Meghan Collins Sullivan/NPR
During the 2021-22 school year, more than 1,600 book titles were banned, according to a new report from freedom of expression advocacy group PEN America.
According to the report, the increase in book restrictions is the result of a network of local political and advocacy groups targeting books with LGBTQ+ characters and stories, and books with characters of color.
“While we tend to think of book bans as the work of individual concerned citizens, our report demonstrates that today’s wave of sanctions is an attempt to eliminate books being waged by sophisticated, ideological and well-resourced organizations. coordinated campaign,” said Suzanne Nossel, chief executive officer at Penn America.
In April, officials in Madison County, Mississippi placed more than 20 books under “restricted circulation.” These books include Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager, the hate you give by Angie Thomas, and the bluest eye by Toni Morrison. This came after pressure from the activist group Mass Resistance, listed by the SPLC as anti-LGBTQ.
Similar stories cited in the report are happening across the country. According to the report, Texas ranks first among the states with the most restrictions. PEN America describes a book ban as “any action taken against a book based on its content” as a result of challenges from parents, community groups or politicians.
PEN America has identified at least 50 groups working at the local, state and national levels that are advocating for the removal of books from school curricula and school library shelves. According to the report, this is a relatively recent incident. Many groups like Moms for Liberty started in 2021.
The American Library Association also presented a report late last week that indicates challenges to books continue to grow. Based on their records, 1,651 unique titles were targeted between January and August of this year – in 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom counted 729 challenges to library, school and university materials in 2021 – a fourfold increase from the previous year.
The ALA also points to more conservative political groups pushing for a ban on books in schools and libraries across the country. According to the ALA report, the actions of these groups focused mostly on YA books that covered race, gender and sexual identities — echoing the findings of the Penn America study.