More than 1,600 books in 32 states were banned from public schools during the 2021-2022 school year, with the bulk of requests for the ban coming from several right-wing groups pushing for the censoring of books featuring LGBTQ+ characters and characters of color, according to the a new report published on Monday.
“What I want to make clear is that the books are the basis,” said Ashley Hope Perez, author of the banned book. “[Book banning] it is a proxy war against students who share the marginalized identities of the authors and characters of the books under attack.”
In 2015, Peres wrote From the darknessa young adult novel about a Mexican American girl and an African American boy set in the 1930s, but the book was banned in school districts last year.
According to the updated report, the states with the most bans are Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Tennessee released on Monday American PEN, an anti-book ban and First Amendment group. In total, there were 2,532 cases of prohibition in the United States.
“[T]The scope of such censorship has expanded dramatically and unprecedentedly since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year,” the report says.
A total of 1,648 names of unique books are prohibited in 2021-2022. Previously published PEN report in April 86 school districts in 26 states found 1,586 cases of individual book bans involving 1,145 titles.
The groups are demanding a ban
A new report found that 50 groups at the state, national and local levels, comprising more than 300 departments, “played a role in at least half of the book bans imposed nationwide during the 2021-22 school year.” Of these groups, 73% were formed in 2021, the report said.
“Those who are advocating for this issue have their rights, their freedom to assemble, to mobilize, to use their voice, and that’s entirely appropriate,” Suzanne Nosel, executive director of the American PEN Center, said during a press briefing with reporters on Monday.
“But if the ultimate goal is censorship, as a free-speech organization, we have a responsibility to speak up and point out that even using legitimate speech tactics can sometimes lead to false and unpleasant results,” she said. .
States where the books are banned, according to the PEN Center report, include Idaho, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, Minnesota and New Jersey, among others.
“The unprecedented wave of book bans in the 2021-2022 school year reflects the growth of organizing groups that advocate for such bans, the increased involvement of government officials in book ban discussions, and the introduction of new laws and policies,” it said. to the report.
“More often than not, today’s book problems arise not from concerned parents acting in isolation, but from political and human rights groups working together to achieve the goal of limiting access to and reading of books for students in public schools.”
Book ban week
The report was released in conjunction with Banned Books Week, the American Library Association’s and Amnesty International’s annual campaign to celebrate freedom of reading and the fight against censorship.
ALA too issued its own report which revealed that between January 1 and August 31 of this year, there were 681 attempts to “ban or restrict library resources, and 1,651 unique titles were targeted.”
Some of those groups that have challenged the school board include Moms for Freedom, an organization formed in 2021 that has strong ties to the Republican Party and local chapters that are “targeting local school board members, school board members, administrators and teachers” to promote right-wing politics, as reported by Media Matters. Moms for Liberty has approximately 200 local chapters in 37 states.
Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the summer he spoke at the “Moms for Freedom” rally., where he touted “parental rights” and praised the group for its efforts to ban books from public schools. According to the PEN Center report, there are 566 banned books in Florida.
Republican lawmakers at the state level also join the movement to ban books from public schools and libraries.
Nossel said this idea of ”parental rights” is “kind of the rubric that these movements used to promote.”
She said it’s good for parents to be involved in their children’s education, but “this is not what it’s about when parents are mobilized in an organized campaign to intimidate teachers and librarians into dictating [to] that certain books be taken off the shelves before they have been read or examined.’
“The trends are very clear that this is a targeted effort,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free speech and education programs at the American PEN Center and lead author of the report.
Freedman said the book bans occurred in 138 school districts representing 5,049 schools in 32 states. He added that the bans affect nearly 4 million students.
“Overwhelmingly, we see people searching Google for books that have LGBTQ content. Even just a book that has illustrations of a same-sex interracial couple gets on one of these lists and ends up being banned in some areas,” he said during a press conference.
PEN found that 41%, or 74 of 1,648 unique titles dealing with LGBTQ+ themes or featuring LGBTQ+ main or supporting characters, were banned.
Prohibitions related to “sense of power”
Cheryl Lewis Hudson, an author and publisher who specializes in children’s books that celebrate black culture and history, said book bans are about power and that there is nothing new about them. She said that the trend of book bans is not only about censorship, but also about eradicating marginalized communities.
“We can recall the historical fact that in the United States, enslaved people were forbidden by law to learn to read and write, and slave owners did understand that this particular control over slaves was a sense of power—when you couldn’t control the slaves’ bodies. , you can control their minds by denying them access (to knowledge),” she said.
Hudson said Jim Crow laws prevented her from visiting public libraries, and she wasn’t able to get her first library card until she was 13 years old. She added that the particular school she attended did not have a library for students.
“So, banned books are not new, and access to knowledge is not new, and the data presented by PEN reveals some really worrying trends in terms of access to ideas,” she said.
She and her husband founded a publishing company that has published more than 50 books on historical figures and black culture.
Hudson said the common theme in the books being banned is not the content of the books, but because “the authors of these books are African-American, the authors of these books come from a multicultural or non-white background.”
The PEN found that 40%, or 659, of the 1,648 unique titles that were banned featured primary or secondary characters of color, and found that 20%, or 338, of the titles dealing with race and racism were also banned.
“So there is a trend and an underlying pattern of white supremacy that really challenges the very existence of people of color in a democracy,” Hudson said.
Ariana Figueroa covers Washington for State Newsroom, which supports Pennsylvania Capital-Starwhere this story first appeared.