The Sadness of Banned Books: A Poem by Cheryl Rainfield

When I hear of books being challenged
removed from libraries
banned from shelves
from the minds of young readers
from hearts that need those stories
    to know they’re not alone
    to survive the pain they’re living
I feel a sadness so deep
my chest aches.

I know the desperation
of needing to find
reflections of my pain
in the safety of books.
of needing to know
I’m not alone
I’m not crazy
I can get through this
and healing can happen.


Every book that’s challenged
Every book that’s banned
and removed from shelves
creates a void
where healing could have happened.
It keeps the book from the hands
of someone who needs it
someone who might have used it
to stay alive
the way I did
with books.

© copyright Cheryl Rainfield, September 22, 2013

I wrote this poem for Banned Book Week, and for the book bans and challenges that happen all year long, every year. My own book SCARS has been challenged a few times and probably quietly removed from some libraries more times than I know. Many authors’ books who I love and admire have also been challenged and banned–including books by Ellen Hopkins, Suzanne Collins, Jay Asher, and many more. Recently I’ve seen a number of book bans and challenges popping up, including Tanya Lee Stone’s, and authors being uninvited to speak including YA authors Meg Medina and Rainbow Rowell. It saddens and angers me. Book banning and challenges–and authors being uninvited because someone makes a bullying complaint about their book–shouldn’t be happening.

Books save lives. I know this deeply. Books helped save me; I don’t think I could have survived all the abuse and torture I did without them. And I’ve received many letters from teens telling me that SCARS helped them to stop cutting, tell someone about their self-harm, sexual abuse, or being queer–and even keep from killing themselves. I’ve never understood why people feel that they can ban a book. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. But don’t deny other readers a book that may give them hope.

Check out ALA’s list of frequently challenged YA and children’s books for ideas on books you might want to read if you haven’t already.

Back to Banned Books

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