The summer before eighth grade, my parents decided I was no longer going to be reading the Harry Potter books.
It was too late for books one through four, which were already on my shelf. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix wasn’t going to be published for another year, but Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was due to make its cinematic debut that November. My friends and I had already started talking about it – we went to the midnight showing of the first movie when it was in theatres and had a wonderful time. But now, it was looking like I wouldn’t be able to see the movie. Or read the next book. And that cryptic ending in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was killer!
In 2021, we know how problematic J. K. Rowling is, but back in 2002 before Twitter and social media, all we knew was that everyone was reading Harry Potter and everyone loved it and we were all dying for the next book to come out. While we know now there are so many reasonable reasons we should seek out other books… that wasn’t the reason my parents banned me.
My parents banned me because in 2002, the world suddenly exploded with fire and brimstone about the Harry Potter series, and one by one, communities across the world started to ban the books.
The UAE had banned the books altogether along with several other “objectionable” novels. In the United States, religious organizations rose up to fight against the series. In New Mexico, a congregation burnt more than 30 books after services. Catholic priest Gabriele Amorth publicized that the Devil was behind the books. Firefighters refused to help marathon control for a school that had a Harry Potter-related after school program because they didn’t want to support the community’s children being introduced to witchcraft. Whole books were written about demonic suggestions behind Harry Potter and its introduction to the occult.
These are just a few examples.
While there are a lot of legitimate reasons for not wanting your child to read certain books, it nevertheless stands that book banning and censorship is harming overall. There is a lot of text out there that I don’t agree with and there is a lot of stuff in the Harry Potter books that aged poorly and we now have a better understanding is offensive… but devil-worshipping and satanic rituals are not among them.
Sometime fear drives us to extremes.
By getting local and federal governments involved to actually take books out of libraries, we are denying the right of free thinking. Censorship means that the only parts of the picture citizens are allowed to see are those curated by a leading power. It’s a means of control and manipulation. It may not seem like a big deal when we’re talking about fantasy novels, but there are so many culturally important books that are challenged and banned as well.
On the ALA’s 100 Most Challenged Books from 2010-2019 list, The Handmaid’s Tale makes #29 and The Hate U Give makes #30. I Am Jazz, a book about a transgender child, is listed at #13. All three of these books speak to marginalized communities in one way or another. They offer commentary of the world we live in, warnings about the dangers of hate, and also allow marginalized communities to have some representation in books. All three of these books are culturally important and should be read. But they are being censored.
There is a fine line between deciding not to read something and having the choice taken away. And as Fahrenheit 451 (also a banned book!) suggests… that’s a dangerous path.
Are you participating in Banned Books Week? Do you agree or disagree with book banning? Drop your links and share your thoughts in the comments!