Zed Lopez

In Praise of "Banning" Books

My twitter feed has a bunch of references to banned science fiction and fantasy books. There are often breathless articles about books being banned, usually during Banned Books Week. And nearly invariably, the “ban” comprises a community challenge to a book’s use in a given curriculum or its presence in a public library – and often the challenge wasn’t even successful. The whole story was… people argued about whether a particular book was appropriate in a particular public, tax-funded context.

I’m here to say that this is a feature. The public is made out of people, and people should argue about what books public institutions are advancing or public funds are supporting. I daresay some of the same people shaking their heads in disgust about challenges to To Kill a Mockingbird or Brave New World would quickly discover the virtue of banning books if some school board somewhere introduced to a curriculum some current white supremacist novel encouraging hate crimes, or a teacher was explaining The 120 Days of Sodom to 9-year-olds.

There’s plenty to disagree with in given motivations for challenging books, or in given ideas of what’s appropriate for different age groups. And that’s why arguing about these things is a good thing.