Books were an extremely select item in society when they were first invented. After all, not everyone was literate back then, and books were extremely expensive until the invention of the printing press. Even in 1820, only 12% of the world was literate. As time grew and more and more people learned to read, people in power learned that choosing what people could read is almost as powerful as what you could try and force them to read. Here are 10 banned books, most coming under fire recently as conservatives aimed to crack down on any progressive views school children might be exposed to.
And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
READ AND TANGO MAKES THREE BY PETER PARNELL AND JUSTIN RICHARDSON
How does a children’s picture book about two penguins adopting another penguin get banned? Well, when the penguins are gay, it apparently makes the book so horrible that children should be shielded from it.
Some parents feel that depicting homosexuality in animals is unnatural– but having them talk and form complex opinions about the world around them is apparently not unnatural. This book was the fourth-most banned book between 2000 and 2009 and continued to be banned by schools in the 2010s.
We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
READ WE ARE THE ANTS BY SHAUN DAVID HUTCHINSON
Henry is in a tough spot. His boyfriend has just committed suicide, and he is now being held by aliens and only has 144 days to decide if he should push a button that saves Earth from alien annihilation. Seems pretty tame, except it’s LGBT-centric and has some explicit text referring to sex.
It seems sex is only okay in books if it’s heterosexual. I clearly remember reading Flowers for Algernon in 5th grade– the version with a sex scene between a mentally disabled man turned intelligent by a magic drug and his teacher Alice. If that’s acceptable, but Henry’s story isn’t, it’s pure hypocrisy.
Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
READ LAWN BOY BY JONATHAN EVISON
Another book critiqued for its language and LGBTQ+ content that resulted in death threats against the author, Lawn Boy tells a semi-autobiographical story about young Mexican-American reflecting on their childhood that was filled with strife and hardships.
It’s a journey of self-discovery that discusses racism in the United States, sexual identity, and the trials some people endure. Some parents felt that the story was pedophilic in nature because the character at one point remembers a sexual experience they had when they were in the 4th grade. It seems memories are now strictly forbidden in certain parts of the United States.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
READ SPEAK BY LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON
How could a young adult novel about a traumatic rape that leads to a discussion about trauma, expression, and self-healing make it on the list of banned books? Well, the rape, of course. This novel is actually based on Anderson’s own rape she faced herself as a teenager.
The attempts to ban it from schools based on the idea that no one should have to read about rape outright deny the existence of thousands of teenagers dealing with something similar every year. Certain parts of Missouri tried to ban it for being soft pornography and glorifying premarital sex. That’s right, rape is premarital sex, according to some people.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
READ THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER BY STEPHEN CHBOSKY
A book that focuses on the actual problems and issues teens face growing up shouldn’t be a surprise on this list. Parents and school districts have often spoken out against this book because of its sexually explicit content, drug use, and references to suicide.
A book that was written to simply be a coming-of-age story, Chbosky was shocked to find out how divisive this book could be among parents in certain parts of the country. Anyone who reads this book knows how valuable the themes explored inside of it actually are for teenagers and probably thinks fondly of it.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
READ THE HANDMAIDEN’S TALE BY MARGARET ATWOOD
Okay, this one being banned is pretty ironic since the women in the novel are banned from reading, and people continually draw parallels between modern America and the patriarchal theonomic Republic of Gilead. If you don’t already know, this book features rape, vulgarity, and what some people might describe as “anti-Christian” themes.
Even the author, Margaret Atwood, has explained that she herself doesn’t consider the book to be anti-Christian and that Gilead had destroyed basically all of the other Christian sects and forced the remaining ones underground. The argument could be made that it’s against a Christian patriarchal society, but is that really a bad thing to be against?
This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson
READ THIS BOOK IS GAY BY JUNO DAWSON
With a title like that, it’s really no surprise that it’s made the list of banned books several different years. A non-fiction book that offers an uncensored exploration of what it’s like to grow up as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is bound to be banned, which is a shame because this book offers answers to questions and insight into what it’s like to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. A teen that is questioning their own sexuality might find some useful information in this book that considers itself “the LGBTQ+ instruction manual.”
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
READ CRANK BY ELLEN HOPKINS
Based loosely on Hopkin’s daughter’s addiction to crystal meth, Crank has made the banned books list in many school districts thanks to its depictions of drug use, language, and sexual themes. They should know that any teen who reads this book would see the horrors of methamphetamine addiction and how it can lead to a destructive lifestyle.
The main character is even raped at one point, partly caused by her addiction. The novel remains an excellent medium to educate children about the dangers of drug use and shows a realistic depiction of what can happen if you go down that road.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
READ THIRTEEN REASONS WHY BY JAY ASHER
We’ve all either seen or heard of the hit Netflix show Thirteen Reasons Why, but a lot of people don’t know that the TV series is based on a book of the same name. The American Library Association (ALA) had Thirteen Reasons Why as their number 6 most banned book in 2018 because it addresses teen suicide.
With 1 in 5 teens contemplating suicide in America, banning a book that focuses on suicide, sexual assault, and its effects seems to ignore the problem rather than trying to deal with it. Although it has been banned, some schools understand the importance of the subject matter and use this book to bolster anti-bullying efforts and a way to start a conversation about suicide before it’s too late.
Melissa by Alex Gino
READ MELISSA BY ALEX GINO
Melissa, formerly titled George, is about a fourth-grade girl that struggles in a world where the rest of her class sees her as George, a boy. Melissa uses her class play of Charlotte’s Web to show the world that she is not a boy by switching roles with her best friend and playing the titular character Charolette.
You can already see why people have a problem with this book and want it added to the list of banned books. According to some parents, it devalues the “traditional family structure,” and others say that books children read should not “require a discussion.” It seems those parents would also like to remove half of English class and book reports too then if we can’t have a discussion about books anymore. Thanks to its controversy, this book is considered by the ALA to be the most challenged book in 2018, 2019, and 2020 as well.