Books are the most vulnerable in school libraries and school courses. All a student has to do, on his/her own or with the urging of parents, is to claim that a book offends him/her and suddenly the book is gone.
So far, I don’t think today’s school children are weaker than they were when I went through K-12 level schooling, though we probably couldn’t have gotten away with the politically motivated, woe-is-me behavior we see today. So, I think they can read most books without dying from them.
According to PEN America, “Books are under profound attack in the United States. They are disappearing from library shelves, being challenged in droves, being decreed off limits by school boards, legislators, and prison authorities. And everywhere, it is the books that have long fought for a place on the shelf that are being targeted. Books by authors of color, by LGBTQ+ authors, by women. Books about racism, sexuality, gender, history. PEN America pushes back against the banning of books and the intolerance, exclusion, and censorship that undergird it.” Learn more from this report.
What’s happening is obvious. Politicians who couldn’t defeat legislation that didn’t like are going after the books and, no doubt, each banned book represents a feeling of power over a lot of people.
Politicians–who really have no business using K-12 schools or state universities as political footballs don’t like books like To Kill a Mocking Bird and I know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Allegedly–as the politicians charge–such books make people uncomfortable. My response is so what? I’m sure students feel uncomfortable when their football team loses the big game. Or when the person they want to go to the prom with goes with somebody else. That’s life. And, if feeling bad after reading a book is the worst thing a person experiences, they’re really in good shape.
Along with book banning and editing older fiction to conform to today’s political “standards,” we now have sensitivity readers checking manuscripts for offensive content or bias. Offensive to whose agenda? Sounds like publisher CYA to me.
I told my Facebook followers today that if my conjure books are around fifty years from now, a hex will automatically stop any politician or publisher who tries to alter what I wrote. They’ll come down with boils or syphilis or out-of-control dandruff. All writers need a little conjure to keep the unwashed politicians away from their books.
As I see it, October 1-7 isn’t long enough for banned books week. We need something that keeps our eyes on the problem 24/7/365.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the four-part Florida Folk Magic Series. If politicians knew about the books, they’d try to ban them since, God knows, we don’t want to offend anyone whose grandaddy was in the Klan.