Literature is a wonderful and integral part of the human experience. Books have the power to teach us about ourselves and the world around us. They can open up doors to new ideas, new outlooks, and fresh experiences. The best books deal with complicated, important, and often times controversial topics. Literature can be beautiful and unsettling all at once. When a writer puts his/her inner thoughts on the page to comment about the world we live in, it is a gift for all people to learn from and enjoy. There is nothing more raw than honest words in the pages of a great novel. With that rawness and creative freedom, there comes a price. Certain groups and individuals view some works of literature as detrimental instead of a valuable addition to the world.
Book banning is not a new concept, as governments and educational institutions have been banning books in America since the 1600's. Defining books such as The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Beloved, 1984, The Lord of the Flies, The Color Purple, The Grapes of Wrath, and many others have been banned for various reasons. All of these books are also staples in American schools today and have been for many years. These books have undoubtedly inspired and changed countless amounts of lives from being taught as part of school curriculums. Banning books contradicts First Amendment Rights, but it does not stop groups from trying to ban certain works, even in today's saturated entertainment and technological world.
Parents of schools in Idaho and North Carolina currently want John Steinbeck's classic, Of Mice and Men, and Khaled Hosseini's modern triumph, The Kite Runner, banned from their respective high schools. Of Mice and Men is facing adversity due to coarse language and dark themes. While The Kite Runner is being accused of having too many adult themes and portraying women in a negative light.
As a book lover, this is undeniably outrageous. As a human being, this is incredibly disheartening knowing that the opportunity to learn about different cultures and times in an extremely beneficial and increasingly scarce art form, the written word, is being threatened by groups of misguided individuals.
Questions for the parents who want these books banned: Do your kids have cell phones? Access to the internet and social media? Video games? Cable television? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, then your kid is learning about the world already through less tasteful venues. They are forming their own views of the world around them based on what they watch on television and read on the internet, and it's likely that they are not getting the whole picture while being exposed to much more inappropriate material then they will ever read about in a piece of literature assigned in the classroom. Quite frankly, supporters of banning books are trying to steal from their child's education, place them in a bubble, and refrain from allowing them to see the world as it really was and is from different perspectives. All the while, either unbeknownst to them, or just unwilling to admit it, their children are already being exposed to exactly what they are trying to keep away from them.
Of Mice and Men shows a different time in an incredibly real light, that cannot be learned from modern day society. As they say, in order to not repeat the past, we must learn from it, and while the short novel has strong themes, it is a great tool for teaching about our past mistakes. The Kite Runner shows how life was and very much still is growing up in The Middle East. With so much tension between America and The Middle East, The Kite Runner is arguably one of the most important books to teach in classrooms today because it humanizes a region that some Americans have such disdain towards because of the minority portion of bad people who call that region home. If anything, it shows how lucky we are as a nation to have the rights that we have in a free world, and provides a means to empathize with an area that is still progressing towards equality and freedom for all.
Ironically, as an author, having a book banned, is usually a good thing for sales as well as notoriety. Banned books bring attention to the root problems whether the people advocating the ban realize it or not. Discussion commences on the major issues of the work in question, but banning them does not solve the problem. See, because the only way to truly shed light on the controversy is to read the book, to learn from its themes, and gain a new outlook on the world and how to make it better for everyone. Authors whose books have been banned by governments and in schools should feel a sense of pride since they created something that sparks a response. We owe it to the author to respond to the work by learning not avoiding the themes as a whole. If we act like the themes of banned books do not exist then we are denying the truth that the world was never perfect and it never will be. The best that we can do is take the time to read great pieces of literature, and form our own opinions on how change can arise. We should read and then act instead of not reading these books at all.
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