Opinion: Book Banning

Aarohi Gami ‘24

In the last few months, book bans have been on the rise in the United States. Around the country, many outraged parents demand the removal of certain books from school libraries, some even seeking to press criminal charges against librarians. Further bolstering the movement, legislations passed by many states allow for the regulation of books and novels that can be available to children.
The books most commonly targeted discuss ideas such as race, the history of racism, sexuality, and gender identity. Having been overly politicized, these topics should be addressed as human rights issues, rather than sore spots for parents who wish to “shelter” their children. The targeting of these novels highlights a much larger issue as many of the authors of these banned books are queer, women, or people of color hoping to make their voices heard. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, and with 2021 being the most deadly year for trans people, as well as the recent passing of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, I’d argue that the need for representation and education becomes even more important, rather than something to be fought against.
Representation and education of our differences, whether it is race, gender, or sexual orientation, is humanizing because it teaches us that our different experiences as people are not to be feared or ignored, but rather to be highlighted, demonstrating how much we have in common and how much we still have to learn from each other. Denying students that kind of education ultimately benefits no one and will be far more harmful in the long run.
However, opponents argue that book bans should be implemented to protect students from harmful material, such as overtly sexual or violent content. The former often targets books that discuss or depict queer relationships, not only suggesting that these relationships are inherently and solely sexual, but also insisting that they are intrinsically taboo and unsafe for school, unlike books depicting straight relationships. The latter often deals with controversial parts of history. Books that have been targeted, such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which is about the Holocaust, detail some of the darkest parts of history. To shelter a child from these books and the history told within them is to deprive them of necessary knowledge, without which they can’t understand the present nor improve the future.
So what do we do about this? The answer’s simpler than you might think: read banned books! Continue to prove that good representation is important and necessary. Get book recommendations! Ultimately, it is up to us to uplift the voices and experiences of people who are consistently silenced!
For a list of books that are being challenged by schools, see these articles: The Atlantic, Barnes & Noble, and Paste Magazine.

‘It’s a culture war that’s totally out of control’: the authors whose books are being banned in US schools
Why book banning is back in 2022 – Vox
Why Book Ban Efforts Are Spreading Across the US – The New York Times
2021 is now the deadliest year on record for transgender people | PBS NewsHour