Literature is one of the most important things we have as a society. It serves as a preserver of history, a window into different walks of life, a form of escapism, and a way to broaden our perspective and make us kinder, more empathetic, and less judgmental people. However, not everyone sees things that way. Many people believe books should only cover certain topics and that anything that falls outside of a very narrow list should be disallowed from schools and libraries. The problem has gotten so bad, in fact, that calls for book bans have reached the highest level ever recorded in the United States, according to the American Library Association.
While there’s no doubt that certain books contain topics that aren’t appropriate for children, there’s a value to pretty much all stories in some way or another. Still, that hasn’t stopped conservatives from around the country from rallying support to remove or even outlaw books from libraries around the country, the report suggests.
What is it that has the right-wing clutching their pearls, you ask? Most titles that are facing backlash contain LGBTQIA+ representation and/or had content deemed “sexually explicit.” The ALA revealed that the most contested book was Gender Queer by Maya Kebab, which is a graphic novel-memoir telling the author’s experience with gender identity. Another memoir, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M Johnson, covered the author’s life as a Black queer person. In other words, racism, homophobia, and transphobia are still very real, and it’s only getting worse.
Calls to ban books about and by marginalized groups are increasing
The ALA began compiling data related to calls for book bans more than 20 years ago via its Office for Intellectual Freedom. However, in 2022, calls to remove or restrict books reached the highest level the organization had ever seen. Last year alone, there were requests to ban 2,571 books, up 38% from 1,858 the year prior. Most of the books were by or about people of color or members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The ALA’s president, Lessa Kanai’opua Pelayo-Lozada, said she hoped making this information public would honor “all the brave authors whose work challenges readers with stories that disrupt the status quo and offer fresh perspectives on tough issues.”
She added: “The list also illustrates how frequently stories by or about LGBTQ+ persons, people of color, and lived experiences are being targeted by censors. Closing our eyes to the reality portrayed in these stories will not make life’s challenges disappear. Books give us courage and help us understand each other.”
Books on the list also include Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” John Green’s “Looking For Alaska,” Sarah J Maas’ “A Court of Mist and Fury,” Juno Dawson’s “This Book Is Gay,” and Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”