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: “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
The Giver is Lois Lowry’s young adult masterpiece that focuses on the life of Jonas, a teen growing up in a perfect society without sadness, where childhood milestones (such as being given a bike) are strictly regimented and looked forward to, and where everyone is given a perfect job for their temperament when they come of age. The reason the society functions this way is because its inhabitants are spared unpleasant memories: rather the collective memories of mankind are passed on to a single person who carries the burden as well as the blessings and perspective of those experiences.
Beware: I will try to be as general as possible, but there are spoilers ahead.
Objections to the text include “unsuited to age group,” “violence,” “sexually explicit,” “religious viewpoint,” and “suicide,” as well as infanticide and euthanasia. The novel was temporarily banned in California; challenged in Montana (resulting in a parental permission requirement); challenged in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida; and in 2001, a Colorado father challenged the book because he believed “those types of books sow the seeds of school shootings by encouraging suicide and disregard for human life.”
Although most of these objections have some merit, I would argue they show a lack of ability to view the book’s overall value. For example, while The Giver would not be a good read for very young children, even the problematic themes of infanticide and euthanasia are not presented graphically. Rather they are revealed as inherent problems in the society itself. Rather than “encouraging suicide and disregard for human life,” the reader–through the eyes of Jonas–sees the inherent value of those lives that other citizens of his society can’t, deprived as they are of the perspective and emotional experience of memory.
Ultimately, the book has an ambiguous ending. We don’t really know what happens at the end, save that Jonas risks his life to save someone he cares about. Far from endorsing suicide, it highlights the lengths someone will go to protect the people they love.
Today I’ve also posted 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!
**sources: Lois Lowry, “The Giver” – The Banned Books Project (cmu.edu), Why ‘the Giver’ Is One of the Most Banned Books (businessinsider.com), The Giver banned: Why do so many parents try to remove Lois Lowry’s book from schools? (slate.com)