The worlds of home and school were made up of rules laid down by adults who had forgotten the feeling of what it means to be a kid but expected a kid to remember to be an adult --something he hadn’t gotten to yet.”
During my junior year at Island Trees High School, the Supreme Court argued the book banning case Island Trees School District v. Pico. That summer, when I had more free time to read, the banned books piqued my interest. What didn’t the school board want me to learn? I borrowed Down These Mean Streets, Piri Thomas’s memoir about growing up on the streets of Spanish Harlem, from the local library. I copied many of the passages that rang true into my high school journal.
The scenes that initially caused Down These Mean Streets to be banned weren’t among the many paragraphs that I transcribed. It was the honesty and power of Thomas’s language as he struggled to find his place in the world that made the greatest impact on me.
In response to the number of books being challenged in the United States, 1982 was also the year Banned Books Week began. Unfortunately, challenging and banning books still goes on today. In a July 2014 case, one Delaware high school eliminated the entire 9th grade summer reading list because of a challenge to one of the books included. For more information about this and other recent instances of book banning, visit the Banned Books Week site, created by the American Library Association.
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