Across the United States, book banning has increased, with 2022 set to outdo 2021 in the number of challenged and banned books.
This challenge is nothing new. In fact, books that offer commentary on societal issues, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Maus, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1984, Slaughterhouse Five, and The Color Purple, have long suffered at the hands of conservative parents and politicians.
The Brooklyn Public Library has created their own line of defense against this onslaught. The Books Unbanned project is an active way for people to help libraries fight against banned books. With links to media kits, articles, and ways to educate oneself, they urge their readers to fight back against the challenges.
The BPL wrote as part of their initiative: “BPL’s Books Unbanned initiative is a response to an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling a wide range of topics from library shelves. Teens, nationwide, should read what they like. Books help people discover themselves and form thoughtful opinions.”
According to the American Library Association (ALA), 729 challenges were made against library, school, and university materials in 2021. This resulted in over 1,500 book challenges or removals. In 2022, those numbers will only increase.
In the past, books that challenged pressing issues, such as the books listed above, were the centerfold for banned books. Yet now, “[The] most targeted books were for a teen audience and were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons,” the ALA reported.
PEN America, a nonprofit organization, is at the forefront of literature and human rights. They defend the written word and what it means to express it freely.
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, a book that breaks the barrier of heteronormative romance with a Black lesbian main character, was featured on PEN America’s Banned Book List for the 2021-2022 school year in Texas and Tennessee. In their article centered around the ten-most banned books of the 2021-2022 school year, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe dominates the list with 41 bans throughout the country. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, follows Gender Queer with 29 bans.
The constant challenges thrown at these stories make them that much important for young readers, because children need to be able to recognize themselves within the literature they read. These books are insightful for the mind, and should not be conceived as anything else.
Learn more about Books Unbanned on the Brooklyn Public Library’s website.