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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Barrett Luttery

Uncovering the Power of Banned Books: Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison

Books have always been a source of knowledge, inspiration, and a medium through which we explore the complexities of the human experience. However, throughout history, certain books and authors have faced censorship and bans due to their controversial themes, challenging narratives, and uncomfortable truths. In this blog, we will delve into the world of banned books, with a particular focus on two iconic African-American authors, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. Their works have not only been challenged but have also become important tools in discussing vital issues of race, identity, and society.

Maya Angelou: "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

Maya Angelou's autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," is a powerful coming-of-age story that has often been at the center of literary controversies. The book touches on themes of racism, sexual abuse, and the struggle for identity. Despite its critical acclaim and its ability to resonate with readers, it has faced numerous bans and challenges in educational settings.

One of the reasons for the banning of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is its frank portrayal of Angelou's experiences, including her sexual assault as a child. However, the book's candid approach to these challenging topics makes it an important piece of literature for discussing difficult subjects and empowering readers to confront adversity.

Toni Morrison: "Beloved"

Toni Morrison, a Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is known for her deeply moving and thought-provoking novels. One of her most famous works, "Beloved," is often targeted by censors for its graphic content, which includes scenes of violence, infanticide, and intense emotional trauma.

"Beloved" tells the story of Sethe, a former slave who escapes to Ohio but is haunted by the ghost of her deceased child. Morrison's novel is a profound exploration of the enduring impact of slavery on the African-American experience. While it may be unsettling, "Beloved" plays a vital role in shedding light on a dark chapter in history and addressing the long-lasting scars of slavery.

The Importance of Banned Books

Banned books like those by Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison offer a unique opportunity for readers to engage with sensitive and challenging subjects. They force us to confront uncomfortable truths, encouraging critical thinking, empathy, and discussion. By banning such books, we risk limiting our capacity to understand and address complex issues in our society.

Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison's works have faced bans and challenges because they tackle some of the most challenging and important issues in our society. However, it is precisely these issues that make their books so crucial. Banned books, rather than being shunned, should be embraced as tools for growth, understanding, and change. They provide a platform for meaningful discussions and encourage us to confront the realities of our world, making them an integral part of our literary heritage.

I have read many books by both of these authors and their books have a permanent place on the shelves of my home library. Their stories are compelling and are an important part of a rich literary history of diverse books in America that all people have a right to enjoy.

If books like theirs continue to be under attack and are erased from bookshelves, how will future generations learn about our complex history, experiences, and most importantly, how we have persevered? We learn so much from books and they often serve as inspiration for readers to overcome adversity, instill optimism, and become writers themselves. Everyone has a voice and voices are often heard through the written word. It would be a shame for any aspiring author to quit their journey as a writer because they fear that their content will be banned. Authors should write what they want, and the consumer has a right to choose what they read.

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