Banned Books week spotlights conversations about censorship

The topic of American book bans is a significant on-going conversation. With Banned Books week just passed, continuing these conversations about banned books and what is and isn’t appropriate content is essential.

During the 2022-2023 school year, 3,362 books were banned in school districts across the United States. Some of these books include “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. These were the top three most banned books according to PEN America.

During this past school year alone, Florida school districts have successfully banned more than 1,000 books and districts in Texas have banned more than 600.

“Florida isn’t an anomaly — it’s providing a playbook for other states to follow suit,” said Kasey Meehan, PEN America’s Freedom to Read program director.

PEN America’s “Freedom to Write” campaign released a report where they relayed data about the current 2022-2023 book bans across the U.S.

According to this report, the major topics of the 3,362 books banned consist of violence or physical abuse, health or wellbeing for students, sexual experiences, characters of color or themes of race and racism, LGBTQ+ characters or themes and themes of grief and death. These are vital themes for teenagers trying to understand themselves and their community while finding their place in the world.

“… Students have spoken out to protect the freedom to read,” the PEN America report said in its concluding statement. “Their efforts are helping to ensure students have access to a diversity of views and expressions, school libraries serve the educational process by making knowledge and ideas available, and books remain available regardless of the personal or political ideologies of groups and policymakers.”

New Jersey school districts are not strangers to book bans. NJ parents are joining the trend and looking to ban books like “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “Flamer” by Mike Curato, both of which highlight the experiences of members of the LGBTQ+ community.

NJ has successfully banned “Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney in the Holmdel Township School District. The book is based on the author’s experiences growing up as a Native American.

The two other successfully banned books in NJ are “Let’s Talk About It” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan and “The Upside of Unrequited” by Becky Albertalli. One book needs permission from a parent before being checked out, and the other was removed from a middle school in the afflicted district to the highschool.

Books like “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, shouldn’t be banned for topics of sexuality and race.

I think teaching students about tough subjects is important to avoid further stigmatizing open conversations about sexuality, race, mental health, dealing with our emotions, and emotional and physical abuse. Banning these books in school libraries is taking away critical educational tools that students might not have access to at home or in the classroom.


Featured photo courtesy of Brewbooks, Flickr