Attacks on books: war waged on intelligence, humanity


Throughout the 2021-2022 school year, 138 school districts across 32 states have banned over 2,500 books according to EducationWeek. The New York Times says the attempts of banning books across the country has grown to its highest rate in 20 years.

That is absurd for many reasons but primarily, books play a huge role in our society. They feed our brains with knowledge, giving us power. Books are so much more than silly stories on paper. They record our history so we can learn from it; they can help us escape from harsh realities; they record our knowledge like medical information, and other science; and they help us develop a sense of humanity including compassion and understanding of others.

The most frustrating part about this is the reasoning why so many want to ban books. Not only Schools, but the parents/guardians of the students reject books for having mentions of LGBTQ+ characters, race and or racism. According to Pen America, a nonprofit that advocates for free speech, there were 1586 book bans in 86 school districts across 26 states just between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. Of those 1586, 379 titles (33%) explicitly address LGBTQ+ themes, or have protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are LGBTQ+.

While many people are against LGBTQ+ topics for religious reasons, they really should see past that because so many stories on these topics do more good than harm. A book isn’t going to turn a child into a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead, reading these types of books can help students and society understand others who aren’t like them. Not only that, but students who do identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community can feel like they are not alone.

“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe has been banned from various districts. Although I am not a part of LGBTQ+ community, I am still upset that books like these have been banned. It’s actions like these that make people so afraid of having a different sexuality than being heterosexual.

Like any book that’s about someone who’s different than others, it teaches the world what it feels like to not fit in. It gives people a different perspective. I have many friends who are apart of LGBTQ+ community who tell me day in and day out how hard it is for them when their family member doesn’t understand them nor their feelings.

According to EducationWeek, another reason that has been cited in the argument to ban books is that mentions of sex can constitute “pornography.” Romeo and Juliet have mentions of sex and physical affection, and it is one of the most popular books taught in English classes; it’s even a required, core text for Omaha Public Schools ninth grade English.

Books with mentions of race/racism have also been challenged, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, which makes an appearance in the banned books pile, being banned twice over the past three years.Lee’s book is commonly assigned by Middle and High school teachers. The book contains the N-word, and some take offense to this, but it captures what it was like to be a black person back in the 60’s. They regularly used the N-word back then.

Texts that depict history like this, even if unpleasant, are important to be kept in schools to teach the racial issues people use to face and so we can learn from the past. Getting rid of books that tell how it was is just like erasing history. If they don’t exist, that bad history doesn’t exist; and we all know that isn’t true.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” isn’t the only book that has been thrown into the ban pile for this reason, though. “The Hate U Give” a more modern book published in 2017, by George Tillman provides the world with a glimpse of what it is like for African Americans who endure police brutality. We see it on the news all the time. Black man shot for being black or black woman arrested for driving while black. This book has also been banned from many school districts as well. These books are depicting our uncomfortable reality, but it’s just that- reality.

When I read books like these, I always feel a personal connection with them. Although I have never dealt with anything as intense of as the characters in the “The Hate U Give,” I still have dealt with situations because of my race that made me feel uncomfortable and disrespected. I have been called names, stereotyped, and judged because I am a young black female. It pains me every day knowing that there are people in the world who are still so naïve and oblivious to these issues people of color face.

The truth is, people need to feel uncomfortable. They need to learn and understand what things are like for people who are different than them. They need to understand the history of all people. If it makes them uncomfortable, perhaps they need to reevaluate their own beliefs and experience the real world.

There are so many different books that are on the verge of being banned. This scares me because without books, how are we supposed to learn beyond the standard English books that are given from the school. Books are knowledge. Books are power. If people take them away, they to control our knowledge; they control what we learn and how we learn it. Knowledge is freedom. This is why everyone should defend books when they are challenged and why school districts should be less agreeable when parents/guardians or community members challenge our books.