Banned, Burned, and Challenged stories I happen to love:

The Hate U Give (listing the movie only because I have yet to read the source material, 2018) , book by Angie Thomas – 2017

Summary: Starr is witness to a terrible moment, the police shooting of her black friend who was holding a hairbrush. Conflicted in her identity and purpose, she eventually gives up her anonymity to testify, forever altering how her world sees her in different directions. When the grand jury fails to indict the officer, her neighborhood is fraught with both peaceful demonstrations and violent protests. Threats from the local gang, ignorance from her white friends, and an increasing need to accomplish something good regarding her friend’s death move Starr to play a bigger role than ever she imagined.

Recommendation: Amandla Stenberg can do no wrong, especially here, in The Darkest Minds (2018), and in Everything, Everything (2017). As much as I want to talk about the book/story this film was based on, I haven’t read it and am more than content to suggest the movie as a fulfilling experience. Watching how the white schoolmates of Starr treat her, you can tell when it is being irresponsibly ignorant and cringe when their comments are ill-suited/aimed directly at her race. Saying the words “I don’t see race/color” and “I treat everyone exactly the same” are simply hallmarks of the undereducated – get informed and stay awake about racial treatment and differences across society. Its accountability belongs to everyone.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (best as a digital book, 2012), book by by Sherman Alexie – 2007

Summary: Junior and everything/everyone he knows come from the rez. He’s likely die on the rez if something drastic about his life doesn’t change soon. Through one genuine moment of care, his geometry teacher convinces Junior that he’s the only one in his life to make such a change and he needs to do it now. Junior changes schools, shuttling off to a new all-white school 20 miles away. There are some steep learning curves to navigate along with social challenges to accept for lots of reasons. Family, neighborhood, culture, classroom, school, team, and friend – Junior creates art in the paper and epub versions of this story (listening to an audiobook version is fine, but you are missing out on the individual-ness of Junior without the illustrations) that share what he sees his life to be at each new angle.

Recommendation: I can write for days about Alexie’s work! What you need to know is that this item is often challenged for its use of ‘insensitive vocabulary’ (what 14 year old boy isn’t going to use inappropriate language?), violence/death, and sexual innuendo. It’s a harshly-lit slice-of-life look on a boy who is determined to survive his circumstances, even if it means redefining who/what he is. His internal fortitude reminds me so much of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s version of Alexander Hamilton when young. I celebrated Junior’s triumph over bigotry, bullying, and death as he dealt with them time after time, full of confusing, conflicting emotions such as anger, laughter, and forgiveness.

Speak (I have only read the book, not the 2018 graphic novel nor watched the 2004 movie.), book by Laurie Halse Anderson – 1999

Summary: Melinda starts off high school with a deepening issue – she’s the outcast after calling cops to a party, yet she can’t tell anyone about what happened or why. In fact, she can’t tell anyone much of anything. She’s traumatized by an altercation with one of the popular boys and left stranded without any encouragement or support to aid her in dealing with the memories. Eventually, she finds her voice again (literally), freeing the truth to a select audience beyond the artworks she’s used as therapy. Melinda represents many silent/silenced victims; it’s painful to read and still important to do so.

Recommendation: I had the marvelous timing to meet LHA at a TeenBookCon in Texas several years ago as she was promoting other works. Long after her introduction of Speak, I still told her how remarkable reading it specifically had been for me as a young woman/mother of a daughter. She’s genuine and fearless and translates post-traumatic stress into recognizable behaviors through Melinda’s actions. If only all survivors could self-heal without more harm debilitating them (a trial, public ridicule, doubt).

About the author

Smithton Public Library

The Smithton Public Library District is located in southern Illinois, near St. Louis, MO. The library serves nearly 5,000 residents. We hope you visit us soon!