This week is Banned Book Week where book lovers celebrate culturally significant books that were challenged, banned, and censored before they could reach the brains of their intended readers. Tonight I was looking at the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom’s list of the "Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2017” and discovered that 4/10 books are banned because they include characters who identify with the LGBTQ+ community.
As the Rodgers and Hammerstein songs says, “you have to be carefully taught to hate and fear…” Many times we talk about blatantly bigoted comments that children hear, but very often we do not discuss how omission can be just as powerful a tool for indoctrinating youth into biased beliefs. When we pretend that people within the LGBTQ+ community do not exist, or when we tell young adults that the LGBTQ+ community’s stories do not deserve to be shared, we are telling youth that they have the right to discriminate against this group. We tell them that such discrimination is an expected and is not to be challenged.
Who doesn’t get an invite matters just as much as who does, and youth know this well.
When we deny persons representation in literature, we in turn deny them consideration in our society, leaving them off the list of “people who matter” when deciding laws. Worse, we label them as people who unworthy of being treated as a person in America.
Meeting Jazz, Tango, Simon, and Luna in a book makes it more likely that the reader will consider the individuals whose stories Jazz, Tango, Luna, and Simon represent in real life.
The same tragedy of omission can be said of other minority groups. The ban of the book Hate U Give tells young adults that racism and police brutality are not worthy of discussion, leaving more bodies to fear bullet holes. We ban books like Speak that deal with rape and sexual assault, and then our society tells the abused that their trauma at the hands of a predator is of no consequence and shouldn't be believed...
I can only imagine what the world would be like if we didn’t ban books, but instead we talked about them openly. We may read books that make us uncomfortable, but still we read. A story represents someone we have yet to meet. We will never truly understand an experience unless it happens to us, but we can seek out stories and listen to what they have to tell us.