Books Are Powerful—Which Is Probably Why Some People Try To Ban Them
By Cheryl Rainfield, award-winning author of STAINED, SCARS, and HUNTED.
I don’t understand why anyone thinks it’s okay to ban a book—and keep that book out of the hands of someone who might need it. Books save lives. They can provide escape and relief from pain. They can help deepen understanding and compassion. And they can bring needed, positive change to the world. Perhaps that’s why some people try to ban and challenge books. Maybe they are afraid.
I understand fear. I was afraid for most of my life—terrified that I would be murdered the way I saw other kids be murdered at the hands of my parents and other cult members. Some people who ban books talk about needing to protect children. I understand the need to protect others, too—from rape, abuse, and torture. From homophobia and racism and sexism. From oppression. But I don’t understand trying to prevent others from reading books about those issues (or for any other reason). Books that will help others lessen their own pain by feeling less alone, by knowing someone else understands, by finding hope and healing. Books that can increase compassion and empathy for the reader themselves or for people that they know.
I don’t understand someone trying to ban a book…unless prejudice has taken root so deeply that they can’t see beyond their hate. Or unless there’s something that person can’t face themselves, some dark pain or trauma that they’re turning away from, that they don’t want opened up to the world. But even then I don’t understand trying to keep a book from others, a book that can be a doorway or a window that another person needs. If a book hurts or offends or scares someone, they can put it down. They don’t have to try to keep it from others.
Books are ways to increase empathy, compassion, and greater understanding in the world through an enjoyable means—storytelling. Books can be an escape when someone desperately needs it, and they can be a life-saving affirmation that you’re not alone in your pain, you can survive because other people have, and it will get better. Healing can happen.
Maybe some book banners don’t want to know another’s pain or experience that feels greatly different from their own; they want to keep themselves buffered behind the walls they’ve built for themselves. They have the right to do that as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. But keeping a book from reaching others who need it is a way of hurting them. A book that is painful or frightening for one person can save the life of another, and it may be the only empathy or validation that that person might have. I didn’t have any safe people to turn to when I was growing up; books were my safety. If I hadn’t had books, I’m not sure I could have survived.
My own book SCARS has been challenged in a few ways. And now just before STAINED comes out I worry that it will happen again. Because STAINED has Sarah, a strong-girl character who survives bullying, abduction, rape, and having her life threatened. She not only survives these things, she also finds a way to save herself and the people she loves. And there are queer characters who help her at a critical point in the book—queer characters who are just a normal, everyday part of the story. All things that people who ban books don’t seem to want others to read about.
The experiences and emotions in STAINED are very real and very raw because I drew on my own trauma experience and emotional truth to write them. I also drew on my own strength, healing, and hope, infusing that into the story. I try to make a positive, healing difference in the world through my books, even as my books entertain. And I know from the many letters I’ve received and still get from readers that my books have helped them to stop cutting, get help, know they’re not alone, or even keep from killing themselves.
Books are powerful. They’re a way to know that we are not alone even when we feel we are. They’re a way to step into someone else’s soul for a few hours, lessen hatred and prejudice, open up discussion and insight, mend wounds. They’re a way to shine light on horrific things that are happening in our world that we need to right. And they can spark the desire in others to make positive change happen. Maybe that’s why they scare some people. The power of books is vast.
But if we want this world to be a kinder, gentler place for us all, a world where people stop oppression and find greater joy, we have to stop the banning of books, of ideas and empathy, the roots of positive change. We have to make noise when someone tries to ban or challenge a book, and we have to keep reading, filling our minds and souls with words that touch us.
Stained on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble
Scars on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble
Cheryl Rainfield's Website, Twitter, and Facebook
Click here to enter my giveaway for a copy of Stained OR Scars.
Click here to follow the STAINED Blog Tour that's currently happening.
Click here to read a poem Cheryl wrote about Banned Books
Click here for a STAINED Early Reader Contest from Cheryl. The below is copied from her blog.
If you pre-order STAINED or buy it any day in October, you will get these bonuses:
- a free ebook copy of SCARS or PARALLEL VISIONS (your choice); and
- a specially designed, signed bookplate (like a sticker you put inside a book)
- a STAINED bookmark.
AND you’ll be entered to win:
The grand prize...