More than 1,500 book bans have been instituted in US school districts in the past nine months, according to one study, as part of a right-wing censorship effort described as “unmatched in its intensity.”
America Ballpoint Pen, a nonprofit organization that works to protect free speech in the US, analyzed efforts to ban certain books from school libraries for its “Banned in the US” report. The organization found that 1,145 books were attacked by right-wing politicians and activists, including the work of Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.
The report shows the surprising impact of the continuous effort by conservatives to censor literature in schools. The bans have largely targeted books that focus on racial and LGBTQ issues, and a large number of the banned books are written by authors who are not white or LGBTQ.
PEN America counted the efforts between July 1, 2021, and March 31 of this year, in what it said was the first “book-by-book, district-by-district report of which books are banned, where in the country already.” Through what procedures? It found that 1,586 bans were implemented in 86 school districts in 26 states.
“This kind of data has never been counted and, frankly, the results are shocking,” said Jonathan Friedman, Director of Education and Free Expression at PEN America.
“Challenges to books, specifically books by non-white male authors, are happening at the highest rates we have ever seen. What is happening in this country in terms of banning books from schools is unparalleled in its frequency, intensity and success.”
The data confirms that this was a specific theme for book bans. Of the banned titles, 41% included “prominent leading or supporting characters” who were people of color, according to PEN America.
Some 22% of banned books “directly address issues of race and racism,” while 33% “explicitly address LGBTQ+ themes, or have prominent protagonists or supporting characters who are LGBTQ+.”
PEN America found that the three most frequently banned titles focus on LGBTQ+ people, “or touch on same-sex relationships.”
Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir has been banned in 30 school districts, while George M Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue and Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy are also among the most targeted.
Ashley Hope Pérez’s Out of Darkness, a novel about the romance between a black teenager and a Mexican-American girl, has been banned in 16 districts, and The Bluest Eye, the story of a young black woman’s experiences in the 1940s in the United States. United by Toni Morrison. , has been banned in 12 districts.
“This is an orchestrated attack on books whose subjects have recently gained a foothold on school library shelves and in classrooms,” Friedman said.
“We are witnessing the erasure of topics that only recently represented progress towards inclusion.”
Book censorship has been accompanied by a wave of right-wing legislation dictating what teachers can and cannot discuss in schools. in march florida passed a so-called “don’t say gay” bill, which bans “instruction” about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.
Some states have also forbidden discussion of the modern impact of historical racism in the US, a topic that has become a hobby for Republicans at the state and national levels.
Censorship has frequently been pushed by conservative groups. linked to wealthy right-wing donors. Groups like Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education have been instrumental in attempts to ban books in the US, often posing as small “grassroots” efforts, when in fact they have ties to prominent and wealthy Republicans.
However, there is some evidence that efforts to censor literature that focuses on racial and LGBTQ themes are having the opposite effect.
“Banned Book Clubs,” where children and young adults meet to read and discuss titles that have been censored by school districts, have surged across the United States, while sales of the book Maus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, it shot itself in January after it was banned by a Tennessee school board.