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Ananyaa Bhowmik | Wealth of Geeks undefined
In the first eight months of 2023, the American Library Association (ALA) tracked 695 demands to ban books and library materials, up from 681 last year. Last year, the ALA reported a record-breaking number of demands to ban books in 2022, up 38% from the previous year. Unfortunately, conditions in 2023 don’t look all that different so far.
In the first eight months of 2023, ALA reports, they tracked 695 demands to ban books and library materials, up from 681 last year. There was also a 20% rise in the number of unique titles that faced these challenges. Another alarming trend – more and more demands to ban books target stories written by members of the queer community and/or persons of color.
These challenges didn’t just demand censorship of books in school libraries but public libraries, too. There were about 3,362 book-banning incidents in 2022-23, according to PEN America. That’s a 33% rise from the previous year. School boards in the United States have near free reign when it comes to what they keep and don’t keep in their libraries. The last time the Supreme Court ruled on this issue was in the year 1982, so legislation remains vague at best.
Educational curriculum often shapes the history of nations. The politically powerful majority usually has a massive say in this. This leads to a lot of disparities, where children of color and queer kids often don’t see themselves represented in the books taught in classes. If they lose access to such material in libraries, be it school or public, it can lead to further alienation. That makes this a political issue.
A federal law prohibiting book bans may be too much to take for a lot of reasons, but some legislative action may be necessary. It may be time to revisit and redefine the existing legislation on book bans, especially in school libraries and classrooms. It is a dramatic moment when the US education system can choose to take a stand for inclusivity or end up further alienating already marginalized communities.
That said, there have been some attempts to combat the censorship of library materials. The Illinois Library System Act
In June this year, Governor Pritzker signed a bill outlaws book banning. House Bill 2789 made the following amendment to the Illinois Library System Act, “…to encourage and protect the freedom of public libraries and library systems to acquire materials without external limitation and to be protected against attempts to ban, remove, or otherwise restrict access to books or other materials.”
With that, Illinois became the first US state to put a halt to book bans. Penguin Random House High School Award as censorship and demands to ban books rose to an all-time high, Penguin Random House has launched an award to encourage people to read banned books. The publishing house is offering a $ 10,000 award for writing about how a banned book completely changed their lives. The award is aptly named the Freedom of Expression Award. It invites high schoolers to write about their personal experience with a banned book. The award of $10,000 will be given to one student planning to attend university next year.
Banned Books Week, The first week of October this year was Banned Books Week. Levar Burton himself was the Honorary Chair of the event. For #Bannedbooksweek, The New Republic, a magazine established in 1914, launched the Banned Bookmobile, set to be on the road till the 28th of October. It aims to distribute books, have author-reader sessions, and talk about ways to combat the wave of book bans.
In his book The View From the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman said it best, “Libraries are about Freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.”
The protests over book censorship attempts are, thus, protecting something fundamental. It is protecting one’s right to express, and another’s to read and their mutual need to communicate. It is not just about entertainment or art for art’s sake. These censorship attempts take away one’s right to know the truth about events and people.
Historically, the victors, often the all-powerful majority, determined what goes down in history books. That’s why every country’s retelling of the same event is vastly different. History recounts what the victor wants us to know. It alienates those who know the whole truth. It tells the story of the majority and ostracizes the minority. But the times, hopefully, are a-changin.’ If all the protests and positive action to combat book bans have taught us one thing, it is people will not let things go without a fight.
This article was produced by Bookworm Era and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.