Though today marks the end of Banned Books Week, reading against censorship is an action students can take year-round.
Members of The Scribe staff recommend these five books that have been challenged or banned for engaging with important and often sensitive topics.
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by Emily Danforth
Submitted by Abby Aldinger, opinion editor
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by Emily Danforth is among the most frequently challenged books with diverse content in the United States according to the American Library Association. In fact, it was successfully banned in 2015 by the Cape Henlopen school board in Delaware due to “inappropriate language.”
As someone who read this book for the first time in high school, I am definitely not fooled by this excuse. Sure, there is some inappropriate language in the way of occasional curse words and references to sex, but nothing terribly offensive for a high-school-level reader, which is Danforth’s primary audience. This proves that the issue with this novel for educators in the country — as cited by Cape Henlopen — is not so much the inclusion of “inappropriate language,” but the stance that the novel takes against homophobia and conversion therapy. Danforth’s teenaged protagonist, Cameron Post, is encouraged to attend a conversion therapy camp by her aunt after being involuntarily outed as queer by her boyfriend.
When I first read “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” in my junior year of high school, I felt so seen. I never felt comfortable identifying as queer due to the large conservative, Christian community at my school, and feared that I would be punished for bringing up LGBTQ+ topics in the classroom — especially when so many of my peers openly criticized and ridiculed the queer community.
I think that students should read “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” simply because it provides such an important and compelling narrative for LGBTQ+ youth, especially those like me who come from or are in queerphobic environments and crave representation in a country that so often turns its back on queer issues (especially conversion therapy, which as of 2022 is still completely or partially legal in over half of the United States). If you have the chance, please read this story — it has such an important message to spread about the dangerous practice of conversion therapy in the states and is truly a life-changing read.
“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi
Submitted by Tom Baker, news editor
The murder of Mahsa Amini has thrust Iran into the public spotlight, and its subsequent protests tell the story of a people that will not continue to tolerate oppression. The frequently banned book “Persepolis” offers an often-ignored perspective of Iran, which tells its readers a story of a complicated country and the perseverance of its citizens.
“Persepolis” is a graphic novel written by Marjane Satrapi about her life growing up during the Iranian revolution. She tells about living in Tehran during the revolution and the struggles she and her family faced during that tumultuous time. While most texts focus on the revolutionary actors, this novel tells the story from the perspective of the families that suffered while their country tore itself apart.
Satrapi published the book in 2000. However, it didn’t face its first challenge until 2013, when the Chicago Public Schools removed it from their curricula and libraries overnight. According to The Banned Books Project, the only explanation was that they pulled it due to “graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use.” Other challenges in Texas and Illinois showed Islamophobic motives, with complaints such as “why a book about Muslims was assigned on September 11.”
Everyone should read this book because it tells a story often ignored in history classes. While revolutions are important to analyze, the experience of its citizens is often sidelined behind the romance and violence the revolutions provide. This book takes Satrapi’s personal story in Iran and intertwines it with the story of hers and other Iranian families, giving an unprocessed view of life during the revolution. This book will challenge the image of Iran typically perpetuated and will help you understand why we should not judge people for the actions of their governments.
“Watchmen” by Alan Moore
Submitted by Scotty Dunne, reporter
My favorite book of all time is one that hasn’t been banned but has been challenged at least twice in the past: “Watchmen,” written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. It’s a graphic novel that was published as a collected edition in 1987 and has gone on to be one of the most influential comic books of all time.
“Watchmen” takes place in an alternate 1985 where the U.S. is nearly about to enter a nuclear World War III with the Soviet Union. In this alternate history, freelance vigilantes have been outlawed. They now are either retired, working for the government, freelancing illegally or six feet under. When a controversial vigilante called The Comedian is murdered in cold blood, an old “coworker” of his named Rorschach calls on his retired friends to uncover the mystery.
This book tackles heavy themes like trauma, morality and the meaning of life through a psychologically complex cast of characters. The story also functions as a political critique of Reagan-era America, and still manages to deliver superhero genre thrills you might expect from a comic book.
“Watchmen” is a piece of art that changed the medium of comics forever and tells a thoroughly compelling story that will stick with you for the rest of your life. It has the capacity to change the way you look at the world going forward.
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison
Submitted by Julia Jackson, managing editor
Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel “Beloved” follows the family of a formerly enslaved woman, haunted by the ghost of the daughter whom she killed to protect from slave-catchers after her escape. It has been challenged in high schools due to violence, sex and racist language, according to the American Library Association.
Attempts to ban this book ignore the fact that its subject matter necessarily reflects the abhorrent realities of slavery in the U.S. Its inciting murder, for example, is inspired by the true story of Margaret Garner and her children.
Morrison writes with clear purpose and incredible skill to weave together a narrative that not only sits in the discomfort of human suffering but also fashions a future for family and community to come together in the wake of tragedy.
As required reading in my high school English class, “Beloved” had a tremendous impact on me both intellectually and emotionally. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Lord of the Flies” by William Goulding
Submitted by Mike Foley, artist
Lord of the Flies is one of the most consistently challenged and banned books since its publication in 1954. The novel by William Goulding tells the story of a group of middle-class, white, middle-school boys getting stranded on a deserted island. They attempt to govern themselves, but it quickly deteriorates into chaos. Leaderships are established and challenged, the group splits and many of the boys die.
The book has been challenged for its violence, as well as racist and ableist language. Owen High School in North Carolina once said it was “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Others have said that the book promotes violence and bullying.
I believe the book does an amazing job of showing just how harmful its themes are. Humans are, ultimately, animals. Incredibly smart and adaptable animals, but animals, nonetheless. The book shows that in this kind of situation, this group of boys scorn the kind, calling them weak. To them, it’s survival of the fittest. This book made me think about what could have been done differently to avoid despair. If I were to be in that scenario, would I have succumbed to the inhumane treatment of others? Could I avoid such an outcome?
Other than being an amazing story, it also conveys some of the darker possibilities of human nature. I feel those who argue that it promotes violence and bullying missed the book’s point. “Lord of the Flies” shows just how horrible and out of hand things can get when there is no one to intervene or no sense of order. Plus, the boys in this book are just that: boys. They are children who have been thrown into a situation none of them have ever experienced. That doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it helps the reader understand how this happened.
I would highly recommend it, as it is an almost gentle dive into the darker parts of the human mind.