Imagine this: no assigned reading in English classes. If the American Library Association came here and spoke to the English department, that would be the consequence. Many of the books on their Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books List have been assigned to students; however, these are also the novels that shaped American history and have opened the eyes of readers to an unfamiliar world. “Of Mice and Men”, by John Steinbeck, ranks fifth on the list. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, by Mark Twain, ranks fourteenth. And the most surprising? The “Harry Potter” series, by J.K. Rowling, ranks first. For one reason or another, logical or not, the content of these books may be considered inappropriate. Does that mean they should not be read? Absolutely not.
According to the American Library Association, there are distinct differences between a “banned” book and a “challenged” book. Simply put, banned books have been removed entirely.
Challenged books are considered controversial in nature and have undergone talk of removal. Fortunately, most challenges have been unsuccessful, but the novels will remain on the challenged books list. For a book to be considered “challenged,” the content must be unfit for any, age group, profane, and/or sexually explicit in nature. “Of Mice and Men” contains themes of racism, but then again, so do our history textbooks when referencing topics of slavery. Moreover, I have a hard time picturing a large group of parents storming the front office requesting the eradication of every history textbook at the school. Of course topics of slavery, racism, and all forms of prejudice are uncomfortable to read at times; however, our country would not be as free as it is today without that time period where slavery was the most relevant thing in society.
The authors of these novels believed they had something important to tell the public, something so important that they spent countless hours creating a published work to then have their point of view considered “inappropriate.” We are lucky to have teachers who, despite illogical beliefs that these novels are not fit to be taught in schools, believe that American teenagers should have cultural literacy.
I can understand the reasoning behind challenging certain books. If any book can affect a person’s emotional well-being, the challenge should be accepted. However, it only takes one individual to make the challenge with or without a logical thought process. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is another disputed book because of its content regarding a young girl’s life and death through Nazi Germany during World War II. On a different controversial books list, the novel is deemed “too depressing.” I bet Anne Frank thought the whole thing was pretty depressing, too.