September 23 – 29 is Banned Books week, a week celebrating the freedom to read, drawing attention to banned and challenged books, and highlighting persecuted individuals or groups. Each day this week, I’ll countdown the top ten books most often challenged or removed from schools, universities, or libraries across the United States.
#4 – The Kite Runner
written by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner was banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.” Its main character is Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy, and Hassan, the Hazara son of Amir’s father’s servant. It spans years, from the boys’ time in Kabul to Amir’s adulthood in the US, and its themes of guilt, betrayal, friendship, and redemption are universal.
Amir begins the book as a rather unlikable boy who failed to save his friend from a horrific act and then tried to frame him for theft in order to send him away. As he grows into an adult and marries, he never forgets what he failed to stop, and his guilt weighs heavy on him. His trip back to Kabul, and his rescue and adoption of Hassan’s orphaned son from the man who attacked Hassan when they were children, is a major step toward redemption.
Many critics believe Amir’s redemption didn’t go far enough. Others feel that the book gives unfair views of Pashtuns, Hazaras, the Taliban, and Afghanistan in general. The book has been challenged for offensive language, sexually explicit content, and unsuitability for its age group.
Paramount Pictures turned the novel into a major motion picture in 2007. Protests and death threats against the young actors involved in the film caused several scenes to be reshot in hopes of protecting the boys. They were ultimately relocated to United Arab Emirates, though one returned to Kabul after four months, the other two years.
In 2009, a stage adaptation was released to mixed reviews. Some thought it a gripping production, while others declared it a “CliffNotes’ version” of the book.
#3 – Drama
written by Raina Telgemeier
Drama is another book on the list challenged and/or banned from school libraries solely because it contains LGBTQA+ characters. Parents thought it might be “confusing” and accused it of being “politically, racially, or socially offensive.”
This 2012 Stonewall Honor Award winning graphic novel from acclaimed cartoonist Raina Telgemeier centers around Callie, a seventh grader and theater student, navigating the perils of middle school with their accompanying confusing crushes, tween angst, and friendships.
It’s a rather sweet coming of age book. Callie is a stage hand determined to make a (sort of) functioning canon for the school play. The cast of characters, and their round of misunderstandings and crushes, is pretty typical of the age. In fact, this book reminded me a lot of Sixteen by Beverly Cleary, only with a lot more chaos. Or, should I say, Drama?