Opinion: Why we should keep reading banned books


Lucy Walker

Freshman Jennifer Liu shares her opinion on why we should continue reading banned books.

Jennifer Liu, Staff Writer

Three years ago, I went through a dystopian literature phase. You know, the usual: it started with “The City of Ember,” then “The Hunger Games” and finally “Divergent.” I thought that each book I picked up from the genre was clichéd and contrived. Now, I relate more than ever to what the books say. 

In seventh grade, I brought my copy of George Orwell’s “1984” to English class every day, mostly to seem smart and well-read. But as I flipped through the pages, I realized I had greatly overestimated my comprehension skills. After the first few chapters, I had no idea what he was talking about. It was confusing and uncomfortable, and it didn’t inspire me in any way. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why this Orwell guy was so revered. 

Last summer, I read “1984” again, and my perspective changed entirely. 

Suddenly, reading about the government’s restriction of free speech and thought, the weaponization of the media, the widening wealth gap and even the seemingly constant state of war suddenly felt very close to me. I was terrified but comforted in a strange way. It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one with fears of my world and that authors have been criticizing the world and the government for decades. I developed a strange kinship to Orwell and read about his background after finishing the book.

Back in 1981, Orwell himself was the target of Florida lawmakers who attempted to ban “1984” and cited it as pro-communist propaganda, while the former USSR banned it for anti-communist propaganda. Still others sought to ban it for sexual content, but this backlash only demonstrates the book’s cultural significance: dystopian novels should make readers uncomfortable. 

Some of the classic novels on high school reading lists today, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, were the most challenged books from 2010-2019: “The Catcher in the Rye,” (No. 49), “The Color Purple,” (No. 50) and the aforementioned “The Hunger Games” (No. 12). In recent months, book banning has spread across the country, with students, librarians and teachers caught in the middle. It’s inevitable that authors who challenge social norms will face pushback. 

So, when I learned that Texas lawmakers are banning books that cover sexuality and race, I was infuriated. Texas Representative Matt Krause (R-93), who chairs the House Committee on General Investigating, directed school districts to identify “any other books” that could cause students guilt due to their race or sex or convey that a student is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive.”

These lawmakers are using their political power to silence meaningful conversation. Banned books aren’t chosen at random—most discuss race or sexuality. Hidden under the guise of “protecting our children,” what the legislators actually want is to silence those who have always been silenced. POC and people on the LGBTQ+ spectrum are being invalidated and eradicated, and teens looking for comfort in books are having this freedom taken away. 

Since I’m just one random high school student, I can’t preach or give speeches in front of thousands of people. But, I can still do my part in helping push back against book bans, and so can you. Every time you see a book being banned, go buy it. Go borrow it. Just like how I saw my world differently after reading 1984, you too should define the world based on your own terms.