The end of Banned Books Week has arrived, which means this is the last post of the week. I want to say thank you to everyone for joining me, and also to remind everyone of why Banned Books week is so important, especially now with the rise of book banning/challenges in schools.
The American Library Association (ALA) research and obtain information about book challenges across the United States. As I mentioned at the beginning of the week, there were 729 challenges placed last year, with 44% happening at school libraries, 37% at public libraries, 18% at schools, and around 1% at other academic institutions and places.
What were some of the main reasons for these challenges? Some of the more common reasons are sexual explicitness, discussion of critical race theory, profanity, “wokeness,” being obscene, and discussion of LGBTQIA+ content. In fact, out of the Top 10 challenged books, half of them were challenged because they contain LGBTQIA+ content.
I’m going to take this time to bring back a rant that I made in my Banned Books Highlight for The Color Purple. Sadly, this is still relevant, but a lot of recent challenges revolve around books discussing LGBTQIA+ topics, even when it’s simply a children’s book that happens to have LGBTQIA+ characters in it. That right there says a lot about how society views the LGBTQIA+ community. Even when the content itself isn’t inherently sexual, because being LGBTQIA+ tends to lead to an automatic association with sex, it can cause society to oversexualize LGBTQIA+ people, and deem any discussion of it “sexually explicit”. This needs to be reiterated, as so many books included on “Top Ten Most Challenged Books” lists are those handling LGBTQIA+ topics, especially when the content is aimed toward children.
I also find it interesting how many books depicting the social issues that different races face, such as police brutality against Black people are challenged. Surprised? No. Interesting, yes. After having done some research over the past few years, this is the first year where I noticed a significant amount of people citing “wokeness” and critical race theory as the reason for the challenge. With organized movements, such as Moms For Liberty, gaining traction in terms of starting these campaigns to challenge books, now is the time to get involved.
So how do you get involved? The best advice I can give from what I gathered over the years is to support your libraries. This could mean going to town halls and speaking out against book challenges, getting a library card and checking out books, or even simply asking your librarians how you can volunteer and support them when it comes to book challenges. Another thing you can do is to look for “A Friend of the Library” chapter for your local public library and looking further into any opportunities there.
Book challenges may always pop up, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do something to defend the right for these stories to be told, especially to an audience who needs to hear them the most.
And that’s about all I have for the final Banned Books Week post!
To learn more about what books are most frequently challenged, check out these lists from the ALA. The lists include the most challenged books for individual years and books that were challenged the most within a decade.
Thanks again for joining me during Banned Books Week 2022, and I will see you all again next week with a new post!