WYLES: Celebrate Forbidden Books – The Cavalier Daily
During my last year of high school, I read Toni Morrison’s debut novel “The Bluest Eye”. It features sexual assault, incest, and violence in a way that forced me to step away from the book before returning. It’s a tough read – but it’s also deserving of attention for its powerful spotlight on the tribulations of black women. As such, I was saddened when my then English teacher told me that she thought she would be fired for teaching “The Bluest Eye,” which was in the storage room. of teaching materials from our school. I’m lucky to have read Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Watched God” in high school, a novel with themes similar to Morrison’s. Hurston’s book, however, is not without its challengers either. Books like these – worthy of study and rich in creativity and commentary – should not be left untouched in storage rooms, away from learning spaces.
Each fall, Forbidden Books Week celebrates books that have historically faced challenges and bans in schools, prisons and other social institutions. This necessary celebration allows us to reflect on the works that criticism tries to silence. The most common claims that a book should be banned include the presence of sex, drugs, violence, confrontation with racial issues, religious violations, and blasphemy. Some of these contested and banned books include “The Bluest Eye” by Morrison, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. These incredible authors portray violence against marginalized communities – primarily women and black Americans – to produce creative literary works criticizing patriarchy and racism. They challenge the prejudices that still prevail in our society. As a result, they often face challenges themselves.
Simply put, these books shouldn’t be banned anywhere. Banning books is a form of censorship used only to preserve certain notions of what people – most often, children and those in prison – should think. It supports a false need for purity at the expense of challenges to racism, sexism, xenophobia and other prejudices. Moreover, it is completely ignorant to assume that high school students have not already encountered the obvious themes in many forbidden books. Students from marginalized communities are regularly confronted with the prejudices that these prohibitions claim to reduce. Reading about them from innovative writers like Morrison, Hurston and Atwood allows students to not only see themselves represented, but also to see themselves exalted.
Equally ignorant is the ban on books in prisons. Prisons are places of authority – people controlling other people. The Book Ban is a censorship authority that prevents incarcerated people from learning and feeling elated by reading. Many books banned in prisons deal with racial justice in America. These include “The Bluest Eye” and “Kindred” by Octavia Butler, an important literary work that uses time travel to send a young black woman from her home in 1976 to America before. the war. The works of Barack Obama, Frederick Douglass and WEB Du Bois are also frequently banned in prisons. This trend reflects the disproportionate number of black Americans in the US prison system, particularly as it reveals the system’s intention to keep black Americans incarcerated and silenced.
What I mean is that banning books often comes with unacknowledged consequences, even motives. We should be able to draw our own conclusions on a given issue. This freedom comes with the right to read what we want. Not only does reading allow us to access worlds we may never see ourselves in, it is also scientifically proven to increase empathy for others. Works like the ones I have mentioned here are not simply displays of violence or aggression. They are also courageous promotions of empathy towards the communities which are most often confronted with apathy and hatred.
As such, I ask that you take the time to read a prohibited book very soon. These extensive lists name some of the most contested books of the past decade and earlier years. It may not be a coincidence that so many of these books feel like pillars of American and world literature. They persist despite the challengers – their posts connect with readers far too powerfully to simply fade into oblivion. Granted, these lists are not without examples of truly problematic books, but overall they contain some beautiful and important ones. Recognize them, read them and celebrate them. You will not be disappointed.
Bryce Wyles is an opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at [email protected]
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Cavalier Daily. The columns represent the views of the authors alone.