Recently, a fellow writer posted about a new banned book list on Twitter. I know it isn’t how I’m supposed to approach a banned books list, because banning is dreadful. It keeps books out of the hands of young readers who may benefit from that book.
To be clear, telling the teacher that your child is not going to read whatever-book-she-has-chosen, is not book banning. Good or bad, it is parenting. And who knows? Maybe your child isn’t ready for that book. Telling the teacher, principal, school board, or library that access to that same book should be restricted or eliminated is banning.
Books get banned for many reasons. Charlotte’s Web has been banned because talking animals are unnatural and giving animals speech puts them on the same level as human beings. The Lorax, my favorite Dr. Seuss book, has been banned because it is anti-logging and it is against deforesting. Books banners get into some serious irony although I’m never sure they recognize it. My son’s favorite banned book, Fahrenheit 451, has been banned because it portrays a society that burns books.
As much as I loathe book banning, there are cases that make me cringe. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been banned not only for profanity and sexual references, but also for sexual allegations against the author Sherman Alexie. Talk about a liberal nightmare. Do you vote #MeToo and block student access to the book, thus letting Alexie know that you think of his actions? Or do you vote anti-ban and anti-censorship?
One of the problems with book banning is that bans target certain types of books more than others. Books that portray LGBTQ characters are more likely to get banned. Books about African-American characters are often targeted especially if the books are critical of police culture or the books are pro Black Lives Matter. Books about Muslim cultures are also targets of banning. But older books also get banned because of the racism that they depict.
For some idea of what books have recently been targeted, the 10 most often banned books of 2020 (with the ones I've read highlighted) are:
George by Alex Gino
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
If this is your first time reading about Banned Book Week, you might want to head over to the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) where they compile and post lists of challenged books. The OIF gathers information on these books three ways – collecting information from media reports and also using information submitted by librarians and teachers across the US.
Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers. To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.
The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on October 4, 2021). Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.
Sue is also the instructor for Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins October 4, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins October 4, 2021).