by Aly Runke, contributing writer
Banned Books Week has been celebrated in public libraries, bookstores, and in our school libraries from elementary school through high school. We’ve all been encouraged *cough *forced *cough* to read some of the more famous banned books of times gone by. Because of this, many people go through life thinking banned books are a thing of the past. However, some of the most central books in pop culture today have been banned around the world and across the United States. One such phenomenon is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which is the fifth most-contested and controversial book of 2010. Many dystopian books have been banned throughout the years including The Giver, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451.
The Hunger Games was inspired, in part, by the author channel-surfing and watching a reality game show and footage of the Iraq war. One of the many reasons stated for the book being banned is that the story is “too real.” The world could use a little reality now and again, between its spring break pool parties and million-dollar celebrity weddings. Once you’ve read the series it isn’t hard to see what social practices inspired the attitudes of the citizens of The Capital. Maybe The Hunger Games is inspiring to readers. Isn’t that what good literature should do?
Different institutions claim that the book encourages violence and disobedience, and showcases sexual content and religious blasphemy. Ironically, these books are about rebelling, not just against government or powers that be in general, but against those who abuse such power by being too controlling of the populace. In a world where some countries have censored television, heavily censored education, and oppressive laws such as dress codes for women, one can see why The Hunger Games would be threatening to those who wish to control. The U.S. itself is battling with internet censorship. Books are banned because people are either scared of an idea or ignorant of the truth behind a book.
Some people fail to realize how this series could parallel real people’s lives, and help readers to think through their own lives, which is actually something we want teens to do, and is a positive outcome of young adult fiction in general. The Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdeen who, through trying to protect those she holds dear to her, incites a revolution against a totalitarian regime. Katniss is from a poor state that struggles with police brutality, little to no food, alcoholism, single-parent families, working children, etc. Some of these issues aren’t too far from issues real-world teens who read the books could be dealing with, just taken to a dramatic extreme. Through a brutal game where children are forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the rich, to an all-out war, fans have followed Katniss in the books and in the ongoing movie series starring Jennifer Lawrence, as well.
The Hunger Games is banned currently in some schools in the U.S., as well as in Thailand. The case in Thailand is especially interesting, as not only have the books been banned but so has the three-finger salute the reels in the books adopt. Thai citizens have adopted this salute to protest the Thai coup (May 22, 2014), and how the ruling junta has several bans that attack the human right to freedom of expression. Many protesters have been arrested while doing the salute and covering their mouths with either tape or their other hand to symbolize how they feel silenced, just like the people in The Hunger Games. Most of the protests have been peaceful, but when it is a protest of political nature, the Thai government arrests protestors for making the salute. Of course the three-fingered salute has taken on other meanings, as well, but the inspiration for its use is clear. All we can say for banned books now and in the future is “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
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