Last week was banned book week. What does that matter?
Those who control the narrative, control our history. Taking back control is why you should care about banned books.
Reading banned and challenged books is a form of intellectual rebellion against those who would rather censor information than expose their children and teens to difficult subject matters.
It is essential to celebrate the texts that define the human struggle. When we allow for stories to be silenced, there is the threat that individual histories will be erased. Histories that are steeped in real struggles.
When a book is challenged by a public library or school, I am reminded that my education is something to be fought for and that there are those who would rather erase conflicting perspectives rather than celebrate intellectual freedom.
We should be upset that there are some children who do not have access to free intellectual thought and that they are barred from reading the important subject matter.
Banning books limits people’s right to learn about serious subjects and directs the perspective away from meaningful issues. Minoritiy groups of different races, genders and sexualities are left in the dust and their stories deemed unworthy for discussion.
I find this to be more troubling than allowing parents and institutions to actively challenge books they deem inappropriate. Everyone’s story deserves to be told. Frequently challenged books ranging from “Beloved” by Toni Morrison to “Harry Potter” by JK Rowling can help people gain insight into important emotions like what it means to love, to lose, to hate and how to grapple with feelings of guilt. It is through these books that we gain understanding, empathy,and compassion about others’ experiences.
This is why I can’t comprehend how challenging and banning books is even a possibility. Our knowledge of the world around us is defined by our ability to read people’s stories. The ability to educate ourselves about the world ensures that people do not lose their voice in a world that works hard to silence them.
No one has the right to censor that story. Religion, race or sexuality should be topics that push us to think. Just because something is “offensive” doesn’t mean that there is no lesson to learn. That thinking is steeped in ignorance.
The American Library Association (ALA) recognizes this very notion and celebrates the fact that even though every person is entitled to their opinion, it doesn’t mean that they are entitled to censor what anyone reads. The fact that banned and challenged books are celebrated is the way the ALA speaks up about intellectual oppression. Who has a right to censor your thoughts? Who has the right to tell you what you can and can’t read?
Protecting the ability to actively read and express ideas is a right. One that should always be fought for.
One that I fight for.
Lists of banned books can be found on:
Madison Vilapando can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @madisonvialpan2.