AR illustration by Jonathan Hill.
FRIVOLOUS BANS. Bills facilitating the restriction of books have been
proposed or passed in Arizona, Iowa, Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma,
among other states. In Florida, where governor Ron DeSantis has approved
laws to review reading materials and limit classroom discussion of
gender identity and race, books pulled indefinitely or temporarily
include John Green’s Looking for Alaska and Grace Lin’s picture
story Dim Sum for Everyone!"
From The Asian Reporter, V33, #4 (April 3, 2023), pages 8 & 9.
Book ban attempts hit record high in 2022, library
By Hillel Italie
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Attempted book bans and restrictions at school and public
libraries continue to surge, setting a record in 2022, according to a
new report from the American Library Association (ALA).
More than 1,200 challenges were compiled by the association in 2022,
nearly double the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most since
the ALA began keeping data 20 years ago.
"I’ve never seen anything like this," says Deborah Caldwell-Stone,
who directs the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. "The last two
years have been exhausting, frightening, outrage inducing."
The report not only documents the growing number of challenges, but
also their changing nature. A few years ago, complaints usually arose
with parents and other community members and referred to an individual
book. Now, the requests are often for multiple removals, and organized
by national groups such as the conservative Moms for Liberty, which has
a mission of "unifying, educating, and empowering parents to defend
their parental rights at all levels of government."
Last year, more than 2,500 different books were objected to, compared
to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019. In numerous cases, hundreds of
books were challenged in a single complaint. The ALA bases its findings
on media accounts and voluntary reporting from libraries and
acknowledges that the numbers might be far higher.
Librarians around the country have told of being harassed and
threatened with violence or legal action.
"Every day professional librarians sit down with parents to
thoughtfully determine what reading material is best suited for their
child’s needs," ALA president Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada said in a
statement. "Now, many library workers face threats to their employment,
their personal safety, and in some cases, threats of prosecution for
providing books to youth they and their parents want to read."
Caldwell-Stone says that some books have been targeted by liberals
because of racist language — notably Mark Twain’s The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn — but the vast majority of complaints come from
conservatives, directed at works with LGBTQIA+ or racial themes. They
include Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy,
Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, and a book-length edition of the
"1619 Project," the Pulitzer Prize-winning report from The New York
Times on the legacy of slavery in the U.S.
Bills facilitating the restriction of books have been proposed or
passed in Arizona, Iowa, Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, among other
states. In Florida, where governor Ron DeSantis has approved laws to
review reading materials and limit classroom discussion of gender
identity and race, books pulled indefinitely or temporarily include John
Green’s Looking for Alaska, Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless,
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, and Grace
Lin’s picture story Dim Sum for Everyone!
More recently, Florida’s Martin County school district removed dozens
of books from its middle schools and high schools, including numerous
works by novelist Jodi Picoult, Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning
Beloved, and James Patterson’s "Maximum Ride" thrillers, a
decision which the bestselling author has criticized on Twitter as
"arbitrary and borderline absurd."
DeSantis has called reports of mass bannings a "hoax," saying in a
statement released in early March that the allegations reveal "some are
attempting to use our schools for indoctrination."
Some books do come back. Officials at Florida’s Duval County Public
Schools were widely criticized after they removed Roberto Clemente:
The Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a children’s biography of the
late Puerto Rican baseball star. In February, they announced the book
would again be on shelves, explaining that they needed to review it and
make sure it didn’t violate any state laws.
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