Sophomore Banned Unit: Letter to the editor

What happens when our rights to read our taken from us? Sophomores at Pritzker explored the answer to this question as part of a larger unit on the censorship of literature. After a semester of reading novels such as “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, and “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, students elected to read a Young Adult novel known for its censorship in high schools and libraries across the country. While these books have not been banned at Pritzker, students wrote impassioned letters to their local editors persuading readers to oppose these bans. Note: Letters were intentionally left unedited by The Pritzker Press.

To the Editor:

 

There are books that help me understand experiences that I may or may never experience. It shows me a perspective that is not mine. Luna by Julie Anne Peters features the struggles of a transgender teen from the viewpoint of a family member. The “problem” in Luna is that it questions the identity of gender, acceptance, and sexuality. It has been seen as an inappropriate exposure to the young. However, I believe that Luna should not be pulled from shelves of libraries or schools.

Transgender is not a new word to me. I know what it means and I support it. I am not transgender myself nor do I know anyone who is. But reading Luna did give me an open door, however small it is. I saw a perspective of two struggling teenagers over their own identity and family. While the situation is different, I can find myself relating to that, and I’m not the only one. Luna can give an understanding to people who don’t know what being transgender is and a glimpse of the struggles one can sadly go through. This book can provide empathy to those who do not understand. Although society has become more accepting, there are people who cannot be themselves and are rejected.

Luna is a book about a transgender girl that wants to be herself. A transgender girl that also exist out in the real world and not just in a book. A girl who wants to live.

Sincerely,

Carolina Santos


To the Editor:

 

The book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher is about a girl named Hannah Baker who ends up committing suicide for a variety reasons including false rumors and insecurities. I believe this book should not be banned/removed, because although it mentions sex, underage drinking, and profanity, the book teaches teens to learn to treat each other with more respect and kindness.   

Hannah explains the effect people have in one another: “When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything……affects everything (Asher 201-202).” In life you can never come into someone’s life and leave without leaving a mark, whether it is good or bad. People are capable of hurting or supporting one another. Everyone needs to be more aware of their actions towards their peers. Hannah created tapes based on 13 people who affected her life and explains how even the smallest things led to catastrophes.

This book helps take off that veil that had once blinded you. That veil that made you believe that nothing like suicide will ever occur to someone you might know. That veil that makes you think that just because your children/teens are not reading books about sex or suicide that such things don’t exist in the real world. Because in fact, the issues mentioned in the book are real issues that some kids can relate to.

Roy Bennett, a politician, once said: “A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else’s life.” Being kind to your peers doesn’t harm anyone;in fact, it can make someone else’s day better or possibly save a life. Never underestimate the power of small acts of kindness.

 

Sincerely,

Yuritza Salgado


To whom it may concern,

 

John Green, a popular young adult novelist, has been under fire for his book Looking for Alaska, mainly because of its sexual context and offensive language. Looking For Alaska, is a book following the life of Miles Halter, a teenager who decides to go to a Culver Creek Preparatory High School in Alabama in search for his ¨Great Perhaps¨ Looking For Alaska should not be banned because it gives teenagers a view of how the world is around us and to be aware what we could eventually come to face with, so we know how to handle those situations.

Looking For Alaska has an oral sex scene which has been heavily criticized by parents who are concerned that the book may influence their children into wanting to try the things that the character Pudge does when making out with Alaska. The scene starts off when Pudge and Lara, whom are some of the main characters in the book have an intimate moment where eventually they have oral sex, a few pages later Pudge makes out with Alaska and the description would be considered rated-R. John Green has stated that the scene is not supposed to show pornograhpy, but to show how love really isn’t about sex. He writes the book off of his own experience and talks about how it never worked for him. The scene is meant to be awkward because it emphasises the fact that you don’t feel love when you have sex because that’s a different feeling that is temporarily, which is pleasure.

Looking For Alaska uses explicit language throughout the book. The most frequent word being “shit”. The one argument that can be made is that nobody in the world will not hear or even use curse words. They are all around us and whether we like it or not it’s in our society, therefore the book is written based on what actually goes on in the world. If John Green has something to take the blame for, it would be for giving advice on how to battle and deal with these type of situations when confronted with them in real life.

 

Sincerely,

Giovanni Roman


To the editor:

 

Recently, the book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has been banned in high schools in California. In this book Aristotle, better known as Ari, meets another loner like him named Dante. Ari and Dante become best friends, and by the end of the book, lovers. The book is critiqued for its themes of  homosexuality, troubled identities, gender roles, and troubled family relationships.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz should not be banned from school or public library shelves because this book celebrates feelings most teenagers try to avoid or feel ashamed of, such as being homosexual. The doubt and curiosity Ari has on the larger world is a feeling most teens feel. The main character is easy to relate to and so are the problems and struggles he faces. One struggle Ari faces is a lack of communication with his family; this issue is a common issue faced by many teenagers, so Ari provides a sense of not being alone to young readers.

Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a book which faces banning in many schools, says: “I write in blood because I remember what it feels like to bleed.” The struggles Ari, as well as other characters in other banned books, face are not foreign to many of the young readers. Books are sometimes used to give voices to issues that are often silenced by society. Banning a book does not ban the hardships within the book. There are homosexual teenagers. There are troubled families. There are teenages that doubt and search for secrets to happiness in the world. Why ban the voice of teenagers who see no way out? Why should teenagers be allowed to be ignorant to hardships that are faced by people around the world?  

 

Sincerely,

Jennifer Paguada


To whom it may concern:

 

Who has the right to censor a book? Who has the right to remove a book from school curricula or public libraries while deeming it as inappropriate when every individual has different opinions of what is considered to be appropriate? In 2012, the American Library Association challenged Thirteen Reasons Why, a novel by Jay Asher, considering it as inappropriate for “drugs/ alcohol/ smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.” The novel depicts Hannah Baker as a young girl who committed suicide and leaves behind thirteen cassette tapes revealing the thirteen people who drove her to kill herself, which also leaves Clay Jenson conflicted as to why he is one of the thirteen people. As a free standing individual, I do not accept the banning of such a book in any location.

A major cause for the challenging of the novel is its constant reference to suicide. Above such references, Thirteen Reasons Why provides teachings that everyday teenagers can relate to and understand from, such as that the actions and decisions we take not only affect our life but the lives of other people and the consequence for not accepting your participation in such acts can lead to a life of guilt and remorse. This book has the ability to open the minds of teenagers when discussing serious issues such as suicide that people choose to fall oblivious to.

It seems as people become adults, as adults become parents, they lose touch with what it was like to be a teen. It is as though they only reminisce about the experiences filled with triumph and happiness but forget to look back at the experiences filled with pain and sorrow that shaped the people they have become. Thirteen Reasons Why causes a person to look at every aspect of their life to see what might be flawed, and see how it can be mended. As Jay Asher wrote, “In the end….everything matters.”

People might consider me young and naive, might think I have not been through many experiences in my short lived life, might think I am not aware of pain and suffering, that I do not know what the future holds, and while, in part, it might be true, they do not understand what I am capable of when I came comprehend that knowledge is power, and I choose to liberate myself through reading.

 

Sincerely,
Brisa Garcia


To the Editor:

 

Sometimes, the secrets of the universe are withheld in someone who is too afraid to open up a world of galaxies. The book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz centers around two Mexican boys, Ari (Aristotle) and Dante who get to know each over a summer and become extremely close friends. This story is in the point of view of Ari who avoids discovering who he really is while Dante embraces who he really is. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has been banned for LGBTQ+ issues and profanity that mostly come from the two main characters as the story develops.

I believe that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe should not be banned for the sake of the teens who are avoiding discovering who they truly are. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is considered a young adult novel which would mean that this book’s main audience is teens and pre-teens. As a teenager myself, I can confirm that this time in a teenager’s life is all about self-discovery and trying to figure out who you are. While trying to figure out you are, it can be nerve wracking if what you discover about yourself isn’t something you’re proud of. Once you start trying to hide who you are, you will begin to not like your qualities in other people, either.

When young people feel pressure to hide who they are, they also begin to become close-minded. Young people deserve to find acceptance. No one should feel ashamed for their identity. Young people shouldn’t feel like garbage for loving who they love. In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Aristotle is constantly afraid to act upon actions he truly wants to act on and lives most of his life timidly. As Dante influences Aristotle to come out of his shell, Aristotle also begins to open up to the idea of who he really is and this opens up a galaxy of happiness for Aristotle. No one deserves to push off being happy for the sake of acceptance.

 

Sincerely,

Amaris Castro


To the Editor:

 

Just because something is not talked about, does not mean it does not exist. Although Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher discusses teenage suicide, the guilt left on others, and sexuality, the audience should focus on the bigger message Jay Asher is trying to communicate, which is that people have an impact on other people’s lives. This book was the third most-challenged book in 2012 according to the ALA. Many attempts to ban the book in schools were made.  I do not believe the book should be banned from schools for containing “inappropriate” content.

 

The main character in Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker, commits suicide. She leaves tapes to people that contributed to the reasons why she killed herself. Jay Asher shows the  reactions of Clay Jensen while listening to the tapes. The reason for the tapes was to show others how something you say, even as a joke, can affect someone. Yes, some people felt guilty for what they did, but they learned from their mistakes. That is something Jay Asher wants us to also learn. This novel helps others step beyond their own ideas about certain subjects to explore the lives of others. I believe students should be the ones to decide what they want to read, not parents or schools that disagree with a topic mentioned because it contradicts what they believe.

Yes, suicide, sexual activity, and underage drinking is mentioned in the book. However, Jay Asher is not promoting it. He is simply discussing realistic consequences to those actions. Suppose a teenager is going through something similar to the main characters; Thirteen Reasons Why can serve as a guide to escape the issues they have. When contemplating suicide, many teenagers are scared to ask for help because they think no one understands what they are going through.. However, this book proves that there are people who understand what they’re going through. Why take away a source of salvation from a struggling teenager?

 

Sincerely,

Arely Alvarez