Nationwide book bans fail literature’s greatest benefactors: children

Suppressing controversial literature only deprives young of books’ value

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Across the nation, demands are being made for the removal of contentious books from libraries and reading lists

Pulitzer-prize-winning “Maus” by Art Speigelman, a graphic novel about the Holocaust, is being pulled from library shelves and taken off required reading lists for its inappropriate language and provocative, detailed image of a nude woman. 

Book bans, once associated with authoritarian regimes like Nazi Germany, have seeped into the freedom-of-press, democratic United States of America. Perpetrated by assailants from the political left and right, books containing mature themes, including racism, sexuality, and gender, have been pulled off library shelves and removed from schools’ book lists. This blatantly disregards the very purpose of reading for children: to learn, to reflect, and to grow. 

Across the nation libraries and their librarians are under fire, facing attacks and retribution from parents and organizations for featuring, for example, LGBTQ+ stories with provocative sexual details, pieces that perpetuate out of date narratives, and novels exploring the grievances sexual assault victims face.

We must actively resist book bans, combating backwards encroachments on literature by firmly dispelling them and refusing to give illegitimate claims the benefit of a platform for support.”

Have we begun misconstruing bold and revealing with offensive and sinful? Have we moved so beyond our core principles of freedom that we’ve begun stripping the public of it? Have we entered a period of total, absolute senselessness when parents are assailing educational institutions for fulfilling their very expectation? 

The New Trier library has yet to receive any formal challenges for the books on their shelves. Yet, with the rate at which book bans are sweeping the nation, these ridiculous book bans could arrive on our home front any day now. 

Parents are naive to think they can shield their children forever from inappropriate, provocative content. While children’s innocence should be protected to some degree, parents should take an active role in monitoring the content of their own children and have conversations with them surrounding taboo topics. 

Rather than seeking to deprive all children of the benefit of accessing literature that may grant meaningful exposure to uncharted territory, parents should stay in their own lane and not encroach on the opportunities of another child.

Some of the ban advocates, many of whom are parents who are a part of conservative groups like Moms for Liberty, have stated that the library’s simple inclusion of texts that feature mature themes will rid them of their children’s innocence with its violence and sexual content. In addition, other texts, like the New York Times 1619 Project, a modern journalist project to reframe the white-centric history narrative, have garnered controversy due to parents’ belief that it will indoctrinate their kids to Marxist critical race theory.

On the other hand, certain progressives have deemed some titles to be deserving of retribution due to their use of outdated, demeaning subjects. We can still learn from the olden days and use those books with outdated views as the basis for comparison to modern society so as to understand the persistence of dated prejudices and dismantle the systems that allow for their longevity.

The popular titles that are being called for removal from libraries and required reading lists include “Maus,” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” a young adult memoir by George M. Johnson.

Morrison’s work details the life of a woman scarred by her former life as an enslaved person and entails a depiction sexual assault. “To Kill A Mockingbird” is being criticized by the left wing for its use of racial slurs and for presenting a tale featuring a white savior as the admirable protagonist. 

The interest of protecting children and shielding them from the “atrocities” that many of these attacked books present fails to get at the quintessential escapism and exploration that an authentic, meaningful story accomplishes. 

For instance, LGBTQ+ children in transphobic or homophobic households are in dire need of these types of stories, ones that can serve as outlets for their identities, ones that they can consult and relate to in times of turmoil, distress, or even joy. People need sources for refuge, for sanctity, for affirmation, for comfort. And, it’s not as though librarians, by any means, are forcing us to read the library’s more controversial titles. 

Controversial literature is absolutely crucial and a child shouldn’t be deprived of its sometimes promiscuous or contentious themes. Controversy builds character and broadens one’s understanding of certain topics that might be hard to encounter in daily casual conversation.

As for removing titles like “To Kill A Mockingbird,” it is an ill-conceived preoccupation. While I understand the subject matters in these books are not necessarily something we want to expose our children to as it could corrupt their social consciousness, these types of outdated books, actually and slightly shockingly, could reap great benefits to readers if taught correctly. Rather than demanding these works be removed from English curriculums, we should be advocating that, at least some of them, remain and be taught properly, their cultural flaws highlighted and their syntax read critically. Students should be exposed to the fallacies of the old world so as to be able to live in the modern world with a stronger social consciousness and capacity to recognize racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of prejudice. Although English curriculums shouldn’t purely consist of decrepit works by old white authors, learning to evaluate them through a critical lens will foster a worthwhile advance away from dated themes within the American educational system and beyond.

Some literature is art. Some literature isn’t. For the esteemed books facing retribution, children are missing out on an art form and the accompanying educational opportunities to understand their environment, the encounters they may face, the cultures within this world, and the past atrocities committed against them. I’m incredibly grateful for the benefits reading has rendered me. It has provided me joy, comfort, sadness, and a whole bevy of other emotions. 

I’m saddened by the loss children nationwide have experienced and will continue to experience as long as these book bans persist. Partly, we must go forth reading critically, analyzing texts for their intents and undertones. But, also, we must actively resist book bans, combating backwards encroachments on literature by firmly dispelling them and refusing to give illegitimate claims the benefit of a platform for support.