This week is Banned Books Week, and we’re celebrating by showcasing various books which have been censored for a variety of reasons. Celebrate this week by picking up one of these books and reading.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is on the American Library Association banned books list for this year. Many of the books that are on that list I just snort in derision over. Most are pretty ridiculous, and have been written about by some of us here are at Care2. There is everything from gay penguins to classics to Harry Potter and His Dark Materials.
The Hunger Games is different. First let me be clear that I never think a book should be banned and laugh that Fahrenheit 451 is about banned books and the dangers of banning, yet still remains on the banned book list. Art is life.
Art follows life in the case of the Hunger Games. Collins creates a futuristic world that is not far off in coming and could well happen. After a horrific accident that sent everyone underground (nuclear war?), sectors began to emerge above ground. Life began again. Each “sector” of geography that sustains human life is responsible for a specific set of skills and technologies that aid the central government lead a hedonistic life. Life is not necessarily good within each sector, however.
The protagonist, a 16-year-old girl named Katniss, has to survive a set of ever-changing rules in a race to survive. Names are drawn by lottery, and when Katniss’ little sister gets called, Katniss trades places with her and becomes the competitor for her sector along with a boy named Peeta. The reward? Everyone in her sector would have enough food and medicine for a year, or until the next Games.
Peeta and Katniss undergo many adventures and conflicts throughout the competition, and both end up champions, much to the Government’s dismay. Usually there is only one winner. But Peeta and Katniss refuse to kill each other, and are so popular among the “viewers” that they are allowed to live. The government does not like being upstaged, so creates a situation that leads to the next book in the series, Catching Fire.
It is alarmingly real in many ways. I thought this piece of fiction that remarks on social psychology, economics and politics was banned because it is too real.
I was wrong. Instead, it is because it contains sexually explicit material, it is unsuited to the age group and it has violence.
Except it doesn’t. There is nothing of a sexually explicit nature in the book. There is violence, but it is situation specific, and I think many people underestimate teenagers. The Hunger Games is also similar to 1984 and Animal Farm in its social commentary, and might be worth a discussion in any number of classes.
And here is another question, which seems especially pertinent here: what happens when the movie becomes freely available? A blockbuster is being made about this book even as you read this. The Harry Potter movies are phenomena, and many more movies have been made from banned books, many earning Oscars (The Color Purple, To Kill A Mockingbird)) and attract Big Name Celebrities. Movies are just as accessible as books, and I am firm believer that you get more out of a book than a movie anyway. Except, when a book is banned, you don’t have a trained teacher leading a discussion about a book that could change your life.
Does anyone else think this is weird?
Photo credit: goodncrazy