I first heard about banned books week in high school, and I was baffled—people were banning books?! Why? When I looked up the list my jaw dropped. Half of my favorite books were on that list!
For those of you that don’t know, Banned Books Week pushes back against censorship and celebrates the freedom to read. Words have power. Books have been burned to keep them out of the hands of readers. In our modern era, the movement to ban a book usually starts at home—with the parents.
In many ways, the celebration of banned books can be tied into the #weneeddiversebooks and #ownvoices movements, because often times the titles that are getting banned are ones that push against the norm. From books that deal with sexuality, race, gender, and war, to dystopias that warn of us an all-too-close future…books with a message have always been under attack. I have a suspicion many people that try to ban books are coming from a place of fear—fear of the unknown, fear of a different truth, and fear of a different world.
The reasons for banning books vary, and all of them are unacceptable. Anne Frank has been banned for being “sexually offensive”, The Awakening was banned for being “immoral”, Catch in the Rye (one of my favorite books!) was banned for being “excessively vulgar, immoral, and sexuality explicit” and the list goes on, and on!
Every year I celebrate by reading a different banned book. Last year I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (banned for sexual imagery and profanity), and this year I’ll be reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (banned for criticizing motherhood, the institution of marriage, and profanity) and loving every minute of it!
What are some of your favorite banned books? What will you be reading this week? If you haven’t decided yet, you can always visit bannedbooksweek.org for a list of titles to pick from.