No successful society can survive by banning books

Written By Brooke Stephens, Opinions Editor

In the case of books, I know there is a large part of the general public which do not read them. Some people also prefer audiobooks because they find them easier to listen to or pay attention to, as examples. Literature, however, has held a grip on various populations for thousands of years. Everyone deserves free, inclusive access to books, whether it be online, in a bookstore, or through a library.


As someone who grew up regularly going into a library and checking out books, I cannot emphasize how much of a positive effect the experiences I had affected me as a person. There were annual children’s programs, a revamped teenage section right as I hit my preteen years, and vast choices for adults as well. My hometown library is extremely accessible- they also hold 5 dollar book sales where you can fill up an entire paper bag to the brim with any books which are on sale. 


In complete transparency I am not sure where said library falls in the spectrum of book banning beliefs, but it is with my utmost hope they are firmly against banning books. Book banning removes marginalized voices from the public, discriminates against the LGBTQIA+ community, and pushes ableism even more into society in an already white-supremacist, patriarchal world. This should include at all ages, as queer, disabled, or people of color need to be able to teach their children not only what their life might be like, but what their children’s life could become.


Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” film was released ten years ago on September 20th and still echoes through to teenagers and adults alike. As a Pittsburgh native, the themes of abuse, identity, teenage exploration, and mental health really create an authentic connection closer to home. This book is an all time favorite of mine, and I am forever grateful to feel infinite. On May 11th through Twitter, Stephen Chbosky tweeted through his platform an update of a version of book banning on his critically-acclaimed first novel. 


“My book has been banned many times.  This is the first time it’s ever been marked to be destroyed.  I would ask the people behind this decision to name a society that thrived from book burning.  As a student of history, I can think of none.”


Rapid City Areas School Board of Education announced that from their surplus list, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” book would be marked as “To be Destroyed.” There are school and public libraries in communities across the United States which are fighting over what  books are appropriate or not to be placed in a public information center. To which I say to every pro-book banning parent, educational board, librarian or person: get over yourself. 


If you want to shelter your children from realistic, diverse topics then that is the most hypocritical action I have ever heard. You just want everyone to get along, right? 

If people do not have the resources or outlets to express themselves, they will grow up with insecurities, reduced empathy, and willful ignorance. It is not my job to plead with you to not ban these books, only to inspire you to reflect on your own beliefs. 


I do encourage casual readers and emphatic literature participants alike to be aware of the power libraries hold. They are usually seen as a quiet area to check out a book for research or to print out an essay. Libraries can actually hold free language courses, fitness classes, job search help, and a refuge for homeless populations to find resources which can lead them to a shelter or space. They often hold monthly events for all age levels, which could be particularly useful for students. 


Independent bookstores deserve the maximum amount of recognition which can be received. They are surviving amidst corporate takeover from Barnes & Noble to Books-A-Million, as national chains. There is no other spark like finding a small, well-decorated bookstore on an afternoon stroll. I encourage all Pittsburgh inhabitants to seek out Amazing Books & Records, White Whale Bookstore, and The Big Idea Cooperative Bookstore & Cafe, among others. 


Author John Green has made a statement about a push for his first novel “Looking for Alaska” to be banned in the school district of his hometown. 


“There’s this reality of the organization in question being called Moms for Liberty, when what they’re trying to do is restrict the liberty of other people’s kids to read what librarians and teachers deem appropriate for those other people’s kids to read,” he said. “Also — I mean, of course I might be wrong, books belong to their readers — but I just don’t think ‘Looking for Alaska’ is pornography. And I think reading it that way is a little weird.”


I stand with Green in the idea that books belong to their readers. I think this is why poems or prose have survived so long in an era of technological advancement. Humans do need to read books, as it reduces stress, improves cognitive function, and aids in sleep readiness, according to Healthline. To reiterate though, novels help in forming a connection from the world of the book to the reader’s world. The Great Gatsby might not be the iconic tale it is today without its winding metaphors, Roaring 20s aesthetic, and a movie representing the piece of literature. People get tattoos, jewelry, or posters to show what a book means to them. It would be a disgrace to ban a book just because it is reviewed as too “offensive” or “explicit” for a mind to understand. If a person is never exposed to all topics, they will never receive that education. 


To prevent the censoring of books, read or listen to trustworthy and honest sources about the events which are taking place to cause book banning. Additionally, from the American Library Association, participate in Banned Book Weeks programs if possible. If there is not a program near you, you could always take the initiative and volunteer to hold an event in your local school or library. Virtually, you could upload a video of you reading your favorite banned book aloud to whichever audience that attracts. 


Lastly, educate yourself on the history of banned books and remember this is forcibly political. Speak out against book banning and realize this is about the limitation of intellectual freedom.