I have an affiliate relationship with Bookshop.org and Malaprop's Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site. Read more on my affiliate page.
Today kicks off Banned Books Week 2021. I’ve tried to acknowledge this week every year that my blog has been active. I never used to think of myself as a reader who chooses particularly controversial books. When I first started my blog, I mostly read fantasy. What’s offensive about that, right? But when I look at the list of the 100 most frequently challenged books from 1990-1999 (the years when I was in middle school – college), I’ve read a lot of them just for fun. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The Goosebumps series. A Wrinkle in Time. Lots of Stephen King. The Wish Giver. If someone had their way, I might never have been able to pick these up at the library and enjoy them. Are these books for every reader? Not by any means. But you choose what you’re interested in and I’ll choose what I’m interested in and we’ll all be happy. Concerned parents can monitor the reading choices of their own children, and even ask for a different assignment for their child if they disapprove of a teacher’s choice. But no one has the right to restrict the community’s access to a book.
Now that I’m older and reading more widely, I do find myself reading more of the difficult books from the challenged book lists. A lot of frequently challenged books touch on LGBTQIA+ themes and/or social justice. These aren’t easy topics. I get it. But, as the graphic above says, censorship divides us and books unite us. Reading books written by people who are of a different race, gender, or sexual orientation than me lets me experience the world through their eyes. It’s easy to view people who are different from us as “other.” But when we pick up a book and share someone else’s reality for a few hours, we see that we’re all just people who are doing the best we can in this world.
I’ve scheduled reviews of banned/challenged books every day this week. Did I love every book I read? Honestly, no. But I really liked most of them. Did I learn something from every book or see the world from a different perspective? Yes. And that’s the beauty of reading for me. I hope you see a book that grabs your attention this week and give it a try, especially if it’s something that presents the world from a perspective that’s different from yours.
I downloaded both the graphics in this post from the American Library Association website.