This one’s in the books

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If you’ve read one too many news reports about book banning and think it’s getting out of hand, you’re in good company. PEN America, a writers’ organization that defends free expression, recently reported that a whopping 1,000 different books have been banned from classrooms and libraries in schools across the United States in just the last nine months. The report confirms what appears to be going on, that both the level of intensity and the success of the banning is unprecedented.

The books most likely to be banned concern discussions, depictions, or even mentions of sexual identity or racism. More than two-thirds are not even based on true events, and 40% of the bans were the result of political pressure in eight school districts in Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia, according to the report. An analysis of this unsettling situation by The New York Times points out that although book challenges are not new, the “tactics and politicization” has changed dramatically.

At a House Committee meeting on book banning a week ago, Rep. Jamie Raskin articulated the issue perfectly, as he so often does. Raskin warned that “[i]f we cancel or censor everything that people find offensive, nothing will be left.” Fortunately, people and organizations are fighting back against this unwelcome and often hateful censorship.

The Matinicus Island Library, the smallest library in Maine situated 22 miles off its rocky coast, is amassing an impressive collection of banned books for its patrons. It’s a bold example of people with limited influence nevertheless aiming to “publicly push back against the impetus,” according to reporting from the Bangor Daily News.

At the other end of the spectrum, the New York Public Library just announced on Wednesday the launching of a new “Books For All” initiative. In partnership with book publishers across the country, the large library system is offering free access to commonly banned books through an eReader app to anyone in the United States. It’s part of an effort to ensure the “right to read freely,” and you can read more about it here.


People are indeed standing up to the ignorance and hate of book banning. Their efforts should be applauded and supported, because politically motivated book banning only leads to further division. Book banning has no place in an enlightened democracy where people read what they wish and then enjoy the freedom to form their own opinions.

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