While some might agree with the idea of restricting access to certain books, I believe that it not only violates the reader’s fundamental human right to learn, but it also violates the first amendment right of the author. We as readers should be allowed to gain knowledge at our own will. As for the author, they have the right to freedom of speech in the United States. When their writing is suddenly not accessible to their audience, it is the same as telling the author that they are not allowed to speak about certain topics, thus contradicting the first amendment.
The banning of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was brought to light when headlines showed that a Texan school district violated policies regarding the process of banning a book and proceeded to remove it from the shelves. The “Top Ten Most Challenged Books Lists” alleges that The Hate U Give was generally withdrawn because “it was deemed ‘anti-cop,’ and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references”. However, in the case of the Katy Independent School District in Texas, Lance Hindt, the District Supervisor says that the book was to be reassessed due to its “pervasive vulgarity and racially-insensitive language…not its substantive content or the viewpoint expressed” (Gomez, 2018).
Regardless of the justifications, such limitations can stifle one’s understanding of the world, especially that of an impressionable child. Jamison states that The Hate U Give “acclimates children to a much larger social issue” (2017). Whether or not the reader agrees with Angie Thomas’ view on the severity of this social issue, it is crucial that people are given as many resources as possible to be able to formulate their own ideas and opinions. After reading The Hate U Give, one person might find that they have a direct and personal connection to the book, while a different person might find that Angie Thomas’ major themes are a dramatized and distorted account of reality. It is not important that everyone agrees with or is changed by the book. What is important, is that everyone has the freedom to read it and form their own opinion based off of what they read.
As for the issue of language, “you will find that instances of profanity in teen books have become widespread and socially tolerated, as the language and content of these books often mirror real-world behaviors” (Jamison 2017). People often times learn about diction in their English classes but, outside of the classroom setting, it is rare that they are on the lookout for it. Thomas is very deliberate with her words. In the instances where she uses mature language, it is because she wants to evoke a feeling in the reader. This can include slang terms and vernacular to show more about the character or it can be used to emphasize a point, which many people do every day. Each word serves a purpose.
There will always be people who want to ban books for an array of reasons. It is the job of libraries and librarians to do everything in their power to protect readers’ right to read. The American Library Association’s “Freedom to Read Statement” says, “we trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe...we believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression” (2006). It is better to run the risk of having a few misled people rather than to risk an abundance of people being stripped of their rights. “Whether or not a single district or a group of parents agree with it, everyone’s right to choose should never be revoked” (Jamison 2017).
Cartwright, Debra. “The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.” The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, 18 Dec. 2017, https://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=11958. (Accessed September 26, 2019)
“The Freedom to Read Statement.” American Library Association, 26 July 2006, http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/freedomreadstatement. (Accessed September 26, 2019)
Gomez, Betsy. “Banned Spotlight: The Hate U Give.” Banned Books Week, 6 Sept. 2018,
https://bannedbooksweek.org/banned-spotlight-the-hate-u-give/. (Accessed September 26, 2019)
Jamison, Andrea. “The Hate She Received: Why the Banning of Angie Thomas' Book Was an Insult to the Black Lives Matter Movement.” Intellectual
Freedom Blog, 18 Dec. 2017, https://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=11958. (Accessed September 26, 2019)
“Top Ten Most Challenged Books Lists.” American Library Association, 30 July 2019,
http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10#2018. (Accessed September 26, 2019)
I am a junior at Durham School of the Arts and I thoroughly enjoy writing. This blog entails the knowledge I have gained in being a Library Media Center Assistant.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Durham School of the Arts or Durham Public Schools.