Friday, September 27, 2013

Banned Books Week: The Hunger Games Trilogy

In writing the Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins' intent was to engage her young readers in the important issues of war and inequality which are typically prohibited to members of a specific age group. In an interview with The New York Times, Collins explains “We think we’re sheltering them, but what we’re doing is putting them at a disadvantage.” As far as Collins is concerned, children’s capability for understanding is greater than we estimate and the earlier they are involved in discussions of fairness and responsibility, the better. But perhaps these are mere afterthoughts to the numerous petitions against The Hunger Games, making it one of the most challenged books for two consecutive years.

 The Smith Public Library in Texas is using 'The Hunger Games' to promoted Banned Books Week in 2012. Source:  Smith Public Library

I am unsure how this book gained the “anti-family” moniker; the protagonist’s primary concern is her sister’s well-being and safety. In reading the series for the first time, I found the story to uniquely contribute to the debate about the state of the world. Admittedly, as an international relations major, I read with a perspective of how politics, economics and history affect us all. Collins discusses the fundamentals of justice and subtly relates various elements of the narrative to the reader’s life. Personally, the strong theme of disparity echoed throughout the chapters struck a chord with my own experience growing up with privilege in a developing country.

And while this series certainly contains more violence than a large majority of young adult literature, it addresses and critiques the issue in a context that contemporary readers can digest and process. Surprising to many, Suzanne Collins previously worked in television (Nickelodeons’ “Clarissa Explains it All” and “Little Bear”) and has been in the business of writing children’s book (as the head writer of Clifford) for years. Her recent books aim to create discomfort, even disturbance. (After all, the inspiration for the trilogy came from a night of channel-flipping between a reality-television competition to footage from the war in Iraq.) When asked what she hopes readers take away, Collins responds “Does it disturb you because it relates to something in your own life, and is there anything you can do about it?”

For Banned Books Week, I chose to discuss The Hunger Games because they both bothered and inspired me the most. I believe that these empowering stories should be encouraged in spite of the taboo subjects they touch; as Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Every burned book enlightens the world.”

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