I’ve been following up on the current book discussions, via articles, videos, etc., and I’m saddened that so many wonderful books are being wrongfully removed, without proper review due to misinformation. There is already a lack of representation for these books as it is.
Over the last few years I’ve watched so many debuts come up, featuring diverse characters and stories, directed at a multitude of age groups, from toddlers all the way through to adult fiction. It’s been lovely seeing this reflected in literature…and now that boom in representation is being threatened, due to a lack of research.
Many fantastic, talented authors, who’s books have touched readers hearts are having their work removed from libraries and schools, or inappropriately relocated…and although this isn’t happening where I live, I feel deeply disturbed by this, as both a reader and author.
To give some background, where I live once you are of the age 13, your parents and or guardians are unable to request knowledge of what you’ve checked out of the library. It is your responsibility at that age to return the books on time, and to choose appropriate books for yourself. This is to protect a child’s privacy. My friends mom was our local librarian, and made it very clear when children were old enough to get their own library card, that the information on what they checked out would remain private. This is not just about a child’s privacy, but also their safety. Not everyone comes from a good home…although this is a fictional example, think of how Matilda’s father reacted to her, when she was reading “Moby Dick”?
It’s baffling to me that the privacy and safety of children, especially young adult/teens is being violated in such a way, where there is a discussion on whether their parents should be notified of every book their child is checking out at the library. This obsession to control what sort of literature your children are consuming is bizarre and unsettling.
I completely understand wanting to protect your child, but there comes a time when you need to honour, and value the importance of trust. Trust that your child is capable of choosing what literature they’re ready to consume. Just an ounce of trust, will gain you more respect from someone than not even allowing them to make decisions for themselves…or stripping them of the right to do so.
When I was younger, if I found a book I had purchased or borrowed was too much for me, I stopped reading it. Simple as that. As did all of my peers. it’s no different than quitting on a book you’re not enjoying.
If we were assigned a “difficult” book, that dealt with unsettling content, we were told by some teachers (as providing trigger warnings was fairly new when I entered high school and university), which pages or chapters to skip, and depending on our teacher those sections were discussed in a way that was respectful, versus exploitive.
I highly recommend reading the article from BookRiot’s Danika Ellis on this subject, as it goes into further details on the 414 books that have been placed on this list, and the reasoning behind it.
My main intention with writing this blog post is to bring awareness to this situation, as removing books that could potentially cause “an individual [to] feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex” or that covers topics such as “human sexuality” is wrong, and there are books being placed on this list that make no sense. This is merely being used to shut down and reverse the progress the literary community has made over these last few years.
Think about this for a moment, a book that features a South Asian character as the lead who enters a school talent show with their band shouldn’t be considered “uncomfortable” or cause “guilt.” Yet these are the types of books that have ended up on the list, despite not even mentioning racism as a topic, and merely having a POC as the lead.
I would never put a novel like The Boy in the Striped Pyjama’s on this list, just because it made me cry when I was 13. It is a novel, that is written not to make one feel anguish, but to make you think about how differently children view the world around them, and how as children we value kindness and friendship, over race and religion. Why would this lesson be considered a bad thing? Should this book be banned because it has a sad ending, and fictionalizes historic events in a way that is more accessible for young readers to understand? Absolutely not. We need books like this, so that we can educate ourselves, and grow…to truly understand why we cannot and should not repeat history and go back on our progress.
I also wouldn’t put S.E Hinton’s, The Outsider’s on this list because it deals with gang violence, abuse, and opens up discussions about class. This novel deals with heavy subject matter, and yet it’s assigned to student’s as young as 13. To this day it is one of my favourite books, and films. It talks about friendship, the bond of brothers and how we can lean on our friends and community in times of tragedy. How there is nothing wrong with caring about other’s, and expressing ourselves through art, and finding healing in that after loss. Why would you want to take away a book like that? A book that makes you think hard about the type of person you want to be in your community? A book like this can help you navigate difficult subjects amongst your peers, such as bullying, poverty, growing up and how to be there for a friend who comes from a rough home. again, this is a novel that should never be removed.
Both of these examples, are of books that I read and adored. they bring up things like race, violence, prejudice based on class, religion etc…and yet, I would never put them on a list like this.
In fact, I would never think to put them or novels like Catcher in the Rye, and the perks of being a wallflower on a banned book list. It doesn’t make any sense. We’ve learned so much from these books, not only about the characters but about ourselves. If reading something like The Outsider’s makes you uncomfortable, then it is a good time to ask yourself why. If reading a book featuring a character of a race, religion or social background that differs from yours, makes you uncomfortable then it is a good chance to look inward and reflect on those feelings.
This deliberate effort to eliminate all of the progress that’s been made, is worth discussing among all literature communities. Whether it is effecting you or not…the point is, that this is being done to squander the efforts of marginalized communities, communities that have fought to get their work published…only to have it wrongfully investigated and removed under the guise of “protecting children.”
I highly encourage those of you reading my post to look into this topic, and to think about the novels you read when you were in school (or if you’re currently in school, the novels you’re reading right now). What was the impact it had on you, and do you feel that these books could be wrongfully pulled and placed on a banned book list if the subject matter and character’s were taken out of context?