Book Bans are Rising Rapidly
Book bans have affected books on shelves since the beginning of time; since the Puritan government’s offense, since printing presses allowed for the distribution of books, since people jotted down their thoughts and opinions, and since people could abuse their power. Book bans were and still are censorship. Stripping away the right to choose what to read, dusting off any right we have to venture into authors’ cavernous minds that are lit with opinions and quandaries we can choose to uphold, or discard, is a disservice to our growing society.
The reasons behind book challenges, which are attempts to ban books from libraries or institutions, have varied throughout history. Before 1999, many challenges were on the basis of profanity and violence. In the 1970s, book banning reached its pinnacle concentrating on obscenity and explicit sexuality. In the late 1970s, attacks were on ideologies expressed in books touching on religion and life theories.
Book banning has been increasing since 2021 in the US. Between July 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, there were 1,586 book bans in 86 school districts across 26 states. Moms for Liberty and Utah Parents United, two conservative groups that formed during the pandemic with the goal of challenging COVID-19 mandates, played big roles in the spiraling of book restrictions, and soon after, the material students were exposed to in schools was attacked as well for the same reasons. They circulated lists of books that they deemed subjectively objectionable and lobbied for new legislation and new library policies that, ultimately, make it easier to challenge books. Now that banning books has been made easy, right-wing activist organizations have been banning books in their pastime.
Books featuring LGBTQ+ themes or characters, such as All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, have been struck down from shelves. Books centered on racial injustices or people of color have been blocked, too, like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Even cautionary political pieces covering injustice and censorship, like 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, have ironically been banned like 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell. Are banned books “inappropriate” coincidentally when they point out evident injustices or important topics?
It’s become a trend that some banned books are based on totalitarianism, which is what we see being played out in the state of Florida. Its effort to shelter the reality of governmental tyranny in Florida and the United States as a whole, further proves the move in that exact direction. Infuriatingly, you also don’t have to read a book to challenge it and those books may not even have a reasonable justification for banning, but they are pulled off shelves regardless. While books are on “hold” for review, they are kept off shelves for years.
The New York Times said in an editorial, “They [who?] argued that young people have the right to read unsanitized versions of history, that diverse books expose them to a variety of experiences and perspectives, that controversial literature helps them to think critically about the world, and that, in the age of the internet, book bans just aren’t that effective,” solidifying how book bans don’t help young people, but only makes it harder for them to access the resources they need to advance academically and mentally. The irony is tripled when you find out that the books they are banning only bring more attention to the books themselves than they hoped for. Stamping these books as unattainable only increases the desire to read them.
“Because the market for books about subjects like racism and LGBTQ life is uncertain, those unknowns may drive authors not to write at all, or to write something other than the subjects they’re passionate about, all to ensure they can make a living” – CNN Style (Scottie Andrew).
This fight to ban books is not only a ploy to ban books, but it comes hand in hand with the livelihood of the authors in question. This unsettling orchestration of literary hate has hurt published authors, and now blossoming authors due to lack of freedom of thought. Income for these authors could be struck down by close-minded people This, in turn, affects librarians who now fear what they put on their shelves.
Jodi Picoult, a famous and successful literary fiction, legal thriller, psychological portrait, and ghost story writer has sadly had 20 of her 28 published books banned in one Florida district. In a CNN interview she says that the objection to her books is because of their “romantic category”, even though her books are far from romantic. Her books are artistically written novels about contentious ideological themes like racism, human rights, gun control, and family hardships: all subjects that teach people how to think for themselves. One of her banned books, The Storyteller, is a prime example of this because it surrounds the rise of fascism among ordinary Germans, yet it was removed from shelves for its “romance”, having no semblance of spiciness. She also mentions how Florida Governor, Ron Desantis, said book banning is about curriculum transparency, replying that if it was, then challenging a book would require you to read it. Picoult paints a personal picture of what book bans mean for people when she said, “We know that books bridge divides between people and we know that book bans create them.”
Our own teachers here in Ferguson Senior High had their own words to say about this development:
Ms. Graham, IB Lead Teacher:
“I most emphatically do not agree with book bans. Banning books violates our intellectual freedom. We learn and grow as individuals through exposure to new thoughts, new ideas, and new concepts and books give us access to that. If a parent or guardian does not want their child to read a specific book, they have the right to deny their child access to that book. They DO NOT have the right to deny everyone else access to that book. If our government and a small group of activist parents truly believe that all parents should have the right to make decisions for their own children, then they should stop making decisions for everyone else’s children and let all parents decide for themselves.”
Ms. Sol, English and Book Club teacher:
“I do not support book bans; books should only be banned if they promote bigotry or hatred. Reading books that may contradict your own opinions and ideas is a great way for people to evaluate their own beliefs in a way that leads to personal growth. Reading about a range of experiences has also been shown to increase people’s emotional intelligence and empathy.”
Sabrina Lima, 10th Grade, Book Club member:
“In my opinion, book bans are a way of governments censoring our knowledge. Knowledge is power, and I believe book bans are the government’s way of taking away power from the people.”
Mr. Sierra, History and Young Republicans Club Teacher:
“I see why students would need [books with bannable content] in schools, I see that they would apply to some classes. We should be able to access those books.”
Book banning has been drawn out, pointless, and redundant. All books are works of art and should be offered to anyone for consumption. Parents have the right to ban books within their own homes and set literary standards for their own children, but not for others who have different beliefs and different goals. To support victims of these book bans, you can read, or purchase banned books and spread the word about this movement.
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