A ‘forbidden section’ is for Hogwarts, not real life libraries
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 22:10
This week marks the 30th anniversary of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, a time for readers of all stripes to celebrate and defend the freedom to read. And well they should, because in 2011, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received 326 reports regarding attempts to remove or restrict texts from school curricula and library shelves. Over the years, many books we would consider classics and/or unassailable have come under fire from those who deem youth too immature or fragile to handle heavy subject matter.
For example, in 2006, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was challenged in Tennessee for the “use of racial slurs,” which it was argued would promote “racial hatred, racial division, racial separation, and white supremacy.” For real, Tennessee? Anyone who has read “To Kill a Mockingbird” knows that the book is about the exact opposite of bigotry. The characters that promote the aforementioned quoted traits are effectively demonized and portrayed as terrible human beings. How that qualifies as promotion of bigotry is beyond me.
In 2010, a school in Virginia pulled “The Diary of Anne Frank” from its shelves for “sexually explicit” and “homosexual” themes. In Alabama, the book was challenged for “being a real downer.” If I hadn’t done a little digging for this information, I would frankly be skeptical about those reasons actually being the reasons that were put forth, but there you go. This is a book about a young girl who is subjected to all the horrors that Nazi Germany had to offer, yet still in the end believes in the “basic goodness of mankind.”
Perhaps the most well-known banned book series of today is “Harry Potter.” Over the past decade, the book series has been challenged and banned again and again for “promoting occultism and paganism, therefore undermining Christian virtues.” That noise you just heard is the sound of the entire world’s “Harry Potter” fans facepalming as one. Yes, the series involves a great deal of magic. No, it is not a step-by-step instruction booklet on how to summon Cthulu. Rather, it’s a story about good vs. evil ,and about how love is the greatest power in the world. It makes reference to real world problems like racism and living with HIV. Not only that, but the series has inspired young people to read more than Hooked on Phonics ever could.
I’m sure that after reading through these descriptions of why books are challenged in various parts of the country, you can see a common theme. The people who try to ban books are people who condescend to the young people who will be reading them. In essence, they believe that young people will be unable to think critically about the book’s actual message(s). John Green said it aptly in a response to his book “Looking For Alaska” being challenged in New York at Depew High School in 2008: “When [kids] read George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm,’ do they head out to the pig farms to kill all the pigs because they’re about to become communist autocrats?” (The right answer is no).
In closing, I have this to say to would-be book banners: “Sit down, shut up and let people read in peace.”