As Banned Books Week comes to an end, here’s a look at the current fight against book bans in America
This week is Banned Books Week and book lovers across the country have been holding discussions, rallies, events and more as they celebrate the freedom to seek and express ideas.
Banned Books Week is now in its 41st year and this past year may have been one of the worst when it comes to the freedom to read in America. According to a report by PEN America, the 2022-23 school year saw 3,362 instances of book bans in U.S. public schools – that’s a 33% increase from the previous year. These bans took away students’ access to 1,557 unique book titles and the works of nearly 1,500 authors, illustrators and translators.
Here are some statistics about this past school year’s book bans:
- PEN America found that 87% of the book bans were in school districts with a nearby chapter or affiliate of a national group known for advocating for book banning or censorship, such as Moms for Liberty.
- Just eight states were responsible for 2,114 (63%) of all book bans. Florida, Missouri, Utah, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma and West Virginia either have state laws that banned books or laws that created local pressure to ban books.
- North Carolina banned the ninth-most books in the U.S. between July 2022 and June of this year with 58 titles getting taken out of schools.
- According to PEN America, “overwhelmingly, book bans target books on race or racism or featuring characters of color, as well as books with LGBTQ+ characters.”
- During the 2022–23 school year, book bans occurred in 153 districts across 33 states, according to PEN America.
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit)
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit)
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Reasons: depiction of sexual abuse, claimed to be sexually explicit, EDI content)
- Flamer by Mike Curato (Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit)
- (TIE) Looking for Alaska by John Green (Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content)(TIE) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, depiction of sexual abuse, drugs, profanity)
People who believe in censorship like this are not just in our government, they’re in our communities protesting drag brunches, attending school board meetings with fictitious right-wing talking points in hand, and in some counties, these are the types of people who are serving on school boards.