According to the American Library Association, a record-breaking 1,597 books were challenged in 2021. In 2022, the number hit 1,651 by just September. This is intentional.
Nationwide, librarians have been fired or pushed to leave their long-term jobs because of the vitriol behind these bans. Meanwhile, multiple states have also been conjuring up bills that can have them criminally charged for allowing "inappropriate content,” suggesting months to years in prison for simply circulating books.
Some may agree in theory that minors shouldn’t be reading "inappropriate content.” But the legal system allows the loose definition of “inappropriate” to mean anything that explains and affirms the lived experiences of oppressed people.
Any time you write a book where you write about your truth, there are going to be people who want to silence that truth," said Black LGBTQ+ activist and writer George M. Johnson. Their 2020 memoir became the second most banned book in U.S. schools.
And as more books describing experiences with race, gender, sexuality, and justice are facing attack, so are the people who provide access to them.
The criminal legal system has historically criminalized our access to reading and education. This time isn’t any different. This isn’t protecting youth. It’s telling them that writing the truth about navigating oppression is inappropriate, when what’s really inappropriate is the oppression itself.