already are. I’ve read loads of LGBTQ+ stories, a particular favourite is The House In The Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. It’s absolutely beautiful.
- Sociopolitical – challenging the political system, encouraging rebellion, anti-capitalist, drug use, violence, poverty, profanity. If a book makes you think about the unfairness of the current system, question the divide between rich and poor, spotlights the destructive consequences of drug use, then those are good things.
I have a question for those in favour of censorship: What on Earth is it that you are so scared of?
Because this is what it boils down to – fear.
To quote Yoda – Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
I would go one further, and add that ignorance feeds the fear to begin with. By not educating themselves on issues that many of these books address, the censors are perpetuating this myth that kids will become corrupt, that they’ll turn gay, trans, take drugs, paint pentagrams on the floor, etc.
If that was the case, I and many others have been doomed for a long time. Next year, I turn 50, and I have read horror, fantasy fiction, sci-fi, classics, chick lit, LGBTQ+, thrillers, dystopia and general fiction. Books are my most favourite thing in the world, I love them, I love reading. I love diving into stories, and going on amazing adventures. Books have fed and continue to feed my imagination. They have saved me during dark times, comforted me, made me cry, made me laugh, kept me on the edge of my seat, or up until the small hours.
Banned books I have read:
- To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
- 1984 – George Orwell
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
- Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
- Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
- Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Not exhaustive, and may not be outright banned countrywide, but I wouldn’t say that these were corrupting. I actually found 1984 to be a boring and labourious read!
My advice to anyone reading this, concerned about the book ban is to defy it. Read those banned books, let your kids read them, let them make up their own minds. Kids are not stupid, and they deserve better than to have a bunch of narrow minded adults censoring their education. THAT is what will corrupt them. Not books.