Riverside committee bans “The Fault in Our Stars”

Gillian Allen, Writer

As censorship sweeps through libraries in America, a Riverside school’s committee brushes “The Fault in Our Stars” into the Riverside Unified School District’s dustpan.

The young-adult novel “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green was published in 2012 but received increasing popularity when the motion picture came to theaters this past summer.  The story is about two teenagers who, in the midst of battling cancer, find themselves falling in love. However, the novel expresses the controversial themes of suffering and sex, and parents of the Riverside school district’s middle-schoolers think that these topics are too mature for these tweens to handle.

The committee, made up of teachers, parents, a principal and a librarian, pulled all copies of Green’s novel from a middle school in the district and forbade all others to buy or accept the book as a donation.  While the parents’ intentions are to protect their children from the mature themes that “The Fault in Our Stars” talks about, some students see this as censorship.  Senior Yaseen Hashmi, a fan of Green’s, was surprised to find that the novel had been banned even though it was not done so in his own school district.

“The books that get banned do a great job of telling us something about our society and what it means to be human,” Hashmi said.  “They show the gritty sides of what it means to be human, like ‘The Adventures of Huck Finn,’ and they show the painful sides, like ‘The Fault in Our Stars.’”

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights aims to protect peoples’ right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to read whatever they want and form opinions about it.  When people try to prevent others from reading books, even if they have controversial topics, this is considered censorship.  Some may consider removing “The Fault in Our Stars” from the Riverside middle schools violates students’ rights to seek information and formulate their own opinions.

“We need to take a look at the conversation of why people would choose not to read it or maybe even choose for their child not to read it,” english teacher Mrs. Hoyman said.  “Parents should know what their children are reading, and if they don’t want their kid to read a certain book, that’s their prerogative — but they’re raising their child, not everybody else’s.”

Green’s novel is continuing to increase in popularity, and along with this, its audience of young adults also grows.

“There’s something profoundly human about trying to understand suffering,” Hashmi said.  “If a middle schooler wants to do that, I think they have the right to, and they’re going to have to understand suffering at some point.”