• Laynie Bynum

Banned Books Week

In honor of Banned Books Week here are a few reviews of some of my favorite frequently challenged books as well as some different ways to get involved.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

Banned because of: Drug Use and Explicit Language

The Hate You Give was a wake-up call for me. I thought I knew about as much as you could on this issue without ever experiencing the hardships first hand. I grew up next to these areas. I have lost friends to the drug use that is rampant. To gang life style. To imprisonment skewed largely because of their race. I've been angry. I've been advocating for better. I thought I was doing all that I could.

But then Angie Thomas wrote a book that is so realistic, so raw that it cuts you to the bone and pieces you back together again.

Yes, there is foul language in it but it's authentic. It is the way people speak. It isn't there to be excessive or controversial, it is there because it would be there in real life.

Yes, there is drug use, but never in a way that encourages it. There are so many teens out there who are dealing with family members that are lost into that world. They need to see they aren't alone. They need people like Star who sees it for what it is.

The messages in this book transcend race, class, and creed. It's about becoming comfortable with all sides of yourself. About speaking up for your beliefs. About consolidating what you want and who you are. About overcoming fear and injustice. It's about changing the world for the better and seeing beyond what other people try to throw at you. Overcoming fear and injustice.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Banned because of: Profanity, Pornographic

An overweight frizzy haired protagonist who falls in love with a mixed race boy? Yes, please. I loved Eleanor and Park from the moment I laid eyes on the cover and blurb. It was uncomfortable at times, especially for anyone who has ever dealt with any kind of emotional or physical abuse, to bear the weight that Eleanor dealt with on a daily basis. Her step-father is cruel and her mother is unable to break herself free of his abuse. Her siblings depend on her for support and safety. She has to grow up much faster than the other kids around her.

But this is a reality for so many teens today. It may be uncomfortable, but it's the world we live in and closing your eyes to it keeps it from getting any better.

Park is on the other end of the spectrum. His life isn't perfect, but his struggles appear to be more toned down. His parents love him and he is taken care of. But he still grapples with his place in this world and who he wants to be.

It is hard for him to understand Eleanor at first, her insecurity, her reluctance, but they both surrender a bit of that fear to each other in a beautiful yet realistic way as they fall in love.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Banned because of: Racial Slurs and Violence

Near and dear to my heart is the classic tale of To Kill a Mockingbird, set in my home state of Alabama in a time period so distant and yet so close to our own. Harper Lee herself said that this book was a love story, a love story to the community.

If we do not remember where we came from, we will surely repeat the past. To Kill a Mockingbird isn't to encourage others to live as the villains did, hating and slandering others because they are different. Instead, through a young girls eyes, we see that there is always a part that we can play in making the world a better place. Her father, who stands up for what is right despite being ridiculed by the entire town, has become a personal hero for me, an inspiration. Without the themes that have made the book so controversial, there would be no plot. The reason we still study and teach this book today is because we can learn from it. To hide it away would be nothing less than an injustice to future generations.

How to get involved:

The #DearBannedAuthor campaign is encouraging letter writing and tweeting to authors of banned books. Find out more about the program here.

Participate in the OIF Virtual Readout. Join readers from across the world in filming yourself reading from your favorite banned book. The videos are featured on the Banned Books Week YouTube channel.

Use the hashtag #BannedBooksWeek to declare your right to read and talk with others about banned books.

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