What do “The Catcher in the Rye,” “1984,” “Beloved,” “The Great Gatsby,” the Harry Potter series, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “The Adventures of Captain Underpants” all have in common? At one point in time someone has tried to ban them from public schools and libraries.
The act of banning books is one that runs counter to the very ideals of our democracy. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, these constitutional rights should be unassailable. And yet, far too often, they are interpreted as applying only to a narrow worldview.
Books are challenged on many grounds, but often they tie into constructed social “norms.” The violation of which is considered taboo by certain groups or individuals. To the point that any work of literature that would dare violate these taboos is challenged.
Take “1984,” for example. Orwells’ classic novel about the dangerous of totalitarianism and the value of individualism over government rule has been challenged and banned many times in its history. And often because it supposedly “promotes communism.”
We’re not sure what book those people read, assuming they read it at all, but the idea that anyone would attempt to ban a book that is, essentially, a book about the need for individual freedoms is ironic.
Then there are books like “And Tango Makes Three” which has been challenged for “promoting homosexuality.” This adorable children’s book tells the story of two male penguins that adopt a baby penguin, but a small minority of people believe that children shouldn’t be exposed to LGBTQ themes. Those people are clearly living under a rock because it’s 2019; their kids are just as likely to be exposed to LGBTQ themes in a cereal commercial.
And we’re still not convinced that the people that have challenged Bradbury’s classic “Fahrenheit 451” aren’t just having a laugh. Banning a book about banning books? That’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black. But we’ve never thought that book banners had much self-awareness to begin with.
Books, even those that we find personally offensive, can help us better understand the world we live in. To remove them from schools and libraries is a disservice to our children and to the public. Books teach us critical thinking and give us the ability to look at social, political and religious themes complexly. To ban a book is to ban the very act of learning.
The Lawton Constitution wants to hear what you think. Tell us about your favorite banned book and why it is your favorite. Let us know on our Facebook page: The Lawton Constitution, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will print your answers the week of Sept. 22, which is Banned Book Week, an annual effort by the American Library Association to celebrate the freedom to read while shining a light on efforts to ban or challenge books.