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

Hunkering Down for the Winter

We had a very warm and long summer in North Carolina this year. In fact, summer stretched all the way through September and into October. With highs in the lower 90s and heat indices close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit several times in October, many folks who moved here from colder climates began to worry that autumn would never arrive.

As often happens in North Carolina, summer ended and winter ones began. We seemed to have a relatively short time of fall temperatures. Just a couple of weeks ago it was in the high 70s Fahrenheit. Yesterday morning it was well below freezing here, and the snow machines were busy making snow at one or more ski resorts in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Great Smokies Oct 2015 013
An early autumn photo I took in the Great Smoky Mountains several years ago

No more kidding myself that I could avoid winter. If you’ve followed my blog for a year or more, you know that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. I don’t mention this to get your sympathy but in the hope that others who have this seasonal form of depression might read my blog and know that they aren’t alone.

For most of my adult life, I have dreaded winter. That annual longing for warmer temperatures and longer hours of daylight eventually morphed into a dread of autumn.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the bright reds, yellows, and oranges of the various hardwood trees when fall arrives, but we have a big yard and many huge old trees. By late fall/early winter, we are buried in dead leaves. I’m reminded of some of the words from “Camelot” that describe a world where it only rains at night and all the mess disappears by morning. (I paraphrase.) In my version of Camelot, all the dead leaves would disappear overnight once they’ve turned brown.

It’s hard for me to enjoy the beauty of autumn because I know winter isn’t far behind. I am on medication now that helps me cope with my discomfort with fall and winter, but I don’t think there’s a magic pill to help me cope with the mountains of dead leaves.

It’s time for me to hunker down for winter. I hope to work on genealogy, sewing, and my writing in the coming months while I try not to count the days until spring.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The White Darkness, by David Grann. It’s a nonfiction book about walking across Antarctica. It seemed like an appropriate book to read now that winter is here.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Do you dread autumn and/or winter? Maybe you love these seasons. If you do, share some of the things you like about the colder time of the year. Maybe you’ll make me aware of some of the things I should look forward to when the daylight hours grow short and you have to bundle up to go outside.

To my readers from “down under,” do you see any advantages in having your seasons the opposite of those of us in the northern hemisphere? It would seem odd to me to celebrate Christmas, New Year’s Day, and my birthday in the summer; however, I suppose it would seem strange to you to celebrate those special days in the dead of winter.

Janet