By Hiba Samdani, Co-Editor in Chief A future with no books. The destruction of knowledge. The loss of individuality. Ray Bradbury’s literary classic, “Fahrenheit 451,” experiments with this dystopian possibility, but we dare not think about the censorship of literature itself. Unfortunately, we are no longer strangers to this unimaginable reality. PEN America found that...
By Hiba Samdani, Co-Editor in Chief
A future with no books. The destruction of knowledge. The loss of individuality. Ray Bradbury’s literary classic, “Fahrenheit 451,” experiments with this dystopian possibility, but we dare not think about the censorship of literature itself.
Unfortunately, we are no longer strangers to this unimaginable reality. PEN America found that between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, there have been 1,586 book bans across 28 states. Accordion to NPR, aggressive campaigns to ban books in school curriculums and libraries have increased at an unprecedented level over the past two years, primarily spearheaded by conservative parent groups. The First Amendment Encyclopedia states that a banned book is one that is removed from a library or school curriculum, and students no longer have access in these places.
Many of the most commonly banned books — The Bluest Eye, Of Mice and Men or To Kill a Mockingbird, to name a few — are found in our own curriculum and primarily concern gender and racial identity. Nearby school districts, such as Great Valley School District and Central York School District, are facing battles between parents and administration on banned books. Such action calls into question the unsteady future of access to literature. Reading books from diverse perspectives forms an integral part of our learning experience and provides valuable insights from alternate perspectives. As other students face censorship around the nation, we too must advocate for an end to these conservative efforts.
Banning books wrongfully shields children from the ability to challenge conventional wisdom and educate themselves on new topics. Books make us more empathetic and open-minded, enabling us to better connect with other perspectives and human experiences. Yet, book banners seem to fear this empathy brewing in students.
A school district in Texas temporarily banned “New Kid’’ by Jerry Craft, a book about Black middle-schoolers navigating through a private school with few students of color. Parents argued it made white children feel like oppressors. Such claims restrict our capacity of empathy for others, making it possible to hate and fear people who resemble characters in books deemed inappropriate to read. Such actions limit discourse and stunt the mental growth that allows us to question societal norms.
Removing books also does not make problems faced by marginalized groups disappear. As a society, we must be able to withstand the weight of difficult topics and uncomfortable conversations. Removing books that shed light on issues faced by marginalized groups only brews ignorance. According to a report by PEN America, 41% of banned books explicitly address LGBTQ+ themes. We are left with an uninformed public, oblivious to the experiences faced by different communities.
That said, parents understandably want to regulate the information their children are consuming and foster an environment conducive to their perception of the world. Parents often want to create a skewed reality for their children. However, banning books based on individual need is not the solution. Removing books from schools and libraries does not simply insulate children from alternate perspectives; it sends a message to the community that censorship is readily accepted and that we can slowly erase the history of certain groups of people.
Banning books is an act of fear — a fear of an unrecognizable yet inevitable future of new racial demographics and sexual orientations. As students studying these books, we must be allowed access to form a nuanced comprehension of race, culture and gender.
As our peers are facing book bannings at an alarming rate, we must share how these books enrich our understanding of the world we live in today. Whether it is a discussion in the classroom or attending an anti-book banning protest we must combat these hurdles for us and future generations. Only then, can we stop the discrimination of people whose stories need to be told.
Hiba Samdani can be reached at [email protected].
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