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The best banned books according to English professors

Anna+Maxwell+reaches+out+to+JCU+English+professors+to+find+out+their+favorite+banned+books.
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Anna Maxwell reaches out to JCU English professors to find out their favorite banned books.

As many students have noticed over the years, hundreds of books are being banned in classrooms and public libraries. Unfortunately, many of these books are wonderful literary classics that should be praised rather than feared. Faculty members of the English department at John Carroll also agree and have recommended their favorite books off of the banned list(s). 

“Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel (banned in Missouri)

 “It is a graphic narrative about a young woman’s troubled relationship with her father as she grows up in rural Pennsylvania and discovers her lesbian identity. My students have loved the compelling story and the illustrations. I’ve published a scholarly article about it as an ‘ecoqueer’ narrative — in other words, ways the book comments on ‘non-normative’ sexuality and attitudes towards the environment.” – Dr. Debby Rosenthal

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini (banned in Florida, South Carolina and Utah)

“Both texts, I think, are essential reading for anyone looking to develop a stronger understanding of the relationships between race, gender, culture and time.” – Sheniah Lanier

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison (banned in Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah)

“[It’s] a book that simply must be read, and taught – and never banned. The story of Pecola Breedlove is the story of millions of young Black women in this country, full of violence, sexual violence and devastatingly low self-esteem. To ‘ban’ such a book is to pretend none of this is happening. Literature should challenge us, open our eyes, demand that we change and become larger, better, more forgiving human beings. To ban a book like “The Bluest Eye” is to ban literature – and truth.” – Dr. George Bilgere

“It’s such a gripping exploration of how society’s perceptions of beauty and perfection can interact with race, how that interaction may help to enforce systemic racism and the following idea that non-white bodies can’t be beautiful. That’s not even mentioning the economic and class boundaries that bind much of the story together. It’s certainly a book that I’d recommend, though I do prefer Morrison’s ‘Sula,’ if I had to pick, though it seems less eyes are drawn to it for the purposes of banning.” – Demitri Cullen

“Maus” by Art Spiegelman (banned in Missouri) and “The Bluest Eyeby Toni Morrison 

“I teach both of them in my Literature of Trauma class. I didn’t choose them for the class because they’re banned but because students enjoy them and learn so much from them. “Maus’ is a graphic memoir of the author’s father’s experiences living through the Holocaust, and ‘The Bluest Eye’ tells the tragic story of an African American family scourged by racism in 1940s Lorain, OH. Both are rich, detailed, beautifully composed works filled with characters who will live with you forever.” – Dr. Yvonne Bruce 

A photo of the department’s favorite banned book, “The Bluest Eye.” (Flickr)

“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi (banned in Florida)

This historical fiction novel follows the lives of two half-sisters in 18th century Ghana and spans 300 years of history in Ghana and in the United States. The book forced me to reckon with very real traumas in U.S. history that I wasn’t fully taught in high school or college — for example, how the post-Civil War convict leasing system criminalized Black people and effectively extended slavery until the 1930s. These traumas aren’t just abstract historical events; they happened to individual people and shaped everything about their lives and their descendants’ lives…and, by extension, our lives. This Yaa Gyasi quote sums up what I think is the power of learning history through historical fiction: ‘It is important to not look back on those moments and just think about people as this kind of mass…this kind of faceless mass…to remember to put names and faces to each of these experiences.’” – Dr. Meredith Steck

Without reading these books, many students are missing out on life-changing literature. Students should put all of these books on their reading lists as fast as possible. According to the JCU English Department, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison should be first on the list. 

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About the Contributor
Anna Maxwell, Arts and Life Editor
Anna Maxwell is the Arts and Life Editor for the Carroll News from Ashtabula, Ohio. She is a Freshman at John Carroll University who is an Undecided major. Anna has been writing for the Carroll News since the fall of 2023! In addition to writing for the Carroll News, she is also an Honors student here at John Carroll, and she is excited to continue writing in the years to come! When not writing, Anna can be found reading a new book, or binge-watching her favorite Netflix shows! She can also be found spending time with her friends and participating in events around campus! In the future, Anna aspires to become a writer of fiction novels, and also an editor for a well-known publishing company! To contact Anna, email her at [email protected].

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