Bookstore brings attention to banned books

by Staff

I walked into San Diego State’s bookstore last week on a mission to buy a required textbook before my class started. I was running late and only had a few minutes to spare. But despite my race to get there on time, a table near the store’s entrance caught my attention and caused me to stop.

A sign on the table said “Banned Books Week: Celebrate your Intellectual Freedom,” but that wasn’t exactly what caught my eye. On the stand there was a book I loved as a child. It’s a book many of you are probably familiar with—“The Lorax.” I was confused. Not only did I not understand why this Dr. Seuss book was banned, but I also wasn’t aware books were still being banned at all.

As I read the explanations attached to each book, I realized how preposterous the bans were. Books that had won awards for their content and even been on bestseller lists were banned. I grew wary as I read, realizing any little thing that could possibly offend something or someone was grounds to be banned. I thought to myself, “Isn’t this the 21st century? Haven’t we ended all types of unreasonable bans?” Apparently we haven’t.

I had to run to class, but during the lecture my thoughts remained on the books. A couple of days later I returned to the bookstore; I still couldn’t get the thought of those books out of my mind. As I read more of the explanations, I became even more frustrated. Here we are, in 2013 in the U.S.—we pride ourselves on being a free nation where citizens aren’t punished for speaking their minds. Who is judging these books and telling authors their words cannot be read?

After reading more, I realized several bans weren’t applied in the U.S., so I began to focus my attention only on the ones banned here at home, realizing many, if not all of them had once been on The New York Times’ best-sellers list. Some were even used in my elementary school classrooms to teach important life lessons.

The Diary of Anne Frank, for example, has been “taught by almost every school in America,” according to the SDSU Bookstore’s information card. I remember learning about Anne Frank and the horrors Jews faced during the Holocaust. Who has the right to say Anne Frank’s story shouldn’t be heard?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, much like racism or sexism, banning books is just another way for people to impose their prejudices on others, causing this problem to persist in several locations. Just because a book offends someone, doesn’t mean it’s bad or needs to be banned. The offensiveness of a story comes down to a matter of opinion. What if someone else picks up a book deemed offensive and learns something valuable from it? It’s not fair to rob people of opportunities because someone decided a book was unsuitable.

As I read the explanations, I realized most objections seemed to come from parents who were concerned about what their children were reading in school. This leads me to one last question: If parents don’t want their children reading certain books—whatever the reasons may be—then why don’t they just ban their own child from the books, instead of everyone else’s children? Who are they to take away books from others who might actually learn something from them?

So thank you, SDSU Bookstore. You have shed light on a problem I didn’t even know existed.