Modern-Day Book Banning
I recently came across an Instagram post listing 52 books that are banned from Utah’s largest school district. Among the titles listed is Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, described on Goodreads as “a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.” the book is criticized for including explicit sexual themes and discussing sensitive issues like suicide and rape. While not for everyone, reading through Milk and Honey makes many people feel seen. Look through Goodreads or Amazon and you will see reviews by many readers who felt empowered to take control of their own lives, who learned to be comfortable with the idea that they are enough for themselves.
Another title listed is All Boys Aren’t Blue by Geroge M. Johnson. Described on Amazon as a memoir-manifesto, All Boys Aren’t Blue is a series of essays by the author depicting their experiences growing up as a queer black individual. Many of the books included in the ban are about the experiences of people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, books that have the potential to help young adults recognize what they are feeling. We read not only to understand the world but to understand ourselves.
Not too long ago, taxpayers voted to defund a Michigan library over an issue with LGBTQ+ themed graphic novels that were part of their collection. One novel, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (also included on the Utah list) chronicles the author’s experience as a nonbinary person and includes depictions of sexual acts. After parents complained, the novel was removed from shelves and put behind the desk to be checked out upon asking. Unfortunately, requests to remove books from the shelves did not end there, they kept rolling in as more titles were deemed inappropriate. After they refused to remove more books, the town voted to defund the library as they did not agree with some of the materials in the library and were concerned about certain books indoctrinating their children. Of the 67,000 materials at the Patmos Library, only 90 are considered to have LGBTQ+ themes.
Read Banned Books!
At one time or another many of the books that we are taught in school now, were banned or challenged. I looked through a list and found titles like The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, Brave New World, The Awakening, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. In my high school and college classes I have been encouraged to read all of these books for the insight that they provide into the time periods that they were written and the lives of the people that they were written about. Books that were once frowned upon, even banned, are now considered classics that everyone should read.
There are many reasons why reading banned books is so important. Banned books help us understand people and cultures that are different from our own as well as time periods that we did not live through. I am not from Afghanistan, nor have I ever been there, but reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini helped me learn about Afghanistan during the 60s and 70s before the Soviet Union invaded, an Afghanistan that is very different from the one we know today. I was able to understand much about the socioeconomic culture of a country that is different than the one I grew up in.
Books are often banned by people who disagree with their content. I’d argue that just because we disagree with something, does not mean that we should shut it out completely. It is important to read books about people who are different from us so that we can understand their experiences just like it is important to read books to understand ourselves. The world would be a much kinder place if we tried harder to empathize with people who are different from us instead of disregarding them.
About the Author: Grace Midha is a rising junior at North Carolina State University majoring in English and Political Science. In her free time, she likes to read, write, travel, and spend time with her friends and family. Grace is very excited to be an intern at The Writer’s Workout this summer!