Welcome to our second post from the Museum Studies class as they explore Banned Books Week and censorship. If you want to review their assignment or learn more about Banned Books week, please see Prof. Julie Holcomb’s recent post: Banned Books Week Introduction
by Makayla Jenkins
Burned by Ellen Hopkins
“I felt angry,
I felt I didn’t belong, not in my
church, not in my home, not
in my own skin.” (Hopkins 67)
People all over the world and throughout time have tried to ban or challenge books. These books cause an uproar of disputes due to the content being against social norms or even against the viewpoint of a select few. These controversial topics are often believed to not belong in libraries for children. Written in the article, “Book Censorship in Schools: A Toolkit” by National Coalition Against Censorship, parents and other members of the community have regularly fought to ban books on religious grounds, sex, homosexuality, bad language, race, and more.
Ellen Hopkins’s book Burned is one of those stories that was challenged and threatened to be banned. This story is very unique in not only the writing style but also the controversial topics of underage drinking, sex, and religion. This story is about a seventeen-year-old girl named Pattyn who is stuck in a strict Mormon household with an abusive father, submissive mother, and six sisters. Throughout the story, Pattyn experiences normal teenage curiosities of love and questions about her religion. This questioning is due to what she witnesses at home and because of the backlash she gets from the bishop of her church. This story begins with Pattyn taking her anger out on everyone and everything around her due to a breakup and disputes with her father. She ended up punching the new girl her ex-boyfriend is dating, smashed a window, and disrespects the bishop and her parents. This behavior is what leads her to be forced to move to a farm in Nevada to live with her Aunt Jeanette (Aunt J). Here Pattyn is happy and loved by not only Aunt J but also by an older boy named Ethan. With Ethan, she discovers how it is to be loved and to be in love. During their time together, the couple tries to meet and make love as often as possible before they have to go back to school. Soon upon returning home for school, her father starts to beat her. Within a few days of returning home, she also realizes that she is pregnant with Ethan’s child. Ethan and Pattyn try to run away together so they can grow their family but when they tried, her father found out and tells his friend, who is a deputy, to chase them down. Instead of stopping the car, Ethan tries to speed away which leads to a tragic accident. Ethan and their child die due to this accident, but Pattyn survives.
This book is challenged due to the topics of questioning religion, underage drinking, and sex. Unlike what people think, this story is not about hate of the Mormon religion; in every religion there can be backlash from the bishops, priests, or any religious people, and can also have abusive families. The main character could have been part of any religion and experienced similar if not the same situation. Many parents and other members in society also don’t want children and teens to read about underage drinking and sex. The fact is that teenagers are and will always be curious about these matters but due to the belief that these topics are scandalous and inappropriate, many teenagers will not go to parents or adults to ask questions about this. This can lead to the teens experimenting or going to books to answer these questions. If they do not feel comfortable with talking to someone, the safest route is to find these answers in books to be able to read the consequences and experiences from the words of someone or something that will not judge them. Trying to ignore and ban books with topics like these will not stop children or teens from being curious, seeing, or experiencing these things. Restricting children and teens from everything will most likely cause a sense of rebellion like Pattyn did in Hopkins’s story.
Hopkins, Ellen. Burned. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.
National Coalition Against Censorship. “Book Censorship in Schools: A Toolkit.” WebJunction, OCLC, 9 May 2016, www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/Book_Censorship_in_Schools_A_Toolkit.html.
Rohrer, Finlo. “Why Are Parents Banning School Books?” BBC News, BBC, 27 Sept. 2010, www.bbc.com/news/magazine-11417672.