INSIDE OUR SCHOOLS
The censorship of books happens around the world every year, but the fact that it happens here in the U.S. – a country that brags about its freedoms, one of them being “freedom of speech” – is flat-out ironic. It is humiliating to the point where the people running this country might as well send the Bill of Rights through a paper shredder.
By Zuyuan Zhou
According to the American Library Association, book censorship has gone up drastically, a 40% increase in the past year. If one were to look at the books being censored today, one would notice a trend: the censorship of anything with LGBTQ+ content, popular issues, and people of color.
Book censorship is not a new thing. To Kill A Mockingbird, a novel by Harper Lee, is one of the most challenged books in the country. Ever since being published in the 1960s, the book faced both love and criticism. In early attempts to remove the book, many campaigns used a part of the story, the rape allegation, and the n-word usage as the reasons to get the book removed from shelves.
Using the rape allegation, a small part of the whole story, as the main reason to get the book removed shows how people do not read the books they challenge. If they did, they would realize the main focus of the book is not the rape allegation, but the experiences of the main characters as they grow up realizing the world is not so good and pure after all. Harper Lee’s use of the n-word was not random. Its use made the book a realistic depiction of the America that existed back then and in many ways still exists today. There is no denying that the use of the n-word in the novel can make the readers uncomfortable; in fact, it should do that. Being uncomfortable shows that one acknowledges the history of America and a problem ingrained in its DNA – racism. Simply avoiding discomfort out of one’s own desire is ignorance at its best. Choosing comfort is to bury the past deep under the soil, praying that it will decay over time when really, it is planting seeds of disaster. If books like To Kill A Mockingbird – books that offer different perspectives into peoples’ lives – are removed from shelves, the people of this country would be limiting their understanding of those around them.
Books that contain LGBTQ+ content are big targets of this censorship. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson is on the Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022 according to ALA. The book is challenged for being sexually explicit, and for its LGBTQ+ content, and some adults even accusing it of pornographic material. However, the book’s main purpose is to answer questions about sexuality, sex, or gender. In many past interviews, Dawson expressed that, as a former teacher in sexual education and wellness, she felt that sex education for the LGBTQ+ community was underrepresented, especially since most of the sexual education taught today centers around a male and a female. When a book like This Book is Gay is displayed on shelves, it is not just a book; for many, it is a beacon of hope.
It is true that some young adult books contain illicit passages, but to accuse an author of writing pornographic material to children is absurd, more or less a stretch. People need to realize that most, if not all, writers have some sort of relationship with children. In the case of author Jean Kwok, she had to come to a Pennsylvania school hearing to speak against the banning of her own book, Girl In Translation. She made a clear point at the hearing that she is a mother, and, as a mother, she asked the board if she would write porn knowing her children would read her books one day?
People can fight against book censorship. They can be more active in the community. They can attend local meetings that have a say over the whereabouts of books, such as city board meetings and school board meetings. After all, the board members oversee local library operations. Pay attention to the news, especially local news. If there is a book that is in the process of being removed from the public, speak up about it at the meetings. Although some states are not as big as other states when it comes to book censorship, it is important to keep it that way. Residents can contact their local representatives and ask them to reaffirm their position on book censorship. Most importantly, vote! Not voting can increase the chance of letting a piece of legislation that ultimately harms the public’s interest get passed.
Zuyuan Zhou is a student at San Gabriel High School. He enjoys drawing, reading, playing tennis, and watching documentaries.
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