In 2022, 1,648 unique titles currently sit on the banned books list. The banning of a single book title means that anywhere from one to hundreds of copies are pulled from classroom and library shelves. The 1,648 titles that are currently banned are by 1,261 different authors and 290 illustrators. This impacts thousands of people across different school districts, classrooms, and libraries. Between July 1, 2021- June 30, 2022 book bans occurred in 138 school districts and in 32 states. Two of those books that are on the banned list are The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and The Giver by Lois Lowry.
The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye was written by Nobel Prize- winning author Toni Morrison and was published in 1970. The story takes place in Morrison’s hometown of Lorain, Ohio in 1940-1941. The book tells the tragic story of Pecola Breedlove, an African American girl who is from an abusive home. Eleven-year-old Pecola compares the social acceptance and beauty of whiteness. She longs to have ‘’the bluest eyes.’’ This novel is an account of the African American experience after the Great Depression. Pecola’s story is told through multiple different narrators. The main narrator, Claudia MacTeer, is a childhood friend that Pecola used to live with. Throughout the story, Claudia narrates from two different perspectives: the adult Claudia, who reflects on the events from 1940-1941, and nine-year-old Claudia who observes the events as they happen. There are many central themes within the book such as:
Beauty vs Ugliness
Women and Feminity
Race and Racism
Sex and Sexuality
Home and Family
The Bluest Eye was first banned in March 1999 in Backer City, Oregon. The Bluest Eye was successfully banned from Baker High School after multiple complaints from parents about the context of the book. The book was banned because it depicts sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.
The Giver written by Lois Lowry was published in in 1993. The story is written from the perspective of an eleven-year-old boy named Jonas who lives in a society that has eliminated all fear, pain, and hatred. In this society, everyone looks and acts the same, and there is very little competition. This society has also eliminated people’s right to choose. At age twelve, everyone in the community is assigned a job based on his or her interests and abilities. Citizens can apply for spouses that are compatible, and each couple is assigned two children each. The book begins where Jonas’s career is chosen for him. This sets Jonas on a complicated path that leads to a series of revelations about his community, his family, and the parts of history that have been erased from his memory. Jonas develops a relationship with his mentor The Giver. The Giver helps Jonas come to terms with the choices that are set out for him. The Giver tells Jonas to either live with the knowledge he has or run and try to escape for a better life. The central themes of The Giver are:
The Individual vs Society
Feeling and Emotion
Freedom and Choice
The first notable case of banning The Giver was in California in 1994. At the time, parents complained of violent and sexual passages. Today, the book sits on the banned list due to potentially difficult topics of violence and infanticide and unsuited for the age group.
Students Speak Out
The Bluest Eye and The Giver are just two of the many banned books that students have read in schools growing up. College student Kerinna Kanters shares her opinion on the topic. ‘’Banning these books is a form of censorship, in my opinion. It is saying that, since the author does not relay a message you support, you will prevent their message from being heard on a wide scale. Additionally, this author will lose out on royalties because their book is not able to be easily read.’’ Student Derrick Baker shares his thoughts on The Giver being on the banned list. ‘’I think The Giver is a great book that teaches how important individuality and freedom of choice is in our society. I think banning this book only further takes away from the already limited choices in literature that students have. If anything, it brings our world closer to the world of The Giver.’’
Making A Change
Supporting your local library and being informed about book banning is one of the most ways to make a positive change when it comes to banning literature. It is important to talk and be informed about banned books. It is vital that these ideas and viewpoints are heard. Without these ideas, we can fall into a censored and controlled society.