Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.

Banned Books Week began yesterday in the United States. The American Library Association shines a spotlight on challenged books for one week every September. It’s important for us to pause and consider which books have been challenged and the reasons for those challenges.

My sister holds a Master’s degree in Library Science and was a school media specialist for 30 years. Therefore, I’ve had a front row seat to the book challenges she faced during her tenure in middle and high schools. I know her stance against banning books and, now that I’m a writer, I have a clearer view of how I feel about the topic.

Censorship is a dangerous weapon against a free society. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want someone else deciding what I should or shouldn’t read – or more importantly – what I can and cannot read.

What Banned Books Week isn’t

Age appropriateness is one thing, but that’s not what Banned Books Week is about. It’s about various segments of the population thinking they have the right to dictate what the rest of us can and cannot read.

 My April 26, 2021 blog post, Censorship and Reader Sensitivities, relates to today’s topic.

This year’s theme

The theme for this year’s Banned Book Week in the United States is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” What a great theme!

American Library Association’s Theme Announcement for 2021 Banned Books Week

In the above article, Betsy Gomez wrote: “With a central image showing two hands sharing a book, the 2021 theme is intended to be inclusive and emphasizes the ways in which books and information bring people together, help individuals see themselves in the stories of others, and aid the development of empathy and understanding for people from other backgrounds.”

The following books were the most often challenged books this year as of April, including the reasons they were challenged, according to BannedBooksWeek.org:

  1. “George by Alex Gino. Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism and because it was thought to promote antipolice views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and it included rape and profanity.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the author.
  • Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote antipolice views.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes and their negative effect on students.
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Challenged for profanity, and because it was thought to promote an antipolice message.”

Bringing this right up to two weeks ago

Just a couple of weeks ago there were protests in York, Pennsylvania over a school board’s banned books policy. I believe the policy sets a bad precedent. It’s encouraging that many students and parents protested the policy. Please read the article from the York Daily Record from September 13, 2021: Central York board maintains ban on Black and Hispanic books (ydr.com)

The incident in York, PA begs the question: Do you know what your local school board’s policy is on book challenges/banning?

I went online to see what my local school board’s policy was and didn’t find anything specific about book challenges. Therefore, I believe it falls under the general procedure for any complaints. That protocol is teacher/school personnel, principal, school/parent relations specialist, superintendent, and finally, the board of education.

An interesting dichotomy

There’s an interesting dichotomy about challenging books: Making the list is probably the best free publicity a book can receive. Just tell me I shouldn’t do something, and human nature tells me to do it. The same holds true for challenged books. Just tell people they shouldn’t read a particular book, and then watch it fly off the bookstore and library shelves!

Since my last blog post

Last week’s online class was about writing in deep point-of-view. This is something I’m working on in my novel-in-progress. This week’s class was very informative. I’ve edited the first chapter in my manuscript and employed deep point-of-view.

I learned last week that white-tail deer like to eat hydrangeas, geraniums, lily-of-the-valley, periwinkle, and green poplar leaves. At least they waited until the end of summer to strip the hydrangeas of their blossoms and leaves!

Until my next blog post

Ready or not, October is coming on Friday. October is National Book Month and National Reading Group Month.

There’s a touch of autumn in the air. I’m already all bundled up even indoors. My fingers are like icicles as I type these words. If you have followed my blog for a while, you know it’s not my favorite season. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so it will take extra effort for me to be upbeat in the next five or six months. For my blogger friends in Australia, may I come and visit you for a few months?

Janet

11 thoughts on “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.

  1. Thank you for this, Janet. I get very hot-under-the-collar about all types of censorship and banning too and agree that we should be left to decide what we read or watch or believe… I’m also terribly contrary myself and fascinated by the compulsion towards forbidden fruit!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Censorship is a dangerous weapon against a free society.” I’ll never understand why so many people are against freedom, civil rights, equality, etc. Organized religion is partly to blame. Ditto for tribal mentalities. What a world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m right there with you. I just this morning read about a fiction series by Jane Buckley about “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. That’s a conflict I’ve never been able to get my head around, so I look forward to reading her books. Maybe they’ll help me understand why the Catholics and Presbyterians in Derry can’t seem to get along. I just don’t get it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A most interesting and important article Janet. I never knew about this book banning in the US but I certainly do not agree with it. I think that people should censure, for themselves only, what they do not want to see, hear or read. I don’t think the government should get involved in deciding what one should read or what one should not. And I agree, it is free publicity for any of the banned books. On another note I congratulate you on your progress through the course and on the first chapter of your novel. You are moving forward quickly and that is very, very good. Here in Spain books are very important. We’ve many bookstores, both new books and many old book stores. There is always an old and antique book fair in Valencia, (as there is in all Spanish cities), and it attracts many people from all over the country and other parts of Europe. I’ve a friend who owns an old book store and he usually supplies me with interesting books to read, however, I think I’ve become quite lazy in my “old age” and it takes me quite a lot longer to read a book than it did years ago when I devoured many books. The book fair in Madrid, which I think just closed, also was a huge success this year (after a two year absence due to pandemic) and I thought I heard on the news that people spent more than a million Euros on books there. It is a very good sign. Good luck in your project and continue the good work. All the best,
    Francis

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Banning and censorship are about control, not well-being. They’re the tools of choice for people with an agenda and who want to be seen as the good guys when they’re not, even if they think they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Book banning or book challenging doesn’t happen often or on large scale in the US, but it pops its ugly head up occasionally. I was shocked at this recent event in Pennsylvania. I’m sure it was instigated by a small element in that community, but it’s concerning to me any time a group or individual wants a book removed from a library shelf because they don’t like it for whatever reason. It makes my heart sing to know how popular book fairs and bookstores are in Spain. Books bring the world to us. Books can entertain, educate, and enlighten us. Thank you for your comments about my writing course, too. I was pleased when the instructor used a scene I’d submitted as “a good example” in her Q&A on Zoom last Friday. I needed some validation from her, since she found so much wrong with my first 50 pages a couple of months ago. We don’t get any feedback in this particular course unless she deems the weekly scene we send her as a good example of what we’re supposed to learn from that week’s lesson. She shares those on Friday in the Q&A but only the good ones. Last week was the first week I’d submitted a scene. I spent the entire day today working on a local history book I put aside months ago. It’s been nagging at me to get it out and work on it, so today was the day. Now, I must move along to today’s course lesson about sensory detail. I’ve been watching the Las Palmas volcano with great interest. Volcanoes fascinate me, but I feel bad for the people losing their homes to this one. Best regards, Janet

    Liked by 1 person

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