There are a lot of books out there. Ever since the beginning of civilization, expression of oneself through language has existed whether it being in a form of pictures, signs, or markings. Being a Diversity Advocate Intern taught me that one of the best ways to learn about unfamiliar cultures is to dive into the world of literature and books where I can read the stories of oppression and the societal systems in which the subordinate groups are trapped in. I enjoy reading autobiographical pieces more because often, the writer depicts raw and intense events of his or her life that they experienced firsthand. And for a person like me who still needs to be educated in many areas that is all I can ask for. But as I submerged myself in books that vividly portrayed and explored lines of oppression and barriers within communities, I’ve noticed that some of these books are banned from schools across the nation.
I have some knowledge of the books that were banned, but I decided to do a little bit of research and figure out how this act of book burning may be detrimental to our society.
The Harry Potter series and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are two of the title that automatically pops up when I think of book burning. Harry Potter is often banned by religious affiliation groups, who think the story of a young wizard and his magical world might hinder the traditional practices of the religion and because their justification is magic is bad, thus one must not engage in the stories. Being raised in a Christian background, I was told the same thing by, not my parents, but by my conservative relatives who restricted any contact with the books or the movies. In states like Kansas, the book is banned to the “vulgar language, sexual explicitness, and violent imagery that is gratuitously employed.”
The practice of banning book as been a way of “protecting” potential readers of being exposed to another unknown world. But the dangers of not being able to read these works of literature may be even more harmful. When I think of this topic, I am reminded of a Ted talk by Chimamanda Adichie, a novelist, who shared her idea of how a “single story” that describes a specific group of people may send the rest of the society the wrong idea of how the life of certain demographic may look like. In her talk, she explains that when we hear a story of an individual from a place we are not familiar about, we tend to have an idea that all individuals from that walk of life shares the exact same experience or fate. To Adichie, that is dangerous because a single story does not justify the lives of others and it builds ignorance.
I think this notion is relevant to the practices of book banning or burning because by eliminating books, those who seek knowledge are turned down, those were going to have an initial chance of exploring the other culture are now restricted, and as a whole, the prohibition of books means we have lost a great deal opportunity to challenge our views about the world we live in. Yes, some of these pieces of literature may make us uncomfortable to a point where we may feel necessary to put the book down and move on to something else, but in order to see things as they are and to fully understand the reasons behind the reality, there needs to be a time of vulnerability, where our only option is to listen, to interact, and sympathize with the experience(s) we are reading about.
The Ted talk of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie can be found here:
by NAY MINTIN