In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019). .
BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card
Like The Hunger Games and other selections from the banned books list, Ender’s Game focuses on the price paid by children as the cost of war. In a future where mankind spreads to the stars, an alien race attacks the Earth. After a desperate move unexpectedly succeeds against the enemy, mankind is determined not to be caught unawares again. To this end, child geniuses are trained in military tactics using war games as preparation for when the aliens eventually return. Ender Wiggins is one such child genius, and the future of humanity may rest in his hands.
Since the book has been out since 1985, and there was even a movie starring Harrison Ford (2013), I’m tempted to spoil the book to make my points. But I won’t, because if you haven’t read the book yet and are unfamiliar with the story, you really, REALLY should. Objections to the scifi classic include claims that it’s “pornagraphic” by a parent in Aiken, South Carolina; it’s been awhile since I read the book, but I don’t remember there being any sex at all. It’s possible the parent was confused by other material the teacher shared with the class. There was discussion over whether to arrest the teacher, but the most recent article I found said no charges were pressed. It’s still a worrying development though, one that seems to run against the right to free speech.
Other objections to the text of Ender’s Game include “offensive language,” “unsuited to age group,” and “violence.” Older versions of the book do include racial slurs, particularly in a scene where one of Ender’s friends is called “slanty-eyed,” and Ender responds with an even worse word for the antagonist. The author defended the scene by saying Ender’s seemingly racist response was actually meant to call attention to the antagonist’s racism; he was being ironic. But later editions of the book have a sanitized version of this scene.
As far as the age appropriateness of Ender’s Game, it’s generally considered aimed at fourteen year olds and older. The violence in the book is real, though not as graphic as The Hunger Games. There are instances of bullying, with some gruesome consequences, but the overall violence is tamer than this–in the form of the games the students of Battle School play to learn their craft.
The more disturbing aspects of the book have to do with the overarching ethical questions: Is it moral to use children to fight a war? Is a pre-emptive strike ever justified? What is the value of a life? These questions, while somewhat troubling, are worthy of a book in themselve. They are questions we should ask ourselves as part of our journey to be moral beings.
Ender’s Game is a science fiction classic for good reason.
Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon. If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!
Parent files police complaint after teacher reads Ender’s Game to pupils | Science fiction books | The Guardian,
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card — Banned Library,
South Carolina Teacher Suspended For Reading ‘Ender’s Game’ To Middle School Students [Updated] (forbes.com),