Earlier in the semester we took a look at the banned books list. A link to it can be found here. When we looked at this list I was honestly flabbergasted. I couldn’t even fathom that I had read almost half of the books on this list. Some of the most surprising books I saw on the list included: The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling (really?), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Forever by Judy Blume, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and these were just the first 4 that I was extremely surprised by. After hearing about the banned books list I began to think about how limiting this is for students. What are we teaching them about tough issues by banning books that contain content dealing with them? The world certainly hasn’t eliminated the existence of tough issues. Why not share the realities of the world with our children so that we can discuss with them ways in which we can solve these problems? I feel if we continue to ban books like this, we will encourage the youth of this nation that if something becomes tough they should ignore it, but thats not the answer.
I want to discuss some of the books on the list that I have read personally and my experience with them. First off, I have read the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling. This series of books is truly magical. It taught me lessons of friendship and perseverance. I can personally attest that I was able to distinguish the stories of Harry Potter from the real world and in no way did it make me want to practice witch craft contrary to those who decided to put it on the banned books list for this reason. If I wasn’t able to read this series, I would have missed out on the magic of the world that Harry and his friends lived in. I would have missed out on learning that just because you are different doesn’t mean that you are wrong.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a novel that I read in one of my high school english classes. This book is a memoir written by a Vietnam veteran. It contains stories of those in his platoon who suffer from PTSD and a few who end up committing suicide. It also follows the story of Tim (not the author but the narrator) who eventually comes to terms with what happened in Vietnam after going on a trip back with his daughter. This book was so valuable because it taught me what it means to feel guilt and shame, the horrors and severity of war, and the importance of teamwork and forgiveness. If I hadn’t been able to read this book, I would have missed out on wonderfully written work that gave me a whole new perspective to war, love and life itself.
The final book I’d like to discuss is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read this book in one of my high school english classes as well. This book takes place in a post apocalyptic society in which women are subject to extreme oppression after an overthrow of the U.S. government. The main character’s name is Offred (Of- Fred) who is sent to be a child bearer for a man named Fred, all forms of reading and media are banned for women, and women are used as vessels for child birth and that is basically it. Offred questions the authority of the leaders of this society and Fred. She remembers the old world she used to live in and struggles to accept her place in this new society. If I had not read this book, I would have never learned the importance of question authority when it is warranted and the power of reading and writing.
To conclude, I would like to ask, who has the authority to ban books for the children of our nation? How are they in anyway qualified to say what is and isn’t allowed to be read? How can they limit our knowledge and the knowledge of our youth? If the action of banning books continues, how many more children will miss out on the enriching experience that these type books can provide? I don’t think that anyone should limit what students can read and I hope that rather than banning books, we can collectively decide to let students read these books and discuss with them the ways in which we can solve the tough issues that exist within our world.