Thursday, October 13, 2022

Stories

Intern Spotlight: Why Banned Books Matter

There are over 1,100 books banned in America. Intern Imani Cage will discuss the history of book banning and the present state of banned books, why they are important, and how you can help by joining Novelly’s Rising Voices program.

By Imani Cage

Imani Cage was a Summer 2022 Intern at Novelly. Fresh out of Franklin High School, Imani Cage is excited to find more diverse voices and share their stories. Imani has over three years experience working with children with two of those years helping children read via Team Read. In recent years, she’s become a youth leader, participating in campaigns towards bettering her school, and even attending protests. She plans on majoring in Computer Science, with full intention on staying active in her community. Below is one of Imani’s best blog posts.

Why Banned Books Matter

Imagine yourself as an author whose book got published. You dedicated so much of your life working on this piece of literature to then see the title get banned within multiple schools and copies get burned during a book-burning ritual. Was it worth it? Thousands of books are being banned yearly, and it isn’t talked about enough. However, it isn’t surprising that people don’t know; the world has been too chaotic recently and it is hard to keep track of every issue. We will be discussing how many banned books connect to issues today, and why we should keep in mind the history of banned books and burnings.

The first banned book is considered to be New English Canaan by Thomas Morton back in 1637, which was critiquing the most common Puritan customs and rules at the time. Since then, many other pieces of literature have been banned, but people began combating this since 1982. So many books were banned during this time that multiple organizations worked together to hold Banned Books Week, which now happens yearly! Not only that, but the Supreme Court ruled in Island Trees School District v. Pico that school officials cannot ban a book solely because of its content, as it would be a violation of the first amendment.

If there is already a court ruling about banning books, then why are there still banned books in schools today? According to The American Library Association (ALA), 63% of book challenges are by parents and patrons, and parents are the only ones who can censor their kids. These censorships, however, are not only affecting their own kids, but communities as well. The main reasons are due to the book being too sexually explicit, too much offensive language, and the book not being “suitable” for any age. However, these reasons are now becoming an excuse to silence other perspectives and demonize diversity. Half of the top ten books in 2021 were banned due to LGBTQIA+ content. Others, such as the famous novel-turned-film The Hate U Give was banned due to “[promoting] an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda.” These stories are censored due to the discussion of serious current events as well as  the racism and homophobia that many people of color and queer people experience everyday.

People are silencing author’s voices due to it not fitting their political agenda; in fact, in Tennessee, public school librarians are required to submit a list of their books for state approval, and when asked what he would do to banned books, Jerry Sexton (a representative) publicly stated, “I don’t have a clue, but I would burn them.” The burning of books is a ritual that has been repeated in history multiple times. It, just like book banning, implies censorship, but it also implies wanting a tremendous amount of control without protecting the people. With banned books about to be burned, we may truly enter the dark ages where we no longer have freedom of speech. Although it seems parents are banning these books in the name of “protecting” their children, what they are truly doing is restraining their children’s thinking to go with their own beliefs, and thus discriminating everyone who do not fit within their mindset. It isn’t about protecting their children, it’s about silencing people’s voices.

These banned books connect to trauma, and critique deep underlying issues that are prevalent in America today. The books are not the problem; the censorship is. We need to find a way to protect these stories, to celebrate them, and to create our own. If banned books are banned because they spoke their mind to help create a better world, then I want to write a book of my own and fight for them. Joining Novelly’s Rising Voices Collective helps you create important stories of your own (maybe so good it gets banned), and helps you find your way of speaking up.

Works Cited

Admin. “Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues, 4 Apr. 2022, www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10.

Alfaro, Mariana, and Amy B Wang. “Tennessee Lawmaker Suggests Burning Banned Books.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 28 Apr. 2022, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/04/27/tennessee-burning-banned-books/.

“Censorship by the Numbers.” American Library Association, www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/banned/bannedbooksweek/BBW22-bythenumbers-fullpage.png.

“The Little-Known History of Banned Books in the United States.” Reading Partners, 3 Mar. 2021, readingpartners.org/blog/history-banned-books-week/.

Magazine, Smithsonian. “A Brief History of Book Burning, from the Printing Press to Internet Archives.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 31 Aug. 2017, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/brief-history-book-burning-printing-press-internet-archives-180964697/.

“A Short History of Banned Books.” World Economic Forum, 10 Oct. 2017, www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/a-short-history-of-book-banning/.

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