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