Updated: Aug 15
May 23, 2023, #40
On 20 April 2023 Kasey Meehan and Jonathan Friedman wrote about “2023 Banned Books Update: Banned in the USA” in the PEN America blog (PEN is a US nonprofit corporation whose acronym stood originally for “Poets, Essayists, Novelists”). The authors write: “The 2022-23 school year has been marked to date by an escalation of book bans and censorship in classrooms and school libraries across the United States.”¹ Censorship is by no means unique to the United States, but the growth of this problem in the US has alarmed many librarians and academics. Censorship inevitably has a political component, in the US historically with a conservative flavour.
Some topics are more often banned than others, especially ones involving sex, violence, and race. Here are some categories from the blog: books mentioning violence and physical abuse (44%), health and well-being (38%), grief and death (30%), themes of race and racism (30%), LGBTQ+ characters or themes (26%), detail sexual experiences between characters (24%), and teen pregnancy, abortion, or sexual assault (17%). A goal of many of these books is to create awareness about sensitive issues.
The authors explain their collection methodology and provide a definition for what counts as part of a ban: “any action taken against a book based on its content and as a result of parent or community challenges … that leads to a previously accessible book being either completely removed from availability to students, or where access to a book is restricted or diminished.”¹ Vague laws are part of the problem. “Due to the lack of clear guidance, … three [Florida] laws have each led teachers, media specialists, and school administrators to proactively remove books from shelves…”¹ The laws also sometimes include penalties, like taking away the certification of teachers who violate the bills.
School and library censorship can affect those who graduate from our programs. Such book bans vary by topic and country. The US is just an example where statistics are readily available.
1: Kasey Meehan and Jonathan Friedman, ‘2023 Banned Books Update: Banned in the USA’, PEN America (blog), 20 April 2023, https://pen.org/report/banned-in-the-usa-state-laws-supercharge-book-suppression-in-schools/.