Editor’s note: Books should be read, not banned

By Blaise Mesa, Co-Editor-in-Chief

This week we acknowledge some of the most egregious violations of freedom of speech with Banned Books Week.

Make no mistake, Banned Books Week is not simply about banning books. It’s about limiting conversations on race, religion and sexuality in classrooms across America.

Banned Books Week started in 1982 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Island Trees School District could not remove books from the library due to the book’s content. Now, Banned Books Week is an annual event occupying the last week of September to showcase banned books and encourage readership.

In April 2019, the American Library Association released a list of the 11 most “challenged” books of 2018. The list included books such as “George” by Alex Gino, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan.

“George” was banned for mentioning dirty magazines and a transgender character; “The Hate U Give” was banned for being “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use and sexual references; and “Two Boys Kissing” was banned for “including LGBTQIA+ content,” according to the ALA’s website.

ALA estimates that organizations attempted to ban or restrict access to 483 books in 2018. Some of these books were even burned.

Book burnings are unacceptable. They are reminiscent of the book burnings from the 1930s at the hands of Nazis. Specifically, May 10, 1933, when Nazis burned approximately 25,000 books.

We may chuckle when we see J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books have been banned due to depictions of witchcraft and Dumbledore’s sexual orientation, but this is no laughing matter.

The reasons given for banned and burned books this year are terrifyingly similar. It should not be radical to call on people, schools and organizations across the country to stop banning books. It seems elementary to repeat, but it rings true: If the Nazis did it, we definitely should not.

Moreover, it’s pathetic people across the country find the mere mention of an LGBTQ+ couple kissing so offensive that a book is banned or burned because of it.

Avoiding conversations on race and sexuality do not make issues and conflicts go away. In fact, it will only make them worse. LGBTQ+ students and people of color will inevitably feel demonized and devalued if these books, and the representation they provide, are banned.

Banning books may prevent life-saving conversations. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, was banned, in part, for addressing suicide, according to the ALA’s website. This stigmatizes depression and suicide, which makes it harder for students to find help when they need it. It’s okay to not be okay, and people needing someone to talk to can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, or message the National Suicide Text Line, 741-741.

Some Chronicle staff members recommend the following banned books:

“Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

“A Separate Peace” by John Knowles

“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

“In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

“The Awakening” by Kate Chopin

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Animal Farm” by George Orwell

“Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

Books can provide windows to other worlds. Readers can dive into stories they would never have come across. From infancy to adulthood, people should not be missing out on thought-provoking literature.

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