By Taylre Rene Malloy~Self-Love Literature Contributing Writer
Welcome to Banned Book Month! By definition, censorship is the regulation of speech and other forms of expression by an entrenched authority. In honor of this year’s banned book week starting September 22nd – 28th, I want to highlight a few of “The Greats” currently on the blacklist whose contents, themes, and universal messages are scheduled for deletion by the Powers That Be to never be read by the public again.
In these times, we the Enlightened must ask ourselves, if knowledge is truly power, then why would a government go to great lengths to censor it? Below are five books currently on the Banned Reading List and five reasons that reading these books can help free your mind.
“1984″ By George Orwell
Having repeatedly been banned in the past for its social and political themes, George Orwell’s 1984 is by far one of the most challenged novels in U.S history.
Book censorship, in particular is the strategic removal, suppression, or restricted circulation of literary, artistic, or educational materials, ideas, and information on the grounds that these are morally or otherwise objectionable in the eyes of The Powers That Be. The overall intent of censorship, in any form, is to act as “a kind of safeguard for modern society, typically to preserve norms and values, thus suppressing books that are considered dangerous to a society’s political power.
Who challenged it? First challenged in 1981 by the parents and members of the school board, Orwell’s novel, 1984 was widely considered to be far too “communistic” to read in local school systems. As the ALA argues, these challenges pose a threat to freedom of speech and choice that Americans hold dear and are worth standing up for, yet till this day the ALA continues to censor students from reading 1984 nationwide.
Because 1984 offers insight to those under the leadership of oppressive regimes, this book has been banned and even burned in most countries. The censorship initially began with Stalin in the 1950’s as Stalin claimed Orwell wrote the novel with his administration in mind. Recently, China banned all copies of 1984 from being distributed within their country due to the novel’s heightened scrutiny of mass censorship via technology by corrupt political systems, a society that the world is becoming far too familiar with even today.
As Big brother-like companies, political system’s, and Internet giants make it their obligation to monitor the masses, we The People are pressured to conform to stifling societal norms and oppressive political regimes. When the young are banned from books that teach them how to think for themselves, we automatically subject them to Big Brother policies designed to control them and their future. However, with recent talk on lifting the ban on this book for good, there’s still hope for a brighter future.
“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
Banned and challenged by The American Library Association shortly after its publication date “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas tells the fictional story of Starr Carter, a 16-year-old African American girl, who is caught between two worlds: the world of the affluent school she attends and the world of the crime-ridden neighborhood of Garden Heights where she lives.
The two worlds viciously collide in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Starr’s childhood friend by a cop. When the events of the night come into question, Starr must decide whether she will use her voice to rise up against The Powers That Be or remain silent.
Who Challenged It? Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement and the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant, the book was released in February to massive praise, including an unprecedented eight starred reviews.
Yet in Katy, Texas, one parent was unimpressed by Thomas’s frank portrayal of her teenage characters. Thus the Katy Independent School District superintendent decided to overturn the district’s policies in order to pull the book from shelves.
Despite push back from local librarians, till this day the ban remains in place at the expense of any teens who might have hoped to find Thomas’s novel on the shelves in their school libraries. Inspired by the banning, on November 27, 2017, Angie Thomas Tweeted “I’m saddened to hear that a school district in Texas banned #TheHateUGive, but I’m also empowered – you’re basically telling the kids of the Garden Heights of the world that their stories shouldn’t be told. Well, I’m going to tell them even louder. Thanks for igniting the fire.”
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
In the Age of Information, the Internet gives humans unlimited access to the largest resivours of knowledge humanity has ever known. Within the palm of our hands, upon the shelves of our libraries, and within the databases of our schools, the internet opens the portal into another realm where the world’s most powerful information can be found. But what if you lived in a society that attempted to censor the internet? Well in Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, this very reality is obsolete.
Who Challenged It? Banned in Ireland when it first appeared in 1932, and removed from shelves and objected to ever since, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is still very popular today. The novel warns humanity of a dystopian future and is often protested over its sexually explicit scenes, “offensive” language and “insensitivity.” Till this day, the book remains banned in all school libraries for young readers nationwide.
“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
Regarded as one of the seminal works of African literature, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe follows the life of Okonkwo, a leader and local wrestling champion in Umofia—a fictional group of nine villages in Nigeria—and his experiences with British colonialism and Christian missionaries. The story reveals the negative effects of white-rule on Okonkwo’s small village, most expressively when he decides to commit suicide instead of being tried in a colonial court.
Who Challenged It? Studied widely in Africa, Europe, and North America, Things Fall Apart has nonetheless received criticism for its portrayal of colonialism and its consequences, and has reportedly been banned in Malaysia and Nigeria. In 2012 it made the list of novels that were challenged in Texas schools for its portrayal of European Colonialism.
Achebe is the essential novelist on African identity and, while Achebe favors the African culture of a pre-western time, he attributes its destruction to the “weaknesses within the native structure.” For this reason, the book is highly Challenged by American school districts countrywide.
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games has been challenged for many reasons landing it number three on ALA’s Banned Book List. Banned in 2011 from all schools, The Hunger Games was deemed anti-ethnic, anti-family, and politically insensitive. Various claims were made insisting that the books programs teens to rebel against society creating revolutionists. The main characters, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, are certainly revolutionists indeed as they are forced to fight to the death then a war against their government.
Set after the apocalypse where only North America remains and is split into 13 districts and the Capitol, The Hunger Games tells the story of anarchy and social revolution against a corrupted government. When the 13th district rebels, it is destroyed and the Capitol forces the remaining 12 districts to compete in the Hunger Games, an annual reality T.V. show broadcasted through Panem where two children from opposite genders are placed in an arena to fight to the death.
Who Challenged It? The Hunger Games has been challenged for insensitivity, offensive language, violence and for being anti-family, anti-ethnic and occult/satanic. I can understand some of the reasons why this book was challenged, yet I don’t think it should be banned altogether.
Anytime a book is banned you must read it. There’s a reason a specific government, society, or institution wants to hide a book from the people. Such book contains knowledge that could shift the entire political system as we know it. If the dominate political system in power seeks to hide knowledge and control its citizens for the worse, books like these will inevitably be targeted. Despite the ban, and against all odds, it is up to us to continue to read them.