Happy Banned Books Week, y’all!
Each year at the end of September, a week is set aside to raise awareness of book censorship in classrooms and libraries. There are many reasons why a school could choose not to allow their students to read certain books: violence/torture (physical, emotional, mental, and/or sexual), bad language, sex/homosexuality, drug/alcohol use, and anti-religious or anti-patriotic content, among others.
Some of these things make sense—on the surface. After all, what parent necessarily wants their child reading a book where the main character is a drug addict who has lots of unsafe sex and is beaten by their boyfriend/girlfriend?
But the thing about that book, the one with the drug-addicted domestic abuse victim having unsafe sex, is that it is teaching that child so many valuable lessons about relationships, about society, about gender dynamics, about health, about mental illness, about life in general.
For many folks, especially marginalized folks, literature is more than an avenue of creativity or expression. It is a way of social and political resistance. It is a way of learning and healing and evolving and creating change. Taking the voices of those authors away because their content is deemed “inappropriate” or “excessive” silences those voices whose representation is so desperately needed.
Here at Ginger and Champagne, we are adamantly against book censorship in all its forms. We’ve created a list of 10 books that have influenced our lives in extaordinary and special ways, books that shook us to our core, books that have helped shape our worldview and mold us into who we are.
Please be aware the following list includes light, brief mentions of sexual and physical violence.
The Color Purple, Alice Walker.
Why it’s banned: profanity, explicit depictions of sexism, racism, and rape
Why it shouldn’t be: I read this book as part of an African American literature class I took in college, and it’s one of those books that has haunted me ever since. This was one of the first books I read that truly depicted the horrors of what Black women were subjected to in the 1930s American South. As a white woman, this book was absolutely necessary for me to understand (the best I can) the struggles that Black women faced and continue to face.
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood.
Why it’s banned: explicit sexual content, profanity, anti-Christian, graphic violence
Why it shouldn’t be: A misogynistic dystopia that seemed a work of fiction when I first read it…now, not so much. With a government that edges closer and closer to the type of leadership depicted in this book, it’s more important now than ever to read The Handmaid’s Tale. What happens when we place a woman’s humanity in her sexuality and ability to reproduce? (Hint: nothing good.) The patriarchy is violence, and books like this one help illustrate what can happen when that patriarchy has total control.
The Harry Potter series, JK Rowling.
Why it’s banned: war/violence, promotes witchcraft (anti-Christian)
Why it shouldn’t be: Not only is Harry Potter and intense social phenomenon that fosters a sense of community and friendship among its readers rarely found in other fandoms, the books are basically a guide to adolescence. Romance, friendship, betrayal, loss, grief, authority, death…Harry Potter is a handbook for navigating the difficult and awkward and tumultuous roller coaster that is growing up. The lessons I’ve learned from reading Harry Potter are ones I still hold close to my heart even today.
The Giver, Lois Lowry.
Why it’s banned: violence, sexual content, anti-government
Why it shouldn’t be: The first dystopian novel I ever read, this book encouraged me to question. Question society, question the government, question leadership, question authority, question the media—all written in language that children and young adults can understand. It’s detrimental to accept what corrupted people in positions of power at face value, but nothing gets better unless people are brave enough to change the status quo.
Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky.
Yes, this book is so incredible, amazing, and influential AND so unjustly protested and banned that we each had to include it in our lists!
Why it’s banned: sexual abuse, alcohol and drug use, masturbation, homosexuality
Why it shouldn’t be: This book changed me—and was the inspiration behind my first tattoo. I read this at a time in my life when I felt very much like Charlie, the novel’s protagonist. Charlie is so relatable, so easy to understand and get to know, that it’s impossible to not see yourself in him. His fictional struggles are the same ones you’re going through in your own life. You teenage years are hard, really really really hard, and Perks of Being a Wallflower is like a compass pointing towards hope and acceptance.
What are your favorite banned books? Let us know in the comments!