I Think I’m Getting Banned Books at My Office! Celebrating Banned Books Week, Sept. 18-24
Publishers send me children’s books as well as middle grade and YA books to review. If you read TulsaKids, you know that in the almost 30 years since I’ve been editor, I have had a librarian from the Tulsa City-County Library write the Books column. In fact, it was one of the first decisions I made regarding content for the magazine. I appreciate TCCL’s contributions over the years and hope we continue to have a wonderful relationship.
But back to the books that publishers send me.
Not long ago, I received a sweet picture book about a girl whose parents take her to a parade every year. The book is a wonderful, warm depiction of a child’s excitement at going to a parade, being with her parents and spending a lovely day as a family. The parents are two moms, and they are all going to the annual Gay Pride Parade. With all the fearmongering about children being “groomed” by teachers and librarians, I’m sure there would be some parents who would insist that this book be removed from library shelves, along with “My Two Dads and Me.”
This year, the American Library Association (ALA) has seen an unprecedented number of complaints about books, especially those with minority characters. The ALA website says:
The American Library Association (ALA) champions and defends the freedom to read as promised by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
In recent months, a national campaign demanding the censorship of books and resources that mirror the lives of those who are gay, queer, or transgender, or that tell the stories of persons who are Black, Indigenous, or persons of color have surfaced. Efforts to ban books have empowered elected and non-elected officials to abandon constitutional principles, ignore the rule of law, and disregard individual rights, resulting in local and state governments attempting to censor library collections. Some individuals who have filed challenges have resorted to intimidation and threats to achieve removal, targeting the safety and livelihoods of library workers, educators, and board members who have dedicated themselves to public service and educating youth.
The American Library Association (ALA) kicks off National Library Week with the release of its State of America’s Libraries Report, highlighting the challenges U.S. libraries faced in the second year of the pandemic – as well as the ways they innovated to meet the needs of their communities.
Library staff in every state faced an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Most targeted books were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons.
You can find a list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021 here: ala.org/news/sites/ala.org.news/files/content/2022-OIF-top-10-challenged-large.jpg
Many of them are LBGTQ+ books.
It sure seems that there is a group of people who would like to tell me and others what we can and cannot read about minorities and how they’re depicted in books.
The theme of Banned Books Week is “Censorship Divides Us. Books Unite Us.” It has been said by many people, many times, that books are both a mirror and a window. Books can provide a mirror for everyone. If we can see ourselves in a book, we can feel less alone. What a powerful thing. How would those children with two moms or two dads feel if their families were erased from the school library? What about single moms? Single dads? Parents with disabilities? Families come in all shapes and sizes, so who’s to say which ones should be made invisible? All people should be able to find a book that mirrors them.
And how many times have you used a book to help your child understand something, from what friendship means to names for body parts? That’s the window part of books. We use them to help us understand all kinds of things – different cultures, religions, race, and on and on. Discussing literature can help us understand what it means to be human, it can uplift us, it can unite us.
Rather than letting unfounded fear take over, why not use books to learn more about what you’re afraid of. (Remember the brouhaha over “Harry Potter” being a wizard? I don’t know many kids who were influenced into a life of wizardry from reading those books. More likely, they learned a lot about anti-heroes and the power of good against evil). Read with your kids and discuss what you read. That has always been one of my favorite things to do – and I still do it with my adult children.
Read about Banned Books Week on the ALA website. Take part in some of the events.
Livestream, 9/22: “The Censorship of LGBTQ+ Comic Books”
Today, you can watch a livestream event on the Banned Books Week Facebook page at 4 p.m. CST. The discussion is “The Censorship of LGBTQ+ Comic Books with Maia Kobabe and Mike Curato,” moderated by Greg Rokisky and Jordan Smith. Kobabe and Curato will talk about the attempts to censor their work and LGBTQ+ stories.
There are many more virtual events that may help you better understand the importance of intellectual freedom. It’s fundamental to our democracy. Who knows? If you were a supporter of banning books, you may watch some of these virtual events and webinars at bannedbooksweek.org and change your mind.