The writer’s organization PEN America said recently that more than a thousand different books have been banned from United States classrooms and school libraries in the last nine months.
Most of the books dealt with LGBTQ issues and racism. And many books were banned under pressure from conservative parents and officials.
PEN created a list of banned books. It includes a book by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. Actor and activist George Takei’s book about his experience in a holding camp in California as a Japanese-American child during World War Two was also included.
"Challenges to books, specifically books by non-white male authors are happening at the highest rates we’ve ever seen," said Jonathan Friedman. He is the director of PEN America's Free Expression Program and lead author of the report.
He said that this level of intensity and the success of banning books in the American schools has never been seen before.
In recent months, conservative parents have spoken at school meetings in numerous states to attack books that go against their views. These include books that have a sexual nature or deal with racism in a way that offends some white people.
On April 7, the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on banned books and censorship in schools. Earlier in the week, the American Library Association released its own list of banned and challenged books that closely followed the PEN results.
Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, asked both political sides to accept the speech they do not like as well as the speech they agree with.
"If we cancel or censor everything that people find offensive, nothing will be left," he said.
Raskin pointed to criticism from the left seeking to remove Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” They want to remove it because it uses a racially offensive word, but the overall meaning of the book is against racism and slavery.
PEN found that 86 school districts had removed 1,145 different books from their libraries over the last nine months. Some were permanently removed. Others are being investigated.
Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” was removed in 11 school districts. “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez was removed in 16 districts. Both books deal with racism and include sexual content.
The organization said Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which deals with LGBTQ issues, was removed in 30 districts.
More than two-thirds of the banned books were fiction, not based on true events. But books written about true events including books about the lives of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Duke Ellington, and Nelson Mandela were also removed. Five poetry collections were also banned.
The report said four in ten removals were tied to political pressure in eight school districts in Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia.
I’m Gregory Stachel.
Sharon Bernstein reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for our VOA Learning English readers and listeners.
Words in This Story
LGBTQ – adj. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (one's sexual or gender identity)
challenge – v. to say or show that (something) may not be true, correct, or legal
author – n. a person who has written something
censor – v. to examine books, movies, or letters in order to remove things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, harmful to society
district – n. an area established by a government for official government business
fiction – n. written stories about people and events that are not real: literature that tells stories which are imagined by the write
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