What might Susannah Collins’ Hunger Games have in common with Anne Frank’s Diary of a Teenage Girl?
Nothing, right? You might be surprised, but you’d be completely wrong.
The dystopian novel and movie series that let’s hold on to Littlefinger, and the novels we read about the Holocaust in sixth grade, were all deemed inappropriate for some young people.
1,648 books between July 2021 and April 2022 ban or challenge in 26 states. This total is more than 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined. For a nation that prides itself on freedom, the right to read freely is always under threat.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite underrated literary works to appear on the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books list during Banned Books Week celebrations September 18-24.
“Persepolis: A Childhood Story” by Marjane Satrapi
French-Iranian graphic novelist Satrapi’s Persepolis: A Childhood Story has been widely praised and criticized since it was first published in 2003.
Satrapi’s graphic novel is a first-hand account of the conflict in Iran from 1979 to 1987. Satrapi’s experiences at a young age shaped her social values, cultural identity and career aspirations.
While some parts of the novel may shock and disturb some readers, they are not inappropriate or worthy of scrutiny—Satrapi’s youth and lack of comprehensive understanding of the changing world around him are even in certain to protect readers.
In 2013, Chicago Public Schools decided the novel was inappropriate for some students, despite having “Persepolis: A Childhood Story” for six or seven years in their curriculum. The illustrations of torture, sexual assault, foul language and anti-democratic sentiments allegedly upset parents.
Kristine Mayle, treasurer of the Chicago Teachers Union, commented on the hypocrisy of the Chicago public school curriculum surrounding the novel. One of the core questions is “Can you justify restricting someone’s rights in the name of protecting them?”
Shel Silverstein’s “End of the Sidewalk”
The End of the Sidewalk is a collection of poems and illustrations by American author Silverstein.
While the poems in this episode are ostensibly satirical, they have a deeper meaning and variety of meanings that give “End of the Sidewalk” a place on the ALA’s banned books list.
In the poem titled “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” Silverstein wrote, “For children, they mark, and children, they know where the sidewalk ends.” The poem encapsulates the coming Adult doom.
“End of the Sidewalk” was recently removed from bookshelves in various Wisconsin schools and public libraries. Critics claim it promotes drug use, disrespects any authority and suicide.
I disagree with this interpretation. Silverstein’s poetry blurs the lines between childhood and adulthood. Through his writing, he sees them as equals who can understand the real world.
Unlike Silverstein, parents and educators don’t see children as academic equals. Maybe some novels aren’t worth the challenge if they try to break down intense concepts into basic ideas.
By the way, you should write some poems about someone taking a baby with a grain of salt. Trust me, he doesn’t subtly influence your child to eat cannibals.
“All American Boys” by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds
The novel “All American Boys” is co-written by Kiely and Reynolds. The two met in 2013, when the verdict of George Zimmerman’s trial of the second-degree murder of 17-year-old black boy Treyvon Martin was announced.
This example inspired Keeley and Reynolds to write All American Boys, a novel about racism and police brutality in a modern time frame. The perspective switches back and forth between the black Rashad Butler, written by Reynolds, and the white Quinn Collins, written by Keeley.
Discussions about social justice issues are integral to the modern classroom, but have a history of making concerned parents and educators uncomfortable because of their political connotations.
Many of these concerns reached an all-time high in 2020 as Black Lives Matter protests pointed to disturbing incidents of similar injustice.
In 2019, the novels “All American Boys” and “The Hate U Give” were dropped from a South Carolina high school’s summer reading list. reason? The indoctrination of mistrust in the police.
Advocates of banned books fail to take into account that every piece of literature is open to individual interpretation. “All American Boys” won’t make your innocent kids hate the police. It will provide an example of the abuse of power in a systemic society that is rarely questioned.
Banned books have a long history in the United States and around the world. It is important to ask why the books are banned and whether their ban is justified – in the case of these books, their exclusion from the curriculum is not justified.