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The Trouble With Book Bans

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

As of this writing, The 57 Bus has been banned or challenged in more than nine states, including Idaho, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Kansas, and Tennessee. The reasons given vary, but usually the book is accused of being "obscene," despite the fact that there isn't any sex in it at all. So why is it being challenged? Well, it's about a nonbinary kid and a Black kid, and it talks about race and gender and justice.

“Good for you,” people often say when I tell them how frequently my book is challenged. “Wear it like a badge of honor.” But while my status as a banned book author certainly puts me in terrific company, it would be a tremendous mistake to see book-banning efforts as something benign or amusing. So far this year, 1,651 different titles have been challenged, including 27 instances in which police reports were filed against library staff because of the books available on their shelves.

That's a quote from an article I wrote about being the author of a banned book, in which I tell the story of how my book was investigated by the Sheriff of New Hanover county in North Carolina, who wanted to file criminal charges against librarians who had it on their shelves. You can read about that here. I also spoke to the East Bay Yesterday podcast about the attempts to suppress, ban, outlaw, or hide my book. It's a fun, free-ranging interview about the book itself, book bans, and my hometown of Oakland, California. Listen to it here.

If you are a parent, teacher, or librarian in a district with a pending book ban or challenge, I wrote a statement that you are welcome to read or submit to your district's school board or administrator. If you are new to this issue, and want to understand what's going on, please take a look at PEN America's most recent report. It's alarming.

But here's the most important thing to know. Book bans are fundamentally un-American and deeply unpopular. Every Library reports that a mere 8% of voters believe “there are many books that are inappropriate and should be banned.” 95% of Democrats, 80% of independents, and 53% of Republicans are against book bans and will consider book bans when voting. So why are so many states and school district's banning books? Because decision makers haven't heard nearly enough from people who care about books, people who love libraries, people who believe in the freedom to read, people who support exposing kids to books that reflect the diversity of our society, people who oppose censorship. So if you are appalled to hear about the book banning efforts in schools and libraries across America, make sure you vote for candidates for your school board, library board, city council, and state legislature who support the freedom to read. We need your help.

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