The banning or burning of books or literary pieces is nothing new. To do so has meant, and still means, upholding power structures or a particular social script that undermines or silences disenfranchised, dissident voices. Rather than having an inclusive conversation about the lenses and lived experiences through which these works view the world, policymakers decided book banishment within the school curriculum was a swifter reaction and one way of leveraging control of knowledge: access to it, its contents, and limiting its engagement in education.
Likewise, the “sanitization” or “revisioning” of original works such as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer may stem from a fear of exposing the ugly labeling and “savage” practices that exclude and disparage bodies or cultures deemed unfit, disposable, unworthy, or uncivilized. In what may seem as an attempt of policymakers to “keep the peace,” through the ban of books and of targeted terms, the policy has, in effect, disrupted peace for knowers of social justice that power and language is knowledge and that the personal is political.
Check out what’s happening in Arizona as authors respond to the banned book list.