Banned Books Week–Keep the Light On!

Hello readers!

It’s Banned Books Week! Every year, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, the American Booksellers Association, and a coalition of other literary organizations get together to bring attention to censorship and banned books, and support the freedom to read. This year, the theme is “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark; Keep the Light On”–which can be hard to do in this day and age.

The question we get asked the most in regards to Banned Books Week is: “What does it matter?” I can just walk into any bookstore–including yours–and buy the books for myself, customers will say. So where are they getting banned, and to whom does it matter?

We’re lucky–we’re privately owned and we can stock what books we want. Yes, we’re a little constrained by the market (we obviously want to stock the books that sell–we are a business!), but ultimately, our staff decides what we carry. And if that means we always have on our shelves copies of Drama by Raina Telgemeier (banned for containing LGBTQ+ characters), The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (banned because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references), and George by Alex Gino (banned because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character–yes all of those ridiculous reasons)–well, that’s our prerogative. And it means that book bans and challenges don’t really effect us, or you, if you shop with us. It’s more public institutions who suffer because of censoring.

Libraries bear the brunt of it. Schools, too, to a certain extent, but libraries tend to receive the most challenges. From parents, from “well-meaning citizens” who don’t realize that banning books is never “well-meant”, from local religious organizations, or even the local government. And when libraries can’t shelve certain titles, that means the people who use libraries can’t find those books. And the people who use libraries are the ones who need books most. Poorer people who can’t afford books, underfunded schools whose students don’t have classroom copies, conservative communities whose kids are looking to expand their horizons and read different perspectives–these are the people who need books the most, and these are the people hurt most by book bans.

Which is why it’s so important to raise awareness of censorship, to celebrate banned books in all their forms, to keep the light on–to shine the light on dark places where other lights can’t reach. To buy the banned books and increase demand for them, make sure their voices are heard. To spread knowledge and different viewpoints, characters who are different from us and have diverse backgrounds, perspectives, problems–so we can learn. So we can grow. So we can have empathy for those other backgrounds, perspectives, problems, and strive to help them, work with them, instead of dividing ourselves from them.

Books are magic. They let us escape, they let us learn, they let us grow. If we turn off those lights, if we lose those voices, if we ban those stories–well, there’s a little less magic in the world. And no one ever wanted that.

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You can find out more about Banned Books Week here.

Happy reading!

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