Banned Book Highlight: “Perks of Being a Wallflower”

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(Photo illustration by Hannah Greer | Collegian Media Group)

“Perks of Being a Wallflower” chronicles Charlie’s freshman year of high school. Readers venture alongside Charlie as he befriends the school stoners, deals with mental health issues, eats his first pot brownie, gets into fights, falls in love and learns how to participate in life.

The book, which chronicles Charlie and his company of misfits’s high school escapades, was first placed on the American Library Association’s list of the ten most challenged books in 2004.

An organization of parents in Fairfax, Virginia – Parents Against Bad Books in Schools – argued that students shouldn’t have access to the book’s profanity, descriptions of drug abuse and sexually explicit content.

Similar arguments appeared in Texas two years later with the addition of LGBT themes as a reasoning for the book to be banned.

Since then, the book has been no stranger to the ALA’s banned or challenged books list, and many other books on the yearly list have shared similar themes and reasons for being banned.

“The idea of taking two pages out of context and creating an atmosphere as perverse is offensive to me — deeply offensive,” said Stephen Chbosky, author of “Perks of Being a Wallflower” in a 2015 interview.


Chbosky has written letters to outraged parents about the book’s purpose.

“I try to reach out to them to let them understand that I didn’t write this book to appeal to the lowest common denominator,” Chbosky said in the same interview. “I didn’t write this book to be explicit at all. I wrote this book as a blueprint for healing. I wrote this book to end the silence.”

Silence is an inherent danger presented by censorship. It fails to let others be understood or have their stories told. There are people who have abused drugs, are survivors of sexual assault, handle mental health issues and aren’t heterosexual that should be able to find themselves in stories.

Banning books that speak about these experiences and identities limits people’s capacity to learn and silences fictional voices that are willing to illuminate. There is a fine line between silencing fictional voices and real ones.

At the beginning of “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Charlie is described as a wallflower.

Patrick – one of Charlie’s best friends – says, “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”

Over the course of the novel, Charlie is able to step away from the wall.

Personally, I don’t want to live in the Dark Ages 2.0. Nor do I want my fellow humans to recede into the shadows cast by a wall – bookshelf – of societal norms they might fail to live up to.

Adrianna Gordey is a senior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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