The practice of banning books is nothing new —political, religious, and social organizations have led protests against authors and books for centuries —yet the practice is ongoing and criticism of it remains all the more relevant today. The debate surrounding this controversial subject has yet to find a conclusion —some people see book banning as unethical, while others see it as necessary at times. Regardless of the stance surrounding the issue, one thing remains clear: book banning has wide effects, good or bad. Banning books has a profound effect on the public and no one knows that more than authors.
Here are the responses of ten authors to the practice of banning books:
1. Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
It’s not fair censorship. Censorship is supposed to be imposed on the condition that vital secrets are being compromised…Writing is a vent or an outlet for human emotion and human experience, human understanding of the world, it’s always been that way. Human beings are able to speak and to write…People have the option of listening or not listening but if the government is saying you can’t do it no one has the option of listening or not listening. It’s imposed silence. —O’Brien, Knock Magazine, 2012
2. Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
There’s a part in the book where Charlie witnesses date rape and I always found it interesting because some watchdog groups always cite that passage. I always find it so strange that they do because so often in the past people would say that passage is meant to titillate.My response has always been rape is violence, not sex, so how can it possibly titillate anybody? If it does then that warrants a much larger discussion than a book. The entire book is a blueprint for survival. It’s for people who have been through terrible things and need hope and support. The idea of taking two pages out of context and creating an atmosphere as perverse is offensive to me — deeply offensive. —Chbosky, NBC CT, 2015
3. Stephen King, IT
When a book is banned, a whole set of thoughts is locked behind the assertion that there is only one valid set of values, one valid set of beliefs, one valid perception of the world. It’s a scary idea, especially in a society which has been built on the ideas of free choice and free thought. —King, The Bangor Daily News, 1992
4. John Green, Looking for Alaska
I don’t believe that books, even bad books, corrupt us. Instead, I believe books challenge and interrogate. They give us windows into the lives of others and give us mirrors so that we can better see ourselves. And ultimately, if you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me submit that the problem is not with the novel. —Green, On the Banning of Looking for Alaska, 2016
5. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
We have always liked banning. And Hitler and his cohorts started banning books and then to killing people. You have got to be very careful of banning. What you ban is not going to hurt anybody, usually. But the act of banning is. —L’Engle, PBS, 2000
Image Via The Wrap
6. Alice Walker, The Color Purple
I know what The Color Purple can mean to people, women and men, who have no voice. Who believe they have few choices in life. It can open to them, to their view, the full abundance of this amazing journey we are all on…And even were it not ‘great’ literature, it has the best interests of all of us humans at heart. That we grow, change, challenge, encourage, love fiercely in the awareness that real love can never be incorrect. —Walker, Guernica, 2012
7. Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
[T]hey never learn. The inevitable result of trying to ban something—book, film, play, pop song, whatever—is that far more people want to get hold of it than would ever have done if it were left alone. Why don’t the censors realize this?” —Pullman, The Guardian, 2008
8. Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak
Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. —Halse Anderson, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, 2013
9. Judy Blume, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
In this age of censorship, I mourn the loss of books that will never be written, I mourn the voices that will be silenced-writers’ voices, teachers’ voices, students’ voices – and all because of fear. —Blume, Places I Never Meant To Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers, 1999
10. Ellen Hopkins, Crank
A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.
—Hopkins, Manifesto, 2010
What is your response to book banning? What are your favorite responses from public figures and/or authors? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured Image Via PRH/Marina Waters