Efforts to restrict books from US public schools and libraries reached an all-time high in 2022, according to a report released on Thursday, March 23, by the American Library Association (ALA). Last year, complaints were made for over 2,500 books. 2021 previously held the record with 1,858 attempted bans, and before that, book ban attempts averaged under 500 per year.
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said, “I’ve never seen anything like this. The last two years have been exhausting, frightening, outrage inducing.”
The record number of attempts to ban or restrict library materials in 2022 nearly doubles the number reported in 2021. https://t.co/rlLhWO2ga8#UniteAgainstBookBans#Freadom pic.twitter.com/OwLy0l3EA9
— American Library Association (@ALALibrary) March 23, 2023
While some ban requests are for books containing racist language, like Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the majority of complaints disproportionately target books with LGBTQ+ themes and stories about the history of slavery in the US.
The report outlines how, historically, these complaints were brought forth by individuals who had concerns about a single book, but now, bulk book bans are being introduced by conservative national groups like Moms for Liberty, which strives to suppress historically marginalised voices who write about race and gender identity.
“They don’t want their own children to be LGBTQ, and they feel if they can limit access to these books and materials, then their children won’t be that way, which is simply not true and is heartbreaking and disgusting.” — Des Moines area resident Kris Maul https://t.co/2fnDkWqZGP
— American Library Association (@ALALibrary) March 21, 2023
Some of the most frequently targeted books include Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy, George M Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue, and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved by Toni Morrison, which sees a free Black woman recounting the destructive and traumatic legacy of slavery.
In addition to the ban attempts, libraries across the US and here in Ireland have experienced threats and harassment from anti-LGBTQ+ groups, but librarians and citizens refuse to be intimidated. They continue to speak up and work to make books available and accessible. One woman who is 100 years old spoke at a recent Florida school board meeting to protest the book bans happening across the country.
100-year-old Grace Linn protesting Florida’s book bans.
“Fear is not freedom.
Fear is not liberty.
Fear is control.”
— STRIKE PAC 🗽 (@StrikePac) March 22, 2023
Every September, to support free and open access to information, libraries and bookstores celebrate Banned Books Week, highlighting the top ten most challenged books of that particular year. The event spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books and celebrates the freedom to read.
Additionally, in response to the increased ban attempts, some cities are declaring themselves “book sanctuaries” and vowing to protect and provide public access to those books in danger of being removed from the shelves. These cities also host talks and events to inform their communities about the history of book bans and burnings.
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