Banning books puts unnecessary limits on literature

by: RACHEL MEANS/Staff Writer

Book banning has been going on for years.

Schools have been forbidding the teaching of books for almost as long as they have been requiring reading. From Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” to John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” any book that can be perceived as offensive, in any way, is likely to be challenged.

The question, of course, is should they be?

As far as I’m concerned, the answer is a firm, resounding “no.” The thing about literature, good literature at least, is that it reflects real life. Anyone older than the age of 10 can tell you that real life is anything but wholesome. Life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies; it’s rough and uncertain. How can we fault a book for reflecting what we see every day with our own eyes?

Then you take into account the fact that many of the most frequently challenged books are those that focus on important topics. Issues such as racism and homophobia need to be addressed plainly and openly. But the minute an author broaches a sensitive subject, he or she falls under fire. They can’t talk about racism because then they will have to create a racist character. Heaven forbid a child should be exposed to such a thing, never mind the fact he or she will undoubtedly meet at least one racist person in real life before leaving high school.

A good example of a book that exists to make a point is the novel “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins. This book is the story of a girl whose life falls apart after she gets addicted to drugs. I read it when I was around 12, and it did more to keep me away from drugs than any school seminar ever could. Yes, the book goes to some dark places, and, at times, it’s uncomfortable to read. But I am immensely grateful that I had the chance to read it. It gave me a look into a world that I lived next to my whole life but had never seen up close before.

Another great example of important but uncomfortable literature is Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” This book is by far one of the most banned books in history because of its continued use of racial slurs. But think about its setting. It makes sense for the story, never mind the fact that the whole book is about racism.

It’s the job of adults to teach their children about the world. How can we expect to raise healthy, intelligent, well adjusted people if we shelter them from any and all unpleasantness? Books are a safe way to learn the ugly truth about the darker parts of our world. They don’t have to be discriminated against to understand discrimination; just let them read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and they will get it.