Rebel Readers, It’s Banned Books Week!!!

As a child that the horror genre built, the idea of banned books still confounds me. I’m so glad I grew up in an area that didn’t limit my options when it came to the books I chose to read. I recently watched a documentary on one of my favorite book series’ growing up and all the reasons it was being banned from schools across the entire country. That very book was recently adapted into a movie for the big screen – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! Was the series scary? Yes. Was it graphic? Yes. Was there violence? Yes. Did I know it was all make believe? Yes. Books are meant to entertain. Books are meant to explore creativity and the unknown. Books are not meant to be banned. But, alas, they are. And I’ve got a list for you. All the books on this list are by Black authors from today and yesterday. All the books are books that you should read for yourself, if not only for the fact that they are good reads, but because we all have a little rebellion in us. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston

Hurston’s classic work was deemed worthy of a ban due to it not fitting the bill of the era of the Racial Uplift many other Black author’s were producing in the 1930’s. Hurston’s work was found to mock the way that Black’s spoke due to the phonetic way she wrote the novel. Furthermore, the novel included an interracial relationship, rape, and murder. This novel has been brought up to be banned in as resent years as 1997 when a parent complained of bad language and sexual acts within the novel.

 

For all who have had the opportunity to read the novel, they will find a story rich in the Black culture of Hurston’s era from the uniquely written dialect to the powerful will of a young Black woman living in a male dominant world. 

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

Thomas’ novel is a story ripped straight from current headlines – young, unarmed Black boys being gunned down by ill-trained or racist cops. The novel was banned in a school in Katy, Texas due to “inappropriate language”. The book was pulled from the shelves before it had even been taken through the proper channels to pull and ban the book from the school’s library by the Superintendent due to his belief that the book was vulgar and held racially insensitive language. Due to the efforts of a student, who collected 4,000 signatures on a petition calling for the book to be reinstated on school shelves the district opted to allow the book back in the school. However, students are only able to check it out with a parental signature.

Thomas’ novel is a relevant novel that all Americans should give a chance. It is a timely work that speaks to many movements relevant to current climates, such as Black Lives Matter. 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X - Alex Haley

Malcolm X has been called everything from an extremist to a champion for Black equality and rights. His autobiography has met challenges from objectors since it’s release in 1965. The book has been flagged to be a how-to manual for crime and for making statements deemed “anti-white”.

 

X’s biography is a collaborative effort from X and from the author of the popular series Roots, Alex Haley. It tells the story of X’s childhood and much of his adult life. The book is chronicled through interviews that X conducted with Haley. Haley transcribed and organized the materials of the novel in a first-person point of view, while Malcolm X edited and approved each chapter. X being a household name amongst Black families deems his book worthy of a read. His life and death are the subject of many a movie and discussion. Banning his truth seems to make particular people comfortable. 

The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye is the story of an African American girl named Pecola growing up during the Great Depression. Set in 1941, Pecola is viewed as “ugly” due to her dark skin and her mannerisms. This takes a toll on the young girl causing her to want “the bluest eye” which she finds synonymous with beauty as it is found on whites.

 

With the recent passing of this prolific writer – winner of the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for her work, it is only fitting that one of her most notable works be included on this list. The Bluest Eye was banned in March of 1999 by a high school in Oregon. The book was flagged as being sexually explicit, not age appropriate and having controversial issues. The book has a plot that includes racism, incest, and child molestation. It has been banned from multiple schools and libraries. 

Soul on Ice - Eldridge Cleaver

This book is a memoir that touches on the Civil Rights era and the Black Panther movement. This book was pulled most notably from a Long Island school district by a group called “Parents of New York United” in 1975. The group raided the school’s library one night – against the superintendent and the librarian’s wishes – and pulled 11 books from the shelves deeming them everything from anti-Christian to simple filth. Soul on Ice was one of those books. The book has been compared to The Autobiography of Malcolm X mentioned above, so it is no shock that this book, too, would find its way onto a list of banned books. It took the students of the school suing the school district to get the book returned to its rightful place in the school’s library. 

Go Tell It On The Mountain - James Baldwin

James Baldwin was a bad man – and I mean that in the best sense of the word, can you dig it? Go Tell it on the Mountain was banned twice – once in Virginia and once in New York. The book was cited as being profane and sexually explicit. Baldwin, his candor, his words, and his outspokenness on behalf of his people – along with his books – was always in the hot seat. So much so that the FBI had a file on the author. You read that right. The FBI had a file on the author. Baldwin’s words still resonant and hold so much weight, even today. Go Tell it on the Mountain is a story about faith, beliefs, growth, and choices. It is a story of coming of age and growing pains. 

Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart is the story of Okonkwo – a leader and local wrestling champion in Umofia. It is based on a fictional group of villages in Nigeria. The book was banned in Malaysia due to it criticizing colonialism. The book goes in depth about the British colonialism and the consequences it has on the community in the late nineteenth century. The importance of this history – albeit it be fictional – is not something to be censored. In recent years, this book has been popping up and being praised. So much so that I actually thought this book – which was released in 1958 – was a current release. Seems that people are jumping on the band wagon – pun intended. 

All of the books on this list are in my to-be-read pile (though, of course, I’ve read Their Eyes Were Watching God too many times to count), I hope you add a few to your own. Books should not be silenced any more than a person should. Books have voices. Books own a narrative that deserves to be heard. Books are meant to be read – not banned. So read on, rebels. Read on. 

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